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Michael Benedikt

The Beef Epitaph

This is what it was: Sometime in the recent but until now unrecorded
past, it was decided by certain ingenious and commercially forward-looking
cattle-ranchers in a certain large, modern Western nation which prides itself
on being nutritionally forward-looking, that since people are increasingly
nutrition-conscious, and increasingly insistent that "you are what you
eat," all cattle on the way to market were to be marked with brief
descriptive tags noting the favorite food of each animal; and also stating
approximately how much each ate of it. This, it was felt, would both delight
the diner and comfort the nutrition-conscious consumer: people would be able to
tell exactly what kind of flavor and texture of beef they were purchasing
beforehand, and always be able to secure exactly the kind of product most
likely to delight their taste, since they would know a whole lot more than ever
before about the quality and kind of nourishment which the animal had received
(it was a little like our own, well-established, present-day modern American
system of catering to preferences for light and dark meat in chicken--by
supplying each part shrink-wrapped in a separate bag in the supermarkets). The
system set up by those ingenious and commercially forward-looking
cattle-ranchers was remarkably efficient; and seemed--at least at first--to be
destined for success. This is how it worked: First, on each animal's
last day on the ranch, they attached the main, or so-called "parent"

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