Between Michael Pollan’s newest book, In Defense of Food, and this article in the New York Times, some might start believing that meat is on its last legs, so to speak.
The Times article, by astute food writer Mark Bittman, seeks to draw a parallel between American dependence on fossil fuels and our dietary dependence on animal proteins. The numbers say we are consuming more dead animals than ever, but that might change as a result of rising food prices. And reducing consumption of animals might make us healthier, Bittman says:
Americans are downing close to 200 pounds of meat, poultry and fish per capita per year (dairy and eggs are separate, and hardly insignificant), an increase of 50 pounds per person from 50 years ago. We each consume something like 110 grams of protein a day, about twice the federal government’s recommended allowance; of that, about 75 grams come from animal protein. (The recommended level is itself considered by many dietary experts to be higher than it needs to be.) It’s likely that most of us would do just fine on around 30 grams of protein a day, virtually all of it from plant sources.
Pax Arcana does not buy this for a second. I’m not the type for breakfast sausage or hamburger lunches, but like a lot of Americans, I start to get a little quakey — and a little angry — if I go too long without protein. And the most efficient delivery mechanism for protein is meat.
But according to this WSJ article, NFL superstar Tony Gonzalez doesn’t have that problem. Apparently Gonzalez was turned on to veganism by a fellow passenger on a flight. After failing in his initial effort (he lost 10 pounds in three weeks and had regressed in the weight room), Gonzalez worked with the Chiefs’ trainer to customize a mostly-plants diet with a few servings of fish and chicken thrown in:
After a preseason practice, he accompanied Mr. Hinds to learn a skill he believed as important as blocking techniques: how to shop for groceries. Mr. Hinds showed him nutritious fish oils and how to pick out breads dense with whole grains, nuts and seeds. “The best bread for you,” says Mr. Hinds, “is if I hit you with it, it hurts.” Mr. Gonzalez also learned how to make the fruit and vegetable shake he drinks each morning. He stocked his pantry with tubs of soy protein powder and boxes of organic oatmeal; soy milk and Brazilian acai juice crowded the fridge. His favorite dessert became banana bread topped with soy whipped cream from the vegan cafe near his home in Orange County’s Huntington Beach. Mr. Gonzalez soon recovered his lost pounds and strength.
As 2007 champion of my fantasy football league (Jersey Turnpikes represent!), I am honor-bound to refrain from criticizing my starting tight end. But I will say this: It’s probably much easier to adhere to a plant-based diet when you’ve got personalized consultants and chefs to help you out. For most of us, though, meat will remain the best mechanism for consumption of protein because A) It has a lot of it, and B) It tastes awesome.
So unless you’re planning on making meat more expensive — or letting Father Scott cook it for you (zing!) — my guess is rumors of meat’s demise are greatly exaggerated.