’Til the cows come home

Meat and dairy played a more significant role in human diets in Bronze Age China than previously thought. A new analysis also suggests that farmers and herders tended to sheep and goats differently than they did their cows, unlike in other parts of the world — keeping cows closer to home and feeding them the byproducts of grains that they were growing for their own consumption, like the grass stalks from millet plants.

Local cooking preferences drove acceptance of new crop staples in prehistoric China

The food preparation preferences of Chinese cooks — such as the technological choice to boil or steam grains, instead of grinding or processing them into flour — had continental-scale consequences for the adoption of new crops in prehistoric China, according to research from Washington University in St. Louis. A new study in PLOS ONE led by Xinyi Liu, associate professor of archaeology in Arts & Sciences, focuses on the ancient history of staple cereals across China, a country well known for its diverse food products and early adoption of many domesticated plants.

Grain traits traced to ‘dark matter’ of rice genome

Domesticated rice has fatter seed grains with higher starch content than its wild rice relatives — the result of many generations of preferential seed sorting and sowing. But even though rice was the first crop to be fully sequenced, scientists have only documented a few of the genetic changes that made rice into a staple food for more than half the world’s population.