Anthropologists used to convince Americans to eat organ meats during WWII

Need to get Americans to eat organ meats so beef can be sent to soldiers during World War II? Bring in anthropologists:

To head the committee, the NRC recruited anthropologist Margaret Mead, along with German-born psychologist Kurt Lewin (considered to be one of the founders of social psychology). At the top of their agenda: addressing the looming meat shortage. More specifically, they needed to devise a way to convince Americans to abandon their steaks, pork chops, and other familiar cuts in favor of the meats that the soldiers wouldn’t eat—the hearts, livers, and other organs that remained plentiful stateside.

The committee members had their work cut out for them. Organ meats at the time were largely shunned by all but the poorest Americans, considered a marker of low social status or a rural, unsophisticated upbringing—and of all the social taboos, those related to food are among the most difficult to dispel, said Barrett Brenton, a nutritional anthropologist at St. John’s University…

One of the major reasons, they soon found through their research, was organs’ unfamiliarity—people balked at the idea of serving something without knowing its taste or even how best to prepare it. In response, the committee urged the government to produce materials that couched the new meats in more comfortable terms…

And thus, “variety meats” were born. Butchers, who already sold organ meats for fewer ration points than premium cuts, were encouraged to adopt the new term with their customers; so were reporters with their readers…

The effect, though, lasted barely longer than the war itself.

Not quite the glamor of Indiana Jones but still fighting the Nazis by replacing beef with lesser cuts of meat. This also hints of American’s long interest in beef, not just an invention of fast food or post-World War II prosperity.

Would leading anthropologists be willing to join such a war cause today?

 

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