The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Meat: A Benign Extravagance

Meat by Simon FairlieMeat: A Benign Extravagance by Simon Fairlie is an excellent book that I recommend to anyone who cares about the environmental impact of your food, whether you're a vegan, a fan of pastured meat, or are somewhere in between.  While the book doesn't touch on health issues or whether the actual act of slaughtering animals is ethical, the author does an admirable job of poring over the literature, crunching the numbers, and figuring out whether we're kidding ourselves when we think we can raise meat in a way that heals the earth. 

My favorite part of Meat is that Fairlie gives both sides of the aisle fair consideration.  He admits up front that he's not a fan of CAFOs from an ethical perspective, and that he spent several years as a vegetarian before beginning to raise his own dairy goats and to eat the male kids.  But he sets his own biases aside and bashes all of the infomercials in which authors twist the numbers to suit their ideology, whether the texts are written by vegans or by industrial agribusinesses.

I put off reading Meat for several months because the inside doesn't look inviting.  There are a lot of footnotes, no pictures, the text is a bit small, and it just looks like a tough, academic read.  Luckily, the author is engaging, and if you ignore the footnotes, the text isn't nearly as dense as it first appears.  Instead, you'll likely have the most trouble translating from British English to American English, and even that's not so hard.  (Just remember that soya is soybeans, ground nuts are peanuts, and lucerne is alfalfa.)

This week's lunchtime series will sum up the highlights of Simon Fairlie's book, but this is one that I highly recommend you hunt down and read for yourself.  As usual, I'm looking at the author's information with an eye toward tweaking our own permaculture setup, not to changing society, so I've left out huge portions of Fairlie's argument that will be relevant to those of you who depend more on the grocery store.  If you're interested in the bigger picture, it's worth putting in the time to read Meat yourself.

The Weekend Homesteader walks you through the first year of building a sustainable homestead.

This post is part of our Meat lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Just read my first book from you guys "Permaculture chicken: incubation handbook" good stuff and thanks for you help. I am curently doing my first incubation, the book was a big help.Thanks again
Comment by Anonymous Mon Feb 11 14:55:09 2013
Anonymous --- Thanks for reading! I'm glad to hear the book helped you out.
Comment by anna Mon Feb 11 18:51:35 2013

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