Monday, June 6, 2011

Well-Raised Meat- a book review

Butcher's Guide to Well-Raised Meat  by Joshua and Jessica Applestone with Alexandra Zissu

In book stores June 7th

There have been several good books about meat published in the last few years, and all by women, Deborah Krasner's “Good Meat” and Marissa Guggiana's “Primal Cuts.” Both books deal with the choice of using sustainable grass -fed meat, and followed on the heels of Jennifer McLagan's milestone book “Fat, an appreciation of a misunderstood Ingredient.”  Thank you ladies for taking the bull by the horns. Together these three books, each in their own way, support a better way to produce meat and begin to try and correct a deeply ingrained vilified and disparaged food source and what it represents in a recipe, and on the plate as part of a truly healthy diet.  A properly raised, humanly slaughtered, correctly butchered animal presented to an cook who will dignify all the labor that brought it to his or her kitchen is what sustainable animal husbandry and farming is about.

 Slaughter?  Butcher? ......Oh my ! 

At work, head butcher, Bryan Mayer.
 This is where Joshua and Jessica Applestone begin their book, "The Butcher's Guide to Well-Raised Meat." When was the last time you saw a butcher? Do you even know a Butcher? Well, probably not.  Once, ever town at had at least one butcher shop where buying meat and catching up local gossip, as the butcher remembers the exact way you like your chops tirmed,  it was a way of life and everyone was treated as part like family. I worked in such a shop when I was in high school.  The supermarket guys in their white lab coats are not butchers, since everything comes pre- packaged and boneless. Slice, remove, display, repeat.  Butchers are a dying breed, so even when Joshua and Jessica wanted to open a butcher shop, in Brooklyn, New York, , that wasn’t the weird part. And if coming from a long line of family butchers and using an old family name, ‘Fleisher’ (yes- it means butcher) and opening a shop against everyone's advice, wasn’t weird enough. Joshua and Jessica are (were) Vegetarians.

Grass fed Flat iron steak

It was important to Jessica that when she ate “Bacon,” that gateway meat vegetarians latch on to, that is was from a humanly, well –raised, truly respected animal.  But sustainable farming of organic, grass fed meat was only found on the internet, NOT local and shipped frozen.  And having to buy a whole steer for a steak was not ideal.  There had to be a better way. A local butcher shop- something the neighborhood hasn’t seen in generations, with butchers revitalizing a noble trade, albeit a lost skill, was the way to she could create change on a large scale, not only to a neighborhood but to a whole industry.
Jessica’s dream of owning a butcher shop came true, Fleisher’s she likes to say is the “Cheers” of butcher shops.

The Butcher’s Guide to Well-Raised Meat is a guide for the consumer as to how to buy, cut and cook beef, pork, lamb and poultry. BGtWRM is a charming memoir, and reference book that is practical, honest and hard hitting.
“…livestock, like McMansions, are the most environmentally friendly things going. They require a lot of water, food and land….but most Americans aren’t going to stop eating meat entirely….modified soy crops isn’t hugely eco, either… ways to reduce that impact is to avoid conventional meat and second is to eat locally and only whole, not processed, foods.”
It is the manifesto of the Nose-to Tail sustainable meat movement, a book written for the public, and not for a group of elitist foodies to debate its pros and cons of raising livestock on grass or corn. As the title reads, it is about WELL-RAISED, not merely grass fed.  This is where and how the industrial, factory farms of the conventional meat industry went wrong, by not being well raised. Factory farming of animals is obsence, they stole the outdoors from the animals, first chickens, then hogs, feedlots for steers confine them to be fattened on corn before trucked away for slaughter. These factories breed sickness which developed the need for antibiotics, which bred superbugs in its defense which effects all of us- animal, worker, consumer. The remedy is quite simply, lets go back a few generations, and allow our livestrock to be raised in open air, grazing and standing on real grass, green from the sun, not inside a feedlot standing in its manure eating a fed that makes it sick.  Why?   well besides profit, maybe the consumer needs to be educated, too.

"Only in modern times do we expect to eat meat three times a day and consider a 20 ounce steak to be an individual portion."   Spoken like a former vegetarian, huh?   And he is correct.

Read BGtWRM, I like that it is a proper size book, similiar in size of a text book, not a over size, heavy, glossy table top book which won't be opened more than twice (and as a photographer, believe me- I want to do those big books).  Lots of information even a vegetarian would respect like why veal even exists and how it doesn't have to be the way we hear it is.
Naturally it includes some fine recipes and secret rubs for you to use. The book covers just about everything you need to know about sustainable meats and a much needed chapter on how to read labels. What the labels claim is not even close except under the law.

And the best way to cook bacon..... in a oven-  go figure, my cast iron skillet is in tears.

As Joshua and Jessica say: 

 " We never forget that animals die for our business and your dinner."

Don't you!

I give it a 10.

I would like to thank Crown publishing a divison of Random House for supplying me with an advance copy of the book. Next stop- Fleisher's.

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