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Should We Eat Meat?

Evolution and Consequences of Modern Carnivory

By Vaclav Smil
  • Read in 16 minutes
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  • Contains 10 key ideas
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Should We Eat Meat? by Vaclav Smil

Should We Eat Meat? (2013) helps you navigate the ethical dilemmas behind your hamburger with a broad and objective assessment of meat production and consumption. Should you stick to grass-fed beef or take up veganism to save the planet? These blinks will give you all the facts you need to make your own informed decision.

Key idea 1 of 10

High-quality meat proteins are essential for human development and health.

As a kid you probably learned about the food pyramid and the importance of carbohydrates and proteins for healthy growth and sustained energy. But did you know that some proteins are better than others? They’re called high-quality proteins and you get many of them by eating animal products.

In fact, humans evolved to eat other animals. For instance, a human’s digestive tract is clearly different from that of a herbivore because it has enzymes which developed specifically to digest meat.

But how does meat fit into our diets?

You can think about eating as the process of supplying yourself with the things necessary to sustain your metabolism and maintain, as well as grow, your body. To do that you need both macronutrients like carbohydrates, fats and protein, and micronutrients like vitamins. It just so happens that meat is an excellent source of both macro- and micronutrients, and proteins in particular.

For example, the high-quality protein in meat is essential for young children and serves a crucial function in brain growth. In addition, the energy per gram of fat in meat is more than double that of carbohydrates, clocking in at a whopping 39 kilojoules per gram as opposed to 17.3 for carbohydrates. Meat is also a superb source of iron, which is important because iron deficiency is a major global issue, affecting up to 1.6 billion worldwide. It can lead to impaired brain development and even maternal death.

But despite all the beneficial aspects of including meat in your diet there are some drawbacks. Meat production has a negative impact on the environment. That’s because the per-capita supply of meat available in many nations is higher than the average grown adult weight of 65 kilograms to 80 kilograms. This is an issue because the agricultural processes tied to meat production use a lot of energy and incur a variety of other costs. We’ll find out more about these in later blinks.

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