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This book sets out to discover how the meat complex has become the invisible skeleton, tissue and nerves of our modern world. From their pervasiveness in the daily life of an insatiable growing population to the economic power of the few industries, animal proteins have been shaping the society we live in since the beginning of the last century. Even more impressively, despite its many environmental and social consequences this global expansion has been going mainly unnoticed.
Once a luxury for the few, since the post-war period higher standards of living and lower production costs have meant that more and more people have access to foods that were unattainable to previous generations. Per capita annual meat consumption in the world in 1960 was around 20 kilos, but today we feast on double that amount. Even if growth has not been evenly spread across the globe in the past, more and more regions are now taking up this carnivorous challenge. Every person in China now consumes an average of 24 kilos a year of pork, compared to 6 kilos in 1977, the year of Mao’s death.
This democratization of consumption has come at the price of intensification of production, and the cheapness of meat has blinded us to its true costs. The temples of the modern religion of never-ending fleshy gluttony are CAFOs, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, where every aspect of animals’ lives, bodies and minds is subjugated to the demands of intensity, standardization, productivity and, ultimately, profitability.
The biggest slaughterhouses around the world can now kill more than 33,000 pigs per day, while it takes only three employees to breed another 33,000 new piglets who will be ready for the abattoir just a few months later, in an infinite cycle of reproduction and death. These new panopticons on a massive scale regulate the lives of all the species that enter their doors, not just the animals. Mechanization and the need to save time, the contemporary nemesis of any big company and its greed, have turned modern farms and abattoirs into factories where employees can barely differentiate their destiny from the beasts they are pushing onto death row. In here, the line between species becomes deadly porous.

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