A couple of articles on meat got my attention today.
I once read a book by the Hare Krishna people in which they claimed that people were naturally herbivores. Manifestly untrue. A look at our intestinal bacteria shows that humans have the kind of digestive colonies typical of omnivores.
Dr. Ley and Dr. Gordon scanned the gut microbes in the feces of people and 59 other species of mammal, including meat eaters, plant eaters and omnivores. Each of the three groups has a distinctive set of bacteria, they report Friday in Science, with the gut flora of people grouping with other omnivores.
Read the rest if you want to know more about the bacteria in your inner elbow.
So, since it seems we’re geared for meat and veg, is it time to dig in? Grab a horn and start chewing? Not so fast. Thanks in part to that meat-eating, evolution has given us brains with consciousness and cognition, so we’re now able to surmount raw evolutionary concerns. We can make predictions and plans about the future. And I see a whole heap of ethical and environmental issues around meat, with consequences I’d rather avoid. This article runs off a laundry list of environmental troubles for countries gearing up for greater meat production.
The consequences of China’s new carnivorism have been enormous. Thanks in part to the meatier diet, the number of people suffering physical stunting has fallen from three in 10 in 1980 to half as many today. But because meat is so calorie-dense, rising consumption is contributing to an obesity epidemic that afflicts 100 million Chinese. The production process has itself brought a slew of complications. Rivers of sewage from China’s new “concentrated animal feeding operations,” or CAFOs, overwhelm local treatment facilities. Public health experts are increasingly worried about avian flu, whose epicenter is Asian poultry. And because factory-raised livestock need so much feed—it takes 4.5 kilograms of feed to make a kilogram of poultry meat and 20 kilograms of feed to make a kilogram of beef—China’s yen for meat is jacking up grain prices globally. In fact, because Chinese farmland is already so scarce, and because decades of industrialized agricultural have unleashed huge ecological problems (from chemical runoff to groundwater depletion), China has turned increasingly to imported feed—effectively pushing the “external” costs of its meat revolution onto farms in the United States, Argentina, and elsewhere.
Not a pretty picture. So I like the idea of being one person who takes the pressure off the system.