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A cautionary tale against waste told through three generations

× Introduction × Chapter 1: The Plains Indians 7—20 × Chapter 2: Letters from Iwo Jima 21—39 × Chapter 3: Phillip Danforth Armour 41—47

Wastage is a very modern epidemic. Though in tenuous degrees of veracity, it holds mostly true what is said of the Native Americans utilising every part of the Buffalo. This was more of an evolutionary worldview than an inherent cultural thriftiness, one that seems to be lost to the ages, as the myriad uses for a buffalo carcass fail to fully transfer over into the world of processed food. It’s not to say that the whole carcass is wasted, as thanks to pioneering techniques from the likes of P.D Armour, we can create by products such as glue and gelatine. Though now the culture of waste has shifted, and it is now in the hands of the consumer.



Plains Indians is a catch-all term for a variety of different groups and tribes of Native Americans that sprawled across the mid-west from as far south as Texas, reaching up to what would now be the Province of Alberta, CA. The Plains Indians were migratory by nature, following their food source —the buffalo— over the Great Plains. The Indians became less dependent on the buffalo as they further acquired guns and horses through trade, and soon relied on the buffaloes more as a form of currency. They relied on the buffalo as their main source of food, but their relationship with the beast was so much more.








Laying waste to the myth of the ‘ecological indian’ the Buffalo Jump is a Native American tradition that was both wasteful and barbaric. Pictured is ‘Head Smashed In’ Buffalo Jump, where a young brave would be selected, dressed in buffalo skin, wearing a buffalo head as a hat, and would deceive the buffalo by jumping off a cliff onto a hidden ledge below, sending the ensuing buffalo herd tumbling over the cliff to their death This would kill much more buffalo than it was possible to use, and endanger the young brave dressed as a buffalo. A similarly wasteful practice known as a “box fire” was used by lighting four fires in the corners of a paddock and allowing it to spread, cornering the herd. Surviving hunters would often acquire scars that were to be worn with pride.


Regardless as to whether or not the Native Americans used all the buffalo they slaughtered, they certainly had the means to do so if they wished to. Occasionally parts of the buffalo would be laid to waste, due to the impracticality of dragging such a large beast back to camp; it would be simpler to cut the bison up and transport what they could.

The hunters traditionally ate the liver raw at the scene of the hunt, it was considered a delicacy and an important trophy of the hunt.

A man stands a top a pile of bison skulls.


Here, a tribeswoman makes Pemmican; a snack made from jerky, berries and rendered fat. Other nuts and berries could be added to it depending on season and location. Its high fat, protein and calorie content make it ideal for sustaining hunters on a long trek.



Eventually Federal initiatives led to restricted bison hunting from the Native Americans and others, and by then the Native Americans had been marginalised by colonists, and their traditions were pushed aside, and their territories reduced to mere reservations.


Okinawa, Japan Okinawans are not known for their meat-eating, which on first inspection makes them a ludicrous choice for a profile on utilising every part of an animal. But the Okinawans are well known for an even more phenomenal factor: their staggeringly long lives. The residents of Okinawa are not just demographic anomalies the world over, but in some aspects, are five times healthier than even their counterparts in the rest of Japan. The island of Okinawa is a designated Blue Zone, one of only five of these zones in existence in the whole world. A Blue Zone is characterised by its residents surprising longevity. There is no one aspect in the making of a Blue Zone, but it is also inherently obvious that diet is an enormously important factor.


Okinawa existed in relative peace for almost its entire lifespan until the 1940s. It was perhaps more closely linked to China through a tributary relationship, than to its brethren in ‘mainland’ Japan; the islands somehow have a feel of ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ Hundreds of years before The Okinawa Diet became a desirable fad, it was a necessity for the Okinawan people. Unlike the rest of Asia, Okinawa don’t rely on rice as their staple. As Malcolm Gladwell details in Outliers, rice has a vast cultural weight to it that often goes unconsidered. Rice is so labour-intensive to cultivate, that a strict culture must exist around it. Constant vigilence is required, self discipline is an absolute necessity, the success of the crop hinges on innumerate factors, one slip and the harvest is lost. Rice is not an easy crop to grow.

Sweet Potatoes however require very little skill to grow, they’re resilient and need little tending beyond putting them in the ground and waiting. Now might be the opportune moment to mention Okinawa Time. One of the common threads; one of the key definining factors of any Blue Zone is their attitude towards time. In Ikaria —a mediterranean Blue Zone— a local doctor doesn’t even open his practice until eleven a.m because no one comes before then. None of these people are in a rush, and they’re certainly in no rush to die. The centenarians of Okinawa like to refer to it as Okinawa Time; everyone is relaxed, there are very little stressors in their life and they never arrive on time.

the other only white meat 

Okinawans for the most part may have subsisted on an almost vegan diet, but Okinawans love pork. Pork is said to be so pervasive in the Okinawan meat-eating culture, that it is simply referred to as ‘meat’ — as though there were no other. Pork was traditionally only served on festive occasions and was something of a rarity. The presence of pigs on the island is attributed to its longstanding trade relationship with China; like many other influences. As such, the Okinawan’s celebrated the animal, and ate “everything but the squeal” —A quote also used by famed meat-packer P.D Armour. Their love for pork only stands to prove their ingenuity and resilient culture towards food.


Poor Man’s Kitchen The traditional Okinawan Diet was a prime example of what war-torn Italians would call ‘Cucina Povera’ — Roughly translated; the Poor man’s kitchen. The ultimate ‘make do and mend’ ethos, making dishes out of what they had. Okinawa bears many similiarities with Genoa, a port town in Northern Italy —and a scant ocean jaunt from Sardinia, another Blue Zone— that subsided mostly on fresh fish and whatever vegetables they could grow near the coast. Prone to attack from Saracen Pirates, Genoans would often have to flee their seaside homes and retreat to caves, bringing with them only the ingredients immediately to hand. Their location in this hurried and immediate process would later go on to spawn great delicacies of Italian cuisine, much like how the constant presence of the ocean would influence the delicacies of Okinawa. Okinawan’s high instance of Pork dishes (despite the fact that pork is eaten rarely in the regular diet) comes from its tributary relationship with China. The use of Spam or luncheon meat alongside more traditional Okinawan fare may seem absurd but stems from something much more sinister…

Hailed as ‘The Key Stone of the Pacific’ the US Army were determined to take Okinawa as a strategic hub. Three hundred and forty miles from the core Japanese islands, it would be an ideal base of operations to seize a land victory. Dan Buettner, the National Geographic journalist who worked with demographers to define Blue Zones, profiles the story of Kimata Aroshiro in one of his video reports. She tells of how the Japanese forces warned them of the capture and told them to flee into the nearby caves. The Okinawans were ordered to take a small bomb with them, and in the event of their capture;

Detonate it.







&   gruel

Forced to exist on a diet of thin miso soup and gruel in the caves, Kimata and her family hid in fear as they heard the distant sound of muffled explosions; the sound of their friends and loved ones dying. Kimata’s bomb had a faulty detonator and her family were spared; and in many ways the American invasion was not as dreadful as the Emperor’s forces had made it out to be. Tbough they were captured, they were cared for and the US soldiers fed Kimata’s family and many others from their US Ration packs, introducing a whole new diet to the Okinawans. Something that may have proved even more fatal in the long run. Other centenarians on the island are rapidly outliving their own children; losing their own flesh and blood to Western ailments like Heart and Lung disease and Cancer (Something Okinawans previously had low instances of, moreso even than the rest of Japan.)


Slowly but surely the continued presence of US Forces on the island disrupted the indigenous way of life. American troops needed to smoke and drink, so breweries and tobacco companies developed to accomadate them, and eventually took influence on the Okinawan people.

Sadly, out of all the current Blue Zones it is Okinawa that stands to lose its status first, even though it stands alone in the pacific, and the land-locked city of Loma Linda, CA— one hour’s drive from Los Angeles— threatens to outlive it as a Blue Zone in a feat of truly strange symmetry.


Philip Danforth Armour, may no longer be a household name but he almost single-handedly changed the face of the meat packing industry; then proceeded to mechanically seperate the face, boil it down and use it for glue. An Outlier in many ways, Armour was born into fortunate circumstances and through determination (at least 10,000 hours worth) and a series of lucky breaks was able to become one of America’s great entrepeneurs.

Bankrolling a group of thirty-or-so other men, they travelled to California, to join in the great zeitgest of the Gold Rush. A born businessman, Armour founded a company hiring immigrants to sliuce mine-water, but it wasn’t until several ventures later that he would find his calling in the Meat Packing industry.


The Union Stockyards, Chicago Illinois —or simply ‘The Yards’— were the undoubted hub of the meat-packing industry in the late 19th Century. A relentless hub of innovation; industry techniques such as refrigerated transport and the assembly line that are still used to this day were pioneered there. Referred to as ‘The Jungle’ in a novel of the same name by Upton Sinclair due to its chaotic nature and often wild conditions. At first the meat packing industry was notorious for its wastage, which would often sluice off into the nearby river, earning it the name ‘Bubbling Creek’ — which still bubbles to this day. The race to pioneer new methods against wastage was a pressing issue. Armour was first off the blocks, hiring a team of chemists to make use of as much as the carcass as possible, creating byproducts like soap, glycerin and fertiliser. When asked what parts of the pig he used, Armour replied



Upton Sinclair’s novel left its mark on The Yards irrevocably, exposing unsanitary conditions and a dangerous working environment. Coupled with the consignment of bad beef Armour inadvertantly shipped to the US army, poisoning hundreds of soldiers, the outcome did not look good for Armour and Co. The federal inspections proved to be more help than hinderence to The Yards as the $30,000,000 annual tab was picked up by the government. Armour eventually conformed to union standards, and despite the initial setbacks, the Armour company continued to dominate the meat packing market from its base of operations in Omaha, Nebraska —coincidentally one of the territories Plains Indians— until it split into several subsidiaries in the 1980s.

The Whole Hog  

For the ISTD Brief 'Food For Thought'