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Raising Steaks: The Life and Times of American Beef Paperback – October 6, 2008

3.4 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Fussell (My Kitchen Wars; The Story of Corn) follows beefsteaks from cattle pens in 17th-century Manhattan to Brooklyn's Peter Luger Steak House today. On her visits to an independent Vermont butcher, ranching couples in Colorado and Oregon and feedlot owners in Kansas, Fussell critiques the polemical meat writing of Michael Pollan and the mythology of a rare, bloodied he-man food by giving an evenhanded look at the many sides of beef. One visit with Temple Grandin explores the work of the outsider cattle researcher who wants to foster a cow's-eye view of animal husbandry; similarly, Fussell's research into the lives of the men—and, particularly, the women—who raise and research cattle presents a human-eye view of an industry riddled with impersonal jargon and machismo. Fussell also participates in grading and weighing cuts of beef, attending an industry conference and even dressing in a pair of heels to play a part as a rodeo cowgirl. The breadth of her observations is impressive—from congressional decisions to simplified anecdotes from the voyage of Lewis and Clark and quotes from Woody Allen—but such details might become tedious for casual readers. Illus., with recipes. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

American steaks pretty well establish the world standard for flavor, tenderness, and especially size. And the blandishments of the nutrition police have little impact on the nation’s crowded steakhouses. Fussell, an unabashed carnivore, sets out across America to assess the current state of the nation’s beef industry. She surveys Texas’ open ranges, talking to ranchers and cowboys, ending up at the vast King Ranch with its untold thousands of steers. There she participates in the branding ritual. In Montana she investigates contemporary buffalo herds challenging beef’s red-meat hegemony. Working in a slaughterhouse provides Fussell intimacy with the fearsome process of dispatching and deconstructing beasts into the sanitized pieces American consumers find in supermarket cases. Recipes for steaks and accompaniments illustrate the many ethnic traditions that come together in American cooking. Less harsh and judgmental than many critics, Fussell worries most about the dangers of the beef industry’s sheer immensity. --Mark Knoblauch
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (October 6, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151012024
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151012022
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,495,149 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book had great possibilities. The minor mistakes made me wonder if there were major mistakes. For example, the Mississippi River is not located near the 100th Meridian, they are GRAMA grasses, not gamma grasses, cattle do not eat yucca, under any circumstances, except for the seedstalk, Ted Turner's ranch is the Vermejo, not the Vermigo, Border Patrol vehicles are green and white, not blue and white. After reading these obvious errors in the first hundred pages or so, I gave up on the whole book. The author should stick to writing cookbooks. I saw she wrote the story of corn, but after the mistakes in this book, I'm not even going to look at the corn one. If an author travels across the country gathering information, presumably on an expense account, I think they owe it to the reader to get it right! I hate sloppiness!
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Format: Paperback
I'm with the one star reviewers on this book. It is poorly researched and filled with errors and inaccuracies. If those things don't bother you, then you will probably enjoy the book, but if you are looking for a book that is well written and well researched you will need to continue on.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The steak is an iconic part of American food history that developed as the country grew. Originally a staple of the rich on the East Coast and of ranchers in the West, the steak has grown from a food eaten only by certain groups into the meat of choice for millions of Americans. This book exams, in detail, how the steak is raised from a baby veal and becomes prime porterhouse.

Starting with ranchers in the western states of Colorado, Oregon and Texas the author examines different methods of raising the beef. Cattle can be raised a number of ways, from purely grass fed to grain fed. There are also different methods of ranching from ranchers that raise the beef all the way through slaughter to those that raise each animal through only a part of the process. All are looked at and discussed in detail, along with the various problems associated with each method.

From the ranchers, the author moves on to the feedlot/slaughter operations. From small country butcher to the Big 4 animal processing companies, again, the author examines each step and the problems associated with each. She gives relatively equal time to all factions, of whom there are many, and examines food safety in detail. The section on mad cow disease was amazing, and I will never buy generic beef again. If you are weak of stomach, I recommend skipping the chapters on slaughter and food safety issues. They may cause you to become a vegetarian...that is until you realize that beef by products are everywhere.

The book finishes with a number or recipes for cooking steak, although, as the author points out, there is really only one true way to cook a good steak. High heat on a grill!

I recommend this book to all who have an interest in the food they eat and how it comes to be. It may very well change how you perceive that slab of beef the next time you eat. In my case, the book reinforced my belief in buying premium beef from a known source!
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Format: Paperback
as always, betty fussell has produced another "keeper" for my food book/cookbook shelf. literate, comfortable to read, and incisive, this book gives not only a comprehensive background to the american love affair with beef, but also a realistic and humanistic look into the economic and ethical questions that every omnivore must ask about industrial food production in the 21st century. a terrific bibliography (including numerous trade journals) anchors the book. you won't buy this book for just the recipes, but the few that are included are tidy and illustrative, and she remembers to include a soupcon of cognac in the steak tartare!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Another great book by a wonderful food writer. You may never eat steak again!
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Format: Paperback
After you read "Mad Cowboy" or "No More Bull", read this book to get an idea of the view from the other side.

Well-written and researched.
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