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Food

Hey Morons, We Need to Quit Our Obsession with Meat

Burgers might be the new tits but they'll kill us all in the end.

Shit tons of meat. Look at the meat. (Photo via)

Last Sunday, Pitt Cue Co – the meat mecca just off London’s Carnaby Street – hosted a special evening. At the one-off “Highland Beef Night” they served a nose-to-tail menu of beef dishes made from a pair of Highland cows that the team bought a year ago from a Cornish farmer. The animals spent two months dry-ageing, their flesh and bones eventually finding its way into a menu of dishes like beef scrumpets, beef and bone marrow pasties and the king of all cuts, rib of beef.

Annons

All of it was fucking fantastic. Not many places in London do things to pigs and cows like Pitt Cue do. But with everyone smiling at each other – lips slicked with grease, teeth like fenceposts that live animals had been fired into – I couldn't help but think that there was something a bit culty about a group of humans gathering together to eat two specific cows.

Provenance obsessives will kick their hooves at this; speak to any chef, food critic, restaurateur – whoever – and they’ll give you the eat-better-meat-less-often argument, droning on about where the animals lived, what they ate, how humanely they died, which artisan coffee they drank, etc, etc. All of that is irrefutable. If you’re going to eat meat, you can do your bit by eating the best quality you can and, where you can, bits of the whole animal (neck fillet, onglet, cheek, trotters, that kind of stuff) and not just the common cuts.

So why does the context of eating fine quality meat matter? It shouldn’t, really. But it does reflect, to some extent, just how obsessed with meat we’ve become. If an event like this had been touted even a few years ago, there’s no way it would have pulled in the punters like it did on Sunday. Meat is now highly fetishised, especially among young people. Burgers, for example, are the new tits. If you look at any social media platform, there are as many 20-something men posting photos of ground flesh covered in neon sauce as there are sharing that zero gravity Kate Upton video. We’ve become a nation of rabid carnivores, and it’s not just getting tiresome – it’s fucking killing us.

Annons

I love a nice burger as much as the next idiot, but if I see any more evangelising of what is essentially bread and minced cow, I might collapse. I'm aware this will infuriate any chef who's devised their perfect supreme-quality-chuck-steak-to-brioche-bun ratio, but, apart from the shitty kind you might buy in a motorway service station (although, let’s face it, at the right time they can be ambrosial), I'm going to be bold and ask: Just how good can a burger be? And let’s not even start on bacon.

Some meat that died recently. Eat it. (Photo via)

Recent figures revealed that bacon sales in the US rose by nearly 10 percent last year to an all-time record high of $4 billion (€2.8 billion). All of that cash on salty, water-injected slices of pig. It doesn’t matter how we look at it, eating lots of meat is bad news, and it’s now impossible to refute that a flesh-heavy diet is unhealthy.

The National Health and Nutrition Survey has been collecting data on 6,381 people in the US, and discovered that diets rich in protein (from animals, not plant sources) could be as harmful to the body as smoking. If you’re under 65 and eat loads of meat, dairy and eggs, you are, apparently, four times more likely to die of diabetes or cancer. Yet, despite new, terrifying “eating meat will give you cancer” headlines like this being plastered all over the news every week, we plough on.

The queues at places like MEATliquor still snake around the block, Byron is still packed out every night and you can’t move for chefs and food bloggers doing all sorts of crude things to bacon. Again, please don’t get me wrong – I love bacon. It’s more that the collective feverishness doesn’t seem to be calming, even in light of all this news, that’s troubling. Shouldn’t we start obsessing over something else? Are we really that fucking moronic that we'll carry on like this?

Annons

It's hard, though, because this meat hysteria is probably a product of recession weariness. When times are hard we crave food that isn’t just comforting and a bit regressive (a burger and chips is a five-year-old’s dream meal) but also escapist. Eating food like this makes you feel pissed – the fat, refined carbohydrate, salt and sugar content see to that – and getting a little bit high on a burger is accessible and acceptable to everyone. A hunk of meat is reliable, too; it’s not likely to be booby-trapped with anything nasty. You know where you are with it and that means something.

It’s also hard because not only are we living in a world where apparently everything gives you cancer, but we’ve also been led to believe that protein-heavy diets are what will keep us healthiest. The most successful diet books of the century – Dukan, Atkins and, of course, "paleo" – all promote cutting your carb content drastically and overloading on protein. Each is based on some sort of bespoke science, especially paleo, which makes woolly claims about how we should emulate how our caveman ancestors ate.

But it seems now that, even though we might get thinner, eating meat every day is probably going to close the brackets on our life sooner. I have friends who don’t consider a meal as complete without some meat on the plate, who don’t get that they’re the subjects of all these news stories. It feels like there’s a gulf between the information and people’s realities.

So what’s the answer? Start fetishising broccoli the same way we do meat? Probably. Because if fags and burgers are on equal footing in the killing-us-before-our-rightful-time stakes, something has to give.

@eleanormorgan