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Meathooked: The History and Science of Our 2.5-Million-Year Obsession with Meat

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  404 ratings  ·  64 reviews
The strange, disquieting, and sometimes delicious story of humanity’s love affair with meat

In Meathooked, Marta Zaraska explores what she calls the “meat paradox.” Scientific journals overflow with reports on the hazards producing and eating meat pose to the environment and our bodies—yet nothing has prompted us to give up our hamburgers and steaks. Why do we love meat to
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published February 23rd 2016 by Basic Books
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Start your review of Meathooked: The History and Science of Our 2.5-Million-Year Obsession with Meat
Jan 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars -- Have you ever just wondered, “Meat, WTF?” What is it about meat that makes even the most intelligent and erudite people suddenly drop to single-digit IQ levels when they discuss it—as memorably illustrated by this comic?

Why do so many Americans go from the bypass surgery table right back to the steakhouse—the equivalent of a throat cancer victim inhaling cigarette smoke through his stoma?

According to the USDA, in 2011 we ate an average of sixty-one pounds more of meat than we did
Dec 26, 2016 rated it it was ok
This book means well but gets a little confused in its purpose, and a little too Marta Zaraska-centric. I like what she’s trying to do here, and she partially succeeds, but she’s peculiarly biased. On the one hand, she clearly wants to see more vegetarianism. On the other, she really wants to say that vegetarians can eat meat, too.

I’m going to get a little crazy here and say that those two desires stem from the fact that she’s an omnivore who inexplicably calls herself a vegetarian. You eat fis
Nov 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
I heard about Meathooked from an article in Psychology Today and it piqued my interest.

It was fascinating to read about cultural and societal 'obsessions' with meat. Zaraska delves into history spanning thousands of years ago, explaining how our ancestors came to eat meat and why it's something we still do today (status/wealth).

She also touches on the perceptions of vegetarian/vegans by meat-eaters (it's not positive), goes into some detail about the meat industry in the U.S., and explains the m
Martin Rowe
Mar 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
This genial, well-written, entertaining, and well-researched gallop through millennia of meat eating looks not only at the biological reasons why almost all of us are drawn to meat-eating but also at the symbolic and cultural reasons for our obsession with animal protein. Zaraska combines on-the-ground reporting and one-on-one interviews with fair-minded analyses of the cases for and against. She herself, she admits, is a vegetarian who lapses quite a bit, but it's clear she's sympathetic to ani ...more
Keith Akers
May 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
A well-written and informative book, even when you don’t completely agree with it, is easy to review. This book fills the bill. Thank you, Marta Zaraska, for keeping us up to snuff on the issues. She also manages not to upset anyone, steering away from nasty little confrontations with vegetarian sensibilities. So, vegans, you can relax; your ethical sensibilities will not be sullied.

Zaraska provides the flip side of the “why are you vegetarian?” discussion — “why do you eat meat?” The author is
Jun 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
So everything that they taught me in high school biology back in the early 1960's about taste was completely wrong. Especially upon the types and structures of the tongue that perceive the differences. It isn't the only field in which there have been 180 degree turn-around in the that period of time.

Loved this read! It was as enjoyable as a good and intriguing fiction flow- and did not read as the highly defined scientifically based material that it holds. Those books can often be stilted and dr
Sep 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
50th book for 2016.

This is a short, readable account giving lots of possible reasons why people continue to eat meat despite knowing that it is unhealthy, is destroying the environment, and (obviously) problematic from an animal rights perspective.

One quibble: The author describes herself as a vegetarian who, a few times a year guiltily eats bacon, and regularly eats fish (without guilt?). From purely a semantic point of view this a little irritating. She isn't a vegetarian, she is someone who a
Mar 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
If you're a Mary Roach fan, you'll enjoy this. Zaraska infuses her facts with humor and anecdotes, using a style that entertains as much as it informs. She didn't shy away from the horrors of the meat industry, but she presented them in an almost clinical way, removing emotion from the equation to ensure as unbiased an account as possible. It's rare to find a book that encourages you to reflect on your decisions without making you feel judged, and I think Meathooked just about nailed that balanc ...more
While this is written by a vegetarian and concludes with the prediction that worldwide we'll shift toward that, it's an intriguing, upbeat look at our fascination with meat. I particularly enjoyed the history and the cross-cultural examination of meat eating around the world. (No dog for me, thanks.) It's not a page-turning but there's certainly a narrative drive; it's well-researched and so accessible/engaging and filled with anecdotes that it moves right along; issues are raised--the politics ...more
Dec 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: great-read
Finding a book that is both entertaining and educational is a joy! Ms. Zaraska has done very thorough research and been meticulous in her citations, leaving no doubts about whether this is fact or just the opinion of someone with an agenda. She covers all aspects of the title subject in an easy to understand way, explaining the science so anyone can understand. She manages to do this in such a subtle manner you never suspect you are being taught a thing. Very, very readable and I highly recommen ...more
Vitor  Miguel
Mar 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is such a great book, and I've never read anything of the subject, history of meat, food, or anything close to it, but i already knew a lot about biology, and this book opened my mind for so many things, and what could've caused a lot of events that happened in biology, such as evolutionary history, and even why we eat meat - even when we are trying to stop the habit.
This is the first book that I get for free, in a goodreads giveaways, and one of my favourites on the subject, including bi
Alan D'augustine
Mar 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
In an examination of the current industrialization of the majority of our meat sources; the book high points the attendant potential disastrous consequences to our health, our environment and our continuity.
"Meathooked" provides a unique and unbiased historical perspective of the history of meat eating, and by comparison, the challenges and benefits of opting to follow a plant-based diet.
I cannot complement the author enough.
This book should be mandatory for all high school seniors... young a
May 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
This is a great book on the topic of eating meat. The author has done a ton of research and has done a nice job of compiling it all, sharing it, and keeping it interesting. I was hooked reading this book. I liked how she touched on so many aspects of why people are so "hooked" on meat, including historical, cultural, advertising, etc. As someone who has been a vegetarian (one that doesn't sneak meat as discussed in the book) for over 20 years, I found this book to be quite interesting and though ...more
Britt Hemingway
Apr 26, 2016 rated it liked it
"Meathooked" is a riveting investigation of the human relationship with meat throughout history, and sheds light on the impact this relationship will have in the future. While the author states she is a vegetarian, this text is not an attempt to convince use all to be, but rather a focus on the views on meat in different countries, cultures, and time periods. It did, however, cause me to pause and consider my own diet's environmental and social impact. ...more
Jul 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Meathooked is a fabulous read, in part due to Ms. Zaraska's lively writing style, which she fires up with the occasional humorous quip. But what she's writing about is a very serious subject, and she's done her research. This is a book for everyone--vegans and vegetarians will be nodding their heads in agreement more often than not, but meat eaters might actually be persuaded that continued meat consumption at current levels is absolutely unsustainable. ...more
Matthew Noe
Apr 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Highly recommend! This is a more historical and fact-driven work than others I've seen and would be a fantastic book to provide to a curious family member or friend about why you've stopped or lowered your meat eating. If you have people who are data driven rather than emotional, give them this text. ...more
Jessica Megan
Jan 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaways
This book really opens your eyes into the history of how we became meat eaters. It also gives an eye opening insight into problems that could arise from over consumption of meat as the world overproduced. Definitely never would have thought...

(Won in a Goodreads Giveaway)
Kelly Martin
Jun 19, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, library
It was an interesting book. Did it convince me to become a vegetarian? No. But I am going to try and reduce the amount of meat I eat. Even if it's only one meal per month. ...more
Tricia Friedman
Jul 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Balanced and insightful--a wonderful read for anyone exploring diet as an artifact or social act of reform for future generations.
Sajith Kumar
Feb 06, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: popular-science
Most of us eat meat. Those who shun it and goes vegetarian do it out of a conscious effort, either for religious or ethical reasons. The craving for meat is felt by everybody, but the reasons for it are not so obvious. Since it contained lots of protein, which was not available as a full package from any other food, the thirst for meat was at first thought to be a physiological urge. This book dispels some of the common myths associated with eating meat. It analyses the reasons why meat is so at ...more
Dan Schiff
Nov 30, 2019 rated it it was ok
Meathooked is fine as a survey overview of the history of meat eating. It is not deep or interesting from a narrative perspective. It is poorly edited.

Some interesting facts I did learn from Meathooked:
-Meat eating is advantageous from an evolutionary perspective, in that it favors the selfish gene by allowing meat eaters to reproduce earlier and have more offspring.
-For a couple thousand years, being vegetarian was called "going Pythagorean," after the famous mathematician who did not eat meat
Jun 08, 2017 rated it liked it
I thought this would be a celebration of meat. How wrong I was! How wrong I was! It's a book by a vegetarian, who wants to write about meat, but in the introduction, promises to be sympathetic to why people would enjoy meat.

She tries hard, and I appreciate the effort, but she doesn't quite get there.

Points about the book:

* it goes at vegetarianism from an animal welfare (least of all), environmental (most of all), and health perspective. Animal welfare least of all because she seems open to the
Jul 31, 2017 rated it liked it
“Evolution doesn’t necessarily favor those who live the longest; it favors those who can reproduce the most. Studies”

This is not a new concept that i learn, I have been interested in this subject for long and most of time avoid eating meat. I wanted to know if there are more new studies from the scientifically aspects.
Basically the author pointed out why we changed our diet 2.5 million year ago due to the climate change, most rain forest dried out and human used to eat a lot of fruit, vegetable
Abhijit Khanna
Dec 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Though my book club generally didn't seem to like this book, I found it a worthwhile read. I agree, the writing style wasn't necessarily the best - the author seemed to repeat herself as the book progressed. But I thought the organization was logical and easy to follower, and I loved the easy integration of facts and hard datas. Though I have already significantly reduced my meat intake and consider myself a flexitarian, reading data on the number of animals slaughtered annually brought fresh gu ...more
Alyson Fortowsky
Apr 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating particularly on the topics of:
-how humans came to eat meat as scavengers, including an interesting description of how single-celled bacteria came to be carnivorous (cannibals);
- how eating meat (and high-quality diets in general) led to the development of our brains, and contributed to our ability to migrate. Plants can be poisonous, and it can be dangerous to eat them in unknown regions, but animals would have been almost universally edible for our scavenging ancestors;
-the rise of
Yin Tse
Sep 02, 2017 rated it liked it
This book is fairly easy reading. I felt the overall tone was quite condescending, particularly the first few chapters and the style is perhaps too 'conversational'. In addition, the author's personal beliefs weigh a little too heavily on the trajectory of the book.I would have preferred a more nuanced and objective approach, though the book is still worth a read and contains a large amount of interesting and thought provoking information. Recommended. ...more
Dom Moulding
Mar 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Really interesting in parts but I get the sense this book isn't sure what it wants to be.

It's part a look into the evolutionary and cultural importance of meat and part pro-vegetarian arguments.

Zaraska doesn't seem to want to commit fully to her and own beliefs here for fear of being written off as overly biased and as a result its hard to understand the message.

Overall its a really well researched book and very engaging but feels a bit rudderless.
Adrienne Bitar
Jul 16, 2018 rated it it was ok
This book is all over the place -- disjointed, jumping from one scene to the next. So many of the underlying threads were never picked up or synthesized.

I was also disappointed to read that much of the science was interpreted loosely. The statistic that the average American eats 275 lb. meat a year is wildly off base. That number accounts for the weight of animal carcass -- edible or inedible -- available to every American, not the amount actually consumed.
Aug 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Mark Graves
I retired after 43 years in the meat industry and was prepared for the worst tongue lashing imaginable, but Zaraska presented a well balanced overview without getting preachy on any one point of view. Her writing was informative, more of the style of a feature in the *New Yorker* or the *Atlantic* but none the less very relate-able. I was prepared to be offended but it turned out to be most enjoyable.
Paige Blue
May 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Meathooked surprised me. Rather than any sort of guilt driven approach in defense of a plant based diet, Zaraska led with curiosity. Why do we eat meat? What does science, history, and culture have to say about our diet? It opens an important conversation with a fresh inquisitive perspective that is well written and well researched. Highly recommend.
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