No performance without meat? The history of a controversial proposition that continues to shape our ideas of good nutrition and ideal bodies to this day.
Do humans need meat to be productive? This question has been the subject of heated and controversial debate since the mid-19th century. Meat eaters and vegetarians, scientists and non-scientists fought this argument in books and magazines, but also in the laboratory, in the kitchen or on the sports ground. Meat consumption was seen by some as a guarantee for strength and productivity, by others as a slow-going poison for the body and morals. What they had in common was that they redefined the importance of nutrition in the context of individual and collective health care and played a decisive role in establishing a new concept of performance: Performance could be produced on purpose and thus increasingly fell under the responsibility of the individual.
Many questions that shaped the debates in the early phase of the performance and consumer society are still relevant today: Who is considered capable, and who is not? And what is the social and political significance of the ideal of a performance-oriented diet in the field of tension between self-optimization, personal responsibility and the distribution of scarce resources?