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Beyond Beef: The Rise and Fall of the Cattle Culture

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Americans have a love affair with beef. The average American consumes the meat of seven 1,100-pound steers in a lifetime. But how many hamburger-lovers realize that a single boneless beefsteak requires up to 1,200 gallons of precious water to produce, that livestock now consume nearly one third of the world's grain, or that cattle play a central role in species extinction? Americans have a love affair with beef. The average American consumes the meat of seven 1,100-pound steers in a lifetime. But how many hamburger-lovers realize that a single boneless beefsteak requires up to 1,200 gallons of precious water to produce, that livestock now consume nearly one third of the world's grain, or that cattle play a central role in species extinction?


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Americans have a love affair with beef. The average American consumes the meat of seven 1,100-pound steers in a lifetime. But how many hamburger-lovers realize that a single boneless beefsteak requires up to 1,200 gallons of precious water to produce, that livestock now consume nearly one third of the world's grain, or that cattle play a central role in species extinction? Americans have a love affair with beef. The average American consumes the meat of seven 1,100-pound steers in a lifetime. But how many hamburger-lovers realize that a single boneless beefsteak requires up to 1,200 gallons of precious water to produce, that livestock now consume nearly one third of the world's grain, or that cattle play a central role in species extinction?

30 review for Beyond Beef: The Rise and Fall of the Cattle Culture

  1. 4 out of 5

    Janet Mason

    Despite that this book Beyond Beef, The Rise And Fall Of The Cattle Culture by Jeremy Rifkin was first published in 1992 (Dutton), I found that the writing is timeless. I never was much of a red meat eater but in the past year cut out dairy and went to a plant-based diet for health reasons. (My partner and I were thinking of becoming vegan for several years because of compassion for the animals. I found the change amazing. I actually never realized that I could feel so good.) This book never ment Despite that this book Beyond Beef, The Rise And Fall Of The Cattle Culture by Jeremy Rifkin was first published in 1992 (Dutton), I found that the writing is timeless. I never was much of a red meat eater but in the past year cut out dairy and went to a plant-based diet for health reasons. (My partner and I were thinking of becoming vegan for several years because of compassion for the animals. I found the change amazing. I actually never realized that I could feel so good.) This book never mentions the word “vegan,” but it does mention people dying from the diseases of affluence – through the diets of the rich which are laden with animal products. After reading the book — which is filled with many “aha” moments — I began to understand why beef is so central to U.S. culture. It begins by putting the cow in a spiritual context beginning several thousand years before the traditional birth of Christ with the cow worshipping peoples (often forming cattle cults) in ancient Egypt. The book is non-fiction and rather academic, however it is worth reading to understand the central role that the agriculture industry plays in our lives. In particular, the English were known to be big consumers of beef. However, the expense of beef was a class issue. Beef was a delicacy among the lower classes. In particular, women and children of the lower classes were known never to eat beef but to be relegated to what was called the “white meats” – meaning dairy. So “the other white meat” was originally dairy. This acknowledgement that dairy is an animal product came centuries before the vegan movement (which advocates for people no to use any products that come from animals) which is very big in England among other counties. The vegan movement is growing in the U.S. but is lagging behind other nations. Eventually, England went on to use the United States as its grazing ground for cattle. Eventually the U.S. ranchers were able to own their own land and become the imperialists. (They learned their lessons well from the predecessors.) The book discusses the treatment of the land, the Native American people who originally lived on the land and the animals (the bison in particular) – as well as the treatment of the cattle. In fact, a parallel can be drawn between how the cattle, environment, the other animals, and people are treated. In many ways, the book is not for the faint at heart. Even as a practicing vegan, I was often shocked. At one point, when reading the details of what is in the cattle feed, I remarked that it is little wonder that the consumption of meat and dairy causes so much disease. Beyond Beef refers to the battle of man against nature several times – from the Spanish bull fighters to the struggle of man against the whale in the classic Moby Dick. Now we are nearing the final days of that struggle – given the facts of climate change. It is clear that humans are losing. The planet may still be here, but humans may not be – unless we change. And change is possible.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Mirabal

    In Beyond Beef Jeremy Rifikin offers a scathing review on the multinational beef industry and cattle eating culture in the western world. This book however is not just some baseless rant; Rifkin uses logical arguments, sound facts and various supporting sources. He actually made an extremely sound argument that really swayed me (shockingly considering I am quite fond of cow). His use of evidence was so well done and strong it transformed a heavily biased topic into a logical sound book. Rifkin St In Beyond Beef Jeremy Rifikin offers a scathing review on the multinational beef industry and cattle eating culture in the western world. This book however is not just some baseless rant; Rifkin uses logical arguments, sound facts and various supporting sources. He actually made an extremely sound argument that really swayed me (shockingly considering I am quite fond of cow). His use of evidence was so well done and strong it transformed a heavily biased topic into a logical sound book. Rifkin Started by explaining the history of cattle culture and how humans and cows have been intertwined for many centuries. He discussed how they were once revered and treated like gods and sharply contrasted that to the way cattle are treated today using quotes from the Jungle. Rifkin then exposes some awful facts about the beef industry in America such as the USDAs lacking inspection standards. He then shifts to the primary focus of his book, which is the heavy toll cows place on the environment, and the people of earth. How so much farmland is wasted to feed cows and the destruction of the rainforest caused for cattle production. He describes cows a “hoofed locust” and states the many ecological harms of cattle. Beyond beef serves up a convincing argument on the high cost of cattle culture. From ecological damage to health effects Rifkin uses sound evidence and arguments to present his case. He ties in history, ecology, medicine, economics and philosophy to paint a vivid picture of the beef industry and its effect on mankind. This highly readable book produces a convincing argument on the harms of beef and is an all around enjoyable read.

  3. 4 out of 5

    John

    Though dated (published 1992), what a mind opening jewel this book proved to be! This book is almost incredibly detailed, the research completed mind-boggling. The author goes from writing of the Kurgans to the needs of the future- what a spread! My favorite quote of the book, from page 283: "While our contemporary society continues to guard against the commission of personal evil, it has largely failed to incorporate into its moral framework a sense of righteous indignation and moral repulsion a Though dated (published 1992), what a mind opening jewel this book proved to be! This book is almost incredibly detailed, the research completed mind-boggling. The author goes from writing of the Kurgans to the needs of the future- what a spread! My favorite quote of the book, from page 283: "While our contemporary society continues to guard against the commission of personal evil, it has largely failed to incorporate into its moral framework a sense of righteous indignation and moral repulsion against institutionally certified violence." If you have any concern for the future of the Earth's ecosystems and the role you may personally play in the modern onslaught against it, this is a must read.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Robyn

    I read this in the library at Lubbock Christian University my junior year while doing research for a speech to persuade people to eat more vegetables & less meat. I think I looked thru more of this book than I planned because it was more intriguing than I expected. Within a few weeks to months after reading this back in 2001, I became an ovo-lacto-vegetarian.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mercedes

    The history of cattle in relationship to which the word itself (etymologically preceding "capital"). Lots of juicy, eye-opening history, which is brutal. Very interesting read...we'll see if I can get through it without becoming vegetarian. doubtful. The history of cattle in relationship to which the word itself (etymologically preceding "capital"). Lots of juicy, eye-opening history, which is brutal. Very interesting read...we'll see if I can get through it without becoming vegetarian. doubtful.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Reading this book 20 some-odd years ago changed my life. A must read . One of the first books available that exposed Factory Farming and its consequences. Brought attention to the way we raise livestock before it was 'cool' . Reading this book 20 some-odd years ago changed my life. A must read . One of the first books available that exposed Factory Farming and its consequences. Brought attention to the way we raise livestock before it was 'cool' .

  7. 4 out of 5

    Simone S

    I was already vegetarian when I read this book, so it simply gave me some good arguments to reply to the usual stupid questions that I get when I tell people that I'm vegetarian. Actually, today I'm vegan, so the questions I get are even more stupid. I was already vegetarian when I read this book, so it simply gave me some good arguments to reply to the usual stupid questions that I get when I tell people that I'm vegetarian. Actually, today I'm vegan, so the questions I get are even more stupid.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Amy Dale

    First, before anyone gets the wrong idea,this is not about the company Beyond Meat, (although I do hope he writes a book one day). This book is quite exceptional and honestly if you were looking for a non "preachy" or nongraphic book to cement to anyone or yourself, the reason to go plant-based,this is my new first pick. This book is the Entire, underline Entire, history of cows from the most ancient civilizations and the Aurochs to all of the cow based religions and their eventual demise due to First, before anyone gets the wrong idea,this is not about the company Beyond Meat, (although I do hope he writes a book one day). This book is quite exceptional and honestly if you were looking for a non "preachy" or nongraphic book to cement to anyone or yourself, the reason to go plant-based,this is my new first pick. This book is the Entire, underline Entire, history of cows from the most ancient civilizations and the Aurochs to all of the cow based religions and their eventual demise due to Christianity,to the first snobbery of breeding and how cows came to America, right down to the hierarchical and gender roles that were created by eating meat,plus the health and environmental effects. This book has every statistic, every number, every fact available,it's overwhelming! The bibliography is 40 pages alone! While the author is vegetarian,he never once tries to push the reader to joining him, the contents of his book do all the cajoling necessary. It's a brilliant book. This isn't a heartbreaking behind the scenes of Big Ag and all the crushing cruelty type book,there are dozens of wonderful books like that already. There was a lot of really cool stuff I learned,some adorable like the ancient Greek wedding vows "Where thou art the bull,I am the cow" Aww! I enjoyed it very much and wish he'd written more.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Moises Mehl

    Lots of insights about the history of the Meat industry.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Eunbi Wood

    The writer finished the book saying eating beyond beef is a revolutionary act; it brought me a whole different phase of looking at cattle business in the US in a quite revolutionary way. There were more reasons that I want to pursue eating in a low food chain level than I could have imagined. It was painful to know once a sacred animal developed into a 'thing' that is no more than something we would pick up at a store and 'use' because it is no more than just to be used. I like to think there are The writer finished the book saying eating beyond beef is a revolutionary act; it brought me a whole different phase of looking at cattle business in the US in a quite revolutionary way. There were more reasons that I want to pursue eating in a low food chain level than I could have imagined. It was painful to know once a sacred animal developed into a 'thing' that is no more than something we would pick up at a store and 'use' because it is no more than just to be used. I like to think there are ways for us to truly be grateful for what we consume by remembering that they used to be animals that lived near us and breathed same air with us. Clearly, we love our dogs and cats that we would take care of exact same way as we do for our children, but we tend to forget what we eat are same animals and it even becomes a part of ourselves. Highly rcommendable for those who are interested in sustainable ways of life; the book has thorough knowledge over history, topography, and policies.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Duncan

    3.5 stars - I liked this book, found it to be very factually presented and enjoyed the history as well as interesting cultural commentary on the reasons behind the prominence of beef consumption in today's society. But here's the thing. Twenty years later the "...fall of the cattle culture" half of the subtitle still hasn't happened. The conclusion rubbed me the wrong way because the fact of the matter is that a critical mass of millions of people haven't read this book and made the choice not t 3.5 stars - I liked this book, found it to be very factually presented and enjoyed the history as well as interesting cultural commentary on the reasons behind the prominence of beef consumption in today's society. But here's the thing. Twenty years later the "...fall of the cattle culture" half of the subtitle still hasn't happened. The conclusion rubbed me the wrong way because the fact of the matter is that a critical mass of millions of people haven't read this book and made the choice not to support the beef industry. And it's not looking especially likely that they will. Instead of ending on a dreamy note of how all the world's ills will be solved when this does happen, I would be far more motivated to attempt to reduce my beef consumption (and encourage others to do so via sharing of this book) if the focus were more on how altering our habits as beef consumers would impact each of us personally. Because that is where change really begins and is most immediately noticed. Being told I'm going to be part of a movement that as yet is not coalescing is less than inspirational - in fact it rings a little false.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Joan

    I was disappointed - I thought it would be balanced. He is TOTALLY against anything beef. He does not go into small farms or home farmers - he never mentions the grass-fed trend or home farmers (which are growing in segment because of many of the things he complains of) and never mentions improvements made or in the process in ethical animal treatment (think Temple Grandin). Good book if you are on track with him I suppose, but I really read it hoping to get a balanced picture of what IS, what is I was disappointed - I thought it would be balanced. He is TOTALLY against anything beef. He does not go into small farms or home farmers - he never mentions the grass-fed trend or home farmers (which are growing in segment because of many of the things he complains of) and never mentions improvements made or in the process in ethical animal treatment (think Temple Grandin). Good book if you are on track with him I suppose, but I really read it hoping to get a balanced picture of what IS, what is CHANGING and what it CAN be - and that is only addressed by the total eradication of eating beef in this book - he paints no other scenario. To me that's just not addressing how progress can be made (even if you go with his end goal, which not all of us do). Just thought it was totally dismissive of reality and the baby-steps society usually needs to make and the branches in the path along the way to any goal - and alternatives to what one considers perfect. The word Zealot came to mind - but maybe that's what he was going for. I was looking for realistic.....

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kristan

    Rifkin's book, beyond Beef, is a truly insightful history lesson about America's love affair with Beef. This author has some very interesting ideas about why our Founding Father wanted to eradicate the American Indians from the plains - to make room for their grazing cattle. He also blames the British for Ireland's Great Famine. The Irish were left with only potatoes to eat while the British used Irish land to graze their cattle; that is until the Potato Famine of the 1740'2 left the Irish starv Rifkin's book, beyond Beef, is a truly insightful history lesson about America's love affair with Beef. This author has some very interesting ideas about why our Founding Father wanted to eradicate the American Indians from the plains - to make room for their grazing cattle. He also blames the British for Ireland's Great Famine. The Irish were left with only potatoes to eat while the British used Irish land to graze their cattle; that is until the Potato Famine of the 1740'2 left the Irish starving to death. Such is the beginning of the trend that continues to this day. The richest in the world eat beef that graze on the land of the poorest nations - leaving them with no room for their crops, and no food. I would urge all Americans to educate themselves on the impact their food choices have on the rest of the world.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Alec O'Neill

    Continuing in my trend of food-based books, this is another alarming display of our industrial food system. Specifically, targeting the cow and all of its ill-begotten fortunes. I was already inclined to buy the arguments in this book, and aware of the "hoofed-locust" destruction wrought by what most people assume is a fairly harmless animal. However, I was also ready to dispute the author's main argument - that ruminant animals, and especially the cow, should be removed from our diet. Follow thi Continuing in my trend of food-based books, this is another alarming display of our industrial food system. Specifically, targeting the cow and all of its ill-begotten fortunes. I was already inclined to buy the arguments in this book, and aware of the "hoofed-locust" destruction wrought by what most people assume is a fairly harmless animal. However, I was also ready to dispute the author's main argument - that ruminant animals, and especially the cow, should be removed from our diet. Follow this book up with "The Omnivores Dilemma" to see examples of how cows (and preferably buffalo) can still play a role in modern agriculture. But this book does provide a thorough description of why our current cow-production is not sustainable.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mike Moskos

    An important, comprehensive, and disturbing book. While the book doesn't say it (it was written 20 years ago), raising beef can be extremely good for the environment and can build amazing soil, but it has to be done completely differently from the way it is commonly done now. Think 100% pastured cows on diversified micro farms. Some biodynamic farmers estimate that changing the way we grow beef could sequester twice as much carbon as the most alarmist climate scientists say is necessary. Some pe An important, comprehensive, and disturbing book. While the book doesn't say it (it was written 20 years ago), raising beef can be extremely good for the environment and can build amazing soil, but it has to be done completely differently from the way it is commonly done now. Think 100% pastured cows on diversified micro farms. Some biodynamic farmers estimate that changing the way we grow beef could sequester twice as much carbon as the most alarmist climate scientists say is necessary. Some people think this type of beef is "expensive" and "elitist", but in terms of nutritional density, it is far cheaper than grocery store meat. And it is the same type of meat peasants the world over eat.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Beth Barnett

    Very well-written history of the beef cattle industry. The book covers the environmental impacts of the beef industry, health concerns, and modern meat processing in addition to historical developments. This is getting somewhat outdated by the passage of time, but I feel it is probably still worth a read. It was one of the best written and informative books I read about the meat industry when I first became a vegetarian.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Zinger

    After reading this book as a teenager I didn't eat beef for a little while. Since then I've been around some big cattle ranches and realize Rifkin is very one sided and leaves parts of the story out. Now days I still don't eat much beef, but that is because a great mighty hunter taught me how to hunt. After reading this book as a teenager I didn't eat beef for a little while. Since then I've been around some big cattle ranches and realize Rifkin is very one sided and leaves parts of the story out. Now days I still don't eat much beef, but that is because a great mighty hunter taught me how to hunt.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tricia

    What a detailed writer. Well-researched. The writer really explored the history of the cow and how eating beef has shaped our culture today. It will be a long time before I buy beef again, if ever. I definately recommend this to anyone struggling with vegetarianism, or anyone wanting to go vegan.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    I became a vegetarian in January of 2000 (over 7 1/2 years ago now), and I picked this book up shortly after. If nothing else, it sealed the deal for me. I am a life-long veggie. Very critical, but honest look at the cattle industry in our nation.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Keisha

    this book made me a vegetarian for six years.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Randall Clark

    a great historical perspective on meat (esp beef) in societies past and present.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Rae

    In some ways this is a modern version of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle. The descriptions of abattoirs might make one think twice about eating much meat. It's a good history of the beef industry. In some ways this is a modern version of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle. The descriptions of abattoirs might make one think twice about eating much meat. It's a good history of the beef industry.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Terry

    For people who really take pride in their carnivorous habits, this is a reasonable, solid examination of what led us to believe that steak for all was a moral good. Interesting history.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    This was a hard read - I never did finish. Anyone else encounter troubles staying focused with this book? Hmm...

  25. 4 out of 5

    Angelea

    Made me never want to eat beef again. And I have not for more than 15 years since reading this book. Probably a bit dated now, but I doubt much has changed.

  26. 5 out of 5

    M Ortiz-dila

    Very interesting book about the cattle industry and the effects of grazing cattle on our environment. I actually stopped eating beef for awhile after reading this.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book, although, I have to say, it strayed dangerously near the paranoid conspiracy theory cliff.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Alex Kahn

    The cultural and historical analysis helped explain the evolution of the global cattle complex

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lianna

    Published 1994 you say?

  30. 4 out of 5

    Damien

    It was amazing. It has changed my perspective on food or life style.

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