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Should We Eat Meat?. Evolution and Consequences of Modern Carnivory. Edition No. 1

  • ID: 2516981
  • Book
  • May 2013
  • 276 Pages
  • John Wiley and Sons Ltd

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.

Note: Product cover images may vary from those shown

Preface ix

1 Meat in Nutrition 3

Meat Eating and Health: Benefits and Concerns 4

Meat and its nutrients 6

Meat as a source of food energy 11

High-quality protein and human growth 17

Carnivory and civilizational diseases 20

Diseased meat 24

2 Meat in Human Evolution 31

Hunting Wild Animals: Meat in Human Evolution 33

Primates and hominins 35

Meat consumption during the Paleolithic period 39

Extinction of the late Pleistocene megafauna 42

Hunting in different ecosystems 45

Wild meat in sedentary societies 49

Traditional Societies: Animals, Diets and Limits 51

Domestication of animals 53

Population densities and environmental imperatives 56

Long stagnation of typical meat intakes 59

Avoidances, taboos and proscriptions 63

Meat as a prestige food 66

3 Meat in Modern Societies 71

Dietary Transitions: Modernization of Tastes 72

Urbanization and industrialization 74

Long-distance meat trade 77

Meat in the Western dietary transition 81

Transitions in modernizing economies 84

Globalization of tastes 86

Output and Consumption: Modern Meat Chain 89

Changing life cycles 91

Slaughtering of animals 94

Processing meat 98

Consuming and wasting meat 102

Making sense of meat statistics 107

4 What It Takes to Produce Meat 113

Modern Meat Production: Practices and Trends 117

Meat from pastures and mixed farming 118

Confined animal feeding 122

Animal feedstuffs 127

Productivity efficiencies and changes 135

Treatment of animals 141

Meat: An Environmentally Expensive Food 145

Animal densities and aggregate zoomass 147

Changing animal landscapes 150

Intensive production of feedstuffs 155

Water use and water pollution 160

Meat and the atmosphere 168

5 Possible Futures 177

Toward Rational Meat Eating: Alternatives and Adjustments 181

Meatless diets 183

Meat substitutes and cultured meat 188

Protein from other animal foodstuffs 192

Less meaty diets 200

A large potential for rational meat production 203

Prospects for Change 210

References 217

Index 251

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Vaclav Smil University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada.
Note: Product cover images may vary from those shown