Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Meat and Morality


maher
 Share

Recommended Posts

In the last month, the whole issue of filling in some of the shades of grey in the morality of meat eating has been in the news.

First, we had Hugh Fearingly-Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver lecturing at us that not all chicken eating is the same, and that we should pay more attention to the humane nature in which the birds are raised prior to being killed for our consumption. In case that wasnt enough, today Mark Bittman in the NY Times Magazine, brings up this chestnut:

" ... if Americans were to reduce meat consumption by just 20 percent it would be as if we all switched from a standard sedan — a Camry, say — to the ultra-efficient Prius. Similarly, a study last year by the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science in Japan estimated that 2.2 pounds of beef is responsible for the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the average European car every 155 miles, and burns enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for nearly 20 days."

i could get past the idea of humanely treating animals prior to slaughter, but this is a new one... im trying to be as environmentally conscious as i can be... does this mean no more steak??

full article link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/27/weekinre...r=1&oref=slogin

Link to comment
Share on other sites

UN research shows that livestock production creates more greenhouse gasses than all forms of transportation combined. That is really shocking to me. These facts about the meat industry's connection to global warming have been known for some time, but have not been widely disseminated by the media. People are willing to recycle and conserve electricity, but to drastically change their diet is out of the question for some reason.

Here is more info:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/sto...l_gam_mostemail

"He was a very valiant man who first adventured on eating oysters." - King James I

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here's a quote from the above cited article:

Cutting down or cutting out meat is a win-win-win policy. Not only does it help the fight against global warming, but it saves countless animals from factory-farm suffering and it's good for you.

And here's my problem with all these open-ended statements. It's not a win-win policy for everyone.

What about the farmers who are raising the meat/poulty what have you? What happens to their income.

What happens to the factory farms - a reduction of 10% in their profit margin leads to what? More beef/poultry in even less space and even more inhumanely raised animals/birds to make up for the lost profit?

What happens to restaurants? Do some of them close and their already poorly paid staff find themselves jobless? And on and on it goes.

I am not anti-enviromentalist, not anti humane treatment for animals, not anti-health about our consumption. I am anti - statements that don't take into account all the consequences.

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Even though it may be true that "livestock production creates more greenhouse gasses" isn't also true that livestock feed on plants that convert carbon dioxide to oxygen thereby reducing carbon dioxide. Further, range fed stock utilize plants and lands that otherwise are of no economic value. Unquestionably, the animals involved should be more humanly treated - further, that this will raise costs - that is the price of acting morally. That is why we have public universal education, minimum wage and child labor laws. Its expensive but it is a moral decision that a civilization makes.

The Philip Mahl Community teaching kitchen is now open. Check it out. "Philip Mahl Memorial Kitchen" on Facebook. Website coming soon.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This, from the article, just skeeves me out:

Longer term, it no longer seems lunacy to believe in the possibility of “meat without feet” — meat produced in vitro, by growing animal cells in a super-rich nutrient environment before being further manipulated into burgers and steaks.

Then there are dietary concerns like protein, zinc, iron, calcium, B-12 etc. that have to be compensated for - and can be with careful selection of vegetable matter. Then there are individual nutritional needs, I don't think we know and understand enough about dietary trace minerals as well.

The argument that we wouldn't be as fat if we cut down on meat consumption flies in the face of the very real weight loss results that are evident with Atkins type diets. They work. I don't like the idea of throwing the body into Ketosis, but a ketogenic diet has been used to successfully treat epilepsy.

I guess most of us could get by on less meat - but the solution to global warming? I'm skeptical. And, I am with Anna on this one:

I am not anti-environmentalist, not anti humane treatment for animals, not anti-health about our consumption. I am anti - statements that don't take into account all the consequences.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't like the idea of test tube meat either and it seems to me that producing meat that way would turn it into a commodity (which would please the agro-industry) that is so disconnected from the natural course of things. As Jmahl said, we eat animals because they convert things we can't eat into edible protein. To produce meat in a test tube would be to make it into something that no longer serves that purpose. What purpose would it serve then? It seems to me only to feed our predilections and cultural impulses. There is nothing wrong with that, but I don't like the idea of those predilections becoming unmoored completely from the reason it works in the first place and the way it has functioned for many many years. That seems like dangerous territory to me. I think in some ways we're already in that territory though and these articles hint at some of the unforeseen effects of practices that have been in large part proceeding unguided, taking us to a place we might not want to be.

As for cutting down on meat consumption, I think it's a good idea. In the long view, historically, it might be interesting to know how much meat has been consumed by people. I don't have any figures on this and haven't done the research, but I have a sense that our consumption of meat is far greater than it has been in many historical periods. That we assume that our eating practices are natural and shouldn't necessarily be subject to change is to be expected. Cultural practices are usually not designed by people writing articles or posting on eGullet. They probably never will be. On the other hand, I think its important to be as self-reflexive about what we do as possible. So on an individual basis, I think cutting down on meat is a good idea and I advocate it.

Here's my two cents on statements that don't account for all the consequences: What statement can? Only some kind of Platonic ideal of a statement might take into account all consequences. Even if we try to take everything into account, I don't think we can. That's ok though I think because the collective balance of our dialogue hopefully makes up for it.

josh

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here's a quote from the above cited article:
Cutting down or cutting out meat is a win-win-win policy. Not only does it help the fight against global warming, but it saves countless animals from factory-farm suffering and it's good for you.

And here's my problem with all these open-ended statements. It's not a win-win policy for everyone.

What about the farmers who are raising the meat/poulty what have you? What happens to their income.

What happens to the factory farms - a reduction of 10% in their profit margin leads to what? More beef/poultry in even less space and even more inhumanely raised animals/birds to make up for the lost profit?

What happens to restaurants? Do some of them close and their already poorly paid staff find themselves jobless? And on and on it goes.

I am not anti-enviromentalist, not anti humane treatment for animals, not anti-health about our consumption. I am anti - statements that don't take into account all the consequences.

Agreed. It's very easy to say it's "win-win" when you don't actually consider how every person could actually be affected by it. And - dare I say it - sometimes people are too much in a socio-economic bubble to see it all.

On the point of the farmers raising the animals, Michael Pollan's March 2002 NYT Magazine article "Power Steer" is a reminder that unfortunately, a lot of those farmers are lucky to make money to cover raising the animal to begin with.

"I know it's the bugs, that's what cheese is. Gone off milk with bugs and mould - that's why it tastes so good. Cows and bugs together have a good deal going down."

- Gareth Blackstock (Lenny Henry), Chef!

eG Ethics Signatory

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't think cutting down on the consumption of meat will change much. I remember back when I was in elementary school being taught the food pyramid and the different films associated with nutrition. Before the advent of breakfast cereals people generally ate bacon/sausage/ham and eggs for breakfast. We eat less beef and pork now then we did in the 1950s. Our population has grown from 152 million people (Census Bureau 1950) to just over 300 million (Census Bureau 2007 est). The problem is that the demand increases as population increases. IIRC, seafood became very popular in the 80's (or was it the '70s) and beef production slowed to the point that ranchers were killing calves because the could not afford to raise them. As for Carbon Dioxide and Methane production, maybe we should exercise less and eat fewer beans ;). While livestock may contribute to these gases there are many more wild animals than domestic livestock and again we have to include ourselves. If you want to go green, eat fewer beans. :))

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Corn fed livestock ie the beef you crave, is fed a diet of corn to produce the marbling so prized in high end meat. Corn grown to day is intensively farmed and requires tons of fossil fuel based fertilizers and pesticides. Most of the corn grown in the US and Canada is GMO and therefor under the control of two or three huge multinationals as is fossil fuel. Animals farmed intensively require antibiotics in large amounts to prevent infections which spread like wildfire in such dense populations. Think about the number of resistant strains of bacteria that infect us today and wonder if some of that comes from eating intensively farmed meat fed/injected with antibiotics in order to prevent diseases in these intensively farmed animal populations.

One of the benchmarks of an increased standard of living or wealth is increased meat eating. We eat more meat than poor countries. We actually only need three ounces of protein daily to maintain good health. The body cares not what the protein source is.. meat, fish, poultry or plant. So in fact to maintain our lifestyle we use huge amounts of fossil fuel to grow perfectly edible plant protein in the form of wheat, barley, soy, etc which we then feed to cows and chicken which can produce just as good protein in a slightly longer period of time if the cows are grass fed and the chickens are allowed to walk around the barnyard. Why feed the animals these grains when larger human populations can use them for their required three ounces of protein a dayat a greatly reduced cost. And now horrors of horrors we are growing corn, a perfectly good human source of protein never mind its GMO properties, to make biofuel. Madness!!!

I am not suggesting we all become vegetarians but buying meat from organically managed farms and buying organically farmed vegetables will reduce the use of fossil fuels, increase the number of small farmers, reduce the number of factory farms which care only about profit (profit is not a bad word to me, I am an economist after all), protect the seed supply from belonging to a few multinationals that are using you as their experimental animals in their GMO lab.

Edited by Soupcon (log)

"Flay your Suffolk bought-this-morning sole with organic hand-cracked pepper and blasted salt. Thrill each side for four minutes at torchmark haut. Interrogate a lemon. Embarrass any tough roots from the samphire. Then bamboozle till it's al dente with that certain je ne sais quoi."

Arabella Weir as Minty Marchmont - Posh Nosh

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am not suggesting we all become vegetarians but buying  meat from organically managed farms and buying organically farmed vegetables will reduce the use of fossil fuels, increase the number of small farmers, reduce the number of factory farms which care only about profit (profit is not a bad word to me, I am an economist after all), protect the seed supply from belonging to a few multinationals  that are using you as their experimental animals in their GMO lab.

Growing organically requires cow or chicken manure, in some cases bone or blood meal. Depending upon your soil type. Compost sometimes doesn't cut it. In fact worm castings are a great fertilizer, where once again an animal converts vegetable material into something the plants can thrive on in order to feed us.

Organic farms are also a vector for disease and pests that enter the food supply and could put a small farmer out of business in one season.

Just my opinion. And just for balance. :biggrin:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here's a quote from the above cited article:
Cutting down or cutting out meat is a win-win-win policy. Not only does it help the fight against global warming, but it saves countless animals from factory-farm suffering and it's good for you.

And here's my problem with all these open-ended statements. It's not a win-win policy for everyone.

What about the farmers who are raising the meat/poulty what have you? What happens to their income.

What happens to the factory farms - a reduction of 10% in their profit margin leads to what? More beef/poultry in even less space and even more inhumanely raised animals/birds to make up for the lost profit?

What happens to restaurants? Do some of them close and their already poorly paid staff find themselves jobless? And on and on it goes.

Saying that change is inevitable is a truism. Change usually benefits some and hurts others – the automobile hurt buggy whip manufacturers, and the internet is hurting newspaper sales. Rarely does the opportunity arise to create a “win-win policy for everyone”, but we can decide whether to take an active or passive role in shaping the future.

I do expect people to continue to eat at restaurants regardless. :wink:

I am not anti-enviromentalist, not anti humane treatment for animals, not anti-health about our consumption.  I am anti - statements that don't take into account all the consequences.

It would be lovely if we could predict future consequences with precision. Many try and most fail. Certainly, attempting to predict the range of outcomes increases our odds of avoiding catastrophic consequences.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Even though it may be true that "livestock production creates more greenhouse gasses" isn't also true that livestock feed on plants that convert carbon dioxide to oxygen thereby reducing carbon dioxide.

Plants respire carbon dioxide as well as converting carbon dioxide to oxygen. To a first approximation, the amount of carbon in the plant’s tissue equals the amount of carbon removed from the atmosphere. When the plant is eaten or harvested, its tissues decompose and most of the captured carbon is released back to the atmosphere. Consequently, plants that are harvested annually have little net effect on atmospheric carbon. In contrast, woody plants can hold carbon out of the atmosphere for decades to centuries.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My husband pointed out this article to me...after he had listened me read passages from "Animal, Vegetable, Mineral' by Barbara Kingsolver to him ad nauseum. I know there are many shades of gray and there are unintended consequences whatever direction one takes. But it doesn't hurt to try to make informed eating and cooking decisions. I love my medium-rare corn fed steak but I know when we visit relatives in Italy, meat is not the centerpiece of the meal.

Cooking is like love, it should be entered into with abandon, or not at all.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Someone above mentioned that eating less meat may not be "win-win" because the meat farmers may go out of business, or lose money, etc. And they have a point. But I don't think that the support of these farmers is a good reason to keep eating meat...nor do I think that those of us who who eat meat now give any of our thought to the financial welfare of the farmer who raised and slaughtered our meal while eating it.

I think we eat meat because it tastes good, and in U.S. culture it is the centerpiece of all meals. Meat eating is firmly entrenched in our culture, and moving away from eating meat would significantly impact other areas of our life. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Sunday Brunch? These events would change significantly for many people without including the turkey, ham and sausage omelettes. And whether you dine out at Wendy's or Craft, you don't leave raving about the potatoes. Well, maybe you do when you leave Craft, but you get the point.

I would say that if the UN reports on the ill effects of the factory farming industry are true, and they seem to be a reliable source, then wouldn't cutting meat consumption be the right thing to do? Ok, so some farmers would lose their business if there was a mass migration away from meat eating. In the big picture of bettering the environment and protecting our long term investment in the planet... is that really the important issue to consider? Should we continue to support an industry that is allegedly a mega-contributor to global warming so that a very small percentage of the population can keep their current jobs?

The point that I'm getting at here is that we are too connected to meat to let it go easily, but maybe it is a sacrifice that we need to make. It's really just selfish to eat meat with all of the knowledge that we have. It is possible (and healthier in many ways) to sustain ourselves on vegetable proteins. And it seems evident that reducing factory farming would have a hugely positive impact on the environment. But very few of us will take this simple step because eating bacon is such a pleasurable experience.

Even the people who are huge advocates of stopping/slowing global warming don't bring up the issue, because they don't want to look like hypocrites:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml...09/wgore109.xml

"He was a very valiant man who first adventured on eating oysters." - King James I

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It is good to see this topic being discussed on Eg. I had thought of posting that NYT article here, but am also glad that someone else has done it.

It is a little surprising that these environmental implications of mass production of "cheap" meat is coming as news to many people. These facts have been around for a while, maybe it is the first time that a newspaper such as NYT is running such articles that it's coming to some people's attention?

Michael Pollan in "Omnivore's Dilemma" talked about the feed conversion rate (only for feed, not for water etc.), in the industrial production of cattle. He's hardly the first person to make this point, it's been said for decades.

It makes so little sense to feed 7 lbs of grain to a cow, and get less than half back as edible product.; and we haven't begun to talk about water, oil, etc. inputs.

It is just not possible for large numbers of humans to eat like this every day, and yet expect to continue to survive on this single planet. Once we have torn up the entire Amazon forest to grow soybeans to feed to cattle for humans to eat, then what? And once the oceans are emptied of tuna and all the other wonderful fish that gourmets want to eat several times a week, then what? These days are not too far in the future.

When I had posted the NYT article on eg about tuna overfishing, a reader replied that their reaction to such information would be to eat as much tuna as possible while it was still around. (The thread is still somewhere and can be found).

This shocked me into silence, though I am all for people eating whatever they want.

People have spoken of the entrenched US culture of meat-eating, and of Japan's culture of whaling and tuna, etc. While this may be true, 1) cultures change (e.g. modern yuppie food preferences seem so different from earlier patterns); 2) eating WAY LESS meat is not the same as eating NO meat.

I've never seen a serious discussion on eg of cutting down meat consumption to maybe once or twice a week. What would that look like from a "Western" dietary perspective?

OTOH I've seen lots of eg posts that imply being vegetarian is an inferior way of eating, living, nourishing, and being (clearly reflecting entrenched attitudes rather than facts). But to repeat, eating WAY LESS meat is not the same as eating NO meat.

And industrial meat producers could be assisted to find other livelihoods (like tobacco farmers, steel workers, etc. have had to diversify). Farm subsidies are hardly a sustainable way to run the farm economy anyway.....

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Organic farms are also a vector for disease and pests that enter the food supply and could put a small farmer out of business in one season.

Anne, can you expand on the basis for this statement? Thanks in advance.

Sure, if you will be gracious enough to allow me to clarify my statement! :biggrin: Thanks in advance!

I probably should have stated:

Organic farms CAN BE a vector for disease and pests...

Personally, I grow as organically as possible. The food just tastes better, and I am quite fond of the beneficials. Living in a frost free, humid climate, I have a wonderfully long growing season, but also a lot of disease and pests. I don't spray aggressively, and try to keep things at a minimum, but I do spray.

Unfortunately, many backyard gardeners and even market growers that have good intentions of growing organic don't follow the National Organic Programs regulations, because they see no need to become certified.

Click for NOP abstract

From the site:

Sanitation measures that remove disease vectors, weed seeds, and habitat for pest organisms should be used. Plant varieties with resistance to pests, weeds, and diseases should be selected. When these practices are not sufficient for pest control, a biological, botanical, or synthetic substance that is already on the approved list of organic materials may be used. Once a farmer is approved as a certified organic producer, the certification will remain in effect until terminated, either voluntarily or through some type of enforcement process. Annual certification updates will be required, but when approved, will be seen as an extension of the original certification, rather than as a new certification.

Even some of those that are certified grow lax once they get the stamp.

I could whine all day about whitefly and yellow leaf curl virus! But I garden as a hobby, and the impact on my garden is not nearly as dramatic as it is on the fields west of me that many people depend upon for their livelihood. I burn virused plants. They shouldn't even be sent to the dump. I could name other pests and disease, and any veg garden is a magnet for them, but you get the idea.

I don't mind the pests taking their fair share, but when they take theirs and mine, I draw the line and murder them.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

People have spoken of the entrenched US culture of meat-eating, and of Japan's culture of whaling and tuna, etc.  While this may be true, 1) cultures change (e.g. modern yuppie food preferences seem so different from earlier patterns); 2) eating WAY LESS meat is not the same as eating NO meat. 

I've never seen a serious discussion on eg of cutting down meat consumption to maybe once or twice a week.  What would that look like from a "Western" dietary perspective?   

OTOH I've seen lots of eg posts that imply being vegetarian is an inferior way of eating, living, nourishing, and being (clearly reflecting entrenched attitudes rather than facts).  But to repeat, eating WAY LESS meat is not the same as eating NO meat. 

And industrial meat producers could be assisted to find other livelihoods (like tobacco farmers, steel workers, etc. have had to diversify).  Farm subsidies are hardly a sustainable way to run the farm economy anyway.....

Oh, I don't know, a quick search landed a lot of eG hits for vegetarian:

Vegetarian Hits

I think the meatless lifestyle is pretty well represented among the membership, and although I have seen negatives, I have seen positive posts as well. Answerbag says somewhere around 2 to 10% are vegetarian in the US, I have't found any worldwide figures.

I eat meatless one or two days a week - not out of conscious effort, I just do. I think meat eating cultures arise out of what is available to eat. For example, for every vegan out there, there is probably a Mongolian that depends heavily upon animal products to stay nourished, and after a couple of centuries I am sure the population evolves to an animal product dependence.

I'm speculating that birth control would probably be the only viable answer to environmental impact - but nobody wants to go there right now. It may just be a matter of time though.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Inorganic pesticide residues vs. fecal contamination and what have you - well, bad farming is bad farming, whatever method is used!

Less meat rather than no meat - that is the approach that appeals to me. The "flitch" that hung in anglo-saxon chimney corners and went, slice by slice, into the soup and dumplings, is a very different approach to meat-eating from stocking our freezers with half sides of beef for daily consumption.

Personally, I'm more interested in this approach than when I was younger, because I have a moderate allergy to soy, and am sensitive enough to other legumes to want to avoid developing a bigger allergy to them. There are plenty of people in the same situation, and I notice that East Asian traditional soy foods are often fermented, which makes a big difference. I hate TVP, but tempeh is good eating!

Very large land or sea animals (i.e. animals that take a relatively long time to mature and reproduce, and which eat large amounts of feed) don't seem to be a good choice for a staple food. We come from a world where eating a cow that could still breed or give milk or an ox that could still pull a load, was living on capital; and taking ships far from land to hunt whales or game fish was a reckless endangerment of ship and crew, because it was not only hard to take such large prey back home, there was a big risk of being unable to navigate the way home from the open ocean.

Why don't we use more small fish, bird, and animal species? Is it just that as we become more urban, we only recognize about 3 types of food animal? For example, quail and eel are not too fussy about their environment, and fast and easy to replace. Quail don't need large amounts of land cleared and forced to grow only 2-3 types of grass, and eels don't need to be pursued by huge factory ships.

It seems ironic that the appeal of large mammal meat is that it can be sliced into like cheese or cake, avoiding encounter with inedible animal parts like bones or sinews, but our ancestors happily crunched small bones and sucked large ones, and we have the technology to make eel bacon, if we cared to.

I appreciate the point about food culture developing from environment - it's true that European cattle reproduce younger than Asian cattle, for example, making it less practical for Asians to farm their cattle for meat.

There are also historical influences. It seems that growing vegetables was a low priority in European feudal economies - work on communally herded livestock or communally farmed crops was legitimate, while work on personal crops of "pot-herbs" was begrudged as a necessary evil rather than a good day's work. The "near enough is good enough" approach we still see today to vegetable growing is quite different from East Asia, and I think it affects the value westerners place on vegetable foods even today.

Japan's feudal government regularly sent out edicts exhorting and even requiring the rural poor to gather green mulching material, grow vegetables on "waste" land such as dykes around rice paddies, etc etc. That is, they actively tried to make their labor force self-sufficient, and used anti-luxury regulations to focus attention on locally-grown plant foods, and away from trading for food (or hunting/fishing).

Mongolians not only ate their herds, they traditionally ate a fair amount of dried yogurt and cheese, didn't they? And didn't they follow the traditional approach of slaughtering excess stock before winter, rather than all year round? Sheep are also less picky than cattle about what they eat, not to mention smaller and faster to reproduce (spring-born sheep may mate in fall, whereas European cattle won't mate until the following year - not too sure about Asian/tropical cattle).

But both Mongolian and US grasslands currently used to raise meat animals are resources that are hard to renew - the sod is made up of years and years worth of rotted-down grass, and once that fertility is gone, our current habit of shipping out plant and animal food and not returning waste (inedible animal or plant parts, plus the residues from human excretion, not to mention taking the dead humans back to rot happily on the farm...) is causing us to try and "force" grass cultivation on soils such as New Zealand's, which mostly require chemical changes to adapt them for grass. This kind of manipulation affects local climate, water resources....and that's before we start thinking about effects which don't have such a direct impact on locally resident humans.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It is good to see this topic being discussed on Eg.  I had thought of posting that NYT article here, but am also glad that someone else has done it.

It is a little surprising that these environmental implications of mass production of "cheap" meat is coming as news to many people.  These facts have been around for a while, maybe it is the first time that a newspaper such as NYT is running such articles that it's coming to some people's attention? 

Michael Pollan in "Omnivore's Dilemma" talked about the feed conversion rate (only for feed, not for water etc.), in the industrial production of cattle.  He's hardly the first person to make this point, it's been said for decades.

It makes so little sense to feed 7 lbs of grain to a cow, and get less than half back as edible product.; and we haven't begun to talk about water, oil, etc. inputs.   

It is just not possible for large numbers of humans to eat like this every day,  and yet expect to continue to survive on this single planet.    Once we have torn up the entire Amazon forest to grow soybeans to feed to cattle for humans to eat, then what?  And once the oceans are emptied of tuna and all the other wonderful fish that gourmets want to eat several times a week, then what?  These days are not too far in the future.

When I had posted the NYT article on eg about tuna overfishing, a reader replied that their reaction to such information would be to eat as much tuna as possible while it was still around.  (The thread is still somewhere and can be found). 

This shocked me into silence, though I am all for people eating whatever they want. 

People have spoken of the entrenched US culture of meat-eating, and of Japan's culture of whaling and tuna, etc.  While this may be true, 1) cultures change (e.g. modern yuppie food preferences seem so different from earlier patterns); 2) eating WAY LESS meat is not the same as eating NO meat. 

I've never seen a serious discussion on eg of cutting down meat consumption to maybe once or twice a week.  What would that look like from a "Western" dietary perspective?   

OTOH I've seen lots of eg posts that imply being vegetarian is an inferior way of eating, living, nourishing, and being (clearly reflecting entrenched attitudes rather than facts).  But to repeat, eating WAY LESS meat is not the same as eating NO meat. 

And industrial meat producers could be assisted to find other livelihoods (like tobacco farmers, steel workers, etc. have had to diversify).  Farm subsidies are hardly a sustainable way to run the farm economy anyway.....

i agree with much of what you said. i think the issue is more one of" less rather than no" meat or fish or whatever. i think we have much to learn in this case from poorer more frugal cultures... vietnamese pho is a great example of having meat, but probably no more than a couple of ounces in a soup with noodles and veg. ... filling, nutiricious, low fat and meaty without being a 16oz steak.

the examples of this are endless.. most indian and thai curries, chinese stir fries, arabian stews are ways of stretching a small amount of the main protein into a family meal, and the same can be said of most traditional mexican food as well.

the frugality (in the best possible way) with which precious resources were treated is one we need to look to and learn from. while in this case many of us dont need to be frugal for financial reasons since protein is so cheap, i truly believe we need to be frugal for environmental reasons, to say nothing of our own health.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

By the way - just exactly how much animal protein are people thinking of when we talk about "less meat"?

About a quarter of a regular meat-food serving? For example, a regular serving of 3 oz (roughly 85g) of protein provides nearly half to a third of daily protein (according to the usual estimates of 50-60g per day) - and that's without counting in other foods consumed at the same meal.

So a "lite" meat/fish meal would use only around 20g (3/4oz) of meat or cheese, or an egg, 1 cup of milk or half a cup of yogurt, or a 1/4 to 1/2 cup of nuts or legumes per serving - does that sound reasonable?

So what does this translate into?

I guess a Japanese menu of rice, 1/2c vegetables simmered in dashi, 1/2c green vegetables with a sesame dressing, miso soup made with dashi, a few more vegetables and a couple of strips of fried tofu would more than measure up. With a few tiny dried sardine fry scattered on the rice or a pack of fermented natto soybeans, there would easily be enough protein even for an adolescent.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The traditional Southern rural diet (as opposed to the modern one) is rather light on the meat. Beans peas, peanuts and rice, green leafy vegetables (even in the winter), lots of pork - but used as a seasoning rather than a main in many cases, the pig was cured in the Fall to overwinter the family. Collards and cornbread all Fall and Winter, the man of the house usually fishing the hock out of the pot. Spring and Summer the main meal was a huge plate of whatever vegetables were in and maybe a couple of slices of fried salt pork and some cornbread. Light on beef, especially in the Southeast. Heavy on the chicken, and seafood in coastal areas. Every farm had a kitchen garden. A lot of eggs and dairy. Game in the Fall and early Winter after the crops were in - but you don't eat as much if you have to hunt it, and it takes a lot of quail or dove to feed a family. I really love, and prefer usually, to eat like this now - but it must have been incredibly boring for the subsistence farmers and families that populated the area.

Sunday was the heavy meat day. Chicken and Dumplings, sometimes a Ham if it was Easterish. Fried Chicken was a real luxury, and happened usually when the young roosters were being culled out of the coop. Of course, funerals and family reunions were no holds barred.

I think I've read that the Mongolians shift from dairy in the Spring and Summer, to meat in the winter, but I think there are also cereals and grains like barley and wheat there. I would have to look it up again.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

We certainly eat less meat in my house now than we did when I was a kid growing up in a lower-middle class home in suburban Boston, but I'd be lying if I said that there were any consciously moral reasons related to meat consumption. We rarely have meals in which the main course involves a slab of meat, and with the exception of chicken, we don't roast meat very often. The fact that the house cook likes to prepare dishes from many cuisines, with proteins serving as flavoring and textural agents in curries, pasta sauces, soups, and so on, is probably the main reason (along with our budget). But we like pulled pork piled high with lots of sauce and without apologies.

So, having firmly established my own culpability in this particular morality play, I'd like to suggest that immorality isn't so easily assigned to a slab of meat -- or, perhaps, that people assign different moral meanings to a slab of meat. In my family growing up, slabs of meat were good -- and by that I don't mean tasty. Big steaks were special rewards for hard work or the paycheck that hard work produced; fat roasts were components of important family celebrations. There was a moral system at work, but it wasn't global and didn't involve calculating required amounts of protein or the amount of corn required to raise a steer.

Advocates for the global moral argument ignore this local morality at their peril. Every adult I know can comprehend the macroenvironmental and -economic arguments behind the global argument (they are, after all, pretty simple), and several have hashed out Pollan or Berry over a meal at my table. Those same people are often praising the pulled pork as they do so, and that meal is a good thing for reasons that have nothing to do with that global argument. Despite Pollan's assertion, it's not much of a dilemma for us as a result.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It makes so little sense to feed 7 lbs of grain to a cow, and get less than half back as edible product.; and we haven't begun to talk about water, oil, etc. inputs.   

It is just not possible for large numbers of humans to eat like this every day,  and yet expect to continue to survive on this single planet.    Once we have torn up the entire Amazon forest to grow soybeans to feed to cattle for humans to eat, then what?  And once the oceans are emptied of tuna and all the other wonderful fish that gourmets want to eat several times a week, then what?  These days are not too far in the future.

and

I'm speculating that birth control would probably be the only viable answer to environmental impact - but nobody wants to go there right now. It may just be a matter of time though.

How is it that we can have discussions like this one without facing the real issue? What, exactly, is the goal we are striving to achieve? Are we trying to maximize the carrying capacity of the planet? Are we trying to maximize the global standard of living for those of use who already exist? Are we trying to maximize our personal standard of living?

These are critical questions, because every time someone suggests that we should all make some sacrifice to "make things better" the question is, better for whom? And what level of sacrifice are we willing to make? A human being can subsist on a gruel diet of something like 500 calories per day. Why isn't this "solution" being discussed? How low do we have to take our standard of living in order to fit even more people on the planet? These are not easy questions, but avoiding the discussion doesn't help anyone. No one wants to talk about "population control" but the fact of the matter is, all species, humanity included, will expand to the point that their environment can no longer sustain them. The population will crash, and the cycle will start again. How can we prevent the "crash"? Just economizing will not do it: that only increases the population number before the crash.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...