Where's the beef? In our stomachs apparently (with poultry and other meat as well). Americans eat about 50 billion pounds of meat a year. And getting our hands on all that beef, pork and chicken is a delicate balancing act of consumer demand
Where's the beef? In our stomachs apparently (with poultry and other meat as well). Americans eat about 50 billion pounds of meat a year. And getting our hands on all that beef, pork and chicken is a delicate balancing act of consumer demand - 
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America eats an astonishing 50 billion pounds of meat a year. And to get all that beef, pork and chicken takes a colossal amount of resources. 'Big Ag' takes a lot of licks for the way it goes about getting that meat on our tables. But Americans get pretty ornery anytime the price per pound raises even a penny. Maureen Ogle is the author of a new book all about that tenuous balance. It's called "In Meat We Trust: An Unexpected History of Carnivore America." She says the abundant resources of The New World set the table for America's meat entitlement mentality, and demand has led to the efficient, albeit much-maligned, system we have today.

"The system we have now has many flaws. I wouldn't want to live next to a hog confinement operation and I'm sure you wouldn't want to either. But the simple fact is, given the demand, the system we have is the least disruptive we can have. It' the least disruptive to the soil, it's the least disruptive to people, it's the least disruptive to the environment. It's not perfect, but the idea of doing what critics want us to do, which is to dismantle the existing system and then go back to small scale agricultural production, we can't do that and supply demand."

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Follow Kai Ryssdal at @kairyssdal