The Culture of Meat…

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.

A Samburu Elder with his child...The Samburu continue to be a semi-nomadic people based on a hunter-gatherer culture.

A Samburu Elder with his child…The Samburu continue to be a semi-nomadic people in 2014.  Their “agriculture” is different from mine…

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. mattsteaks

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.


Cattle on my farm which I call a feed yard and Mr. Pollan calls a feedlot…

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…

  1. Eat more insects.
  2. 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.

Pasture raised cattle that are now at my feed yard in preparation for slaughter...

Pasture raised cattle that are now wintering at my feed yard in preparation for becoming beef…

I don’t know about you, but I prefer that to a diet of insects or petri dish meat…


Filed under A Farmer's View on Foodie Thoughts..., General

5 responses to “The Culture of Meat…

  1. Katheryn

    I’m with you Anne,
    I too haven’t found insect or petri-dish concoctions to appealing! I can only imagine the internal parasites that could be that consequence of those choices.
    Thank you as always for keeping us informed of new media information that may or may not be in the best interest of the agriculture.

  2. Jeff

    Eh Hmm…”Upon hearing this, I immediately wondered how Mr. Pollan could accurately draw this conclusion about my farm since he has never once visited it?” Facts are never allowed to interfere with a person’s preconceived notions of what is and is not a rightous undertaking by others…

  3. Eugene Story

    I appreciate your thoughts.
    I find particular irony in the fact that it was largely due to the domestication of livestock that man was able to exit apart from the hunter gatherer state (I wonder what vegetables they were hunting?), and yet those who are able to reside in their urban/suburban communities and obtain nourishment from the local supermarket have lost all connection with that. It is also interesting to note that they conveniently lose sight of the fact that most of the land on the planet is not conducive to tilling and that only by grazing that land and utilizing some of the produce from the tillable land to finish that product can the worlds resources be maximally utilized.
    Aaah ignorance is truly bliss! Or should I say ignore ance?

  4. Rex

    Anne, another great blog.
    According to most estimates, including Mari Sandoz in the Buffalo Hunters, the American Bison numbered about 60 million at the beginning of the 19th century. Add the elk who also inhabited the plains and the number and animal weight approaches the current US cowherd of 95 million. Now consider the human population. currently 560 million compared to 7 million in 1800.
    When I consider the ruminant population, it seems that keeping pollution in historical limits is possible. When I consider the human population, it seems to be a whole new world.

  5. Ann,
    It makes me sad because when people in the media make ignorant comments based in opinion or off a small population and not fact or with the majority… people believe them because they are too tired, lazy, ignorant or whatever to do their own research and see things like Mr. Pollan’s comment aren’t so. Then they influence others with their ideas and the false information spreads. If farmers like you and other’s I know stop “growing” beef and other farms stop growing other kinds of food then where will the country be? I think history has shown us when something is manufactured like food it ends up with its own bad side, side effects, and problems. I take real beef over something manufactured any day 😉

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