Meat traditions. The co-evolution of humans and meat.

Publication Type:

Journal Article

Source:

Appetite, Volume 90, p.200-211 (2015)

Keywords:

Culture, Evolution, History, Meat, Society, Traditional fermented foods

Abstract:

The debate on the future of meat centres on recent environmental, economical, ethical, and health issues, whereas historical dimensions are all too often overlooked. The fiery discussions are nevertheless affected by an underlying legacy of "meat traditions" and accompanying hunting, slaughtering, eating, and sharing activities, rituals, and rites. Eating meat is a biocultural activity. Therefore, a closer inspection of the evolutionary, collective, and semiotic aspects of meat in human societies is required. This study ventures such an exploration based on a heuristic model inspired by Maslow's pyramid of needs, distinguishing between physiological, security, community, value, and holistic levels. Besides the potential relevance of an innate craving, it is argued that meat has interfered with the development of fundamental human characteristics, both as a physical and conceptual resource. This relates, amongst others, to elements of gender differentiation, cooperation and reciprocity, social stratification and power, religion, cultural expression, and identity. As such, meat traditions provide a basis for evolutionary and long-term social processes, on which more recent and shallow courses of action are superposed, affecting contemporary behaviour. Several research questions were identified to further explore and anticipate the impact of meat on human populations and their societal and economic functioning.