You mean you’ve got an inner version of the domesticated ruminant, descendent of the wild auroch, deep inside you? You mean that you share many anatomical features with this creature with a gastrointestinal system uniquely adapted to consume grasses–a 4-compartment stomach with an abrasive reticulum equipped to abrade and break down coarse materials, a rumen housing unique microorganisms to digest the beta-1,4-glycosidic bond of cellulose, the habit of choking up a cud to rechew food, as well as a large colon to further digest fibers?

No, actually you don’t.

Cows and other ruminants have specialized apparatus that makes them uniquely adapted to a diet of grasses. They can eat the stuff growing on your front lawn, the “weeds” that grow in the cracks of the sidewalk, the grasses that appear in any piece of land lying fallow, grasses that grow wild in any field or valley. Grasses are members of the family Poaceae, a collection of plants that includes fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, and zoysia grass.


Know what else falls in the grass family Poaceae? The grasses triticum, zea mays, and oryza: wheat, corn, and rice. They, too, are grasses.

When you see a field of grass, do you recognize that as food? Do you salivate when you spy someone’s freshly-mown lawn? Do you get out your fork and knife when you see some grasses growing along the sidewalk?

For the 2.4 million years that Homo species have inhabited the earth, we recognized the flesh and organs of animals, birds and their eggs, fish and shellfish, roots, fruit, the leaves and stems of some plants, mushrooms, nuts, and seeds as food. Like a cheetah, bear, or walrus, we knew instinctively what represented “food.” Around 4000 to 10,000 years ago–just a moment ago in archaeological time–most likely during a time of desperation, e.g., increasing aridity/drought, we saw grasses–ubiquitous, hardy, accessible–and asked, “Can we eat that stuff?” And we did. After all, wild ruminants like goats, yak, gazelle, and giraffes ate them.

When we recognized that grasses in their native form were inedible and made us sick (vomiting, diarrhea), we learned that we could isolate the seeds of grasses, mash and heat them, and they became edible. (Fire, incorporated something like 250,000 years ago, was therefore necessary to allow the seeds of grasses to be edible.)

So we learned that, by processing the seeds of grasses, we could consume them to live another day, even though they were not on our evolutionary menu of items recognized as food. We lived another day . . . only to pay the health price later. The grasses wheat, corn, and rice now comprise 50% of all human calories worldwide.

Your “inner cow”? Moooooo!