The Evolution of Who We Are (Or What We Eat)

An Analysis of the Past, Present, and Future of Meat


  • Joshua Hechtman Stanford University


Food is ensconced into who we are and what we believe – it echoes our culture, our values, and our philosophies. This is especially true of meat, where its production and consumption are tied to religious ideologies, gender roles, and political beliefs. In America specifically, meat is an archaic symbol of power, dominance, and masculinity, causing this staple food to have drastically increased in consumption over the past decades.

However, today’s industrial meat industry is resource-intensive, causes animal suffering, is linked to several public health issues, and is one of the leading causes of anthropogenic methane emissions. With ten billion people inhabiting our world in 2050, we simply do not have enough arable land or resources to continue the current model of meat production. Thus, a novel, alternative form of meat is essential. Cultured meat, built upon the development of biotechnology, may enable us to feed our growing population while avoiding climate catastrophes and food insecurity.

In this paper, I discuss the feasibility of cultured meat – otherwise known as “lab-grown” or “clean” meat – and analyze whether the culture of cultured meat can overcome the culture of conventional slaughtered meat. I will first discuss America’s historical relationship with meat through a theological, sociological, and political lens. Then, I will address the challenges and opportunities of implementing cultured meat into daily life from a technological and rhetorical perspective. I will conclude with an examination of humanity’s historical innovation of food and how such innovations have led to greater movements in humankind, arguing that cultured meat is an imminent continuation of Agricultural Revolutions. Ultimately, I argue that humankind’s inclination to use technology to upend conventional structures will enable the widescale adoption of cultured meat, consequently shifting our historical relationship with and perception of meat.






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