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Beyond Beef: The Rise and Fall of the Cattle Culture (Plume) Paperback – March 1, 1993

4.2 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Rifkin drives home the moral paradoxes of meat eating, issuing an important call to nutritional sanity and environmental ethics.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

Rifkin (Biosphere Politics, p. 460, etc.), who seems to turn out environmental calls to arms on an assembly line, now turns his guns on beef--in this survey of the cattle culture's destructive role in the modern world and in history. Citing the works of others, Rifkin points to paleolithic bull and cow cults, to the clash several millennia ago between peaceful matrilineal agriculturalists and nomadic cattle herders who arose around the Ukraine and spread throughout the Old World, and to the North American West--where native populations and the buffalo they lived off were displaced and slaughtered to make room for the cattle industry, much of it financed by British interests, and where US taxpayers continue to subsidize beef ranchers and packers. None of this is original; and readers of vegetarian and animal- rights literature will already be familiar with the points addressed in Rifkin's subsequent indictment of our multinational- driven cattle culture with its devastating effect on the economies of developing countries; on the lives of starving Third World populations; and on the health of affluent populations who ``gorge'' on beef, tropical forests, the water supply, soil, and the global atmosphere. Animal Factories (1980) by Jim Mason and Peter Singer, as well as Food First (1977) and other works by Frances Moore Lapp‚ and Joseph Collins, are among the widely read works that are more forcefully and solidly argued. Nor are Rifkin's modish touches of punning deconstruction truly eye-opening. Rifkin's vision of a future ``beyond beef'' is only that, absent strategies or specifics. Still, by putting all this readably together, he might well win a new and different audience. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Plume
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Plume; Reprint edition (March 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452269520
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452269521
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #908,192 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jonah B. Manning on May 31, 2002
Format: Paperback
The first portion of Beyond Beef is a great description of the history of beef consumption and beef culture. Some of the more interesting parts to me were the sections dealing with the Brahmans in India as well as the near extinction of the American buffalo as a result of clearing the plains for bovine grazing.
After building the historical place of beef and cattle, Rifkin moves the story to present day and how beef is produced, butchered, packaged and shipped. Some of this section was particularly difficult to read during lunch, the descriptions of the slaughtering process are graphic and very detailed. Rifkin also explains the decreasing involvement of the USDA in the inspection of beef and the potential implications of this fact.
Other parts of the book which were informative to me were the chapters dealing with the destruction of the Brazilian rainforests. I, like most young Americans, have heard for years about the clear cutting and burning of the South American rainforests but never knew the details of this activity or exactly why the forests were being leveled. Rifkin explains this practice clearly and I am much more informed because of it.
Overall, Beyond Beef is an excellent read and if nothing else, will give you a great deal to ponder. It is clearly written with a slant against beef production and consumption and can come off a bit preachy at times. That being said, after you read this book, you will definitely want to pass it along to your friends and family, if for no other reason than to let them be informed when they bite into that burger.
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Format: Paperback
This was an important book in the early 1990s, and although the thesis demands our attention now more than ever, it is still generally ignored, perhaps in small part because Rifkin's book is not at all perfect. The first third is the author's 'abridged' version of the entire human-bovine history, and the critical reader will have ample cause to question many broad assertions in Rifkin's sweeping saga, especially in the early chapters. I must agree with an earlier reviewer who rightly describes Rifkin's 'historical' generalizations and selected references as being "a mile wide and an inch deep." It is unfortunate, but this stylized yarn-weaving detracts somewhat from critical assent when Rifkin finally approaches the 'meat' of the thesis in chapter 15.

There are many excellent points made when Rifkin finally makes room for them (parts 3-6), but the quality of his reference sources continues to be dubious in some, though certainly not all, instances. The book finally hits its stride and makes its import observations in parts 4 (Feeding Cattle and Starving People) and 5 (Cattle and the Global Environmental Crisis). If the information here doesn't direct the reader toward a vegetarian lifestyle (or at least to rethinking the centrality of meat in his/her diet), he or she may be a pretty hardened case of wanton self-indulgence and thoughtless hedonism. We must hope that sometime soon, western consumers might become as interested in the welfare of human beings and of our entire planetary home, as they are in self-pleasuring. In fact, the reader may want to read this portion of the book only (chapters 22-32) before moving on to a better book -- MAD COWBOY: Plain Truth from the Cattle Rancher Who Won't Eat Meat, by Howard F. Lyman.
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Format: Paperback
There's not much to add to what's already been said. I just want to echo the praise... It's a formidable book - scholarly and persuasive; it's a fascinating history. It's also a very easy book to read, one you won't regret reading: it's eye-opening.
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Format: Paperback
The problem I have with this book, as well as a lot of other Rifkin's books, it's not the message that is being conveyed, it's how it's being conveyed. Rifkin's research style is a mile wide and an inch deep. I pined to have some of the chapters be at least a couple pages longer so there was more substance. He makes wide, sweeping generalizations with the minimum of hard data to back it up.

That, in addition to this book now being well over a decade old, makes me very reluctant to recommend. There are better, newer books that have the same point of view that are better written. And this is coming from a reviewer who has not eaten beef since 1997.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book for a class, but was pleasantly surprised when I started reading it. It has an interesting narrative, and presents quite a provacative argument.
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This book is very essential reading if you want to know the truth behind factory farming and its impact on the Earth and man...Being a Vegan this was a great read, too bad it has not been reprinted so others can easily get a copy.
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Format: Paperback
This is an excellent book if you are questioning the state of America, the planet, your health and humanity. Jeremy Rifkin compiled an amazing account of the underlying reason that going green and being vegetarian or vegan should be much, much more than just trendy. I was astounded to learn about the history that I only intuitively understood and had been taught only part of.

From the very earliest art, humans have had an intense relationship with cattle. From being considered divine to being considered little more than dinner, I wonder why they are not called "man's best friend". Maybe, that reason is evident in the fact that the bovine species are essentially very good at destroying the earth's valuable resources, creating conflict and disease. A best friend would not forget to mention the fact that if we greatly reduced our intake of grain-fed beef, that grain could go to feeding hungry people who have been exploited by big beef businesses. Cattle are contributing to global warming and environmental catastropies across the board.

Even though this book contained information that was really quite depressing and frustrating to read, I think it's so important to do something rather than delude ourselves from the truth about consumption and poverty. It's been almost 20 years since Beyond Beef was published. How much has REALLY changed?
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