In addition to discussing food/meat in the written word, National Geographic is also doing a television series entitled “Eat: The Story of Food”. The second episode of the series centered on meat — most especially the culture of meat, the role that it played in evolution, and what the future of meat might hold.
I took several biological anthropology classes at Dartmouth College. Professor Korey and his lectures on the subject of biological evolution fascinated me. The how, the when, and the why all peaked my curiosity – and I poured over the material with avid interest. My specific draw toward anthropology centered on biological change, however, the element of culture seemed to always be intrinsically tied to the discussion.
Perhaps it is because I am a nerd at heart, perhaps it is because meat (growing it, cooking it, and eating it) plays a central role in my life, perhaps it is because the philosophical foodie discussion hits close to home — Whatever the reason, I found the first 2/3’s of the National Geographic production incredibly interesting.
- I became intrigued when the tool of cooking was linked to biological changes to the human body.
- I followed interestedly as the discussion turned to the domestication of food animals more than 15,000 years ago as many peoples transitioned away from hunter-gather tribes to agrarian societies, and then eventually even away from farms to city life in the second half of the 1900’s.
- I smiled when food was linked to community, family, and one’s cultural roots.
- I nodded when cooking meat was labeled a “sacred ritual”.
- I chuckled when someone stated that meat was an expression of manliness – thereby, a possible explanation for modern day man’s fascination with grilling.
All of these things resonated with me and I enjoyed the way that the information was disseminated to the viewer. Unfortunately, at this point in the show, a shift occurred away from the historical and anthropological and toward the one-sided political abyss where modern food production is demonized. The historical balanced became the politically unbalanced, and I was sadly disappointed with the end of the program.
In the final 12 minutes Michael Pollan gave his usual rhetoric, “Feedlots are the biggest point sources of pollution in the United States…Meat agriculture will have to change. The way we are doing it now is unsustainable.” Upon hearing this, I immediately wondered how Mr. Pollan could accurately draw this conclusion about my farm since he has never once visited it? He offered no basis for his conclusions – apparently the American people are just supposed to believe his omniscient pontifications.
The segment ended with suggestions for the change called for by Mr. Pollan. The various contributors to the show offered two ideas as the future of meat was subsequently discussed. They left me a bit perplexed…
- Eat more insects.
- Grow hamburgers (at the current cost of $325,000.00 per burger) in a petri dish.
I am the first to admit that continuous improvement is imperative for sustainability, and I believe that there are ways that I can continue to do a better job producing beef on my farm. I work hard every day to attain constant improvement remaining committed to growing high quality beef with the smallest environmental footprint.
I am most certainly not the same as my hunter-gatherer ancestors. My farm runs differently now than it did 20 years ago and it will continue to evolve and change on into the future. I choose to serve my family the pasture raised, grain finished beef that I grow with pride.
I don’t know about you, but I prefer that to a diet of insects or petri dish meat…