That is the question raised by a number of recent articles exploring meat in the human diet from an evolutionary, ethical, environmental and culinary perspective. According to a recent FAO report, by 2050 an expanded world population will be consuming two-thirds more animal protein than it does today.
NPR’s food blog, The Salt, takes a look back at our meat-eating origins. The article explores the evolutionary advantages (and some disadvantages) of generalist omnivores, consuming a varied diet without the risks inherent in specialization. And although a recent study cited in the article also notes that it takes longer for omnivores to diversify into new species, another study demonstrates the link between diet, nutrition and human development in our evolutionary past.
The New York Times Well blog posted an article on The Challenge of Going Vegan, which focused primarily on the barriers in terms of social norms, cultural traditions and taste preferences that those choosing to avoid animal products face.
Taking on the ethics of an omnivorous diet, the New York Times Magazine published a collection of essays titled Put Your Ethics Where Your Mouth Is. Thousands of readers took up the challenge of addressing this issue. From this pool, a panel of prominent writers who have themselves considered the ethics of meat eating, narrowed down the essays to six contributors, including two farmers with experience in mixed crop-livestock systems.
Finally, Mark Bittman published a New York Times Opinionator piece on famed food writer Colin Spencer. Although not a vegetarian, Spencer has been vocal on the topic of better practices for animal agriculture.