LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Derek Nance's Lexington home looks like most of the houses in his neighborhood. There's a garden in the backyard, a freshwater pond with small fish swimming and some chickens in a hen house. But the backyard doesn't give the full picture of Nance's life. It's what he keeps inside his house, that's turning heads...and stomachs.
"Raw is just so much easier for me to digest," he said as he opened a large refrigerator in the utility room. Inside, every single part of a sheep was hanging as if it was being stored in a butcher shop. He pulled a bone down from the top shelf.
"I'll just sit here and chew on one of those for a while whenever I need a snack," Nance said, before he showed us the hanging spleen, "It's a big bloody sponge.".
The liver and gallbladder were hanging behind the spleen.
Nance was able to crack open the bones and push out the bone marrow with a chopstick. He said it's like the "cheesecake" of the sheep.
"Yeah, this is real good," Nance said. What isn't good, he said, is the bladder. "I don't usually ever eat the bladder. It's saturated with urine."
Nance grew up with relatively common childhood ailments including asthma and ear infections, but he said when he turned 20, his sicknesses became more severe. He only weighed 150 pounds and was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome.
"I started studying other people who were into the raw aspect that the vitamins and nutrients are more intact raw, and it's better and easier for the body to digest."
He said the raw diet immediately solved his health problems. Part of the reason Nance said it works for his body is because of his thorough vetting of the sheep.
"I go out to the farm and try to source local grass-fed, pasture, raised directly from the source because I just need to see for myself where the animals came from," Nance said. "I think it's important to look at the animal while it's alive and there's a certain vitality and vibrancy in the animal that you can see and you can see for yourself if it's healthy."
Nance slaughters the sheep on the farm, if the owner is okay with it. Otherwise, he brings the live sheep to his home and slaughters it in his backyard.
"As far as I know, I'm not doing anything wrong, and I've been doing it the past ten years," he said when asked if slaughtering animals and eating them raw is legal.
According to the Lexington-Fayette ordinance specifically addressing slaughtering animals, he isn't doing anything wrong. He can slaughter sheep in his backyard because he has a fence surrounding the backyard.
Nance has four children who are excited to tell anyone about their dad's diet. Because of that, social services has visited the home a few times. The case is always dropped because he doesn't make the children eat raw meat, and he handles it as safely as possible.
"My daughters will eat some raw meat and they like it, and they like drinking eggs, but I don't strictly put it on them. They are free to decide," Nance said.
He knows his diet is strange. He is the subject of some documentaries. He also knows what works for him isn't for everyone.
"I just want to put it out there that it does work for some people," Nance said. "I can tell what's good for me and at the same time, I can say I have no idea what's good for you."
WKYT Medical Contributor Dr. Ryan Stanton said Nance's diet is strange because the reason we cook food is to get rid of many food-borne pathogens. Dr. Stanton said Nance has probably developed resistance from germs over time, much like doctors and nurses that get small doses of germs but don't get sick often. Nance said he gets regular physicals, and so far, this hasn't negatively affected his body. He wants to see how long it can continue to keep him healthy.