The North American Meat Institute is going to battle this week over new federal guidelines that suggest that “a healthy dietary pattern is…lower in red and processed meat,” just the latest installment in an ongoing debate over the health effects of meat. Is meat essential for children’s health, a terrible toxin, or a great tool for eliminating fat? Is it the highway to heart disease, or the key to unlocking your ideal preindustrial self?
If you’re confused, you’re in good company. People have been debating the merits of meat for centuries. Dig back to one of the earliest of those arguments, and you’ll find surprising prescience—as well as a reminder that our perceptions of food are always entangled with our larger views of the world.
Your meat is full of demons