Friday, June 03, 2011

Meat Puppets


Those who were born in mid-to-late 20th century America take this for granted; I grew up eating meat seven days a week, usually for lunch and dinner, sometimes for breakfast, too. But the phenomenon is global: there’s more than twice as much meat available per person than there was in 1950. Citizens of most developed nations have gone down the same path, and as the poor become less so, they buy more meat, too.

...The extreme example is China, whose soaring meat consumption is dramatically affecting the global markets for corn, soy, poultry and pork. But even here in Turkey, which is hardly an economic miracle, the diet is rocketing into the 20th century, moving away from the traditional and toward the inevitable.

Turkey’s diet was classic Mediterranean, of course, high in all kinds of plants, olive oil, some dairy (yogurt and feta, mostly) and a bit of fish, lamb or goat. Now it’s a jumble: a rural grocery store I visited displayed American-style breakfast cereal and plenty of soda front and center, along with (good) local vegetables, industrially produced dairy, and a small supply of expensive, stylishly packaged legumes and grains. There was no fish, lamb or goat, but there were at least 10 cuts of beef and lots of chicken. (Chicken consumption has nearly tripled here in the last 20 years.)

As cheap and plentiful as meat is, I've still been surprised by the reminder of how much more expensive groceries get when you have an actively carnivorous member of the household adding to the shopping cart. I have a rediscovered appreciation for how far you can stretch a hundred dollars' worth of plant-based foods.