Soon, most of us will stop eating beef, and it won’t be because we’ll all agree with vegans that meat is murder. It’ll be due to the logic of advanced capitalism. The alternatives to meat now being developed – plant-based substitutes and vat-grown meat produced from cultured animal cells – will taste the same as beef but, unlike cow meat, they’ll be subject to the “transformative power of the modern production line”. It’s not just a matter of the sheer volume of goods produced; it’s the speed of manufacture from raw material to finished article, and the ability to vary supply with fluctuating demand, to dispense with low-value by-products like offal and excrement, and to develop variations in flavour.
“Factory farming”, despite its name, has no such advantages. As for those who think a global industry that rears billions of animals can’t vanish overnight, I give you one word: “horses”. In the early 20th century, our cities and country lanes teemed with them. Then along came the internal combustion engine, and they were gone. As the horse went, so shall the cow. (Peter Franklin, The Week, 7 September 2019)
The Epicurean approach to this is that people should eat what they enjoy. At the same time they should be reminded that, even at its best, beef production uses a vast acreage of open farmland that was once forested and which, for the benefit of all mankind, should be at least partially re- forested. At its worst, beef production involves vast factories where the animals are fed automatically and seldom see daylight . The sylvan image of the grazing cattle on rolling pasture in the sunlight is a thing of the past, as city tycoons foist cruel farming methods upon us in telentless search for ever greater profit, at least in the US. Eat a steak and wonder how much antibiotic you are swallowing.