What do Joe Rogan, a butcher shop, and an onstage performance art piece by the 1975 have in common? Raw meat, baby. In the past three months, online health communities have seen another surge of interest in meat-heavy diets. One of the more popular options is a regimen touted by social media personalities like Joe Rogan, Jordan Peterson, and Andrew Tate that promotes eating as much protein and cholesterol as possible — even as health experts have continued to push back against the diet’s efficacies. But now, social media stars on TikTok and Instagram have taken the diet one step further. Instead of just increasing their meat intake, people eat their steaks, livers, kidneys, hearts, and more completely raw. Welcome to the Carnivore Diet.
From its name alone, the vibe of the carnivore diet is easy enough to figure out. It’s meat — and lots of it. People, usually men, who partake in the carnivore diet can get extremely popular on social media, where they share videos of their uber-ripped bodies and gain clout from the visceral images of themselves biting into large amounts of uncooked meat. On TikTok, the hashtag #carnivorediet has over 475 million views, with top videos garnering hundreds of thousands of likes. Viral accounts say the carnivore diet increases your energy and decreases negative side effects from processed food like bloating, intestinal distress, and weight gain. But the underlying tenets of the meal plan are an aggressive distrust of verified sources of information — and an intense focus on strength as the final holdout against a changing world.
The raw diet has become about more than just health — it’s about taking back power.
Pauly Long, a raw social media influencer, loves to talk about the carnivore lifestyle. On a zoom call from his home in Bali, he tells Rolling Stone that the diet has changed everything for him. On TikTok, he’s become known as the “Testicle King” for his videos detailing how to eat — you guessed it — raw testicles. According to Long, he was exposed to carnivore-like diets on social media. After finding the Instagram of popular raw influencer Liver King, Long said the diet began to make more and more sense for him. Eventually, he tried it for himself. When asked why he thinks more people don’t choose a raw diet, Long said the only thing stopping people is themselves — and the government, of course.
“We’ve all been programmed to think that we can’t do it,” Long says. “I’m very driven by proving false information wrong. All the conspiracy theories are true. The world is run by evil. The big conglomerates, Big Food, Big Pharma. They run the world. It’s a massive elitist program to keep us all indoctrinated and weak. Ninety percent of what’s in the grocery store is garbage. It’s all full of seed oils, processed foods, chemicals, and things that fuck us up. And more and more people are becoming aware that this stuff is really, really bad for us. So when you get on an animal-based diet, like we were always intended to consume, you start feeling better.”
But Perri Halperin, the Clinical Nutrition Coordinator at New York’s Mount Sinai Health System, says feeling better isn’t a medically sound way to decide your diet. Halperin tells Rolling Stone that there’s little change in nutrients between raw and cooked meat. But there is a major change in exposure to foodborne illnesses, which can thrive in raw meat.
“I think part of feeling better may just be a placebo effect,” Halperin says. “People who do the diet highlight that red meat is a good source of iron. But iron is heat stable, so cooking the meat does not make the iron less bioavailable. If you’re not cooking your meat, you’re not having an opportunity to kill potentially harmful bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella. Cooking meat also gives the meat fibers an opportunity to break down. Your stomach digests by squeezing, so when those fibers are broken down, food is easier to digest. So basically, if you’re eating an all raw red meat diet, your stomach is not happy either because of potential foodborne illness, because it’s hard to digest, or because of constipation.”
Nutritionists like Halperin don’t recommend an all-meat diet because of all the cons and the unavailable pros. But not only do carnivore fans like Long not care — they claim doctors are actively lying to people. According to Long, vegetables, which have long been understood to be a healthy addition to any diet, have defense mechanisms that make them toxic to the human body long term. In fact, Long says medical advice, which he calls disinformation, drives him to share his diet with as many people as possible. It’s not just about food. It’s about winning a lifetime mental game.
“The problem is that our world currently has a fear-driven culture,” Long says. “We’re instilled with this fear at an early age and we’re told to play it safe — when in reality, you have to take risks to seek accomplishment. This is really like a big underlying reason of what my brand represents, what I represent. I know I look crazy. I’m eating freaking raw testicles, I look like a lunatic. But the point is to show each and every person that we as humans are capable of more than what the elitists believe.”
There’s a pretty understandable reason why plans like the carnivore diet, and their influencers, thrive on social media, according to Abbey Sharp. A registered dietitian and nutrition content creator, Sharp tells Rolling Stone that visual anecdotes do a lot of work in promoting fad diets.
“People are always looking for a quick fix, and when moderation hasn’t yielded fast enough results or the results that they want, they’re going to look to those fringe or extreme diets,” Sharp says. “And a lot of the problem lies when we have a visual medium like TikTok or Instagram where people are able to make a connection between a diet and a particular body. People can be distrustful of research or government authorities. So when we see someone making claims that a diet has changed their life, it’s very hard for the layperson not to buy into that. A story is always more powerful than actual hard research.”
Medicine agrees, even if social media doesn’t, that a raw carnivore diet isn’t the best thing you can do for your body. But underneath the surface of the popular food plan is a pervasive belief that prioritizes strength and breaking free from the masses. Proponents of the carnivore diet think the world is burning. Some cite the rise in obesity. Others cite society’s fear of offending people. But almost all of the biggest influencers of the carnivore diet are driven by a belief that masculinity has been demonized. So the diet isn’t just about asserting control over what they eat, but control over a world they feel has changed without them.
“Men like Andrew Tate are trying to bring back masculinity as a positive thing. And it is a positive, positive thing,” Long says. “Men and women have roles. But the world is shunning masculinity. And it’s fucking crazy. It’s insane. There are people who say people who do the carnivore diet are trying to be big and bad and they’re all jacked up. Yeah, that’s the point! I want to live my best life.”
According to Sharp, fads like the carnivore diet trade in words like control, when they really mean restriction, all for fear of losing not just conventional attractiveness but a grip on the culture.
“A lot of the diets that have gained popularity are positioned as a kind of lifestyle. But really, there’s still just another way to restrict,” Sharp says. “We’ve seen a huge pendulum shift toward wellness culture. It’s more sexy, more socially acceptable. It’s for health. It’s a lifestyle. But when we create a set of guidelines of ‘Diet Rules,’ even if the intention is allegedly for health, we’re still restricting. We’re just finding kind of sneaky ways to do it. So with the carnivore diet, yes, there’s that element of masculinity, because we really internalize these messages about food as it pertains to ourselves. At the end of the day, food isn’t just about eating. It’s about identity.”
The idea that widespread acceptance of body types (i.e lifestyles) has caused a degradation of society is a common one in conservative and white-centric circles. The easiest way to decode the message is to replace every mention of raw with terms for purity. Tate, Rogan, and Peterson have all been criticized for belief patterns others have called racist, misogynistic, and homophobic — and credited for stoking a rising wave of toxic masculinity online. But Long fervently denies that the carnivore diet has anything to do with toxic masculinity (which he doesn’t believe in) or a fear of living in a world not built for men like him (which he doesn’t believe in).
“I don’t have fear of being weak, but why would I want to be weak?” he says. “That sounds awful. I’m not ever gonna sit around and become a fat lazy piece of shit. We want to feel strong. We want to feel vital. We want to feel good. We want to feel happy. We want to feel like we have control of ourselves and our decisions in our life. So if you feel like you have no control, what the hell is the point of living that kind of life?”