Nerds on History
Episode No. 69 — The Complete Package
Eric and Bryan welcome author and historian Maureen Ogle onto the show to talk about her new book In Meat We Trust: An Unexpected History of Carnivore America. Listen as they explore a unique perspective on the history of food in America.
Eric and Bryan were thrilled to welcome Maureen Ogle, who also happens to be the first guest on Nerds on History who has a Ph.D. As we discussed her book, we got to dive into the history of the United States from an rarely explored angle: the food we we eat, and how it came to be that way. The single resonating question that drove all of Maureen’s research was “what does it mean to be an American?” As you listen, I think you’ll find that we come up with some pretty good ideas that help answer that.
Throughout the episode, there were tons of interesting facts that were shared. Here are a few:
- Americans have always had a sense of entitlement about the food they ate. The plentiful line and supply of meat sources allowed Americans to eat meat two to three times a day.
- While the above factoid doesn’t seem all that impressive, consider this: In 18th century Europe, lower class people were lucky if they ate meat once a week.
Maureen also offered some factual counterpoints to the recent controversies around how the majority of american meat is raised and slaughtered. As a reference point to this, check out Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma. To summarize, here is Pollan’s thesis: Since after World War II, Big Food has used nitrates previously produced for munitions as fertilizer, producing an exponential surplus in crop, namely corn. To make due, corn has worked it’s way into just about every processed food on the market, and also into the diets of animals who are raised for meat. Pollan argues that if our food system is to be sustainable, we need to re-think our food strategy and buy from locally raised, naturally-fed meat.
Without commenting on the ethics or the nutritional value of this, Maureen offered some interesting perspective on the matter:
- Grain-fed meat actually predates World War II, to the early 19th century. It was used as a way of “finishing” meat.
- Contrary to Pollan’s argument, the meat system, as it is, is very sustainable.
This is was a truly fascinating conversation. However, as always, DON’T TAKE OUR WORD FOR IT!! Seek the information out for yourself; you’ll be surprised on the journey it takes you. Here some links where you can read up on the issue, and more importantly, BUY MAUREEN’S BOOK!
Stay Nerdy, Friends!