Meat consumption research – Introduction/Aim

I spent the last 4-5 months working on my final thesis for the University of Gastronomic Sciences.  I chose to look at meat consumption, the growth of which is exacerbating agricultural sustainability issues.  Following my time at the university, I was especially interested to look at some of the historic and cultural issues that make meat such a valued part of the diet.  I was also interested to look further into the health implications of diets.  The work was helped and inspired by my reading of Richard Manning’s book Against the Grain, Massimo Montanari’s teaching at the university and his book The Culture of Food and Michael Pollan’s books The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defence of Food.

The title of my work is…

Towards a more sustainable food system: Understanding the history, culture and impact of meat in human diets

and a brief synopsis…

High and rising global meat consumption threatens the sustainability of our food system with ever more resources devoted to livestock farming while much of the world remains hungry. I look at the history and culture of meat in human diets, the way we produce meat, it’s role in human health, ethical issues and solutions to restore sustainability.

In the end I think I was a little over-ambitious with the wide scope of the research.  It was more work than was required for the university but I was interested in doing it and felt that I was looking at the issues from a unique set of perspectives.  Unfortunately, I had to rush at the end to get it finished for the deadline and some parts could have done with some more work.  I will publish it here over the coming weeks, tidying up some bits that I was not satisfied with.

The work was a real challenge and a valuable exercise.  In places it was very difficult to keep objective and construct defendable arguments.  Please comment if you find anything you think is poorly argued or wrong.

See below for the aim of the research

Part 1: Meat and diets in our evolutionary history is here

Part 2: The introduction of agriculture is here

Part 3: Between agriculture and industrialisation is here

Part 4: Industrialisation and modernisation is here

Part 5: Impact on the environment is here

Part 6: Impact on human health is here

Part 7: Other impacts is here

Part 8: Ethical considerations is here

Part 9: Conclusions/Solutions is here

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Reform Club Menu, 9th May 1846

Reform Club Menu, 9th May 1846

Scan of menu from Alexis Soyer’s book “The Gastronomic Regenerator” found at books.google.co.uk

As part of a food history course we have had with Professor Alberto Capatti, food historian and dean of the University of Gastronomic Sciences we were given an assignment to analyse a menu.  In Colin Spencer’s “British Food, An Extraordinary Thousand Years of History” I found a menu from the Reform Club in 1846, a time when Alexis Soyer, the most famous chef of the time was employed there.  Following are some information about the menu and an analysis of the food on offer…

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World Food Crisis Conference with Solomon Katz

Last week Solomon Katz came to the university to talk to us about the current problems with food prices and supplies. He is a professor of anthropology and director of the Wilton M. Krogman Center for Research in Child Growth and Development at the University of Pennsylvania. Here is a summary of the information I picked up and some of my thoughts…

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Fishing in Puglia

Fish unloaded from boat, Mola di Bari

Last week I had my last thematic field trip with the university, studying the fishing industry in Puglia. Our trip was slightly disrupted by the unsettled weather that was affecting most of Italy and unfortunately we didn’t get to go out on boats and see fishing actually happening (unless you count seeing a small net-full of fish pulled out of the water in a fish farm). Anyway, there was plenty of other fish-related stuff…

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The Role of the Endocannabinoid system in eating

Cakes, Porto, Portugal

This morning we also had a visit from Dr Vincenzo di Marzo of the Biomolecular Chemistry Institute, Pozzuoli, Italy. He has been working with a group of researchers studying the endocannabinoid system and how it is involved with food intake and eating disorders.  I wrote a brief summary of what I learned…

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How Climate Change Could Affect Wine

Vineyard in Sicilly

This morning we had a presentation by Antonio Busalacchi founding director of the Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center (ESSIC) and Professor in the Department of Meteorology at the University of Maryland College Park. He has done research on how predicted climate changes in the next 100 years would effect the wine production areas of the world.  I wrote a brief summary of what I heard…

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India trip and Navdanya

Navdanya logo made from seeds

We just got back from a two week trip to India, mainly looking at the work of Vandana Shiva’s organisation Navdanya

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