The 89th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2020)

Toward an improved nutritional ecology of hunters: Macronutrient and mineral composition of wild animals consumed through the “bushmeat” trade in Nigeria


1Anthropology & Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University, 2Veterinary Medicine, University of Abuja, Nigeria, 3Anthropology, Hunter College of the City University of New York

April 16, 2020 , Platinum Ballroom Add to calendar

Hunting increases access to nutrient rich animal-source food, contributing to improved human nutrition in many modern and ancient environments. However, our understanding of the nutritional contributions of wild animals to local diets is based on limited nutritional data. This research uses a mixed methods approach to examine the nutritional composition of “bushmeat” in Nigeria. We test the hypotheses that: 1) consumption of wild animals expands the range of macro- and micro-nutrients available to local diets; and 2) nutritional composition shapes local food preferences. We examined the macronutrient composition of different types of animals: wild meat (n=28), fish and seafood (n=16), and domestic meat (n=6) consumed in rural hunting communities in Nigeria. Our analysis shows that meat offered significantly higher energetic returns compared to fish and seafood (H=6.8, df=2, p < 0.05); however, contrary to the prevailing paradigm, wild meat was not characterized by a higher protein to fat ratio (H=2.25, df=2, p = 0.35). Mineral composition varied widely across species and animal parts, but they did not differ significantly between types of animals (p-values > 0.05). Lead (Pb) values from few hunted animals exceeded tolerable weekly intakes, suggesting possible toxicity risks. When combined with organoleptic and food preference data, our results suggest that local meat preferences are shaped, in part, by high fat to protein ratios and cultural salience of wild meat over domestic animals and fish. Results contribute to an improved understanding of human dietary strategies in response to availability of animal-derived nutrition in both ancient and modern environments.

This research was funded by the National Science Foundation (SBE #1604902), Primate Conservation Inc. (PCI# 1381), and Professional Staff Congress - City University of New York (PSC-CUNY).