In Meat We Trust -- An Unexpected History of Carnivore America by Maureen Ogle, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt '13, $28, 368 pages, ASIN #0151013403. Index, bibliography, notes, unillustrated.
What's the role of meat in a healthy diet? Historian Maureen Ogle tackles this long-standing controversy in her new book, along with the use of antibiotics in livestock production and the ins and outs of meatpacking processes. In a brief Q&A, the author discusses the writing of her book:
Q. You write in the book that you don't believe consumers can have it all. What do you mean by this?
A. We Americans are an odd lot: We live in a society that, for all of its flaws, endows us with a sense of infinite possibility. We don't just want it all; we believe we can have it all.
But that mindset has consequences. For example, many of us want a three-bedroom house with a yard; we want the property to be affordable; and we want that property in a quiet neighborhood, preferably out in 'the country.' So we plow up farmland to build housing developments and highways, thereby driving up farmers' costs of production. (And then many of us complain about the odors from the hog farm two miles down the road.)
As a result of those desires, farmers hit by soaring high land prices adopt technologies, such as confinement, in order to reduce their production costs and earn a profit.
And then, sure enough, we consumers criticize those technologies -- confinement, antibiotics, manure lagoons -- and demand that farmers rely on other, more expensive production modes. Food and meat prices rise -- and then we complain about high meat prices at the grocery store.
The price of that house, that highway, that steak? They're all connected. We can't have it all.
Q. If readers could take away one thing from the book, what do you hope that would be?
A. This: The task of feeding a modern urban society is an extraordinary complex logistical balancing act, one that's been constructed piece by piece over many decades. And whatever ills, real or imagined, plague our food system, including livestock production and meat processing, those can't be solved (let alone understood) by attacking farmers, blaming big corporations, or by touting simplistic, feel-good solutions (shop locally! eat organic!)
Author/historian Maureen Ogle has written several books. She holds master's and Ph.D. degrees in American history from Iowa State University. She lives in Iowa.
Thai Stick -- Surfers, Scammers, and the Untold Story of the Marijuana Trade by Peter Maguire and Mike Ritter. Columbia UP '13, $27.95, 236 pages, ASIN #0231161344.
From the book jacket:
"Located on the left bank of the Chao Phya River, Thailand's capital, Krungthep, known as Bangkok to Westerners and 'The City of Angels' to Thais, has been home to smugglers and adventurers since the late 18th century. During the 1970s, it became a modern Casablanca to a new generation of treasure seekers, from surfers looking to finance their endless summers to wide-eyed hippie true believers and lethal maurauders left over from the Vietham War.
"Moving a shipment of Thai sticks from northeast Thailand farms to American consumers meant navigating one of the most complex smuggling channels in the history of the drug trade. Many forget that until the mid-1970s, the vast majority of marijuana consumed in the United States was imported, and there was little to no domestic production."
About the authors:
Peter Maguire is the author of Law and War and Facing Death in Cambodia. He is a historian and former war-crimes investigator whose writings have been published internationally. He has taught law and war theory at Columbia University and Bard College. Mike Ritter dropped out of the University of California, Santa Cruz, in 1967 and set off on the Hippie Trail to Afghanistan and India, where he began smuggling hash and marijuana in 1968 and continued for 18 years.