Food, Home & Lifestyle, Wellness

Explore the Present and Future of Meat

Michael Pollan

Lesson time 24:25 min

Michael uncovers the truth of the meat industry, including the disturbing realities for animals and workers. He also offers insight on how meat-eating can be more ethical and provides a look at viable meat alternatives.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Understanding the System of Meat • Pretending Meat Doesn't Come From Animals • How to Eat Meat • Home on the "Free Range" • A Plant-Based and Cultivated Future • Sampling a Meal of Cultivated Meat


[MUSIC PLAYING] - We forget that for most of human history meat was special occasion food. And you didn't have meat at three meals a day, which most Americans-- or many Americans do. They have their bacon at breakfast. They have some deli sandwich at lunch. And then they have a steak, or chicken, or pork at dinner. This is unprecedented in human history. A few years ago, I heard that an environmental organization had done a study to see what would happen if the population of China started eating meat at the rates that we Americans do. We eat 200 pounds of meat per person per year. And they calculated if the Chinese were going to eat meat like that, we would need 2.3 more world's to grow all the grain to feed all those animals. There aren't 2.3 more worlds. And there won't be 2.3 more worlds. So to understand the meat system, I decided I was gonna follow one animal through the whole system and write the biography of a cow, basically. So for $600 I bought steer number 534. Here he is at the ranch where I bought him in South Dakota. I wanted a recognizable animal. And this one had this interesting-- it's called brockle face. It has this white marks on its face. So I thought that since I was gonna have to go visit the feedlot a few months later when he was grown, I thought maybe with this face I could pick him out of the crowd. And indeed, I was able to. The way we raise meat is nothing like the image I think most people have in their minds of cows grazing on grass in the Great Plains. Yes, they do that for about six months. But then they're packed up. They're weaned from their mothers, which is a very painful process to watch, and shipped off to feedlots where they're fed a diet of corn and various additives, including antibiotics. And they're given hormone injections to grow them as fast as they can and get them to slaughter weight in another six months. Cattle have evolved to digest grass. But cows raised on grass take longer to reach slaughter weight. So we learned how to feed them corn and soy and grains. And although it helps them grow quickly, because it's such an energy-dense diet, it makes them sick. Steer number 534 was weaned at six months and sent to a feedlot. After eight months of rapid weight gain on a diet of grain, he was transported to a meat plant, where he was slaughtered. And when they're ready to slaughter the animals, they take them up this ramp. And they follow each other up this ramp. And at a certain point, the floor raises and starts holding them. And then they're released. Their weight is no longer touching the ground. And the animals go through a couple of turns on their way to the knock area. It's called the knock area. They go in, and they enter the restraint. And that's this thing that starts holding them up. And they're knocked with a bolt of a pneumatic shaft that renders them brain dead. It's sort of like a bullet, but it just goes in and out. And then they go into the slau...

About the Instructor

For more than 30 years, award-winning journalist Michael Pollan has explored the intersection of humans and nature—including groundbreaking probes of the food we eat. Now the NYT bestselling author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” teaches you how to ditch fad diets and eat with intention. From following the food chain to fixing dinner, learn to make choices that reflect what’s important to you.

Featured MasterClass Instructor

Michael Pollan

Acclaimed author Michael Pollan teaches you what he’s spent decades researching: how to eat more ethically, healthfully, and sustainably.

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