I don't usually inject politics into my food blog, and I only do so because one of my favorite political bloggers, Ezra Klein of The American Prospect, has written two insightful entries on the carbon footprint on modern meat consumption. You can find his posts here and here. For me the money quote is:
"The problem isn't that people eat meat, but that we've made meat much cheaper than it actually is. Make meat cost what it should cost, and diets will shift to reflect that. Make it so cheap that cheeseburgers cost less than dollar, and people will eat a lot of it."
While Ezra is correct that corn, grain and land subsidies have contributed to this process, you must also accept that that is only one aspect of a much larger set of contributing factors. I include the traditionally low cost of fuel, the insane affection for a lawn of foreign grasses, and even the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954).
Add to that the brainwashing of the American palate to consider feedlot beef and pork, as well as battery chicken to be edible, and pink balls of styrofoam to be acceptable as "tomatoes" and toss in the loss of the knowledge and willingness to put foods by, and you have today's food reality.
It's part of why I have become so interested in the curing of meats and preserving of foods, beside the fact that it is fun, fascinating and really tasty. It's also why I have been starting to source foods locally.
But, even for me the answer may be to have meat priced higher so I demand better taste for my buck, and so I generally eat less.
There is a rant here, but not 'til my brain has wrapped itself around the issue more cogently.