Made In Detroit, PM"/>

PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Books

'Meathooked' Gets Hung-Up on Its Own Problems

Beneath a thin veneer of science journalism lies a vegetarian manifesto.


Meathooked: The History and Science of Our 2.5-Million-Year Obsession with Meat

Publisher: Basic
Author: Marta Zaraska
Format: Hardcover
Publication date: 2016-02
Amazon

Marta Zaraska opens Meathooked by reassuring readers of her scientific detachment: "I may be a vegetarian, but I won't tell you how much meat you should or shouldn't eat. I'll just give you the facts."

Instead, readers are subject to a vegetarian manifesto masquerading as scientific journalism. The use of descriptors more commonly applied to drug addicts is unsettling and offensive, e.g., meat is described as an addictive substance people are either "off" or "on". Any meat-eater, be they human, animal, or bacterial, is "meathooked".

As for our carnivorous ancestors, Zaraska writes: "Meat was not a physiological necessity. What they did need was a high-quality diet, and at the time meat was the best option they had. That's why they got hooked on it."

Zaraska describes Kate Jacoby, a vegan restauranteur, as "off meat". Zaraska herself is a vegetarian, of course, albeit one who occasionally backslides: "There is something in it - -in its cultural, historic, and social appeal, or maybe in its chemical composition -- that keeps luring me back."

Zaraska offers some questionable figures concerning American meat consumption. We "devour 275 pounds (of meat) a year". That's three-quarters of a pound of a meat per person every single day. Each of our American hamburgers "contributes as much to global warming as driving an average American car for 320 miles." What burgers, McDonald's? and which average drivers in America are driving 320 miles every day?

Intent on understanding meat's impossibly delicious hold on humans, Zaraska dives into anthropology, archaeology, and history. There she reviews material covered elsewhere by writers better suited to the task: Bee Wilson's First Bite comes to mind, as do thoughtful works by Jennifer MacLagan, Temple Grandin, Novella Carpenter, Barbara Kingsolver, and Jessica Prentice. All have given hard thought to the ethical, ecological, and moral complexities of meat eating.

Zaraska's findings backfire: even as she searches for the evils of carnivorism, she writes: "For better or worse, meat has played an outsized role in the history of our species. It enabled us to grow bigger brains, encouraged sharing and politics, and helped us move out of Africa and into colder climes."

Even as Zaraska grudgingly acknowledges these realities, she eschews meat's nutritional benefits, suggesting equal sustenance may be found in plants, legumes, bugs, and lab-grown "meats" tasting just like the real thing.

Zaraska isn't entirely wrong, of course. The problem lies in her approach. Readers are alternately browbeaten with dubious health warnings or warned they are party to ecological destruction. In discussing the Malliard reaction, responsible for browning and caramelization of sugars, Zaraska adds: there is "a darker side". The Malliard reaction "can produce acrylamide, a probable carcinogen". Notice the words "can" and "probable."

Weak writing further damages Zaraska's arguments. National Chicken Council's Bill Roenig is described as as a "jovial man who looks exactly like a "Bill". Kate Jacoby is described as not looking like "a stereotypical vegan". What do Bills and stereotypical vegans looklike? Readers are informed "wit means "with" in Philadelphese". Editor?

Ultimately, the largest misfortune lies in the lost message. Zaraska is right about the impact of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations; this kind of farming is indeed environmentally destructive, horribly inhumane, the resulting meat unhealthy. It will only stop if demand for cheap meat decreases, meaning we must willingly change our diets.

However, as Bee Wilson writes in First Bite: "At a social level, the key to improving diet is not pushing people to do something they are resistant to doing, but removing the barriers to change."

Writers like Mark Bittman, Mollie Katzen, and Deborah Madison successfully sell vegetarian food to millions of carnivores, this reader included. How? The food is presented as appetizing, inexpensive, and appealing. Emphasis is placed on taste rather than health or ecology.

While all three writers are likeable and charismatic, the food sold itself: people know they need to eat less meat, just not how to go about it. Indeed, when Katzen gives adult readers the opportunity to construct their very own Enchanted Broccoli Forests by planting broccoli stalks in a "rice forest floor", suddenly vegetarianism isn't threatening or dour or beige. It's fun.

That's how you convert people.

3

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.

Books

Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon
Music

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.

Music

'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.

Music

ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.

Music

The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.

Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.