Pig Tales: An Omnivore’s Quest for Sustainable Meat

Barry Estabrook
W.W. Norton & Company
ISBN: 978-0393240245
336 pages; $26.95

Pig Tales, James Beard Award–winner Barry Estabrook’s investigation into the commercial pork industry, travels over ground familiar to many farm animal welfare advocates. Illustrating that “factory raised meat may be cheap, but those inexpensive chops come at a cost,” Estabrook chronicles the negative impacts of intensive animal raising on farmer and worker health, on communities, and on the animals themselves. He takes the reader through the history of sow crates, which Estabrook describes as “a perfect example of the downward animal-welfare spiral that results from applying industrial solutions to biological problems.” The book eventually arrives at pasture-based farming and the birth of the pastured-pork market as an alternative to factory-farmed meat.

While Pig Tales covers material handled competently by at least a dozen previous writers, Estabrook’s experience as a food industry journalist, and as a pig farmer himself, adds a lot to the telling of the story. The book is thoroughly researched—Estabrook traveled across the United States and Europe to interview sources and visit farms and slaughterhouses—and written in an approachable but compelling style. For someone seeking a single book to understand how factory farming became the standard for animal agriculture, and how we might go about dismantling a system that does incalculable damage to animals, farmers, and the earth, Pig Tales might well be that book.