Bone marrow soup and sautéed snails are favorite food choices of some people in France; however, what pleases the palate of some people can be absolutely disgusting in others.
Horsemeat is a favorite food in a large area of North Central Asia. but Is rigidly avoided by many people in Islamic countries. Dog is a popular food in Borneo, New Guinea, the Philippines whereas snake is a delicacy in China. In some countries, people enjoy insects while others consider it fit only for animal feed. And then there are steamed clams and raw oysters, food passions for some, but absolutely disgusting to others.
A highly influential Jewish philosopher in the Middle Ages, Maimonides, included pigs on his taboo list due to rapid spoilage of pork in in hot climates and in their despicable habit of rooting garbage, declaring them “unclean”. However other animals have the same habit, for example, goats.
Pork attained its unique status in 165 B.C when the Syrian monarch, Antiochus, slaughtered pigs in the Temple of Solomon. The Jews who were so enraged organized an army and reestablished the Temple and ended with a triumphant revolt that is celebrated at Hanukkah.
The fledging Christians pointed instead of Roman rules to the book of Matthew in the New Testament.;” “It’s not what goes into the mouth that defiles a man, but that what comes out”, Jesus said.
“Burger chomping Americans express incomprehension over the sacred status of cattle in India, where their 1947 Constitution spells out the right of cows. Yet those same Americans would never think of eating whale, monkey, dog, cat or parrot that Americans consider companion animals.
All cultures have their comfort foods, “super foods”. In Russia and Ireland its potatoes; in Central America, it’s corn and yucca and in Somalia, it’s rice.
In the U.S food choices can be regional. Southern cooking is considered “soul food” and provides comfort in the form of grits. A tasty bowl of chili is in the “soul” of Texans while in New England, there’s nothing better than a bowl of clam chowder or a lobster roll in Maine.
“However, hunger still overrides food aversions from any type or origin. When German armies laid siege to Paris in 1870 cutting off this city from traditional country farms and gardens, many bourgeois restaurants offered such delicacies such as rat ragu and saddle of cat.
Many simply said “tastes just like chicken”
Judith E. Brown, Nutrition Now. 7th Edition
Patrician Harris, David Lyon, and Sue McLaughlin, The Meaning of Food, 2005.
” I am not a vegan, but I tend to be aware of the importance of how and what we eat in terms of sustainability, a respect for animal welfare and the impact of food on our environment.” FROM ABOUT THIS BLOG : FOOD, FACTS AND FADS.
Now is the time to “practice what we preach”. It will be interesting to see what happens in California. I am on the side of the animals (pigs, chickens, and veal calves).
The other day, I cooked a pork tenderloin (at low heat) and was surprised to find the meat “stringy” and not very tender. We had not found that a few years ago when we had used the very same recipe. What has happened to the perfect pig?
Pork had been the meat of choice since Colonial Days in the Plymouth Colony (circa 1623). The dense American forests were ideal for raising pigs. They were allowed to remain “wild” and roam freely most of the year with only penning them in the winter. They were “finished” on corn that made the flesh firm but tender and they gained weight quickly. Pigs were more efficient than cattle for meat, so cattle were more used for milk, butter, cheese and plowing.
Excerpts from an article from U.S. News and World Report (August 15, 2005) offers some reasons.
“Pigs aren’t porky anymore. Instead, they are as lanky as marathon runners. However, today’s pork roasts all too often don’t taste good and the meat is dry.” Through breeding practices, searching for a leaner pig began back in the 1970’s when customers began to demand low fat food products that satisfied the flawed low fat movement for heart health. “This alarmed pork producers who launched a now familiar campaign, “The Other White Meat” attributable to pork that suggested that it was just as lean as chicken. It wasn’t just hype. According to 2005 standards, “supermarket pork is 31% lower in fat than it was 20 years ago.”
“All during the 80’s and 90’s, animal scientists continued to try to say that they could get a leaner hog with more muscle” said a meat scientist at Iowa State University. “They lost the taste, they lost the moisture content”, he said.
So what is the perfect pig? It depends on the time frame. The feral pig was first domesticated in the Middle East and central Asia 9,000 years ago. It was brought to America in 1493 on Columbus’s second voyage. The 1900 pig was bigger to provide lard that was highly prized at the time. Some pigs topped 2,000 pounds. The typical market pig today is lean and muscled, with a market weight of from 275 to 300 pounds.
Everyone has their own motivation when it comes to changing their diet; to lose weight, to be healthier, to eat or reduce meat consumption, to address environmental or animal welfare, and to enjoy great tasting food.
For some of us, the perfect pig is a “happy pig”. Fat or lean – the most important aspect is how the animals are treated by us when they are in our care (my opinion).
Being an “ethical omnivore” is about an attitude towards what you consume and the effect it has on you and others. It also involves how we treat the animals we choose to consume or not to consume. We as “ethical omnivores ” need to know where our food comes from and respect the welfare of the animals in exchange for what they provide for us.
A better idea rather than manipulating their fat content in the ethical treatment of animals may be seeking out and encouraging pastured pigs that are raised with animal welfare standards including compassion and dignity in their own natural environments. There they can receive better diets that are more suited to their physiological needs rather than attempting to alter their size and fat content artificially to please the food industry profits. After some soul searching combined with my love for animals, I think pork will come off our menu for a long time.
A good book to read about animal-human relationships is Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat by Hal Herzog: Why It’s So Hard to Think Straight About Animals. Hal Herzog is recognized as one of the world’s leading experts on human-animal relations. He is a professor of psychology at Western Carolina University and lives in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains.
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
Even though it has been reported that meat consumption has declined recently, in the past, Americans have been consuming about 150 pounds of “red meat” per capita/year. The percentages are startling: 60% beef, 39% pork, with only 1% for lamb and mutton. The percentage of goat is too small to even mention.
Pork had been the meat of choice since Colonial Days in the Plymouth Colony (circa 1623). The dense American forests were ideal for raising pigs. They were allowed to remain “wild” and roam freely most of the year with only penning them in the winter. They were “finished” on corn that made the flesh firm and they gained weight quickly. Pigs were more efficient than cattle for meat, so cattle were more used for milk, butter, cheese and plowing. Other food animals that were available were goats, sheep and chickens.
Goat meat was the first to be abandoned which virtually disappeared. Goat meat was occasionally consumed in the South by low-income groups as well as some Hispanics. Goat meat is still served in some Mexican restaurants.
Sheep migrated into British cookery as a by-product of wool production, especially in Scotland and Ireland. Lamb eventually became more popular associated with the wool industry in New England, but did not catch on in the South due to the influence of the cotton industry. Later, dairying replaced sheep herding in New England.
The Great Plains became the ideal location for raising cattle. When the corn production moved west, the pig and cattle industry followed. Then, they had to be “walked” back over the mountains to the Eastern seaboards by “drovers”. Cincinnati became known as “Porkopolis”. By the time of the Civil War, Americans were “hooked on pork and had become “the staff of life”, primarily in the South and Midwest.
The Northeast became more partial to beef. New Englanders no longer raised pigs due to the cutting down of the forests for the shipbuilding industry. Little corn was grown to “finish” the pork.
In the Western plains, the American Indians preferred the buffalo, so the government (U.S. Army) figured out that if they could get rid of the buffalo, they also could rid the area of the Indians. Cattle ranchers with the help of the railroads began to raise herds of cattle to replace the once prolific buffalo herds. Progress with the railroads replaced the cattle drives and the Chicago stockyards became the center of cattle slaughter. In 1882, refrigerated cars became more available for safer transportation; the West was running out of grazing land that forced more feedlot “finishing” with corn.
Beef became cheap and ranchers were paid to supply the Indian reservations with beef to prevent starvation (after eliminating the buffalo). For a while beef consumption fell again due to losing its price advantage at the turn of the century until about 1940.
In the early 1950s Americans were eating about equal amounts of beef and pork. By the late 1950s, beef consumption in the U.S. surpassed pork for the first time. By the 1960’s Americans were eating 10 times more pounds of beef and by the 1970s, 25 pounds more.
Why is beef king in the U.S?
Changes in beef production and marketing at the end of WW II fit the new postwar lifestyles. Meat had been rationed during WWII.
Improved breeds appeared that were given soy, fish meal, corn, sorghum, hormones, antibiotics that allowed faster “finishing” times due to accelerated growth since the cattle ate day and night.
Lifestyles began to involve more home ownership in the suburbs, which lead to outdoor grilling. Beef patties were ideal grillers; pork patties fell apart.
There were no dangers of trichinosis with beef.
Women entered the workplace that resulted in eating outside the home.
The fast food industry exploded and the hamburger became the staple at the drive-in.
Presently it is estimated that Americans are eating about three hamburgers a week.
American still eat more meat than most cultures in the world, but even here, consumption is declining. It is estimated the U.S meat consumption may fall by more than 12% from 2007 to 2012. This computes to about 165.5 pounds per person, or about one-half a pound a day.
Health concerns about meat consumption are reaching the public.
Campaigns like Meatless Mondays may be having an effect. People are getting the message to cut down on saturated fat.
Some lower income people may attempt to obtain cheaper sources of protein like grains and soy to improve their health while wealthier groups may have some environmental as well as health concerns.
All meat production in America requires a great deal of fossil fuel. Production relies entirely on nonrenewable fossil energy. There are also concerns about adding grain crops to animal feed, water scarcity, and animal welfare.
Cost of meats has risen due to animal feed prices.
How do cows negatively affect the environment? Take a look at these statistics from a recent PBS News Hour video.
It takes 1,800 gallons of water to produce one pound of grain-fed beef.
We use eight times more land to feed animals in the U.S. than we use to feed humans.
The 500 million tons of manure created each year by American cows releases nitrous oxide, a gas that has 300 times the global warming effect of carbon dioxide.
The 17 billion pounds of fertilizer used to grow feed for cows flows into rivers and oceans, creating huge algae blooms or dead zones where nothing can survive. In the U.S. we find them in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Oregon, and the Chesapeake Bay.
In total, 6.5 pounds of greenhouse gases are released to produce just one quarter-pounder burger.
Americans still value animal protein from meats and dairy with 65% of the U.S. protein coming from animals. The global average is about 30%; some low-income countries only get about 6-7 % of their protein from animal sources.
Will the U.S. population accept the current trend of plant-based diets as part of their protein source as well as their taste buds? Time will tell – but it will be a hard road ahead. The current trends for plant-based burgers (aka as the Impossible burger, and Beyond Beef) will be trial balloons to see how accepting the typical American consumer responds. It is now recognized that most healthy cultures globally depend on a more vegan diet approach than what we find so far on the American plate. The environmental benefits of growing plant crops may help to persuade some Americans to accept this diet pattern more readily. (my opinion).