Six months ago, University of Wisconsin-Madison senior Jack Turco decided his diet was too strange and unique not to be shared online. At that time, Turco was strictly carnivorous, eating raw and cooked meats, and animal products exclusively while simultaneously performing at peak physical condition in his sport. Turco was previously a member of the Wisconsin men’s rowing team.
Turco is originally from Libertyville, Illinois and is in his fourth year at UW-Madison, where he studies personal finance. He has over 117,000 followers on TikTok, with several of his videos eclipsing 5 or even 10 million views and has generated controversy online with his radical diet.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
What inspired you to start your carnivore diet and your social media accounts? Which came first?
I started my diet around a year ago — I was kind of questioning [the] sustainability of my current diet at the time, which was, I would say, pretty healthy, but I just wasn’t feeling good. And I kind of made an extreme switch. I’m kind of that type of person, to go all in on something.
I decided to go all in on a [carnivore] diet, and I ended up having crazy results, and I was eating this way for like over six months at least. And people would say, like, “Dude, you’re weird. Put that on social media. Just see what happens.” And I just kind of put it off. I didn’t really care too much about it, but I started posting and it just kept blowing up and honestly, I just ran with it.
Can you walk us through what you eat on a daily basis?
Yeah, so I brought a little steak and some butter here as well, uh, to show you. I can have some of that as well. But today I woke up, I had a couple cheeseburgers, a little bit of raw liver and then some milk.
But I’ve posted videos before of some crazy recipes like raw testicle lollipops and whatnot. I do eat that stuff! Bull pizzle is another one that blew up on my page — that’s normal. Nose-to-tail eating is what I have on a daily basis.
Do you want to explain what pizzle is?
Yeah, okay, because that blew up on my TikTok recently. But bull pizzle is just bull penis, and the story of how it came to be is actually pretty crazy.
I was just at the butcher looking for some organ meats, right, as you do. And I thought I was getting some beef tendons — I was gonna make some broth or some soup. And I was checking out and there was no label on [the meat], so I didn’t really know.
And then the butcher took it, scanned it and he was like, “Oh, you like the beef pizzles? Are you gonna give ‘em to your dog?”
And I was thinking, like, “Huh? What did he just say? Pizzle?” Like, I don't know what that is. And come to find out, he’s like, “Yeah, the bull penis. People, you know, they dehydrate ‘em, give ‘em to your dog.”
And I’m like, “No way.” And then I actually bought all of them, I cleared out their whole stock.
Before you tried it?
Before I tried it — I didn’t even know. I was just like, “This is going to be amazing.” And people ask me, “Oh, were you eating bull pizzle before TikTok?” And to be honest, no, not at all — I just found it and then it blew up.
What are the guidelines of your diet?
So basically, I kind of have a framework by now, but when I first started, it was just strictly animal products. So like fat and steak or ground beef, right? And now I’d say I have around two pounds of ground beef or meat a day. I’ll backfill the rest with honey, fruits.
It’s definitely morphed as I’ve gone along. But as an athlete, it’s important to be fueling up. So fruits, honey, dairy are all foods that I’ve begun including for sure.
Do you worry about any purported health risks from eating raw meat?
That's a good question. So, I eat raw meat basically every single day, but it’s not a strictly raw diet, and I will say, I have never gotten a stomachache. I’ve never gotten sick, I’ve never gotten food poisoning at all. Ever. Which is surprising, to some people, but if you get quality products, then I really wouldn’t worry about it.
Where are you buying your meat? What does your grocery budget look like?
I go to a butcher — the Conscious Carnivore, actually, off of University [Avenue]. But other than that, you can order some stuff online or just at a regular grocery store for sure. And I would say on average I’m spending $20 to $25 a day on my diet, which I almost consider an investment.
Because if I’m healthy, then I’m not gonna be visiting a doctor. I don’t need to go to the dentist. I don’t need to buy medication. So it’s like, if you dial in your diet, there’s other parts that you won’t have to pay for.
You eat a lot of things that some people might find gross. Is there anything you’ve ever had that you just hated?
There’s one video I made of lamb intestines that I called spaghetti, and I had meatballs on top. And I will say those actually did not taste good at all. I just boiled them and I think there was still some waste in the intestines. I don’t think I got everything out. It definitely did not taste good at all.
What made you want to do a carnivore diet?
I was researching and I was seeing people have success with the carnivore diet. People started popping up like Liver King when I first started my carnivore diet; I didn't know who he was. Then he blew up, and I’m sure a bunch of people started adopting some of the things he was doing.
I felt like the carnivore diet was just what made the most sense to me, because humans are meat eaters, so I felt like adding that to my diet or making it the entirety of my diet was something that was gonna benefit me.
Why do you eat so much butter?
I think butter has been demonized in recent years, especially with big corporations pushing seed oils, right? And so basically, butter is something that has been lost in, I think, a lot of people’s diet, and it was in mine as well.
And that was one of the first things I started eating again, and I felt amazing. I just felt sharp all the time. I was sleeping, I was recovering. And so butter for me was like, I just came to this realization that maybe not everything we’re being told is correct.
So I feel like butter has a really bad rap, and people avoid it. I feel like I almost try to normalize it, right? Normalize butter, that’s kinda been my mission.
Have you always had a strict diet or consistent food regimen?
I guess not, honestly — that’s a good question. I never really cared up until a couple of years ago, which is surprising, right? I’ve played sports my whole life and it was one thing that I’ve ignored basically the whole time.
And I think that’s why I’m so passionate about it now, because bringing awareness to other athletes about the importance of your diet is huge. Maybe your diet doesn’t look similar to mine, but basically just realizing the importance of what you put in your body is crucial.
How do you maintain your diet when you’re on the road with the rowing team? [Turco was a member of the Wisconsin men’s rowing team at the time of this interview. He left the team on March 22, 2023.]
Anytime I’m traveling, I guess you could say I kind of always have a plan. Like when I travel, I’ll pack some food. I’ll do my best, but it’s really easy to just throw a stick of butter in my bag and some honey, and then I’m good.
What’s it been like to go viral?
It is weird, ‘cause before this, I would walk around campus or in public and I wouldn’t think twice about how I look, if people know who I am. But now I get stopped basically any time I go out in public — people will look, point or a lot of people come up to me.
Even getting gas like the other day, I had my head down and my hood up, and some kids approached me and were freaking out. But to me, I don't feel any different. It’s kind of funny to me, but I always try to be nice because I feel like they’re the reason that I’m where I am, for sure.
I have seen people online say this is fake. What would you say to that?
I would say if you’ve watched any of my live streams or know anyone close to me, they will tell you it’s the real deal. I was just talking to my friend before this, and he was like, “Yeah, it's crazy. I look at all the comments and I think it’s hilarious ‘cause they just don’t know who you are. I know you live this way and do everything.”
What are your favorite foods that you eat currently as part of your diet?
I would say steak — you can’t go wrong with a steak and some butter, like we got here. But a majority of my diet is really just ground beef, and I love it. And most people would probably get bored of the taste, but a little maple syrup on ground beef … it’s crazy. I don’t really [try to prepare it differently]; it’s really either the grill or a pan and that’s it.
Have you had anybody reach out to you and say that they’ve adopted your diet?
So, social media’s been great in the sense that people reach out. A lot of people have some positive things to say — others, not so much. But a lot of ‘em have said, like, “Hey, I'm in. I'm incorporating some ideas, or some things that you do,” and you know, that's great.
And a lot of my videos probably seem extreme, and that’s almost by design too. Because if you see something extreme, you’re like, “Okay, maybe I won’t do that, but hey, maybe a little bit more butter, maybe a little bit more meat in my diet would be good.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 10:58 a.m. on March 23, 2023 to include that Turco left the Wisconsin Badgers men’s rowing team on March 22, 2023. A previous version of this story indicated that Turco was still an active member.
Cormac LaLiberte is the current editor of the college news desk. He is a junior studying linguistics, and has previously reported primarily on social issues pertaining to UW-Madison. Get in touch on Twitter @CormacLaLiberte.