Meat is a large part of the average American’s diet. As an Indian-American with a vegetarian mother, I grew up accustomed to a non-meat-based diet. However, my father went on the Atkins diet during my childhood. Between that and living mostly in the United States, I am also used to eating meat on a daily basis. I have become curious as to whether the amount and regularity with which I see meat consumed is necessary. I’ve researched three articles from NPR on the matter.
According to the first, evolutionarily speaking, eating meat actually made the human race smarter. This is because the body did not need to spend as much energy processing large amounts of raw foods like root vegetables, leaves, and nuts. Instead, a person could digest some meat and the body could focus energy on using and building its brain for other purposes than eating.
So it seems that eating meat was a developmentally sensible thing to do, and clearly it was a natural occurrence. But the way that people obtain meat today is far from the natural. It is pre-killed, cut and packaged, and then placed with its peers on the cold shelves of a grocery store. The quantity at which people (especially in the US) eat meat is enabled the economy of the meat business. Farmers in the 1800’s often raised animals in or near cities because the meat business was profitable. Since then we have been finding ways to produce meat at a lower cost. In fact, consumption of chicken has gone up two-fold since 1976, because it is a cheap meat.
Meat is not necessarily a bad thing to consume, but the amount at which it is often consumed today is unnecessary. There are negative health and environmental impacts associated with the over-consumption of meat, and I think people do need to realize that eating meat with every meal is far from vital. Vegetarianism has been a rising trend in Western culture recently, so perhaps this concept will soon be more widely accepted.