Sacred Cow – Are We Eating Too Much Meat?

That’s the question kemosabe. According to our authors, there is a perception that Americans are eating too much meat. They conjure up the image of a giant T-bone hanging over the side of the plate. Early in this chapter, Rodgers and Wolf also point out that a lot of Americans equate meat with beef. Apparently, poultry, pork and seafood don’t count as meat in a lot of American minds. Is this uniquely American? I grew up in Canada and have lived half my life in the United Kingdom. I’ve never come across this bizarre definition of meat in either country. Maybe it’s just me living in a bubble. In any event, the authors give a proper definition of meat, i.e., animal protein.

Once clarifying what meat actually is, Rodgers and Wolf tackle the question at hand. Their answer? “In reality, we’re not eating anywhere close to 265 pounds of meat per person, per year.” They do a fine job unpicking this much quoted number from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), concluding that Americans actually eat 132 pounds per year. Moreover, the USDA’s own data shows Americans are eating far less meat today than they were fifty years ago.

So how much meat should we eat? Well, after taking us through a lot of data (US Dietary Guidelines, the Center of Disease Control, AMDR) they arrive at 30 percent of total calories or around 100 grams of meat protein a day. What about plant protein? They’ll address that one farther down the road.


They are already preaching to the converted with me. The vast majority of my calories comes from fat and protein. This chapter, nevertheless, is a bit dry. It’s got a lot of statistics, and it gives me the impression they’re laying the foundation to make their big case for meat later in the book. This chapter is more of an exercise in debunking myths that many Americans hold in their heads. Still, if most Americans think they are eating too much meat, they need debunking. As the authors state at the end of the chapter:

“We hope you understand now that the idea of “too much” is not based on science, but more likely on a “feeling” that meat is, by nature, gluttonous and unhealthy…We aren’t eating “too much,” and even the RDA of protein might not be enough for our needs.”

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