The Amazing Amount Of Meat Eaten On The Lewis And Clark Expedition

The Meriwether Lewis and William Clark expedition set out in 1804 to explore and chart new areas west of the Mississippi River recently bought by the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase during Thomas Jefferson's presidency. It was an exhausting, two-year journey spanning more than 8,000 miles that necessitated a tremendous amount of preparation and planning (via If the secret history of breakfast was intriguing, this case is so tenfold.

They recruited and trained men to accompany them on the trip, totaling 45 people in all, including soldiers, an enslaved person named York, a French-Indian interpreter, and a boat crew. You would think the prospect of keeping this large of a group well-nourished during the course of an arduous trek involving burning thousands of calories a day would be a daunting one.

But in those formative days of our nation before Manifest Destiny led to territorial expansion westward, subjugation of Native Americans, and the subsequent decimation of native animal populations such as buffalo, hunting wild game was at least a slightly simpler task, depending on the geography and terrain. Clark even made references to the expedition's substantial meat consumption in his journal.  

Meat: It's what's for dinner

Although Meriwether Lewis and William Clark's team brought along massive quantities of food with them, including seven tons of flour, coffee, pork, corn, beans, lard, sugar, and 93 pounds of dried soup, they also managed to shoot a few ungulates here and there to supplement their supply (via Ranker). And according to PBS, it behooved them to avoid the soup if possible, which when cooked turned gelatinous and was later left to dry out and harden into something barely passing as edible. After all, canned foods changed history, but they weren't exactly staples at this time.

When times were good and there was a fruitful hunt, they gorged themselves on up to nine pounds of meat a day. In one comment recorded in his journey notes, Clark shared an itemized list of the animals they heartily devoured to keep their strength up. "We eat an emensity (sic) of meat; it requires four deer, or an elk and a deer, or one buffaloe (sic) to supply us plentifully 24 hours," he wrote.

Of course, not all meat was finished during a single sitting, and the rest needed to be preserved, so there were times along their travels when the men boiled seawater to remove the salt and use it as both a flavor enhancer and a preservative. Talk about a carnivorous diet.