According to George Mason University economist Tyler Cowen, the two most effective ways to help the environment is to eat less meat and to drive less. (Buying locally does NOT necessarily help the environment). A lot of energy is required to produce meat, especially beef. United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization scientists conclude that the business of raising animals for food is responsible for about 18 percent of all warming and causes about 40 percent more warming than all cars, trucks, and planes combined.
So how do we reduce meat consumption? A few options:
1. Get neo-Leninist, line up meat eaters and shoot them dead. Then rewrite Constitution.
2. Offer meat eaters incentives to stop eating meat, like group hugs and free yoga
3. Tax ’em till they give it up! Like with cigarettes.
4. Scare the shit out of meat eaters. Come up with propaganda about some terrorist group poisoning meat supply such that men who eat meat will have small dicks. Women who eat meat will also have small dicks.
5. Guilt trip and emotional manipulation. Make it socially unacceptable to eat meat.
6. Get government out of the business of telling Americans what to eat. Let private businesses work with consumers to help them develop healthy and satisfying palate for meat that will reduce overall meat consumption.
Review of options:
1. Would make for a great Francis Ford Coppola film, but Pol Pot plot too grisly for most Americans, at least when it’s on US soil.
2. Would make for an awful Garry Marshall film, so let’s not.
3. Would probably be somewhat effective. May lead to number 1.
4. Not sure if this one will work. People readily believe in propaganda that suits them but become skeptical when something they consider sacred is vilified. Eating beef is sacred to most Americans, and beef lobby is too strong to allow such propaganda to go unchecked. We’d need neo-Leninist government for this to work.
5. May be effective with citizens who are insecure, suspicious, infantile, and cynical. Similar to Anthony Bourdain’s advocating using social pressure to make people learn how to cook. Beef lobby too strong to allow this to go unchecked. Requires Leninist state for it to be effective.
6. No guilt, people don’t have to give up something they enjoy. May get more people to think about food than to follow (or pretend to follow) government directives that will likely be considered ineffective or flat out wrong within 40years. (Takes that long because government tends to be slow at admitting being wrong or tyrannical). Similar approach hasn’t been tried in the US, but there’s some evidence that this approach works well in Japan and France.
Let’s make an attempt to preserve what’s left of American liberty and go with number 6.
USDA tells Americans to eat lean meat. Some do as they’re told, thinking it’s good for them. On paper, it is good for them — lean meat has fewer calories than do fattier cuts — but people are complex, they aren’t robots. Most people want to be satisfied physically and emotionally when they eat. And nearly all people — I’m convinced of this — prefer, if we assume controlled upbringings free from government propaganda, fattier cuts because they’re tastier and more fulfilling. Yet Americans, influenced by USDA directives, continue to fetishize white meat over dark meat, lean cuts of beef steak over well marbled portions. It’s absurd.
The absurdity of American meat eating habits has contributed to the obesity epidemic. Again, people generally eat not just to be nourished, but also to feel satisfied physically and emotionally. Fat is satisfying. When Americans, in their attempt to eat a healthy diet, choose the less satisfying and difficult to properly cook lean meat, they make up for the lack of satisfaction by adding more high calorie add-ons such as teriyaki sauce or ranch or gravy. Or they fry it. Or they just eat more of it to get the fat they crave. Or they carb out on bread and dessert. Most people will do whatever they can to feel satisfied, fulfilled. And they should eat for physical and emotional fulfillment. Counting calories and Weight Watcher’s points every day of the year, feelings of guilt, depravation, unnecessary self-discipline, obsession with minute details of every meal…that’s no way to live (unless you’re a monk or searching for Platonic spirituality).
And yet, that’s how many Americans live. Every encounter with food is a test of discipline. They confess their sins to me — “half a pizza and 12 buffalo wings last night” — and ask me to forgive them and make them something that will drive away the fat demons. They read and read, try to memorize as many facts about as many ingredients as possible. They spend a lot of money on workshops and ingredients of controversial value. They’re obsessed with food, yet don’t know how to enjoy it.
For us, food isn’t the enemy, it’s the solution. In our next post, we’ll explain how it’s possible to eat red meat, enjoy it more than ever, save money, and improve the environment.