Justin E. H. Smith in his own blog:
I have been saying for quite some time that one of the most useful windows into a culture's folk-ontological commitments is the unique way it variously applies mass nouns and count nouns to foodstuffs. Russians see potatoes as a mass: e.g., give me some potato. This is revealing, I believe, of many other things besides.
It is with respect to animals, in particular, that these folk commitments might be thought at once to carry with them significant moral implications. Ordinarily, animals are taken as individual beings par excellence, and this at least since Aristotle said, in the Categories, that what he means by 'substance' is really just 'this particular horse or man' (to paraphrase).
Animals lose their substantial unity in slaughter and preparation, yet even there they frequently maintain their conceptual unity: for Thanksgiving, e.g., a family has a turkey, and that is as much a single, individual entity as the living, strutting tom that preceded it. The further we move down the scale of ritual importance, it seems, the more likely the creature, following its slaughter, is going to be treated as a mass, or, ironically, as a 'substance' not in the Aristotelian sense but in the decidedly modern sense (of which the dreaded 'pink slime' is arguably a limit case, much like prime matter in Aristotle's scheme).