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Should We Eat Meat Evolution and Consequences of Modern Carnivory 1st Edition

3.8 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1118278727
ISBN-10: 1118278720
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Vaclav Smil receives 2015 OPEC Award for Research

“Summing Up: Recommended.  Upper-division undergraduates and above.”  (Choice, 1 January 2014)

From the Back Cover

Meat eating is often a contentious subject, whether considering the technical, ethical, environmental, political, or health-related aspects of production and consumption.

This book is a wide-ranging and interdisciplinary examination and critique of meat consumption by humans, throughout their evolution and around the world. Setting the scene with a chapter on meat’s role in human evolution and its growing influence during the development of agricultural practices, the book goes on to examine modern production systems, their efficiencies, outputs, and impacts. The major global trends of meat consumption are described in order to find out what part its consumption plays in changing modern diets in countries around the world. The heart of the book addresses the consequences of the "massive carnivory" of western diets, looking at the inefficiencies of production and at the huge impacts on land, water, and the atmosphere. Health impacts are also covered, both positive and negative. In conclusion, the author looks forward at his vision of “rational meat eating”, where environmental and health impacts are reduced, animals are treated more humanely, and alternative sources of protein make a higher contribution.

Should We Eat Meat? is not an ideological tract for or against carnivorousness but rather a careful evaluation of meat's roles in human diets and the environmental and health consequences of its production and consumption. It will be of interest to a wide readership including professionals and academics in food and agricultural production, human health and nutrition, environmental science, and regulatory and policy making bodies around the world.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 276 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; 1 edition (May 28, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1118278720
  • ISBN-13: 978-1118278727
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #367,805 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Mitchell R. Alegre VINE VOICE on July 9, 2013
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Vaclav Smil sets out to answer the question posed by his book's title, "Should We Eat Meat?" He comes at the question as a scientist without a preconceived answer. He is not trying to justify a personal bias but to discover what the facts reveal. The result is an excruciatingly meticulous analysis of the research (as evidenced by the 33 pages of references). Smil inundates the reader with statistical data. This is not a casual read. However, anyone wanting a definitive answer to the question of whether humans are meant to eat meat should read this book. Smil looks in detail at the nutritional aspects of meat, the role of meat in human evolution, meat in modern societies, and what is involved in the production of meat and the environmental impact. Smil considers the positives and negatives of eating meat within each aspect of his study. Perhaps of most interest to the lay reader is the book's last chapter where Smil outlnes possible futures for the production of meat. Those who have a casual interest in the question posed by the book's title should not attempt to tackle this study. This is a must read, though, for those who are seriously seeking an answer based on fact rather than emotion.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Smil looks at the history of humans and meat, the ethics of meat eating, health of meat eating (protein plays an important part in this discussion), animal nutrition, and the sustainability of meat eating. All are given a detailed look, with many references to studies. Ultimately, Smil concludes that meat-eating is sustainable, at a certain, fairly high level, if do-able sustainable agricultural practices are more widely used and less sustainable ones are stopped. A critical point is that livestock can make plant products that aren't really usable by humans for feed (grass, citrus peels, food processing residues, etc.) and convert then into food, so that livestock can add to the human food supply without using foods that are directly consumable by people, such as corn. Milk, eggs, and seafood are also touched on but are not the main topic of this book.

I'll present some of his reasoning here: Page 182: "But the prevalence of these objectional practices and the validity of these concerns are not convincing arguments against meat eating. Those practices are not inherent prerequisites of large scale meat production; they are essentially malpractices committed as a part of a short-sighted quest of maximizing meat output at minimized cost. Our understanding of livestock requirements, feed production and animal feeding, slaughtering and processing makes it possible to practice balanced and rational ways of meat production aimed at minimizing its environmental impacts and maximizing its health benefits.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Smil doesn't tell you to eat meat or to refrain. He does explain his own diet and yes, he does eat meat, but not much and no hamburgers. The beginning of the book for me was a haze of the chemistry of nutrition, I did not understand much. Once he started on meat in human evolution, I found it easier to follow, but who could stay up with Smil? How has he written so many books, absorbed so many facts and figures? I think the key to his remarkable talent is that he treats facts surely but lightly, finds other qualities more important than statistics. As if the Olympic Champion Usain Bolt runs fast for us but usually flies instead of running.
Smil gives exhaustive statistics on meats consumption in different countries with particular attention to, well, every country: Japan, China, Spain, France, Great Britain, the USA, Brazil. The world, especially poor countries, eats more and more meat. Turkeys, chickens, goats, sheep, pigs, beef. Chickens make
up more and more of the meat we eat. The poor things are oh so crowded, they can't turn around in their cages and Smil gets into this. He is very concerned that we make our meat production more humane. He builds no pens or cages, but he is humane for watch how he uses language, no buzz words, he is never glib. "Sustainable" doesn't appear, nor "footprint." He is not sure what they mean. Smil is utterly out of the ordinary and can be read for knowledge or style. Most authors leave their reader with a scientific or political hangover, but not Smil. He does indulge in remote words. None are too long or arcane. Quantities of energy are never translated as they easily could be. Mega joules could be represented by gallons (excuse me, liters) of diesel, if we are discussing tractors. Should we eat meat?
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a powerful mirror held up to the face of our modern way of life. It deals with more than just meat, and looks at where our food comes from today, where it came from in the past and how the current model is shaping the future of our planet and culture in unexpected ways.

When I saw the title the first thing I thought was this was going to be a pro-vegetarian rant or a lecture on morals. Wrong on both counts. What is in these pages is an unbiased and complete survey of meat's history, nutrition, economic impact, environmental implications and role in the health of the human body. This hard look doesn't deal merely with the consumption of meat, but also its production. And yes, there is discussion on the ethics of our new "factory farming" which looks nothing like the small farm I grew up on. And quite frankly every creature deserves to be treated ethically while it is alive, so the discussion is neither heavy handed nor out of place in this work.

If you want a heavy handed condemnation of meat, well that book is out there, it just isn't this book. If you want the view of an unbiased scientist who eats some meat, if you want to hold up that mirror to yourself and have a good long think, this is the book.
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