What I Am Reading: Meat-Lovers' Edition

May 27 2014 Published by under Uncategorized

I have not posted a book review in a while, but not because my reading has suffered. No, my reading has mostly been new books in series that I have reviewed on other occasions. I also encountered a couple of tomes that failed to keep my attention long enough to complete them. If I am going to tell you what I think of a book, I want to at least be able to struggle through it.

I am delighted to finally break this block with Maureen Ogle's In Meat We Trust: An Unexpected History of Carnivore America. The author, a PhD historian from Iowa State, also published Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer in 2006. Writing about beer and beef? What a life to emulate!

The book provides a history of meat production in the US, these colonies practically begging the settlers to convert grain to flesh and make big bucks. The author's background as a technical and economic historian shows, and we really begin to appreciate how economies of scale developed over time. Having lived in a number of places with shuttered slaughterhouses (Chicago, Omaha, Kansas City, and Oklahoma City), I now understand how advances made this model of meat production obsolete. Wars and other political events also drove changes in production processes.

One of the books I never finished a felt like reading a series of slides on the topic.In contrast, Meat flows from advance to advance, telling a coherent story that can be hard to put down at times.

My only gripe comes from the portions dealing with the emergence of the pathogen, E. coli O157:H7. This type of the common bacteria has importance because of its production of shiga toxin, leading to aggressive colitis sometimes followed by hemolytic uremic syndrome. The book implies that the danger of this germ comes from antibiotic resistance, something which is not the case.

As a meat lover, I thoroughly enjoyed turning every page. If you have already decided that Big Ag is bad, you will not like this read. If you are trying to figure out whether organic/free range or other "specially-raised" meat is worth the premium price, then this is the book for you.

Now I need to go find some bacon.

3 responses so far

  • becca says:

    On the one hand, what your describing with the E. coli problem is probably simply knowing too much for this type of general audience book.

    On the other hand, isn't shiga toxin the one where you apply the wrong antibiotic and the bugs lyse and then WHOANELLY THERE IS TOXIN EVERYWHERES and it's like BAD NEWS DEATH DOOM GAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!?

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