Meet Your Meat

In discovering the evolution of cattle domestication, we can learn how such a cheap and accessible meat dish such as a Big Mac from McDonald’s came to be. In turn, this helped me understand why it is increasingly difficult for people to take on vegetarian diets.

Neolithic ~ Pre-Industrial
-10,000 years ago, the Mesopotamian people domesticated cattle.
-they used them sparingly for meat, dairy, clothing, more
-they worshipped cattle as spiritual offerings
-cattle grazed on pasture and were peaceful in their natural environment
-close relationship between humans and cattle because tribes were small and provided for themselves
-cattle became items of capital rather than sustenance

Post-Industrial Revolution
-mass-production from centralized locations allowed for efficiency and increase in per-capita consumption
-introduction of antibiotics allowed for growth efficiency and fatter cows
-life span of cattle before slaughter decreased from 4-5 years to ~1 year
-cattle consumed feeds containing grains, other animal remnants, and fecal matter
-cattle grazed on corn instead of grass to increase growth rate
-humans restricted their freedom to roam in pasture

Results From Changes in Domestication Practices
-cheap and accessible meat lead to overeating
-animal feeds caused outbreaks of mad cow disease
-animal feeds found to contain bacterias E. coli and salmonella
-overeating lead to health disorders: obesity, type II diabetes, coronary heart disease


Figure 1: 7 out of 10 adult Americans are considered overweight or obese


Figure 2: United States beef consumption is so large,
the tiny dot in India is almost negligible


Figure 3: Beef consumption in America exceeds other countries by far.
The nation’s resulting percentage of overweight and obese people is evident of this.

It has become increasingly difficult for people in America to eat healthy or vegetarian diets because of this cheap and accessible meat available beginning the Industrial Revolution in the 1750s. As we see from the figures, developing countries such as China and India still have very low consumption of beef per capita. Thought it seems that as a country becomes more developed, consumption rates increase, United States demand in beef has been on the decline since the 1980s. Next week, I will discuss how the meat-packing industry has begun to reform its practices and how that correlates positively with diet changes in America.


3 thoughts on “Meet Your Meat

  1. One of my concerns about cheap meat is that the real cost of consuming cheap meat is not reflected by the labelled price. The corns that are used to feed cattle cost more to produce and is subsidized greatly by government; the environmental degradation caused by raising cattle is not taken into account. Furthermore, the way we raise cattle now leads to public health concerns, which are responsible for great expense every year. It is really hard to promote a healthy life style or sustainable cultivating industry is the labelled price does not reflect the real cost of consuming meat.

  2. This is the Kuznets Curve in action! Industrializing nations see their demand for environmentally detrimental products rise, while those on the right-hand side of the curve have enough extra money to demand lower negative externalities. The fact that we see this in beef production shouldn’t be surprising, but it is– who knew Americans would ever turn back on their beef-loving ways?

  3. It is interesting to see how the value of cattle correlates to society’s dependency on meat products. It is great that you pulled out characteristics of the preindustrial age that made vegetarianism more common and in some arguable way easier. Good job wellykang and making this distinctions. I enjoyed reading your post. You should contact me so we talk more about vegetarianism and the Pre-Industrial era. It is really an interesting topic.

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