The Vegetarian Myth

Lierre Keith is passionate about eating in a manner which does not cause suffering to living creatures or the planet. Her answer to that mandate for 20 years was to be a vegan. But after 20 years of feeling tired, cold and hungry all the time, in constant pain from her disintegrating spine, and after learning how the destructive forces of agriculture and eating outside one’s local food base are degrading the planet, she has flip-flopped into a passionate crusader for the moral, political and nutritional imperative of eating grass-fed animals from local farms. This is not a journey she has made lightly or even willingly. The facts she bares in The Vegetarian Myth have led her to her new orientation - facts which are as unsettling as they are convincing. This book adds greatly to our understanding of eating and living well.


Just what the world needs, another apologist for the meat eaters telling anecdotes and sharing their feelings and regrets. I can't believe the library is featuring this on their home page; why not something written by someone with actual nutrition credentials?

I haven't read this book, but it sounds intriguing. I've been a vegetarian for years and am happy with that choice, but books like Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and The Omnivore's Dilemma explore the complexity of food politics in a way that showed me that vegetarianism by itself is not automatically sustainable. It sounds like Keith is asking some of the same questions. I am glad to live in a place like Ann Arbor where I can find local tofu, but if I didn't live here, I might have to make different choices. My hope is that books like these become a chance to talk and discuss rather than entrenching in particular points of view.
I'm sad to hear that Keith wasted away while she was a vegetarian. If beer were made from meat, I'd probably be saying the same thing.

Thanks for the informative post ballybeg.

The first seven chapters of Pollan's book are quite good, but he dismisses vegetarianism not because it isn't "sustainable" but because he does not want to "take the steer's interest into account." I highly recommend that you read the Atlantic monthly article "Hard to Swallow" that reviews Pollan's book, and really dissects Pollan's side-stepping and ethical fallacies (available online, just search for it).

My concern here is that Keith takes health problems she suffered while vegan and turns them into an ethical argument against vegetarianism. In general, most people need to learn to eat more plants, not to find new justifications for meat eating. Most people have health problems because of the excessive consumption of flesh and highly-processed foods and I'd like to see the library promote a book that addresses that problem.

I'm all for eating local, but eating local should complement a call for increased consumption of whole plant foods, not supplant it.

No matter what diet a person choses, whether it is that of a meat eater, a vegetarian, or a vegan, it is quite possible to do any of those diets a healthy way and an unhealthy way, it's all up to the person and what they choose to put in their body and where that food comes from. There doesn't seem to be a "superior diet." I think the current food debates going in our culture, and thus in literature, is quite interesting, as there are a lot of viewpoints. Keith's POV and book will add to the discussion.

Time is running out on our attempts to avert global ecological disaster. Keith’s plea is for us to wake up and challenge our assumptions, entitlements and cherished opinions. I think her point is that the “superior diet” is a healthy and sustainable one. Eating more plants is not the answer if growing those plants destroys topsoil, rivers and whole ecosystems, as even organic agriculture does, and if the plants are then processed, packaged and shipped from Argentina, or even Oregon. Only one third of land on planet Earth is arable – much of the rest can be grazed. And she presents convincing evidence that eating grass-fed animals, and their eggs and milk products, contributes to health. (She is unequivocally opposed to factory-farmed animal operations.) To find creative and sustainable solutions to the question of how to eat well, we need open discourse and shared experience, and not just from “experts”, who don't all agree anyway. I read the book and was moved by its message. It is not the only viewpoint, but I believe it is a valuable one in light of the challenges we face. Thanks for the comments.

Interesting debate. For those interested in whole, healthy foods I would also recommend Nourishing Traditions. Although ostensibly a cookbook, there is a lot of interesting information in the introductions and sidebars about processed food, traditional cookery of the world, and, my favorite, the health benefits of butter. This book changed the way I thought about food.