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Episode 540: Josh Berson on “The Meat Question”

By Jasmin and Mariann — May 16, 2020

This week Mariann interviews Josh Berson, author of The Meat Question, about what people really mean when they talk about a “paleolithic” diet, zoonotics and the role of animal-source foods in facilitating their leap into human populations, and why meat became regarded as what wealthy people ate. He also shares his insight about “street food,” and tells us why he is hopeful for the future.

Josh Berson is an anthropologist and philosopher who has held appointments at the Berggruen Institute and the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, among other places. His work develops a critical perspective on how socially patterned behavior mediates the coevolution of community, individual, and milieu over timespans of one day to 1 million years, with an emphasis on food, the ecology of peripersonal space, and relationships between humans and other living things. He is the author of The Meat Question (MIT Press, 2019) and Computable Bodies (Bloomsbury, 2015) and the forthcoming The Human Scaffold (University of California Press, 2021).

In the intro to the show, Mariann and Jasmin try to manage their anger towards people who aren’t wearing masks or practicing social distancing. Mariann reads an inspiring section from the book Living The Good Life by Helen and Scott Nearing, and poet Gretchen Primack reads her beautiful new poem “Covid.” We also continue our Supporting Vegan Businesses program by shouting out Seva Foods, Odeene Soaps, and BeLeaf Vegan’s amazing egg substitute. Later in the episode, Mariann brings us Rising Anxieties!

As always, the award-winning weekly Our Hen House podcast is hosted by Mariann Sullivan and Jasmin Singer.


This episode is brought to you in part through the generosity of A Well-Fed World. A Well-Fed World provides the means for change by empowering individuals, social justice organizations, and political decision makers to embrace the benefits of plant-based foods and farming. Learn more at

Our Hen House is now part of the iROAR podcast network.

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Don’t forget to tune into Our Hen House’s other two podcasts: The Teaching Jasmin How to Cook Vegan Podcast, and The Animal Law Podcast.

The Our Hen House theme song is written and performed by the incredible Michael Harren.

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