The Kentucky meat shower was an incident occurring for a period of several minutes on March 3, 1876, where what appeared to be flakes of red meat fell from the sky in a 100-by-50-yard (91 by 46 m) area near the settlement of Rankin in Bath County, Kentucky. Most of the pieces were approximately 5 centimetres (2.0 in) square; at least one was 10 centimetres (3.9 in) square. The phenomenon was reported by Scientific American, the New York Times, and several other publications at the time.
The meat appeared to be beef, but according to the first report in Scientific American, two gentlemen who tasted it judged it to be mutton or venison. B. F. Ellington, a local hunter, identified it as bear meat. Writing in the Sanitarian, Leopold Brandeis identified the substance as Nostoc, a genus of cyanobacteria. Brandeis passed the meat sample to the Newark Scientific Association for further analysis, leading to a letter from Dr. Allan McLane Hamilton appearing in the Medical Record and stating that the meat had been identified as lung tissue from either a horse or a human infant, "the structure of the organ in these two cases being almost identical". The makeup of this sample was backed up by further analysis, with two samples of the meat being identified as lung tissue, three as muscle, and two as cartilage.
Brandeis's Nostoc theory relied on the fact that Nostoc swells into a translucent jelly-like mass when rain falls on it, often giving the impression that it was falling with the rain. Charles Fort pointed out in his first book, The Book of the Damned, that there had been no rain. Locals favored the explanation that the meat was vomited up by buzzards, "who, as is their custom, seeing one of their companions disgorge himself, immediately followed suit". Dr. L. D. Kastenbine presented this theory in the Louisville Medical News as the best explanation of the variety of meat. Vultures vomit as part of making a quick escape and also as a defensive mechanism when threatened. Fort explained the flattened, dry appearance of the meat chunks as the result of pressure, and noted that nine days later, on March 12, 1876, red "corpuscles" with a "vegetable" appearance fell over London.
- Fort, Charles (1919). The Book of the Damned. New York: Boni and Liveright. pp. 45–46. OCLC 2062036.
- Crew, Bec (December 1, 2014). "Blog: The Great Kentucky Meat Shower mystery unwound by projectile vulture vomit". Scientific American.
- "Flesh Descending In A Shower.; An Astounding Phenomenon In Kentucky--Fresh Meat Like Mutton Or Venison Falling From A Clear Sky" (PDF). The New York Times. March 10, 1876.
- (21 March 1876). The Carnal Rain - Careful Investigation of the Kentucky Marvel by a Correspondent, New York Herald, p. 4, col. 1
- Wilkins, Alasdair (March 21, 2012). "When It Rains Animals: The Science of True Weather Weirdness". io9.
- Mr. X (3 May 2015). "Debunked: The Kentucky Meat Storm of 1876". Journal of the Bizarre.
- zatzbatz (May 9, 2003). "Kentucky Meat Shower". Everything2.com.
- Fort, pp. 288–89.