It seems I’ve mentioned Chris Cosentino’s blog an awful lot recently.  I love the unusual posts and pix (like this one on how to achieve hairy balls—answer: balut), and his passionate voice – but sometimes he does something as a chef that non-chefs simply don’t have access to.  This is an extraordinary pictorial on humane cow slaughter.  The pix are graphic so don’t click on them if you’re squeamish.  And if you’re squeamish about looking at them, I recommend that you don’t eat meat.  I heard Dan Barber, chef at Blue Hill in NYC, etc., doesn’t serve beef because of how badly cows in this country are treated—that’s pretty amazing, if it’s true, a chef who won’t serve beef for that reason.  Cosentino found a farm and slaughter protocol that’s certified humane and documented a process that tries to do right by the beasts we eat.

UPDATE, LINKS:  Here are a few links to NYTimes articles.

An increase in farmers raising calves humanely for veal.

And two op-ed pieces today, semi-related, one on hunting game as the ultimate locavore activity, the other on food production.

Update, email from Cosentino:  There seem to be a lot of questions to as what makes this humane. To start there are rules that have been set which are based on Temple Grandin‘s work. Also I wasn’t allowed to take a photo of the actual kill because it would spook the cows and the work would have to shut down for 2 hours until the animals were calm. There are no electric prods on premise and the USDA has nothing to do with the humane process–he is doing his job of meat inspection. I don’t expect everyone to understand or agree, but this ranch is a beautiful place where these cows are 100% grass feed and free to roam on tons of acreage. It has been a closed herd forever. I am honored to work with them and will defend them till the end.

The pictures were to show folks what a slaughter is like and give people a glimpse at where meat comes from.

Update: comment from Samuel Fromartz, author of Organic Inc.

"I just asked Dan Barber about his
beef policy – he says it ain’t true. He is serving beef but ‘it’s not
on the menu everyday because of local supply and the challenges of
buying the whole animal.’

"Small producers generally do not want to sell only steaks, because
they represent only 20 percent of the animal. The rest is chuck (ie
stew meat and hamburger) … so unless you’re serving a lot of meat
loaf it’s problematic to buy and use the entire animal (and we’re not
even getting into the offal.) That said, Dan does wonderful things with
offal, at least of the pork variety."


91 Wonderful responses to “Humane Cow Slaughter”

  • kevin

    I’ve never witnessed a large-animal slaughter (though I have slaughtered two chickens in my life) but having grown up on a small farm we frequently sat down to meals where the beef we were eating had a name. It’s a wonderful way of learning just how connected you are to your food. We still sometimes talk of Maude and her calf, Brown Cow (named for the popsicle) — these two having for some reason entered our family’s lore. In my view, we’re all just meat.

  • veron

    I just got back from Cosentino’s blog and nearly spat out my tea! He was suppose to boil the egg not try to scramble it! Coincidence…I nearly bought some balut from the Asian store yesterday. I only ate the embryo once …in a dark room. The best part is the “broth” that you drink when you break the egg from one tip. I’m from the Philippines and I remember those 11 pm routines when I stand outside the door listening for the balut vendor and his basket shouting ‘Balut!” and I would shout back “Balut!” and he comes running to sell me some…:) ahh the nostalgia! Yeh…it’s rumoured to be an aphrodisiac/stamina builder and fed to a groom on his wedding night . 😉

  • Claudia

    A timely piece, Michael. Gourmet, I think, just had a story on how Kobe beef, despite the lore of the cows’ special diet and massages they get, ISN’T the result of pampering. The cows are confined in, basically, metal cages, like veal calves, until slaughter – which, I imagine, is no more humane than their captivity.

  • Paul DeLuca

    I have field dressed deer, rabbits, dove, and chukar, so I can appreciate the sheer scale at which a commercial processor must work. In talking with chefs like Cleveland’s Parker Bosley who, like Chris Cosentino, are passionate about sustainable agriculture, it makes me wish there were more restaurants that showcased this kind of food. It is nice to know that I can buy CHRH products for myself at Heinen’s, just a few minutes from home.

  • Charlotte

    I’ve seen game animals field dressed and home butchered and I thought this was cool in the same way that I liked seeing those animals go from animal to meat — as much as anything I think the anatomy lesson is fascinating. However, I can’t find any real info in the pictures or the text about what distinguishes this slaughterhouse as humane? Is it simply that it’s smaller and doesn’t stress the animals out the way the huge slaughterhouses do(as well as lessening the chance that animals won’t be properly bled out/dead before moving down the line)? Also, what’s the benefit to the workers of humane slaughter practices — do they cut down on injuries? Allow people to work in more humane circumstances? Those big slaughter lines sound like hellish workplaces, and there are a bunch of workers in MN who have contracted a rare disease from the way they were cleaning the brains in a pork slaughterhouse.

  • dandyradioworld

    Actually, Blue Hill does serve beef. They recently found a reliable source, humane, grass-fed, the whole shebbang. It’s only available seasonally. The mistake is an easy one to make though. So much of their early publicity focused on the beef issue that it’s still getting brought up.

  • Laurie Gauguin

    It certainly is an eye-opener to view these photos, but I think that all meat eaters should know exactly where their hamburgers and porterhouses come from.

    I’m always amazed at people who eat animal protein every day of their lives yet are squeamish about eating something like a cornish game hen because it resembles too much of the living animal. Well, that’s where that nicely boned and skinned chicken breast on your Caesar salad (well, not YOUR Caesar, Michael) comes from — a living animal.

    If people are grossed out about witnessing the origins of their steaks and chops then I agree that they should eat lower on the food chain.

  • Matt


    I agree that it’s important for people to understand where their food comes from and that each time they eat they are making an ethical decision. I think looking at a slaughter and being squeamish is okay, though; it’s a natural reaction to seeing the killing of another living thing. Confronting this squeamishness allows us to justify our eating of meat — we have seen what the “cost” of meat is and we have decided that we are willing to pay that cost. The cost of an animal raised and slaughtered “humanely” (whatever that means) is much less than that of an intensively farmed one.

    I would say that someone that is totally callous to the way their meat is reared and slaughtered is the one to whom you should recommend not eating meat.

  • veron

    I guess seeing the slaughter of a cow does not make me squeamish because I’ve seen slaughters of chickens in our restaurant all the time. Hubby thinks I have a weird sense of humour when one minute I see a herd of black angus cows and gush how cute they look…then the next minute I say ‘Hmm…MMEEAAT!’
    Back in the Philippines…I draw the line with dog meat and feel sad how they are slaughtered – they are clobbered to death. I love my canine friends and I was furious at my brother for tricking me into eating dog meat one time making me think it was pork!

  • Hank

    Good post: This is one of the reasons why I hunt and fish for nearly all the meat our household eats. I find we eat meat a little less but waste a LOT less. I do buy some really nice pork from a small farmer in Yolo County but that’s about it, mostly to make salami and sausages (thanks for the book, Michael!) or bacon – bacon gives life meaning…

    I reckon that if something has to die for my table, I might as well not shrink from the act. Was good to read that last chapter in Omnivore’s Dilemma to see that I’m not the only one doing this kind of thing.

  • Claudia

    Thanks, Charlotte – my senator’s office told me that the Grassley amenment came up for vote today and she voted for it, but not Lincoln or Tester, so we’ll have to keep an eye on that in the future. Man, I’ve been terrorizing my senators on the Farm Bill all year. What a travesty THAT nearly became.

    PS: It’s 4:42 in DC, but not too late, apparently, for people to call their senators (the link is through Ethicurean, above), and talk to a staffer OR leave VM supporting the Tester Amendment and boo-hissing the Lincoln. They ARE keeping track of their constituents’ voicemails – I got a call back on something else the other week.

  • Sean

    While I love your blog and books, I think you err in characterizing slaughter, any slaughter, as humane. Slaughter by definition entails the killing of a sentient being. Why have we appropriated this level of violence as laudable for humans to engage in? Your visceral disgust should indicate the fundemental dissonance here. If these were humane acts, would you need to qualify pictures of them with warnings? One can label welfare standards as humane, but slaughter should remain what it is, a violent act that under certain circumstances can be made less so but never fully and hopefully never “humane.”

  • Wilmita

    I never cease to be amazed by the attitudes of Americans toward the origins of food.

    From the farmers who raise most if not all of the food we eat, (animal or vegetable). The work that goes into getting those goods to market.
    The nearly slave wages for harvesters from fields and processors of animal products and canned goods we all depend upon. (vegetables, tomato puree, tuna, sardines)

    How many crabs does a crab picker have to shuck in order for one to get their tin of Jumbo Lump Crabmeat?

    Not so long ago in this country, one could pick their meal from live poultry markets.

    All right, we may not be in accord with how it comes to be on our tables, but there is a person and a story behind every meal we might not want to acknowledge, but true nonetheless.

    I feel fortunate that it is not I, and do not wish to belittle or disparage those who raise, pick, butcher, process etc. everything one sees in their supermarket.

    Red Beans and Ricely Yours,


  • Matt

    As another reader named Matt pointed out earlier, it is natural to be a little grossed out when viewing severed, skinless cow heads. Furthermore, the viewer’s reaction is not necessarily a conscious choice. Once upon a time, people hunted because they had to. In modern times, very few of us are farmers or butchers, and thus no longer have to face such images. The thing is, many of us who aren’t butchers have not been acclimatized to the sight. It’s partly about an individual’s choices and desire to learn about where their food comes from, but it’s also about overcoming a natural reaction, and about the way a person is raised. Depending on your parents and their views on food, you might have 25+ years of inherited naivety and squeamishness about such matters. It takes a misguided man to berate someone for a reaction that has been programmed in part by evolution and in part by their society, before they’re even conscious of such forces.

    Hopefully, this will all change eventually. It takes time. Individuals must educate themselves and take steps toward overcoming their discomfort with the whole animal-to-meat phenomenon. For some, this will be easier than others.

  • Vincent

    I have been fighting with this issue over the past year – trying to find a certified humane resource for protiens in my area at the quantity that I need for annual procurement. There are several issues involved – quantities, price points – FOOD COSTS. Six months ago I started an organics program with our produce and pastry departments and it has worked successfully on all levels – pricing, cost and above all…marketing. People are wanting naturally grown foods more and more and it has been very exciting as well as rewarding.

    My goal this year is to man-handle my vendors and MAKE it happen. I forcasted my protien purchase for the year (next annual) and actually have a few bites – it seems several chefs in the Dallas area are wanting the same thing and are willing to shun the local vendors until they get what they want. With stores here like Central Market and Whole Foods consumers are luckily more informed day to day and it is making our job easier to get quality product to them.

    On a personal level I am lucky to have a few organic and humane farms very close to me. We get fresh cheeses, meats and veggies right on the farms at awesome prices. One farmer lets me come and watch the process of making fresh goats cheese every Sunday I don’t have the kids and it has been great. Another farm has REAL Flagolet – the woman who runs it smuggled them in through customs (somehow) and cassoulet has never been the same.

    I suggest checking out http://www.localharvest.org to see who is doing all these great things with products. They have farms with protien as well as veggies.

  • Gabrielle

    Maybe I missed it, but I don’t see the “slaughter” in those photos, only the aftermath. How are the cows actually killed, and what constitutes “humane”?

  • Chad Edward

    Sean, the root of “humane” is “human” and humans have been procuring nourishment from our fellow beasts since the dawn of our species. What’s inhumane is not having the respect for the beast to look it in the eyes before its slaughter or disconnecting oneself so far from the process that the sight of the slaughter which delivers nourishment to our plates itself becomes inconsumable.

  • sfchin

    I believe what is generally accepted as the most humane method of actually killing a cow is the “captive bolt” method. This is basically a metal cylinder which protrudes and retracts from a hand-held machine at high velocity, having the same effect as a gunshot to the head at point blank range. Afterwards the cows are hung by their hind limbs and have their jugulars cut to drain their blood, but they are basically brain dead at that point and should not feel anything (when done correctly). Other elements of a humane slaughter house include controlled, solid-walled chutes which the cows proceed along in single-file. Cows are herd animals and will generally go wherever other cows are going. In a well-constructed chute the only thing a cow can see is the the cow in front of him, who is calmly walking forwards. Other considerations include the non-use of electric cattle-prods and of course a minimum success rate of captive-bolt stunning on the first attempt. I’m not really sure what Certified Humane’s standards are, but I believe the above elements are in keeping with Temple Grandin’s guidelines.

  • Ms.Anthrope

    Following the link referred to in the post, the animals are certified humanely raised and handled. Although the website does not seem to refer to slaughter directly, I would assume that would be part of the “handling”.
    Temple Grandin has been mentioned in earlier posts and I would encourage those interested in these things to check out her site for further info on more humane methods of slaughter: http://www.grandin.com/

  • Skawt

    Have you ever heard a cows laughter? Goes like this: HUR-HUR-HURRRRRRRR…

    (What? No it isn’t. Really? Aw crap.)

    Oh screw this, I’m hungry enough to eat a mad cow’s asshole. Where’s Tony when you need him?

  • Tags

    The grandin.com website is a national treasure, as is Dr. Temple Grandin herself.

  • jacqueline church

    I’m glad someone wrote in about Dr. Grandin. I want people to own that most of our “positions” are based on arbitrary line-drawing. Well, not mine, of course, but most everyone else’s. That’s a joke. And the point. My niece when she was about 4 asked why we eat animals if we’re supposed to be nice to them. My sister responded that some people do not eat them for that very reason. Too many kids believe food grows in a styrofoam plate, shrink-wrapped for their convenience. Btw she’s omnivorous now, I believe it began with a roast duck a few months later – just “too yummy” to pass up.

    I’ve been flogged by activists for suggesting they should be as concerned about starving kids in their own town than the duck who gave it up for my foie. So be it. And pass the Sauternes…

    The Leather District Gourmet

  • jacqueline church

    I’m glad someone wrote in about Dr. Grandin. I want people to own that most of our “positions” are based on arbitrary line-drawing. Well, not mine, of course, but most everyone else’s. That’s a joke. And the point. My niece when she was about 4 asked why we eat animals if we’re supposed to be nice to them. My sister responded that some people do not eat them for that very reason. Too many kids believe food grows in a styrofoam plate, shrink-wrapped for their convenience. Btw she’s omnivorous now, I believe it began with a roast duck a few months later – just “too yummy” to pass up.

    I’ve been flogged by activists for suggesting they should be as concerned about starving kids in their own town than the duck who gave it up for my foie. So be it. And pass the Sauternes…

    The Leather District Gourmet

  • faustianbargain

    lux, kosher isnt necessarily humane. especially when step #1 is: hang the animal upside down…

    also, the kosher rules were created keeping the meat consuming jews in mind and not the animals. or the pig would have been kosher. the ‘humane’ bit can be symbolic if you want to argue it, but the kosher laws were meant for jewish people, not the animals. it is the same for all religions and dietary laws. with the exception of jainism, maybe. even hinduism has no laws to adhere to vegetarianism. vegetarianism grew in india largely because of necessity and for the economy of resources rather than ‘compassion’.

    kindness and compassion for animals must come from individual minds and through a paradigm shift. it doesnt come from definitions and certifications of ‘humane slaughter’ with a dude wearing a usda hardhat overseeing the proceedings.

    for yet another different pov:


    http://www.jewishveg.com/ > jewish and vegetarian


    to ruhlman: well..where is the ‘humane’ aspect coming through in chris cosentino’s photoblogspot? it doesnt show how the animals are raised or how it is slaughtered. it merely shows the breaking down of an animal. well..thanks…but seen it before. whats your point?

    p.s to the one said that the root of ‘humane’ is ‘human’..

    hu·mane· (hyo̵̅o̅ mān′, yo̵̅o̅mān)


    1. having what are considered the best qualities of human beings; kind, tender, merciful, sympathetic, etc.
    2. civilizing; humanizing humane learning

    it does NOT have anything to do with looking at the eyes of the animal you slaughter.

  • Tags

    Glad you brought that up, FB.

    The humane way, causing the least pain, is placed in its best light when contrasted with the way of the predator, which is only interested in eating the prey.

    If not for humanity and humane treatment, animals would be at the mercy of inhumane predators. Always.

  • realitybites

    I think it is great that Cosentino and Bourdain want to inform the public about humanely raised and slaughtered ducks and cows.

    But what about those veal bones that make that wonderful stock? Are those bones from crated calves? I hope not. Because wouldn’t promoting the making of veal stock run counter to all fuss about eating humanely? Surely a crated calf is not raised humanely. And talk about stress. What happened to the theory that a stressed animal is going to result in an inferior product? If we all started making and using veal stock wouldn’t this lead to a greater demand for veal bones? Would this mean more farmers would raise crated calves?

    I’m not trying to be belligerent. I just want to point out a flaw in this whole ‘slow food’ ideology.

    Can a stressed, crated, veal calf make a great stock? If we are going to use inhumanely raised veal bones then why should any of us care how foie gras ducks and beef cows are raised and slaughtered?

  • Devils Lunchbox

    I also grew up one a farm where a cow was a pet one day and hanging dead from a tree the next. If people want to eat meat, they need to accept that they are making the decision to kill an animal. Stop the rationalization that goes along with that. Humane killing is an oxymoron. There is nothing humane you can do to an animal you want to appear on a plate near you. Just accept it for what it is and move on. Pretending that you’re doing something kinder is ridiculous. You can’t have it both ways.

  • Elaine & Christian

    Sincerest thanks MR and CC, for the truly beatiful photos and info on humane slaughter. But I totally disagree w/ those who belive that this depicts “where our food comes from.” Humane slughter such as this is the rare EXCEPTION to the rule. Duh! Any input on the “standard” slaughter?

  • faustianbargain

    tags..i am confused. considering ‘humane’ refers to ‘the kinder traits of human beings’…are you saying that if we didnt imprison animals in meat/milk/egg producing factories, they would be at the mercy of human predators who do not possess said humane qualities..i.e. by inhumane predators.

    in·hu·man (in hyo̵̅o̅′mən)


    not human; esp., not having the qualities considered normal to or for human beings; unfeeling, heartless, cruel, barbarous, etc.

    this gives raise to several questions.

    when a lion stalks and kills a wilderbeast for food, is it inhumane or is it lion-like?

    tell me..did the lion put the wilderbeast in cages, pump it full of antibiotics, hormones and other goodies…fatten it up and kill it before it’s prime…because it knew that it can mastermind a brilliant and cunning plan to keep the population up by artificial means. survial of the fittest in the jungle does not have anything to do with inflicting least pain.

    are you telling me that by looking at those pictures, you could intuit that the animals were raised and slaughtered with the least amount of pain?

    or are you comparing yourself to a creature of the jungle…are we supposed to feel good about ourselves because we imprison, slaughter and keep the population of our prey in check according to the food demands of the general public.

    when we pick up dead animals in plasticwrap(regardless of whether we looked into their eyes or watched their slaughter…which according to ruhlman makes one a ‘better’ person and worthy of meat eating.. on youtube or in chris cosentino’s blog or in real time..once every bluemoon, that is…) for food when we have a bounty of vegetables, grains, fruits and animal products that can be derived from ‘inhumane’ practices like cages and crates and crowded pens, are we being ‘humane’?

    if an animal production is kept high by artificial insemination and early demise, is animal husbandry still ‘humane’?

    is artificial insemination of animals humane? does it work in favour of the animal or the humans?

    is the creation of sterile ducks for foie gras inhumane and natural? does it work in favour of the ducks or the humans?

    is slaughter of young animals humane when it prevents that specimen of the species to lead it’s natural life..when animals are not allowed to reach their full adulthood?

    is it humane or inhumane to confine animals(and their ever increasing numbers because we need to have our meat every day..our meat, the bones, the veal stock, our bacon..with every single meal?)

    is the reproduction rate of animals in the industry normal? if young animals like baby chickens and suckling pigs and veal and milk fed lambs are being had, seriously..is that humane? it is simple. when animals die young because we know that it is possible to create others by the thousands, it is a decision made by humans. an inhumane one. when animals are killed without discretion because it feeds the gluttony and exaggerated love of meat eating, that too is a human decision. that too is an inhumane one.

    i am not going to preach vegetarianism or veganism. i am only going to ask you and other meat eaters to reduce your consumption of meat. that is humane. i am asking you to avoid meat that comes from animals that have lead less than full lives..shun meat that comes from animals that are prodded and pushed..abused and tainted…to say NO to meat that comes from animals in crowded pens where they cannot see sunlight or eat fresh food..can you sincerely say that you know the ORIGIN and CONDITION of every single slab of meat you pick up at the counter? at every restaurant? it is unbelievable, dont you think? our world will be more pastures than homes and roads and factories and concrete jungles.

    finally, you said..

    “If not for humanity and humane treatment, animals would be at the mercy of inhumane predators. Always.”


    no comment. i suggest you read it again and consider your words.

  • Claudia


    While I don’t know where Ruhlman gets his veal bones, I do know that there are now one or two humane veal producers in the US who do not crate their calves. I have to go back and try and find the article to explain how they manage to keep the meat tender without crating, but they do exist. May be Michael has a supplier?

    I do recall that such veal is called veal rosso (or rosa) in the UK. It was on Gordon Ramsey’s F Word last season.

  • Tags

    You’re not pointing out a flaw in the “slow food ideology,” if it is an ideology.

    You’re pointing out how some fast-buck food purveyors take advantage of enthusiasm for slow food and cheat by speeding up the process and being tight-lipped (hoping nobody finds out.)

    It’s a shame the PETA crowd doesn’t concentrate on milk-fed veal mistreatment but scatters their assets fighting a noble and humane practice like making foie gras, destroying jobs of hard-working people in the process..

  • Big Red

    Ruhlman, nice touch! I had the pleasure of a long talk with Temple Grandin at the Autism Symposium last October 2006, and we talked extensively about food and humane slaughter. Despite the fact that she has Autism and both my children and my brother do. Ironic, but I digress.
    What most do not know is that she is a meat eater, and personally does not support the vegitarian culture, although she is by no means going to discount a person’s choice. I feel similarly, as I am a meat eater, but if you go veg, hey more power to you.(We are jusdged enough in this world by those who do not understand our disabilities, so we feel it unfair to judge others)
    The other thing most do not know is the slings and harnesses she used on the animals she personally uses for deep pressure to satisfy her sensory needs. So she knows that they do not hurt the animal and that they are humane. What is neat is that by utilizing the humane slaughter, the meat is always of better quality because without the emotional stress on the animal, there is less lactic acid and cortisol in the muscle, (stress hormone) making for more tender meat, and thus better quality. If you have not read her works I HIGHLY many times over suggest you do, even if you are not a veg.
    Again, I do not under any circumstances say one lifestyle is better than the other, only because this is like a religious discussion…it will result in nothing but hurt feelings and raised blood pressure. If I want my blood pressure to go up, I want it due to the salt on my food. So back to food…I’m hungry.

  • Tags

    Not huh, but duh, FB.

    Humane treatment of animals has only recently been usurped by the Smithfield, Tysons, ConAgras and their ilk.

    Until recently, man has given animals a decent life, sheltering them from ferocious predators and ensuring that they met a much less painful end.

    I agree with you about the inhumane practices you mentioned. As you can see from my last post, I think PETA et al are wasting valuable resources and goodwill by attacking small-scale foie gras farmers and purveyors, leaving the worst offenders unscathed and emboldened.

  • Nic Heckett

    Great comments. Especially about the veal. Slaughter and cruelty to everything are humane. Humans take cruelty to a level even the most vicious cat or wolf could not imagine. Only the tiny minority of humans care at all about minimizing suffering of other humans, much less animals. I am amongst that minority, and I do wish a speedy exit for my pigs. However, any good kill floor will do a humane job, because a stressed animal will provide inferior meat, due to stress taint.

  • Darcie

    I hate to step in the fray as I know there is little chance of my comments being received as I intend, but here goes:

    Having grown up on a small cattle and grain farm in the upper Midwest, I didn’t know that there was any other way to raise animals than (what I consider to be) humanely. Since we killed and butchered our animals on the farm, I knew nothing about stockyards, confinement pens or huge chicken processors. Our animals grazed freely and were fed additional foods daily. I think they had as good a life as they could expect, since there were no predators other than humans.

    However, even though I think animals should be treated fairly, I don’t think we should fret about the emotional state of our food animals as some do. These animals don’t have self-awareness and no more think about death than they do politics. They just “are.” To believe that it is inhumane to slaughter an animal “before its time” is to greatly anthropomorphize their lives.

    That is not an excuse to treat animals poorly, though. I believe humans are stewards of this planet and its resources, and we are surely doing a shitty job of stewardship. This holds true for our plants, animals, land, air and water. I do what I can and encourage others, and I’m glad Michael doesn’t shy away from a controversial subject like this.

  • Lisa

    Wondering where Bourdain is? He’s been in Hawaii, sipping Li Hing Mui Martinis and munching on dried cuttlefish: http://starbulletin.com/2007/12/12/features/story01.html
    Probably a lot more fun than diving into this wrenching discussion. Stumbling onto the slaughter of a downer dairy cow on my grandfather’s farm (she’d just given birth to twin calves, and couldn’t get back up) summarily ended my consumption of beef when I was 14. As a sheltered suburban girl, I couldn’t quite handle the reality of the “cute cow,” the slit throat and a juicy burger ever again. The image is still burned in my brain. In later years I briefly dabbled with vegetarianism, and I’m now back to most meat products. But beef and veal, no. Never. Is this ethically consistent? Of course not.

    I do offer much respect to those pursuing humane ways of raising meat. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it does result in better product. I eat only organic, free range eggs–at $4/dozen–and they taste GREAT.

  • Claudia

    Bourdain also reportedly snuck over to Volcanoes NP on the Big Island, although Kiluaea isn’t erupting the way it used to (i.e, visible from the end of the Chain of Craters Road). Still, now that he’s done lounging around the Kohala re$$$$$$$orts, maybe we’ll get some good footage of him sacrificing something to Pele (probably Todd), or hitting the awa bars and getting a good buzz. Let’s see what kind of shape he’s in tomorrow night at B&N. NYC is expecting a nor’easter, heheheheh. (Howzit NOW, brah?!”) Hope that covers it for you, Skawt!

  • Claudia

    Oh, and back to topic: thanks, Michael – I was just looking for that NYT article, because it has the purveyors listed. As usual, you can’t go wrong with the Union Square Greenmarket.

  • mirinblue

    I should rephrase that last comment…to Michael, Chris and EVERYONE here,
    Thanks for making me think.

  • Kansas City rube

    I really appreciate the movement to show us where are food comes from. I think it helps us to understand the importance of what we put into our bodies.

    Also, PETA people are dumb.

  • Darcie

    PETA = People Eating Tasty Animals
    (ducking for cover)

    FWIW, I still squirmed a little bit upon seeing the peeling of the head, even though as a child I was fascinated by the stomachs and other innards and would poke, prod and step on them.

    I don’t know why, but it is more difficult for me to break down a venison quarter than a whole chicken (as far as squeamishness). Maybe it’s because the larger animals’ muscles more closely resemble humans. I dunno. But I may be getting half a pig that I might have to break down myself. That will be a challenge.

    I was a vegetarian for several years (not because of sympathy for animals, but due to resource-use issues), but I had difficulty maintaining a healthy weight. Lord knows I don’t have that problem now.

  • ntsc

    I’ll admit to some squeamishness, I don’t think I would be that comfortable gutting an animal. It isn’t an hesitancy just the thought I would toss my cookies, not a good thing around food.

    However, give me a dressed and headless carcass, I would have no problems, other than lack of skill, with cutting it up. I buy chuck in 30lb pieces and whole pork loins now.

    As does Darcie I’m looking at a quarter or half pig, just don’t know where I would put it, the freezer is full. All four of them.

  • Tim M.

    Looks like Chef Cosentino had some water on his lens during the shoot–at least, I hope it’s water…

    I helped gut a deer once when I was younger. While I can’t say it wasn’t the most pleasant experience of my life (don’t puncture the bladder!), and I didn’t have much of an appetite immediately after, I can appreciate the animal more for having done it. I don’t think I could have handled witnessing this first hand though (it’s a little more intense than biology class). I think it is interesting, though, that over the course of human evolution, so few of us now know what it takes to slaughter an animal for food, and that so many are appalled by it.

  • Brandon H.

    Contrary to the Matt’s, I think that being grossed out by the sight of a skinned cow head is very unnatural.

    Humans are omnivores, which is evidenced by the fact that both all meat and all vegetable diets can lead to poor health (ignoring manufactured dietary supplements that don’t occur in nature). For much of the 200,000 years that humans have been on earth, food has been hunted and gathered. I doubt very much that a human was grossed out when he skinned wild game 200,000 years ago. For that matter, I doubt humans were grossed out when they saw dead animals 200 years ago. In all our history, it is only recently that humans have been squeamish about where their food comes from.

    In our constant pursuit of morality, we have forgotten the reality of what it means to be part of a food chain. Whether you like it or not, humans kill animals to survive and we’ve been doing it for our entire existence. To deny that, is to deny our humanity.

  • Charlotte

    Hey Everyone — update on the Farm Bill — via Ethicurean:
    The Senate bill contains the strongest Farm Bill livestock reforms ever passed in a farm bill, taking important steps to stop the widespread use of unfair contract practices and disproportionate market power of meatpackers. The Livestock Title of the Senate bill includes four key reforms, including:

    * a ban on meatpackers owning, feeding, or controlling livestock fourteen days before slaughter
    * the elimination of mandatory binding arbitration clauses in contracts between livestock producers and packers and processors
    * good faith bargaining and contract fairness on the part of packers and processors
    * strengthened enforcement of laws against deceptive and unfair practices of packers and processors.

    All great things from the point of view of those of us who want to eat meat that was slaughtered humanely, in plants that treat both the people and the animals well. For the full story, go here: http://www.ethicurean.com/2007/12/14/glass-half-full/

  • faustianbargain

    claudia: its called rose(there is an accent over the ‘e’ when you pronounce it) veal…i have cooked with it…it is more flavourful and is not as pale as the euphemistically termed continental veal. it is rspca approved in the uk.

    tags: i dont see why you have to bring up PETA except to derail the ongoing discussion. my point is that someone ‘humane’ will let the animal go…i dont see whats humane about slaughter..slaughter is slaughter is slaughter..whether you slaughter with a grin or a curse or with a tear in your eye, it doesnt matter.

    one cannot qualify the slaughter on humane terms. it is a contradiction in terms. its not like you are euthanising the cow. the quality of animal husbandry has a rating that has plunged into the negative. what you now call ‘humane’ is the right way to do…doesnt make it humane..just makes it right.

    look…eat meat. dont eat meat. be a vegan. dont be a vegan. frankly, i dont care. its your food. enjoy it. its what you eat. i am not going to ruin it for you. this self congratulatory tone about ‘humane slaughter’ is whats grating…just like vegans can be annoying to vegetarians about their alleged higher ground..and like vegetarians can be annoying to omnivores when they appear to claim their higher ground…this ‘humane slaughter’ brigade is annoying…it an elitist attitude that is disagreeable, false, irritating and absurd..all at the same time.

    this attitude deserves shame and must be mocked at all costs for the joke it is because it attempts to make a virtue out someone’s intense desire to eat meat. just saying that something is ‘humane’ a thousand times in a couple of blogs around a tight network of blogs doesnt make the act of slaughter ‘humane’.

    when you finish someone off when they are suffering, thats humane. when you choose not to prolong agnoy, thats humane. when one makes the brave and difficult decision to go through with mercy killing, that is humane. breeding animals…for the express cause of killing it..and bringing in more and more animals to be killed..more swiftly and ‘processed’ quickly because they need to make space for even more animals to be made ready for slaughter is certainly not ‘humane’. it is chillingly efficient, maybe(well done, there), but not ‘humane’. splendidly profitable(seriously..well done, there..someone! get a medal!), but it’s not ‘humane’.

    take care. i dont have anything to more to say that i havent said already..here and elsewhere.

  • Wilmita

    There are STILL people who depend on the hunt for their winter meat.

    In in some areas of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the first day of Buck Season is more important and festive than Thanksgiving or Christmas. Schools, Government agencies etc. are closed.

    As a city person, I don’t get it but I understand it.

    I do not wish to hunt, kill or dress an animal, (even though I have seen it done), but I also do not begrudge those who do; especially when they are dependent on the animal for food.

    I am an avid and even award-winning gardener and I defy ANYONE to tell me plants are NOT living things that communicate with their caretakers.

    We have survived for thousands of years by way of all living things, be it plant or animal.

    I should rather have people know how their food was raised, nurtured and processed than pretend it just magically appeared on styrofoam or plastic wrap.

    For me, it is not only disrespectful to the lives of the plant or animal food product but also to those who helped bring it to us.

    Give thanks whenever you sit down to eat.

    Not only to The Creator, but for all we take for granted as we cruise down the aisles of Supermarkets, Chef’s Markets, Farmer’s Markets, Food Purveyors.

    It is difficult to make a living off the land. Every food product we buy or use has a person, plant or animal behind it.

    At the very least, we should be grateful we have the luxury to banter about what we would or would not eat.



  • Maryann

    It seems to me that “humane” is a word used for marketing to sell more product to those who like to think of themselves as more “aware”. I’m not saying “don’t eat meat”, but let’s call it what it is. They are still killing the cow, aren’t they? What’s humane about that? Do you think the cows appreciated the way in which they were killed? No, the sensitivity lies in the human’s eye who is doing the killing and eating. This word “humane” only quells the guilt of the killer, and the guilt of the buyer. If you say you only eat “humanely” killed meat, do you deserve applause? Of course not. Eat the meat if you want, but what it is is what it is.

  • Artful

    “Tons of acreage?” WTF does that mean? And what does “grass feed” mean? Was that supposed to have been grass FED?

  • kanani

    Temple Grandin is nothing short of an amazing person. She’s a passionate advocate for the humane treatment of animals, and also a wonderful spokesperson for Asperger’s Syndrome.
    Watch her videos sometime.

  • Brad

    The blog is broken again … only this thread shows up on the entry page – none of the prior blog posts & comment chains, or recommended links.

    Fixge pls.

    p.s. I tried to make a post earlier today on Cosentino’s Blog, but his website ate it. I haven’t had a chance to reconstruct my post yet.

    p.p.s. Non-sequitur: If anyone would like a decent recipe for old fashioned homemade hard egg nog, go here: {http://www.ibdof.com/viewtopic.php?t=2602&start=25}

  • Brad

    2nd non-sequitur: speaking of chef cosentino (who specializes in offal), I have an out of town friend visiting my area the weekend of Jan 25th. I’m gonna tap a friend of mine from the CIA, and possibly 1 other offal-admiring chef friend, and see if we can get Prune in NYC (a restaurant popular among local chefs specializing in offal) sometime that weekend.

    If anyone here is a pro chef or culinary blogger, and wants to possibly tag along (I’ll volunteer to pick up the tab), toss your hat in the ring by shooting me an e-mail. There’s no guarantee we’ll get the reservation we want or that you’ll be picked, but hey … you never know. If ye ask not, ye receive not.

  • Brad

    BTW, my backup choices to prune for that weekend will probably be Degustation, WD-50, or (last and easiest) Bouchon Bakery … although we might take a sideways step to one of the best of the coal-fired brick oven pizzarias in NYC beforehand.

  • realitybites


    I too have seen Gordon’s “The F Word” episode about rose veal. The UK banned veal crates back in 1998. Apparently, some farms in the US are starting to phase them out as well–opting for the group housing system.

    The moment of slaughter is rather quick and painless if done correctly. It is the quality of life for the animals before death that concerns me. Cosentino’s cows live a good life. They are given room to graze and stretch and socialize.

    Veal bones can be considered a humane product if they come from calves that are not crated, tethered, and deprived of all iron.

    Here’s a pretty good study done on the use of veal crates:


  • carri

    i am impressed that our mr. ruhlman is so passionate in his beliefs that he is willing to open this blog and himself, personally, to what can be such a touchy subject…funny to me because, as a species, we have killed our own meat (whether we raised or hunted) pretty much solely up until just the last 100 years or so…being saddled with a conscience is one of the toughest things we’ve had to integrate into our abilty to survive(and evolve)…we can’t just kill and eat like the bears and the wolves..we have to answer for it! I also salute the work of ms. grandin, she has also given us great insight into the world of autism.

  • Tags

    FB, I bring up PETA because they are germane to this discussion. It is the actions of these extremists that counter the progress toward humane treatment of animals.

    If you substitute the word PETA for extremist, or vice-versa, you would get it. But, since you hold an extremist view (that killing an animal is inhumane) you can not comprehend it.

  • Barbara Fisher

    I found the photographs to neither be shocking nor particularly enlightening.

    But then, I have helped do the dirty work of hanging, bleeding, gutting, skinning, beheading and breaking down the carcasses of cattle, pigs, deer and of course, chickens, rabbits and fish, so I am coming from a different perspective than most readers.

    The only thing I have not done is actually take the killing shot on an animal–on the farm, we killed cows and pigs with a single, point-blank shot (usually a nine mm hollow-point, if that means anything to readers here) to the back of the head, at the base of the skull, severing the spinal chord and scrambling the brain. The animal falls immediately, insensate. I have seen it enough times to know that they are beyond feeling. We also never panicked them on the farm–merely led them quietly to the barnyard where the slaughter would take place, and tie them between two posts so they couldn’t move, and then the best shot among us–usually my Uncle John, would go behind them and fire the gun once. That was it.

    After the animal fell, the uncles and the sturdier cousins would attach the hind legs to chains and hoist the body up with a pulley, and Grandpa would slit the throat, and Grandma would set a basin to catch the blood.

    After the bleeding came the removal of viscera–or as we so baldly called it–gutting, and the removal of the offal we kept from that which we discarded. I usually got to help with that, as well as with skinning.

    It was a messy business, but not cruel. We didn’t frighten the animals–neither the one or two we were killing that day, nor the rest of the herd. We were very quiet and reverent up to the killing, so as to not frighten or upset the animal. We talked to it in quiet voices, and petted it–and said goodbye–and then killed it. That is all. That is also not cruel.

    I feel pretty good about the animals we slaughtered. They had good, natural, happy lives–they grazed wonderful pastures, drank from ponds and streams, were fed grain and garden surplus, and were given a lot of love by Grandma and us kids. (I still love petting cows–some of them are such gentle creatures–and then some of them are wild and violent–they are individuals, just like any other living being.) They had good lives, and good deaths.

    After the animal was dead, though, we were less reverent. Farm kids tend to have dark senses of humor, probably because we deal with blood, and shit and all the ugly sides of life fairly frequently. It became more festive after we didn’t have to worry about scaring the critter. And that is good, too–it helps to have an attitude of fun when one is doing a physically demanding, tiring job. It helps to have a good attitude.

    I do think that those who say that killing can never be humane are full of it. They just don’t know what they are talking about. They haven’t witnessed inhumane killing and humane killing to know the difference. I have.

    Ever seen a pack of wild dogs kill a flock of chickens–not to eat, but just to destroy? That is inhumane, right there–terrorizing the birds, and tearing them apart. In some slaughterhouses, the use of cattle prods and scare tactics in the yard, and allowing cows to see other cows die–or be strung up alive on the killing floor–that is cruel.

    There is a difference.

  • Julia O.

    Thanks for re-posting this from Offal Good. I’m guessing you have a larger audience than Chef Cosentino, and by the all-over-the-map comments, it’s clear that while many people care about the treatment of meat animals, there’s not much common language or consensus yet on how to change the current, inhumane industrial farming practices that dominate in our food supply. It shouldn’t be provocative, to show these photos, but it is, so again, thanks for risking the ire and idiocy and using your forum for a good cause. Chopping up raw meat for my allergic dog last year soon led to us (husband, not dog) eating fried pig ears at The Spotted Pig, and a more-active interest in humane meat & eating every inch of it. Two sides of the coin, it seems.

  • Tags

    Go to the head of the class, Barbara.

    Your eloquence is exceeded only by your good sense.

    You’ve immediately made it to my Top-Tier Blog pantheon.

  • Stephanie

    I asked a local grocery chain’s meat buyer if any of the stores carry meat that is certified humanely slaughtered. He explained that most meat producers do slaughter their cows in what is considered a humane fashion. It seems having cows as stress-free as possible is profitable. He said back when he was a meat cutter …like 20 years ago or so, there would be large hunks of meat that turned dark purple and and had to be discarded because it couldn’t be sold. This was caused by adrenaline the cow released because of how it was slaughtered. So, basically he claims that most meet you buy is humanely slaughtered, because it is in the producers best financial interests to do so.

    Now this doesn’t mean they are humanely raised or raised without hormones or anything…just that the slaughter itself if not usually stressful. Anybody else heard this? Do you buy it?

    Also, thanks for the Link to the Stephen Rinella piece. “The Scavenger’s Guide to Haute Cuisine” is such a great book, and really opened my eyes to my perceptions of where food comes from and made me realize that hunters probably care more about nature conservation than anybody.

  • Gabrielle

    I see Cosentino’s update, but someone needs to make clear that there is a HUGE difference between “slaughter” and “butchering”. If the killing cannot be shown, then we have no way to verify that it is in fact “humane”. It’s hard to imagine kind and considerate killing.

    Here, turn around, think happy thoughts while I take this knife to your throat. There, that didn’t hurt a bit, right?

    Whatever the technique, my problem with this entire post is that we are not seeing this “slaughter”, so call it what it is. It’s the butchering, and we all know how that happens: the animal is bled, the parts are removed, along with the hide which comes first. Sure, sure, we get that. Is there any food lover or cook who does not?

    But if you’re going to talk about a kind way to kill the animals, SHOW IT. It’s deceptive to pretend this is something it’s not.

  • Gabrielle

    For commenter Barbara Fisher: are you saying that the animal tied to two posts so it will not move is not in a state of panic? Is that a natural state, tied to posts to prevent movement?

    While it does sound more humane than modern industrial practices, it seems the only humane way to do the killing would be total surprise not entailing a forced static position prior. This could only be accomplished by an expert marksman, but hey, why not?

  • JoP in Omaha

    This is the moral dilemma I’ve been thinking about for the past year, since reading “The Soul of…” I don’t want to know or think about rabbits screaming when they die, as described by Keller. I don’t want to know or see how an animal is slaughtered. Whereas before I simply enjoyed the animal products I ate, after reading “Soul…” I’ve questioned whether I’m a hypocrite for eating animals when I don’t want to know the details about how they got to the form that I can purchase portions of them for consumption. Does the fact I don’t want to know mean I should go veg? I don’t know the answers, but I think about the question, and in the end, I’m saddened that I can’t arrive at an answer.

  • Vincent


    I’ve heard the “Adrenalized theory” from another peson some years back and I find it to be grade a bullshit. I do know that the last 6 to 12 weeks of the life of cattle have been of great debate over the past decade. Speaking with ranchers yesterday (after my previous post) I found some crazy stuff happens before cows go to market or vendors come to inspect cattle for purchase. I have the info on who I talked to if anyone would like it.

    The biggest debate he has had in the past years is the force feeding of the cattle in the last 4 to 6 weeks before market sale. It seems regardless of how the cattle are raised or kept, force feeding them in the last weeks of life raises the fat content tremendously – but in large veins instead of small amounts like it would naturally happen. It makes the beef taste odd – not like beef at all (the fat on a natural rib-eye cut (amongst others) should NOT have that huge boulder of fat in the middle – that is from force feeding the cow before sale and slaughter.

    Ever seen a Kobe rib-eye or other cut? The fat is distributed evenly throughout the meat due to proper feeding and (from what I am told) raising. The marbling effect is amazing in taste and texture.

    The initial post was great for me – it got me thinking about what I need to do and know for the upcoming time off – Thanks dude (MR).

    As for Consentino – I love that dude. I get home late at night and the (now) re-runs of “Cooking TV” (I think?!) is on the NBC affiliate around 2am here in Dallas.

  • ntsc

    “I’ve heard the “Adrenalized theory” from another peson some years back and I find it to be grade a bullshit. I do know that the last 6 to 12 weeks of the life of cattle have been of great debate over the past decade. Speaking with ranchers yesterday (after my previous post) I found some crazy stuff happens before cows go to market or vendors come to inspect cattle for purchase. I have the info on who I talked to if anyone would like it.”

    I have no idea if it is adrenalin or not, but I’ve read something similar about pig(?) slaughter in a food post recently. I think here, perhaps by the Penn. sausagemaker, del Grasso(?).

    I also have no idea of the truth, but it make sense that and upset animal will affect the meat.

    As to tieing an animal by it’s halter between two posts. That or similar is fairly common barnyard practice. I’ve seen it both with horses – Spanish Riding School, and dairy cattle being milked. Also a high school classmate did it with his 4H (or Future Farmer) project to groom his steer. At that time, and in that state, steers showed there had to be slaughtered after. Part of the process of becoming a farmer.

  • Bob delGrosso

    I work on a farm now and am surrounded by dairy cows and other animals. It’s all very sobering and not at all what I imagined before taking the conscious step to getting truly serious about cooking and devoting the next stage in my life to trying to make and serve food that I have mentored from “zygote” to plate.

    That said, I don’t much like Chris Cosentino’s web site. I’m sure he is a fine person and a great cook, but I feel that his blog comes too close to “fetishing” meat in a way that is disrespectful of the animals he butchers and cooks. The title page which shows him holding entrails seems obviously chosen for it’s gross-out effect. And “hairy balls?”

    I don’t know, maybe I’m just getting old, but there’s got a be a better way of putting across the idea I see in his work that the best way to honor the animals we use for food is to not waste anything.

    I’ve certainly been guilty of the same kind of presentation that I think I see in Chef Cosentino’s blog. It’s fun to be disgusting and scatological, and I think a lot of readers like that too.

    But when you contrast the sound of that kind of language with the reality on the ground of animals being sacrificed for food, it doesn’t feel right. I will allow that there is a lot on Chef Cosentino’s blog that does sound respectful so maybe I’m overstating my objections a bit.

    BTW I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how people in our culture festishize food. So many of you are really, really weird and have very, very strange -to me- ideas about food.

    We’ve got customers at the farm who only want organs, and who eat them raw because they believe doing so is going to do something for them.

    Many of the people who come for our raw milk seem to imbue the stuff with supernatural properties and drive great distances to be able to get it.

    Some people only want goat’s milk because they believe that cow’s milk is bad for them. They are all just as weird as the people who think that corn syrup or MSG are drugs that are responsible for whatever.

    My overall reaction to these people has been to want to shake them and say “Dudes, it’s just food.” But I know it won’t do any good.


  • allie

    so because I’m squeamish about watching an animal being butchered, I shouldn’t eat meat. I’m also squeamish about needles and surgery, so I guess I should avoid both of those. and lord knows I’m grossed out by vomit and feces, so I probably shouldn’t have children…

    of course, if I went to med school, I’d likely get over my needle issues pretty fast. and if I went to work on a farm, I’d probably get used to the sight of animals being butchered. it’s called desensitization, it’s not the moral high ground you’re making it out to be.

  • Randy

    Humane meat only makes sense. Why cause any more distress to another living thang than you have to? I have been told that the Australian kangaroo industry only processes adult animals that have lived their lives in the wild. I recently purchased and prepared some kangaroo and found it to be excellent and extraordinarily low in fat.
    This link talks about the reasons for trying roo along with two simple recipes that I developed. Plus a narrated slide show.
    I wonder if there is any evidence that game meat really is better for you.

  • Suzette

    For many years now, I’ve gotten all my meat from a local butcher. I live in New Glarus, Wisconsin, a tiny village (but well known for our beer). I buy all my chicken, beef, and pork from our local butcher, because I know he either (humanely) kills the animals himself (in the case of steer), or procures the pork and chicken from local farmers who have done the same. And, I must say his methods of curing ham and bacon are infintesimally better than what you’d get in your supermarket.

    In the case of beef, I buy half a steer every one to one and a half years, from a local guy who raises Texas longhorns here in southern Wisconsin. I have it processed (and it is also killed) at my same local butcher’s. Not only do I know the animal had a good life (i.e. got to live with its mother, roam free, etc), I know it hasn’t been given hormones and other additives that supermarket meat has. In the end, I get PRIME beef, much better than I’d get at even the best steakhouse, for about $2.50 a pound after processing. And, it’s relatively guilt-free, since I know it had a good life and a fast execution. The meat lasts me at least a year, but I have two teenaged boys!

    I recommend to anyone looking for a source of locally raised beef, and a local processor. You’ll never regret it. Not only is it cheaper, and more humane, the quality is through the roof if the breed is good. Many producers will sell a quarter steer instead of a half, or you can always split your purchase with your friends or relatives. I will never buy beef from the supermarket again.

  • Vincent

    Nic Heckett – this is a direct quote from that study, one that was forwarded to me before I posted previously.

    “The simulated commercial handling group were mixed and transported for 2hr (80 km) and lairaged for 30 min. Simulated commercial handling increased plasma cortisol, plasma lactate, CPK and beta-endorphin. Muscle temperature measured in the m. longissimus dorsi (LD) at 45 min increased as did the ultimate pH in the m. adductor (AD). Overall eating quality was not affected.”

    Some color or “taint” to the meat was there in pigs – the same study was done in cows 6 months later with no results. Color only no taste or texture difference.

  • Claudia

    Barbara, thanks for your articulate and well-written post.

    BTW, in answer to one of the posts above, an animal tied to two posts is NOT necessarily going to feel blind panic. We cross-tie our horses (one lead from a loose halter going from the left side to the right post, and a second lead going from right to left) just to brush them or pick out their feet. (It’s a lot easier when you have a 1,200 animal who likes to dance around – in the very big, well-upholstered loose boxes, I might add.)

    For the more highly-strung horses who MIGHT have an anxiety/grooming issue, a handful of apple or carrot while brushing usually works. I could easily see Barbara’s family employing the same method with cattle, who are a LOT more phlegmatic than really high-strung Thoroughbreds. If an animal has never been cross-tied or seen a hammer gun (or other gun used for slaughter), it simply isn’t going to panic. The tying is ensure the animal is stock still so you can get the shot (or hammer) EXACTLY where you want it. Bang! Chewing cud one second, dead the next. People who ride horses (and, of course, love them), ABSOLUTELY do not want an animal to suffer if they have to euthanize it, but I can see the same technique and compassion being applied to other animals raised on a compassionate farm. Kudos, Barbara.

  • the pauper

    Abstraction is a good thing. Not having to know where things come from because of trust? Good thing. That is really why we have government regulations. This way you won’t have to worry about, say, whether your shoes were made with child labor or something like that. You can just focus on which shoes you prefer. Same with my food. I think the recommendation for squeamish folks to stop eating meat is just ridiculous. People should eat what they want based upon what they like to eat and maybe various health factors.

  • Nicholas Bergus

    I decided to be vegetarian for a while because I knew I couldn’t kill animals. I eat meat again and, last summer, spent time with butchers as they slaughtered cows, pigs and lambs. Now I’m trying to teach my daughter about the meat she eats. It’s not easy.

  • IdahoRocks

    Hey Bob dG, ditto for me. I agree with everything you’ve said. That being said, I think that part of what’s missing in this discussion is the idea of sustainability. Where I live, many people live on the animals and vegetables that they raise. Killing, slaughtering, hunting, canning, preserving, and so forth are a way of life. One cannot decide whether they can stomach the slaughter or not, if you want meat, then that’s the way it is.

  • ModernMaven

    I thought of this post last night as I was reading the NYT magazine article on sustainable practices. They addressed the issue of using antibiotics in livestock, pigs particularly, and how it is causing MRSA to occur in the farm populations of livestock. In turn, MRSA really only used to occur in hospitals and now we have community outbreaks. Scientists feel this is due to the use of antibiotics in the livestock and the meat we eat from them. The simple fact is that the thousands of pigs slaughterhouse model is NOT sustainable without pumping them full of this stuff and it is causing harm to those who consume them.

  • Samuel Fromartz

    I just asked Dan Barber about his beef policy – he says it ain’t true. He is serving beef but “it’s not on the menu everyday because of local supply and the challenges of buying the whole animal.”

    Small producers generally do not want to sell only steaks, because they represent only 20 percent of the animal. The rest is chuck (ie stew meat and hamburger) … so unless you’re serving a lot of meat loaf it’s problematic to buy and use the entire animal (and we’re not even getting into the offal.) That said, Dan does wonderful things with offal, at least of the pork variety.

  • Maya, C.V.T.

    I think this is wonderful from an animal rights perspective, but unfortunately there is still a significant impact on the environment and wildlife. Deforestation and the production of methane contribute significantly to global warming, especially in tropical countries.

    While wildlife are being crowded out by development, farmers are seeing wild animals hanging around their farms and sometimes going after livestock. Understandably, farmers often shoot or trap these animals to protect their livestock (and families!), thinking that the animal’s population is out of control, when in reality their numbers may be declining, but more of the wildlife are seen because their natural homes have been paved over by condos and Walmart. Runoff from these farms also pollute streams.

    I’d say the best choice is to cut down on meat consumption, buy local whenever possible, and to find out which livestock farmers follow eco-friendly policies.

  • Nathalie

    Thank you, Mr. Ruhlman.

    Nice follow up to our conversation, during your recent trip to Vancouver, about a local butcher specializing in the sale of organic meat products….Big subject this.

    It is good see our neighbours, to the South, share concerns for the distribution of a better product. I say better, because, at the end of the day, the taste and texture of organic product, let alone the approach to the killing floor, has no equal.

    That said, I recommend reading the Industrial, Chapter 1, of Michael Pollan’s book Omnivore’s Dilemma, to anyone with questions about cattle in most Western markets. Vivid.

    Further, a view of the recent documentary King Corn may shed yet more light.

    A particularly jarring statement above however, made my blood turn ice cold… ‘trust government policies’ to ensure the safety of what we consume? I wish I could count on that kind of blind trust. But I don’t.

    Instead, I find comfort in the efforts of countless people, across the globe, starting to point stern fingers at these problems and working hard to find sustainable, affordable solutions.

    As a professional cook, I have great sympathy for my colleagues facing the daily challenge of costs vrs. quality. I can only extend this to the home cook without, for the most part, the cost benefit of volume purchase (thumbs up to Suzette).

    It’s not going to be easy… but we owe it to ourselves to get this one right.

    Finally, SEGWAY: Just saw the No Reservations episode featuring a trip to your home town Mr. Ruhlman.

    It was wonderful to see, in context, the people and things I had only mental images of, Lola etc. from reading your books.

    Impressive pate you made there. As a result, I’m off to buy your book on Charcuterie 😛

    Keep the passion flowing.

  • sfchin


    Unfortunately the organic standards (at least those of the USDA National Organic Program) do not specify any particular method of slaughter as being organic or not. In general, the organic standard only pays lip service to humane treatment. It is much more concerned with what the animals are fed or medicated with. Organic is primarily concerned with the consumer, not the animal.


  • Maya, C.V.T.

    I would like to add to that: farmers have to pay good money for the “privellege” of being labeled as organic. From what I’ve been told, they must pay $1,000 a year to remain USDA certified. Just one more way the government is screwing U.S. citizens.

    Thanks to the Big Dig, our local bridges were in severe disrepair and on rte 5 in W. Mass one bridge was about to collapse and it was shut down very suddenly and stayed closed for the whole summer. As a result, our favorite farm stand went out of business.

    This guy was already at at disadvangage because instead of having the pretty “Certified Organic” label, he had to politely mumble, “no pesticides…” when he handed us our purchase. He couldn’t afford the certification, and lost his stand because of the bridge being closed all summer long. Thanks again, Mitt Romney!

    I say, buying local is still the best option. Always ask about eco-friendly and humane practices as well!

  • Nathalie


    thank you for your input. The so-called ‘organic’ designation shades of grey are, alas, relevant everywhere.

    However, I would like to disagree that ‘organic’ label does little to take the animal into consideration. The decision not to feed animals a smorgasborg of antibiotic drug, synthetic feed, corn and fat cannot help but enhance the quality of their life.

    As for the humane killing of animals, sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it? The people I have spoken to, who take such care in the rearing of these animals, care a great deal about this subject.

    At the end of the day, it all comes down an educated choice, the willingness to do some homework, sourcing organic, humane, and where possible local product, eating meat a little less often perhaps, and in the end, putting your money where your mouth is.

  • junglegirl

    By the time a person has been culturally removed from the need to kill an animal for food, they will have a multitude of other options to eat instead. The ‘slaughter’ makes people squeamish because it is an unecessary kill in the bigger picture of affluent western culture. Simple.

    Human meat is supposed to be the sweetest of all. Does it’s ‘delisciousness’ justify our eating it?