Should We Eat Meat? (A great book)


I recently read this book about the rate of meat consumption in the USA. I love it and wanted to risk advertising it on the forums! (I’ll understand if anyone flags this as spam, since it’s technically a product)

The author is a teacher at the University of Manitoba under the Faculty of Environment. He writes about energy, food, production technology etc. Now just to clarify a few things… in the author’s own words:

The heart of the book addresses the consequences of the “massive carnivory” of western diets, looking at the inefficiencies of production and at the huge impacts on land, water, and the atmosphere.

So first and foremost, this is not a book about veganism or vegetarianism. It is about economics and efficiency.

Health impacts are also covered, both positive and negative.

Smil (author) is not even suggesting to abstain from meat, only to eat less. Emphasis mine.

Should We Eat Meat is not an ideological tract for or against carnivorousness but rather a careful evaluation of meat’s roles in human diets and the environmental and health consequences of its production and consumption.

I think that wraps it up nicely. If anyone tells you this book is dogma then they haven’t actually read it.


That book is dogma!

/hasn’t read it


I see the syntactic problem here… my bad.


It’s $23 even on Kindle, and it’s 200 pages or so = I can’t afford it.


Wow, for just the ebook? That does seem steep


$23 yeah not buying anytime soon.


check at the library maybe?


[quote=“sylass94, post:1, topic:21422”]Smil (author) is not even suggesting to abstain from meat, only to eat less. Emphasis mine.[/quote]Then he really should have called it How Much Meat Should We Eat?


You should tell him that.

EDIT: That was meant to be serious but I just read it again and it sounds really sassy. Sorry lol


Well, I guess it’s too late now. And the the accidental rhyme make it sound like a Dr. Seuss book.

[quote=“sylass94, post:9, topic:21422”]
EDIT: That was meant to be serious but I just read it again and it sounds really sassy. Sorry lol
[/quote]No offence taken.


Bill Gates praises this book:


Agreed the planet can’t really sustain a LOT of people eating a LOT of meat…

Somewhat tangential to this, I was wondering if anyone knew about how long the gut micro biome that processes beef can survive without any? I’ve heard that people who haven’t had red meat in a while have nasty GI issues consuming the stuff if enough time has passed… I was wondering how long is too long? (assuming I want to retain the ability to eat meat but do so as infrequently as possible). I’ve been trying to reduce red meat intake for 3 years now (in an attempt to lower LDL cholesterol… with success) and prior to Soylent was at about 2 servings a week. Now probably less than 1 serving a week. Could I get by with once a month? Or once every other month? Or would my gut revolt with each serving?


He’s how I found out about Smil. The author primarily writes books on energy, so this one surprised me. I guess it is technically about energy.


Doctors push for less red meat in 2015 dietary guidelines


Why is the work titled “Should We Eat Meat?” rather than “How Can We Make Meat Production Less Resource-Intensive?”

For centuries, people have been fretting over what the planet can sustain, and their predictions have always been wrong. They never take innovation into account.


A prediction that something is unsustainable or could lead to a world unlike the one we know only needs to be right once. I’m sure that many people have been killed after being repeatedly warned that their behavior is unsafe.


Taking a naive and wrongheaded prediction seriously is not cost-free. People who act according to these predictions are going to find that they’ve misallocated valuable resources.

Market signals constantly tell producers when to improve efficiency, when to raise prices (rationing), when to use substitute materials or produce substitute goods. These same signals even apply to family sizes. And those signals work without people even being conscious of the full range of their implications.

Long-term prognostications are rarely good for little more than indulging one’s imagination.


I remember when the Economist featured a cover showing balloons hovering near pins. It was around 2005, years before the real estate bubble brought the global economy to a ruinous readjustment. In accompanying commentary, the Economist explained that real estate prices were too high and that the bubble was likely to burst eventually – but the Economist didn’t know when.

Not all long run predictions are useless. Mark Twain’s quip that “in the long run, we are all dead,” has held up pretty well so far. Even the notorious warnings that the world was about to reach “peak oil” probably caused some people to redouble their efforts to find alternative sources of oil – and that process has had a dramatic effect on the world economy and political situation.

We can react to predictions about the sustainability of eating meat, and prove them wrong, no doubt. But that doesn’t render such predictions useless.


The prediction of the bursting of the real estate bubble was not a long-term one.
The search for oil sources is driven by market signals - supply & demand.
Saying “we all die someday,” is not much of a prediction.
The best information on the sustainability of meat consumption is to look at its profitability.

Specific long-term predictions are usually incorrect, stemming from the difficulty of predicting the future of contributory variables.
Correct long-term predictions are usually too vague to be useful.


I’m going to take a wild guess and say you maybe haven’t read this book? Or know anything about the author? You’re coming off as a bit presumptuous.

Edit: I was also presumptuous just now… the irony is not lost on me…