Sometimes it seems that the topic of meat is a kind of sacred cow. Consider this: When health researchers recommend that consumers eat local, eat more fruits and vegetables, or eat less processed food, most listeners nod and say: “Absolutely. Excellent idea.” But if researchers recommend that consumers eat less meat, the reaction is less conciliatory, often along the lines of: “But it’s my personal right to eat what I like,” or: “Who are you to interfere with my food decisions?” It’s kind of funny, because food agribusiness has no hesitation interfering with your food decisions — telling you what you should eat (processed and other ‘high value’ foods that are high value for the companies) and what not to bother (plain old good nutritious vegetables that are low-margin for food makers).
Nevertheless, there’s a defensive reaction by consumers to the ‘eat less meat’ message. That’s why I say meat is a kind of sacred cow.
Why the emotional reaction to meat? Most people don’t want to cut back. As a friend of mine says: Eating less meat is a good idea – for somebody else! But people don’t want to eat fewer potato chips either, so that doesn’t explain it. I think people are reluctant to have anyone question their intake of meat because it represents progress, status, and achievement.
But, as you’ll read in my book, there’s now overwhelming scientific evidence that we need a new relationship to livestock and to meat. That we need to produce cows, pigs and chickens more sustainably, and consume animal products in moderation, for the planet and for our health. (newsociety.com/Books/H/High-Steaks)
Meat may be a sacred cow, but attitudes can change. And they already are. Research in Europe shows that increasing percentages of the population are calling themselves ‘meat minimizers,’ or flexitarians, or part-time vegetarians. Even in the United States, meat consumption has decreased by more than 10% in the past five years, according to food commentator Mark Bittman. (http://markbittman.com/why-are-we-eating-less-meat) The trend is exciting, and could allow us to treasure what is really sacred — the environment and human health.