Should We Eat Meat? Evolution and Consequences of Modern Carnivory

Should We Eat Meat? Evolution and Consequences of Modern Carnivory

Vaclav Smil

Language: English

Pages: 276

ISBN: 1118278720

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Meat eating is often a contentious subject, whether considering the technical, ethical, environmental, political, or health-related aspects of production and consumption.

This book is a wide-ranging and interdisciplinary examination and critique of meat consumption by humans, throughout their evolution and around the world. Setting the scene with a chapter on meat’s role in human evolution and its growing influence during the development of agricultural practices, the book goes on to examine modern production systems, their efficiencies, outputs, and impacts. The major global trends of meat consumption are described in order to find out what part its consumption plays in changing modern diets in countries around the world. The heart of the book addresses the consequences of the "massive carnivory" of western diets, looking at the inefficiencies of production and at the huge impacts on land, water, and the atmosphere. Health impacts are also covered, both positive and negative. In conclusion, the author looks forward at his vision of “rational meat eating”, where environmental and health impacts are reduced, animals are treated more humanely, and alternative sources of protein make a higher contribution.

Should We Eat Meat? is not an ideological tract for or against carnivorousness but rather a careful evaluation of meat's roles in human diets and the environmental and health consequences of its production and consumption. It will be of interest to a wide readership including professionals and academics in food and agricultural production, human health and nutrition, environmental science, and regulatory and policy making bodies around the world.

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internally generated cholesterol (mainly in liver). Moreover, it is quite easy to separate egg whites from yolks and that way consumers can enjoy the best protein without any cholesterol. Similarly, it is easy to remove a desired amount of (saturated) fat from milk, and consumers now have a choice between whole milk (typically 3.4% fat) and milks with fat content reduced to 2%, 1% and 0%. And if delivering optimal diets would be as simple as choosing foodstuffs that combine high quality with

price-driven reduction in demand would thus require, with the most likely price elasticity around −0.75, that the price would have to be one-third higher in order to reduce the demand for that meat by about 25%. Overall cut in meat consumption would be slightly lower as positive cross-price elasticities for beef and pork indicate that they are partial substitutes: 1% increase in US beef price would result in almost 0.1% increase in pork demand and 0.05% increase in poultry consumption. Eventual

decades of ancien regime, France, the greatest continental power, had low per capita level of food production (reflected in small statures and low work capacities), high mortality (above 35/1,000 by 1750), chronic malnutrition and monotonous diets. Antoine Lavoisier (1791) noted in his treatise on the riches of France that large numbers of peasants ate meat only at Easter or when invited to a wedding. The best reconstruction of average French food intakes at the beginning of the 19th century

risky pursuits (hunting leopards or cheetahs or even larger and more aggressive carnivores) to the veneration or abhorrence of certain species considered sacred, unclean or disgusting. As already explained, body mass, productivity and feeding requirements have limited the number of domesticated animals to only a tiny share (on the order of 1% for mammals and only 0.1% for birds) of vertebrate species. But what is so remarkable about meat consumption in settled societies is that in so many of them

Europe, quality considerations became important. Demand had shifted to better cuts, and red meat (beef in particular) began its gradual retreat as chicken began to claim a larger share of overall meat consumption. In 1909, beef was still dominant, with 43% share of the total meat supply, but within a few years it was surpassed by pork, and chicken demand took off during the 1960s: by the year 2000, beef accounted for 35%, chicken for 29% and pork for 27%, and a decade later chicken was on the top

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