Barry Estabrook, author of the New York Times bestseller Tomatoland, now explores the dark side of the American pork industry. Drawing on his personal experiences raising pigs as well as his sharp investigative instincts, he 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 his abiding love for these remarkable creatures. 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. 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.
A thoroughly researched, deftly written piece of investigative journalism.
(Kirkus Starred Review)
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Nary a Squeal About This Book
First and foremost, this book is a documentary. If you are looking for a book about a magic hog or perhaps a novel about an over-sexed vampire pig, you will have have to look elsewhere.
That said, what we have here is a well-done documentary that touches not only on current meat processing practices but also on the history of swine. Some of what was written is interesting, surprising and even somewhat disturbing.
There are no 'recipes' in this book, but there's little doubt that the author has an abiding love of bacon and other cuts. There's a brief section in the book about how cute some of the young pigs are, and they seem to be on the verge of almost becoming something like pets, but they get slaughtered eventually, albeit in the nicest way possible...sort of.
I would imagine that someone who is very deeply committed to animal rights and/or vegetarianism would have problems getting through this book, as it can be rather graphic in examining methods in the pork-processing industry. By the same token, if someone is wedded to the idea that big corporate farms and big corporate processing is the only way there is to go, then they are likely to be 'disappointed' in some of the conclusions in this book.
On the whole, it seems as though the author does a pretty good job of being 'balanced' in his approach, and what is produced appears to be an honest attempt to describe the current situation for raising and processing pork, which is something most of us probably don't want to think about when we sit down for a nice meal featuring ribs or when we grab a ham sandwich to go. It gets bogged down just a bit in some statistics, but this is short-lived and mostly the book is interesting. The narration is very good, as well.
If you are looking for a book that is everything you wanted to know about the pork industry-but was afraid (or reluctant) to ask, then by all means, dig in!
- Devlin Faust "Say something about yourself!"
A helpful and focused book.
- Sam DeSocio