Human Ecology

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 157–197

Macronutrient modifications of optimal foraging theory: An approach using indifference curves applied to some modern foragers

  • Kim Hill

DOI: 10.1007/BF00888091

Cite this article as:
Hill, K. Hum Ecol (1988) 16: 157. doi:10.1007/BF00888091


The use of energy (calories) as the currency to be maximized per unit time in Optimal Foraging Models is considered in light of data on several foraging groups. Observations on the Ache, Cuiva, and Yora foragers suggest men do notattempt to maximize energetic return rates, but instead often concentrate on acquiring meat resources which provide lower energetic returns. The possibility that this preference is due to the macronutrient composition of hunted and gathered foods is explored. Indifference curves are introduced as a means of modeling the tradeoff between two desirable commodities, meat (protein-lipid) and carbohydrate, and a specific indifference curve is derived using observed choices in five foraging situatiuons. This curve is used to predict the amount o meat that Mbuti foragers will trade for carbohydrate, in an attempt to test the utility of the approach.

Key words

nutrientsforaging theoryhunter-gatherersSouth America

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kim Hill
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyEmory UniversityAtlanta
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of MichiganAnn Arbor