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The Butcher's Guide to Well-Raised Meat: How to Buy, Cut, and Cook Great Beef, Lamb, Pork, Poultry, and More Hardcover – June 7, 2011

4.6 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

A Q&A with Authors Q&A with Joshua and Jessica Applestone

What inspired you to write this book?
Josh: My goal is for the book to act as a guide and to help people ease their minds when buying and cooking meat. We don’t encourage people to eat more meat but we want them to have the freedom to make informed choices and eat better meat.

Jessica: I like the idea of busting myths like those surrounding wet aging, portion sizes and the idea that organic HAS to be expensive.

How would you describe what you do?
We run an old-fashioned butcher shop offering meat sourced locally, free of hormones or antibiotics, and full of real farm flavor.

You were both vegetarians, what caused you to become omnivores?
Josh: After about 6months of running Fleisher’s it was our bacon that put me back on a meat eating track. My vegan/vegetarianism was an out growth of my beliefs about how horrible the factory-farmed meat industry is. Once I really knew where my meat was coming from and how these animals were treated and slaughtered I could feel comfortable eating meat again.

Jessica: I wanted to start eating meat again--just not the stuff that supermarkets were selling, and it was too much for me to buy a side of beef. Farmer’s Markets were only open in the summer so it was out of my own desires that we opened Fleisher’s so that I could get one perfect fresh lamb chop and the butcher could tell me how to cook it.

Favorite cut of meat?
Josh: Faux Hanger/Sirloin Flap

Jessica: Lamb Sirloin

Most under-rated cut?
Josh: Teres Major

Jessica: Lamb neck

Favorite preparation:
Josh: Raw

Jessica: Cooked

Favorite recipe in the book:
Josh: Pig Cheeks

Jessica: The Perfect Steak

What is your favorite type of customer/reader?
Joshua: a smart one

Jessica: an intrepid cook

A knife should...
Josh: Cut, hold an edge and be easy to sharpen with a hand steel and be comfortable in your hand in a number of different positions.

Jessica: Not be too expensive and NEVER be put in the dishwasher.

Favorite ingredient aside from meat:
Josh: Salt

Jessica: Garlic

Favorite side dish:
Josh: Potatoes any style as long as there’s salt involved

Jessica: Noodles--pasta any type, any kind, any ethnicity--Obviously we are both carb freaks though we usually eat salad as a side dish.

Best offal:
Josh: Heart

Jessica: Sweetbreads

The best part of a pig is...
Josh: the cheeks

Jessica: the belly

A hamburger should...
Josh: be fatty and rare

Jessica: and covered in cheese (Jessica)

You can never have too many...
Josh: loyal customers

Jessica: Turkeys at Thanksgiving

The thing most people don’t realize is...
Josh: The amount of hanger steak per animal is only one.

Jessica: that dry-aging is a form of controlled rot and that even “natural” nitrites like sea salt and celery juice are still nitrites.


“By learning about meat and where it comes from, we become more competent and responsible cooks and carnivores. In this tribute to farmers and animals, the Applestones and Ms. Zissu have put together a compelling guide to local and sustainable meat and poultry. In an honest, irreverent, and funny primer, we learn which are the best cuts for a given dish, how to cook (and serve) a perfect steak, and what to expect when buying a turkey. This charming and informative reference is sure to influence irreversibly the way we buy, prepare, and appreciate meat.”
--James Peterson, author of Meat and Cooking

“If you like eating meat but want to eat ethically, this is the book for you. From the hard-headed, clear-eyed, and sympathetic perspective of butchers who care deeply about the animals whose parts they sell, the customers who buy their meats, and the pleasures of eating, this book has much to teach. It’s an instant classic, making it clear why meat is part of the food revolution. I see it as the new Bible of meat aficionados and worth reading by all food lovers, meat-eating and not.”
--Marion Nestle, Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health, NYU, and author of What to Eat 

“I love the way The Butcher's Guide to Well-Raised Meat explains the world of meat in straightforward, no-nonsense language by folks who learned from trial and error. It is great to see a perspective from butchers selling meat raised in a non-industrial manner. It is clear that the Applestones are folks who care about how the animals are raised for the meat they sell and are willing to explain why doing so is very important to them. There are hard-to-find recipes for making your own prosciutto, bacon, and bresaola.” 
--Bruce Aidells, author of The Complete Meat Cookbook

“…clear, useful instruction on dealing with cuts of beef, lamb, pork, and poultry, interesting meditations on sustainable dining, and a dozen or so recipes thrown in for good measure.”
--Publishers Weekly 

“The new bible for conscious carnivores.” – Bon Appétit 


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Clarkson Potter; First Edition edition (June 7, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307716627
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307716620
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #390,970 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I recently switched my diet and lifestyle to "paleo" (lots of meats, veggies, good fats; no grains or processed sugars). Paleo highly, highly, highly encourages eating locally raised, grass-fed meats, which I have started easing myself into. However, I have found myself coming across the stumbling block of not knowing what to *do* with all these fancy (and expensive) cuts of meat, as well as not really understanding the differences between them. I started thinking that I needed to take a class or something so someone could sit me down and tell me all the things my parents never taught me (or apparently knew) about meat and how to understand it. Then, out of the blue, a friend of mine recommended this book to me and I figured this was exactly the sort of thing I was looking for

Although I was looking for technical information, I highly enjoyed the discussion and anecdotes about the owners' journey and learning curve. There are little glimpses of their love and dedication to their work (and each other) scattered throughout the book that make it very pleasurable to just read-through. There are also beautiful pictures (photos and pencil illustrations) that really help hammer home the point that working with such good quality meat is as much art as it is necessity.

In terms of the actual information, the book is definitely just an overview. I got the sense that the owners sat down and made a list of all these random tips and tidbits they wanted to convey, and somehow edited them together into a book. These tips and tidbits are useful, don't get me wrong, but except for some large chunks, there wasn't a good sense of organization and flow.
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Format: Hardcover
The Butcher's Guide to Well-Raised Meat: How to Buy, Cut, and Cook Great Beef, Lamb, Pork, Poultry, and More is by Joshua and Jessica Applestone (owners of Fleisher's Grass-Fed & Organic Meats) and Alexandra Zissu. Since doggedly making their sustainable butcher's shop work against all odds, the Applestones have helped teach others to make it work for themselves as well. And whether you're looking to get into the butchering business or simply want to know how to prepare, cook, choose, and eat good meat at home, this book does a fantastic job of providing truly useful (and delicious!) information.

Although the information on sourcing well-raised animals might be important primarily to the butchers themselves, I learned an awful lot as a consumer. Hands-on information makes it much easier to understand why it can be important to buy good-quality meats. I really like knowing the practical, factual information on how the various practices of animal raising affect both the quality of the meat and the quality of life for the animal. All of that is included in here, in very concrete terms. Some of the information provided can make it easier for you to recognize good quality meats at the store or butcher's shop, and the Applestones are happy to tell you what questions to ask your butcher as well. There's even an explanation of various terms you'll find on labels, and what they mean--or DON'T mean.

Each type of meat gets its own section--beef, lamb, pork, poultry.
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Format: Hardcover
I debated with myself between a 5 and a 4 star rating, deciding on 5 because while it's not a perfect book, my dissatisfactions are fairly abstract - voice, structure, intended audience - and this is in itself a very practical book. To understand what I don't here like requires first understanding what this book is - and isn't - and it's probably easiest to explain that by way of what I do like.

Written by Joshua and Jessica Applestone, proprietors of Fleisher's Grass-Fed and Organic Meats (a butcher shop in Kingston, NY), with help from Alexandra Zissu, the book itself is divided into several sections, including a memoir-ish opening, a butchering and agriculture background section. Following is a section each on aspects of raising and butchering lamb, pork, beef, and poultry. Each of these sections has some basic info on the animal including cute pictures and nice descriptions of heritage breeds, what to think about when buying it and how one might go about cutting it up. The book winds down with sections on sourcing meat and listings of resources. Each of these sections had enough information for me, more than a brief introduction but not so exhaustive that I felt overwhelmed.

Reading the book, there are lots of things to like, including an easy-reading style, ample humor, consistent vitriolic condemnation of factory-farming techniques, and good illustrations and photography. Beyond this, the book addresses several themes, including the history and current state of traditional agriculture, the (lost) art and science of butchery, and sustainable agriculture emphasizing meat production but also the place for humans in the food chain, e.g. sustainable jobs. All this is approached from the very practical position of butcher shop owners trying to make a living.
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