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.
Dr Vaclav Smil is Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Faculty of Environment at the University of Manitoba. His interdisciplinary research interests encompass a broad area of energy, environmental, food, population, economic, historical, and public policy studies. Dr Smil has published in more than 30 books, over 400 papers, and contributed to more than 30 edited volumes
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