Ezra Klein makes the case for meat reform. Which is to say reform of the set of policies — notably grain subsidies, FDA approval of feeding cattle a solid diet of antibiotics, and lax regulatory treatment of feedlot waste — that make the current American diet of cheap, plentiful, crappy beef economically reasonable. I heartily agree.
I’m a little bit less sure that such reform would, on its own, actually produce a dramatic decline in the overall quantity of meat people eat. The thing about grass-fed beef (for example) as opposed to the conventional stuff is that it’s really good. The only difference between subsidized corn and unsubsidized corn is that the latter costs more. But the difference between feedlot beef and the traditional product is price and quality. Indeed, thanks to the quality gap, there’s a viable market in quality meat even with the competitor in the field and receiving subsidies. If we shifted all of our meat to a different point on the price/quality spectrum, people would obviously need to make some adjustments to their consumption habits. But along with reduced meat consumption, there are various other options — including switching from beef to pork, switching from pricier to cheaper cuts of meat, and just sucking it up and paying more money — all of which are made more palatable by the product’s quality improving.
Now, obviously, part of the disagreement here stems from the fact that Ezra has tofu recipes whereas I went to the farmer’s market to buy free range pork sausage from Truck Patch Farms yesterday (and tomatoes, about which more later).