It seems that for a fairly long period of time now, multiple factors have combined to gradually fade The Meat eat We Eat text book out of modern day meat education. The 14th edition of that once revered book was published back in 2001 and contains 1111 pages. Between 1943 and 2001 The Meat We Eat was revised into a new edition on an average of about every 4 years. During its heyday The Meat We Eat was the cornerstone of most American meat apprenticeships & vocational school meat programs. It was also widely used at Land Grant University Ag schools in introductory Meat Science courses. Still further, this book contains both step by step slaughter and meat cut fabrication chapters (wild game’s included too); so it is a very beneficial reference for persons wanting to learn butchering basics on their own. The simplest way I have found to become a “book” meat expert is to read a little of The Meat We Eat’s 29 page index every night before going to bed, and while looking up terms that you are not familiar with.
The remainder of this post is about some possible reasons why The Meat We Eat has fallen out of favor.
Advances in affordable information technology currently allow practically anyone to quickly search for any subject matter; from anywhere via their own personal computer or smart-phone. Such great access to opinions etc. tends to cause some people’s knowledge base to “be a mile wide, but only an inch deep;” primarily due to a lack of big picture thinking. I other words, one does not know things that they do not know to computer search for. It’s a widely known fact that much of what’s supplied on the internet is not scientifically peer reviewed findings, and some is even personal agenda driven misinformation. Therefore, a totally self-directed computer sourced education presents some serious quality issues. This lack of trust concept alone is a great reason to retain an up-to-date textbook; where all sectors of the meat business have been academically peer reviewed and presented. In the not too distant past, The Meat We Eat served as a trustworthy starting point for more in depth investigations of specific sectors of the gargantuan worldwide meat industry.
Consolidation of the meat industry, into increasingly larger corporate feeding and harvest facilities (economies of scale), has had the consequence of removing ever more of the human population from vertically integrated meat businesses. Even harvest plant carcass fabrication worker’s skill set is often limited to repetitively making a few well practiced cuts. Retail boxed meat cutters do perform a greater variety of tasks, but their skills are most often limited to the marketing of sub-primal wholesale cuts. In further processing plants job stations are listed with job titles such as grinder, machine operator, packer, box maker etc. I speculate that over time the combination of industry consolidation and specialization has done quite a bit toward diminishing the readership demand for The Meat We Eat text book.
Niche meat markets; such as natural, organic, grass-fed, grass-finished, pasture raised, buy local, etc. can coexist financially with economies of scale producers; if niche market producers can successfully charge a high price and simultaneously retain a decent percentage of repeat customers. [To provide some historical perspective, none of the above listed niche meat market categories are mentioned the 2001 edition of The Meat We Eat.] However, it is hard to effectively preach the niche market gospel while sticking strictly to settled hard-science facts. Emotion and feelings have proven to be much more effective sales ploys. One proven method of working around mainstream meat science is to “barrow” harvest & cut fabrication techniques from The Meat We Eat; then use them in small books that teach niche agendas. In that scenario, academically peer reviewed science is seldom a productive agenda advancing practice. Inevitably, whenever niche markets do prove to be financially successful, big meat companies either buy the brand or produce something similar of their own. Perceptions that lead to a bottom line increase are everything. And also, a continued lack of revision of The Meat We Eat reinforces the notion that the text is too old-school and needs to be completely replaced by “progressive” thinking. Yet another notion that many niche marketers embrace is that they are reviving the dying artisan meat trade. But, as long as The Meat We Eat is around all trade knowledge is available for future generations to learn.
Where are the Meat Science Professors? Most people can easily envision that revising The Meat We Eat would not be as glamorous or potentially well paying as professors publishing their own little books then requiring that they be used for in courses that they teach. And again, an increasingly out-of-date The Meat We Eat supports calling for teaching materials which are more in tune with the times. At the very least, one or more Meat Science professors could revise and rename The Meat We Eat as their own comprehensive meat textbook.
Cook books have always been the largest category of new books published each year. That phenomenon creates an above average opportunity for new authors to advance the niche they are passionate about and to hopefully make money. Unlike my little altruistic blog, most bloggers are in it for high volume readership which will translate into big advertising dollars. It should come as little surprise that the ads are quite often tied to equipment and/or supplies that are being blogged about. These meat preparation blogs want to be your go-to education source; so would not likely have any interest in disclosing the sources of their generally accepted information.
Meat no longer being PC could possibly be turning some of today’s youth away from the meat industry. Since all humans are born omnivorous most will out-grow the miss-education that they and their parents paid dearly for at Liberal Arts colleges, but that does not happen prior to loosing the possibility of a meat career. Choices made during ones youth affects the avenues open to them for the rest of their lives.
Goodbye to The Meat We Eat! It once served the meat industry long, strong and well. A few things have popped up to try and fill the educational void left by the non-revision of The Meat We Eat, but I’m not impressed by any of them so far.
Partially false promises of the information technology age and the normal relentless pursuit of the almighty dollar were the primary factors that led to its gradual demise. Unlike us mere mortals, high quality comprehensive textbooks can live on and on; when continuously nurtured by well educated. societies.