The River Cottage Meat Book: For Carnivores with a Conscience

We've looked at the huge climate impact of meat, and cattle farming in particular, before. It's even lead to some passionate debate over on our forums as to whether vegans in Hummers are greener than meat-eaters in hybrids. But what's a treehugger to do if they are not ready to give up meat completely? The first step might be to look at our thoughts for making meat go further (meat reductionism, as one commenter calls it). The second step might be to get hold of The River Cottage Meat Book by UK-based TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

The author is a long-time advocate of natural, sustainable farming, and has made a career our of TV shows charting his own experiences with wild foods, and with small holding. His efforts have spurned a cottage industry named, appropriately enough, River Cottage, providing courses and events focused on all aspects of traditional, sustainable food production. The book itself is perhaps the only meat-based recipe book that we have seen to open with a full page photographic study of how a cow is slaughtered (one of Hugh's own herd), and a good 50 pages of discussion on the rights and wrongs of eating meat, as well as ways to choose good meat, should you decide to do so. This extract from the introduction gives some indication of the seriousness with which the author treats his subject:

"It seems obvious to me that the morality of meat eating lies in the factual details of our relationships with the animals that we kill for food. It is what we do to them that counts. There is the simple fact that we plan and carry out their slaughter. And, in the case of farmed animals, there are more complex interactions through which we manage and control almost every aspect of their lives from birth to death. From where do we draw the moral authority to bring about their deaths? And what is the moral status of the means and methods we use to run their lives?"

Aside from the lengthy treatise on animal rights and meat eating, and the authors viewpoint on 'the limits of vegetarianism', the book is also absolutely packed with serious advice on which cuts of meat to get, what environmental and animal rights issues are associated with what types of meat, and there are, of course, hundreds of delicious recipes. Importantly, Fearnley-Whittingstall includes sections on meat thrift, and generally making the best use of all parts of any animal that is slaughtered — surely a central part of sustainable meat eating. Unfortunately, there is one draw back. Considering the current hyper-awareness of climate change, there seems to be very little discussion of the link between livestock rearing and greenhouse gases. Nevertheless, for anyone who is unwilling to give up meat, but wanting to make more sustainable, humane choices in their consumption patterns, this book is an invaluable guide. Maybe just try not to eat the 'Roast Beef — Full Monty' on page 232 every week! ::River Cottage:: via site visit::

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