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Pig Tales: An Omnivore's Quest for Sustainable Meat

Pig Tales: An Omnivore's Quest for Sustainable Meat

5.0 2
by Barry Estabrook

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An eye-opening investigation of the commercial pork industry and an inspiring alternative to the way pigs are raised and consumed in America.Barry Estabrook, author of the New York Times bestseller Tomatoland and a writer of “great skill and compassion” (Eric Schlosser), now explores the dark side of the American pork industry. Drawing on his personal


An eye-opening investigation of the commercial pork industry and an inspiring alternative to the way pigs are raised and consumed in America.Barry Estabrook, author of the New York Times bestseller Tomatoland and a writer of “great skill and compassion” (Eric Schlosser), now explores the dark side of the American pork industry. Drawing on his personal experiences raising pigs as well as his sharp investigative instincts, Estabrook covers the range of the human-porcine experience. He embarks on nocturnal feral pig hunts in Texas. He visits farmers who raise animals in vast confinement barns for Smithfield and Tyson, two of the country’s biggest pork producers. And he describes the threat of infectious disease and the possible contamination of our food supply. Through these stories shines Estabrook’s abiding love for these remarkable creatures. Pigs are social, self-aware, and playful, not to mention smart enough to master the typical house dog commands of “sit, stay, come” twice as fast as your average pooch. With the cognitive abilities of at least three-year-olds, they can even learn to operate a modified computer. Unfortunately for the pigs, they’re also delicious to eat.Estabrook shows how these creatures are all too often subjected to lives of suffering in confinement and squalor, sustained on a drug-laced diet just long enough to reach slaughter weight, then killed on mechanized disassembly lines. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Pig Tales presents a lively portrait of those farmers who are taking an alternative approach, like one Danish producer that has a far more eco-friendly and humane system of pork production, and new, small family farms with free-range heritage pigs raised on antibiotic-free diets. It is possible to raise pigs responsibly and respectfully in a way that is good for producers, consumers, and some of the top chefs in America.Provocative, witty, and deeply informed, Pig Tales is bound to spark conversation at dinner tables across America.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In the 2011 bestseller Tomatoland, Estabrook took on industrial agriculture, faulting it for destroying the crops we eat. In this fascinating volume, Estabrook turns his attention to hog farming and the natural history of the pig. Although he lives on 30 acres in Vermont and has some pig farming experience, Estabrook eschews the common “going back to the farm” storyline in favor of an investigative journalism tack. In elegant prose, he highlights various topics such as porcine intelligence, the pig’s ability to destroy a landscape, hunting wild hogs, industrial hog farming, conditions in livestock processing plants, and sustainable “retro hog raising.” Some of his points aren’t ground-breaking—he scorns factory farms that poison the pigs and the land, while praising local farmers who respect their pigs and their customers’ well-being and offer tasty and healthier pork—but he has an admirable ability to clearly portray each person with a connection to hog farming, swine research, or animal rights, creating a personal connections that go beyond facts and figures. (June)
Vanity Fair
“Barry Estabrook carves up the other white meat in Pig Tales.”
Psychology Today
“A very well written work that deserves a wide audience.”
Peter A. Coclanis - Raleigh News & Observer
“Excellent…a more balanced and nuanced complement to muckraking works on similar subjects by Upton Sinclair (The Jungle) and, more recently, Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation).”
Steve Weinberg - Seattle Times
“Estabrook demonstrates his skill with words to tell compelling true stories…authoritative yet approachable.”
Alice Waters
“A beautiful and clear-eyed examination of the world of pigs and pig farming. With his engaging prose and soulful, riveting stories, [Estabrook] illuminates the complexities of the pig industry and the desperate need for reform.”
Michael Ruhlman
“Estabrook puts his substantial reporting, storytelling, and writing talents in the service of the pig. He documents the horrors perpetrated in America on this miracle creature, but he also describes the ways to break away from those horrors. . . . Pig Tales appalled me, terrified me, and then filled me with hope.”
Marion Nestle
“Estabrook tells two powerful stories here. The first is about the appalling ways in which Big Pig raises animals. . . . The second is about how skilled animal husbandry and respect for the intelligence of pigs produces . . . a far more satisfying life for farmers and pigs alike. Pig Tales is beautifully written. It is also deeply touching.”
Cathy Barrow
“Estabrook turns his keen journalistic eye to pig production . . . [and] provides balance in the engaging tales of farmers and processors who are thoughtful and eminently human. . . . [A] must-read.”
Ruth Reichl author of Delicious!
“Before Tomatoland, I thought I knew about the American way of farming. Barry Estabrook proved that I was wrong, painting a devastating portrait of what was really taking place out in the fields. It changed the way I cook and eat. Pig Tales is even more illuminating, a window into the world of pigs and pig farmers that every American omnivore needs to read. You will never look at a piece of pork in quite the same way.”
Christopher Kimball - Wall Street Journal
“Estabrook, a reporter of iron constitution and persistence, has dug deep into the truth about the American pork industry without losing his sense of humor and humanity. Gruesome on one hand; funny on the other.”
Jim Romanoff - EatingWell
“Masterfully blends storytelling with succinct explanations of policy and science…a must-read.”
“Cogent, level-headed.”
Library Journal
Estabrook (Tomatoland) is a three-time winner of the James Beard Award, which is considered the Oscar for culinary writers. His latest is an engaging investigation of how pigs are raised commercially for food. An excellent storyteller, narrator, and researcher, the author thoroughly documents the appalling conditions in which most swine are raised, conditions that result in food with inferior taste to that of animals raised humanely. The first chapter, "Hog Sense," traces the amazing intelligence of pigs. Several chapters detail David-and-Goliath-like conflicts between small-time lawyers and corporate agricultural giants, every bit as gripping as the epic battles in the films Erin Brockovich and Woman in Gold. Estabrook traveled widely, capturing through interviews the personalities of farmers, landowners, and many others, especially in Iowa and North Carolina. He describes how disposal of waste from pig farms makes life dangerously unhealthy, nearly impossible, for those living nearby. The writing, like the title, is clever, not without humor, and is also well evidenced with chapter notes and a useful bibliography. VERDICT Highly recommended for general readers, especially those interested in humane, agriculture, and food issues.—Henry T. Armistead, formerly with Free Lib. of Philadelphia
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2015-02-04
Former Gourmet contributing editor Estabrook (Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit, 2011) presents a journalistic exposé of the pork industry with the same skill demonstrated in his exploration of the tomato industry.The saga is difficult to resist after the opening sentence: "A pork chop nearly got me thrown in jail." The threat originated from an irritated judge in a small-town Illinois courtroom, where the locals had filed a lawsuit against a gigantic pork producer running an industrial hog facility causing such a stench and other unpleasantness that their rural way of life had been diminished beyond redemption. Estabrook escaped jail time, but the judge expelled him from the courtroom due to a momentary exchange between the journalist and a plaintiff's attorney. Numerous important books have appeared in the past decade about the evils of industrial slaughterhouses. In that sense, Estabrook's book might seem like a retread, but it stands out because of its narrow rather than broad scope. He examines pork production only; no beef, chicken or sheep enter the narrative. The author is clearly appalled by the conditions he documents in a variety of large-scale facilities, but he presents the evidence with a subtle touch and rightfully allows the villains an opportunity to explain their practices. Heroes emerge in almost every chapter—e.g., hog producers who care about humane treatment, lawyers who represent rural residents on quality-of-life issues, government inspectors of slaughterhouses who try to enforce the law only to be castigated by their bosses, who are often in cahoots with corporate titans. A journey to Denmark showed Estabrook how sanitary, humane practices can produce excellent pork. Unfortunately, though, as in other realms, he discovered that many Americans don't see the value of learning from other nations. A thoroughly researched, deftly written piece of investigative journalism. Estabrook and his partner still eat bacon, but they are careful about the source of the pork.
From the Publisher
"A thoroughly researched, deftly written piece of investigative journalism." ---Kirkus Starred Review

Product Details

Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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Product dimensions:
9.30(w) x 6.40(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

Barry Estabrook is a James Beard Award-winning journalist whose work has been featured in publications including the New York Times Magazine, Reader's Digest, and the Washington Post.

Paul Boehmer is a seasoned actor who has appeared on Broadway, film, and television, including The Thomas Crown Affair and All My Children. Coinciding with another of his passions, sci-fi, Paul has been cast in various roles in many episodes of Star Trek.

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Pig Tales: An Omnivore?s Quest for Sustainable Meat 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
KatJ3 More than 1 year ago
Excellent and honest. A must read for anyone who eats food!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Walks in and looks around innocently.