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Should We Eat Meat?

06 August 2013

GLOBAL - The question whether humans should eat meat has caused much argument and controversy around the world.

should we eat meat bookThe meat industry is constantly on the defensive against attacks from the vegetarian and vegan lobby and those who argue that meat consumption is bad for human health.

Scientific reports and papers are constantly appearing showing both the detrimental effects of meat eating and also the benefits.

The situation is confusing, not only for the consumer but also for those involved in the industry.

A new book by Vaclav Smil, Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Manitoba and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada helps to cut through some of the myths and legends surrounding meat and its consumption and production.

Prof Smil has a background in research in the fields of energy, environmental and population change, food production and nutrition, technical innovation, risk assessment and public policy.

His book, Should We Eat Meat?, published by Wiley Blackwell takes a scientific look at the evolution and consequences of modern meat eating.

Prof Smil describes himself as a “life-long omnivore – but one with an increasing tendency toward very low meat consumption”.

He freely admits that some readers might feel his dietary preferences might have coloured the contents of the book and his conclusions but he says that he hopes he has taken a dispassionate scientific approach.

In the first chapter. Prof Smil covers the topics of meat nutrition, the health benefits and meat as a food for a source of energy.

He looks at meat’s properties, its composition, quality and variety and he looks at meat in the human diet.

He looks at some of the research into meat and health and endeavours to cut through the falsehoods and the misinformation.

In the second chapter Prof Smil looks at the evolution of meat eating – from hunting through the domestication of farm animals – as well as the social aspects of meat consumption and the view of meat as a high status food.

Prof Smill then goes on to look at meat consumption in the modern society in the next chapter, discussing urbanisation and industrialisation and the effect these phenomena had on consumption.

He also discusses the growth of international meat trading and the globalisation of tastes.

Production through the slaughter and processing of livestock is also examined together with the waste that is also produced in the production and consumption of meat products.

The next chapter looks at livestock production and farming methods, examining the impact on the environment, the changing landscape, use of water and climate change.

The book concludes with an examination of the future for meat consumption and production. It discusses meatless diets, less meaty diets and protein from other animal foodstuffs.

It looks at the prospects for change and the potential for rational meat production.

At a time when researchers from the University of Maastricht have just revealed in vitro meat, Prof Smil’s book poses questions about alternative meat production and alternatives to meat and also espouses a future for rational meat consumption and outlines a desirable and sustainable path for meat production.

The book, Should We Eat Meat?, is available through 5M Retail. For more information click here.

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