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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]

Joshua Applestone , Jessica Applestone , Alexandra Zissu
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 7 2011
There is a food revolution sweeping the nation, changing the way Americans think and eat, and meat is at the heart of it. The butcher has reemerged in American culture as an essential guide in avoiding the evils of industrial meat—which not only tastes bad, but is also bad for one’s health and for the environment. Joshua and Jessica Applestone, a former vegan and vegetarian, are trailblazers in this arena. They run Fleisher’s, an old-school butcher shop with a modern-day mission—sourcing and selling only grass-fed and organic meat. The Applestones’ return to the nearly lost tradition of the buying and nose-to-tail carving of whole animals—all humanely raised close to their shop in New York’s Hudson Valley—has helped to make them rising stars in the food world.
The Butcher’s Guide to Well-Raised Meat is a compendium of their firsthand knowledge. This unique book—a guide, memoir, manifesto, and reference in one—shares everything one needs to know about well-raised meat, including why pastured meats are so much better than conventional ones and how to perfectly butcher and cook them at home. Readers will learn which cut of steak to look for as an alternative to the popular hanger (of which each steer has only one), how to host a driveway pig roast, and even how to break down an entire lamb (or just butterfly the shoulder)—all with accompanying step-by-step photographs. Differences among breeds and ideal cooking methods for various cuts and offal are covered, and the Applestones’ decoding of misleading industry terminology and practices will help consumers make smarter, healthier purchases that can also help change what’s wrong with meat in America today.
Complete with color and black-and-white photographs, illustrations, and more than a dozen recipes, The Butcher’s Guide to Well-Raised Meat is the definitive guide to eating great meat—responsibly. 

Frequently Bought Together

The Butcher's Guide to Well-Raised Meat: How to Buy, Cut, and Cook Great Beef, Lamb, Pork, Poultry, and More + The Complete Book of Butchering, Smoking, Curing, and Sausage Making: How to Harvest Your Livestock & Wild Game + Whole Beast Butchery: The Complete Visual Guide to Beef, Lamb, and Pork
Price For All Three: CDN$ 68.34

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“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 

About the Author

JOSHUA and JESSICA APPLESTONE are the owners of Fleisher’s Grass-Fed and Organic Meats in Kingston, New York. Fleisher’s sells to some of the finest restaurants in New York City and the Hudson Valley and offers a butcher-training program. Their website is
ALEXANDRA ZISSU is a green living expert and author of The Conscious Kitchen and coauthor of Planet Home and The Complete Organic Pregnancy. Her website is 

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars for home meat lover, not for professionnal May 5 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
it's not in this book that you will learn well how to take apart an hole animal, but ther's a lot of trick about different way of cooking parts and also a lot of receipe for each beast.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommend Sept. 16 2012
excellent well written guide to meat, how to buy and cook it all properly. I recommend this item even for experienced cooks.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars bon outilbde formation Sept. 19 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Bien fait, ce livre se veux un bel outil de connaissances générales des viandes et de la boucherie.

Donc c est un bon achat.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.6 out of 5 stars  29 reviews
30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great story, great overview, not comprehensive Aug. 22 2011
By Corvidae - Published on
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. While I generally liked the easy, approachable tone of the main author, there were at least two or three points in the book where he used some unexpected sarcasm and lighthearted wording that confused the point he was trying to make (it sounds nitpicky, I know, but I am a science writer by profession so I spend quite a lot of time thinking about how to convey complex concepts as straightforward as possible while remaining accurate). Still, there are good discussions of the different cuts of meat and what they mean, best ways to cook one type of cut over another, some great recipe suggestions, and so on. The authors also won me over personally by discussing a few different breeds of each type of meat animal. I know from experience that people so are disconnected from where their food comes from that the idea that there are different *types* of cow makes people stare blankly. Also, everytime they made the case for keeping the fat in the meat or using fat for other cooking I mentally high-fived them.

Technical content aside, I think the book works well as a discussion of what factory farming actually looks like, from hoof to table, and how it is directly affecting our lives. I mean, you can see lists of statistics or even photos of large-scale farming operations, but for some reason it never quite struck me as hard as it did when the author of this book discussed seeing black, clogged, and diseased endocrine glands in the meat of factory-farmed pigs, and how the pasture-raised pigs don't look like that. This book really drove home the point to me that the way most Americans are getting their food these days is Wrong, so so Wrong. Wrong for the animals, wrong for the farmers and workers, and wrong for us the consumers.

In summary: a good book, good story, great summary of the field, but if you want more specific details or more depth on some of the topics you will probably have to branch out into other sources.

EDIT: I still recommend this book, but for those who read it and want something with more detail, or want to go straight to something with more detail, I recommend The River Cottage Meat Book
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delicious! June 14 2011
By H. Grove (errantdreams) - Published on
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. In each you'll learn about the issues particular to that animal, the various cuts of meat on an animal and where they're located (and how they can vary from butcher to butcher), why sustainability means that you should learn which cuts will do the same job as more trendy ones and consider buying those instead, recommended cooking methods for pretty much every part of the animal you can imagine (including offal), suggestions for things you might practice if you want to try your hand at butchering, and of course recipes. The authors convinced me to give pork another try, and I'm glad I did--I discovered that while I still prefer beef, well-raised and properly cooked pork has a noticeably better flavor than your average grocery store meat.

There's also plenty of information on their own background, "the art of butchery", and a number of techniques and tools (accompanied by drawings and a few photos, not to mention step-by-step instructions for storing, wrapping, brining, etc.). The text is written from Joshua's perspective, and his personality comes through clearly. This makes the text fun and interesting without detracting from its usefulness.

As always when I review a book with recipes in it, I made several of them. And oh, my. The flavors in here are delightful. The spice mix for the lamb meatballs looked like it would be too heavy on smoked paprika, yet the balance was perfect for the meat. The spice paste for a butterflied lamb leg made the meat taste divine: plenty of flavor, without covering up the natural goodness of the flesh. Without fail, the cooking methods and flavors in here delivered succulent, perfect food every time.

[NOTE: review book provided by publisher]
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, tho scattered. Know what it is & isn't before enjoying! Dec 29 2011
By Hoobie - Published on
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. For example, there is a discussion of a spectrum of chicken raising techniques from conventional (i.e. factory farm) to organic to completely pasture raised, and the considerations they had in choosing which they would sell in their store, including a steady supply, processing opportunities, distance of the chickens from their shop, and so on.

The information on butchering was wonderful. It was not intended to turn the audience into expert butchers, and in fact expresses strongly the reasonable limitations of home butchering. The instruction on butchering serves to help understand the processes, the multitudinous ways an animal can be carved to suit various tastes and purposes, and of course the value of the traditional butcher. There is also a wealth of information on terms like `organic,' `grass fed,' and `natural,' some of which have defined meanings and some of which are empty marketing slogans with no set meaning whatsoever. In addition there is discussion of how some terms like `organic' can be used deceptively.

That's what the book is. There are several things this book is not. It's not a cookbook, although it has some recipes. It's not a butcher's manual, although it has extensive information on cutting up meat. Despite what it says on the back cover it's really neither a memoir nor a manifesto, but it does tell stories from the authors' lives and endorse a strong viewpoint. It's not groundbreaking news reporting on the state of agriculture. And, it doesn't pretend to be any of these things. Instead it recommends books exploring the problems of modern agricultural practices, as well as books on butchering, cooking, and charcuterie (the making of prepared meat products like sausage - I had to look it up) to pick up where it leaves off.

Inasmuch as these aspects are in the book, they tie to other major themes and topics. So, for instance there is a recipe for cooking a butterflied chicken (essentially put in hot pan, press with heavy weights, flip, fry, finish in oven) that comes after the explanation of how to butterfly a chicken and arguing that chicken is one of the things the novice `butcher' can cut up easily at home. There are recipes on using beef shanks (make chili) and tongue (make tacos) and marrow bones (make a make-shift roasting rack) and other wrongfully neglected cuts of meat, which tie to the theme of sustainable agriculture and using all (most) parts of an animal, which in turn ties to the information on the craft of butchery. There are recipes for a spice rub and a sausage they use in their shop, which ties into the book's practical approach. One nice aspect of the book is how all these different aspects augment and inform each other in these ways. As a final example, the information on terms like `organic' mentioned above leads to a (small) section on questions to ask one's own butcher / farmer / farmer's market seller, and again ties back to the memoir aspect of their personal experiences starting out.

That said, other than the info on butchering - for which it is well worth reading the book - there isn't much new or revolutionary here. If you are well versed in the `new agriculture' movement - e.g. Food, Inc., King Corn, or the works Mike Pollan (The Omnivore's Dilemma), Mark Bitman (Food Matters), Roger Doiron (at Roger Doiron dot com) and many others - there won't be much new here for you. (If you're not familiar, I suggest you look at these last three authors' TED talks on TED dot com for nice, succinct introductions). And the recipes are for the most part simple and straightforward; good but they probably won't wow you. For example, as a cook who seldom follows recipes exactly, I looked at the much-touted spice rub recipe and thought, `yeah, that's about what I'd expect. not much pepper for that much oregano. huh.' Another Amazon reviewer exclaimed in anguish about the large amount of spices in the sausage recipe, but the authors did point out their preference for highly spices sausage in the text, and again the practical aspect - this is what they are making (and selling lots of) in the shop.

With all this goodness, there is still room for some critique. Where I am in Iowa, I have ready access to good organic, humanely treated, grass fed beef and pork by way of local buying clubs, CSAs, direct purchases from farmers, and at least some local supermarkets (e.g. the New Pioneer Coop in Iowa City). I have no doubt that the butchery described in the book exceeds what I can get around here, and I bet that if Fleisher's was nearby I'd shop there. Maybe my sustainable meat situation is better than other folks' and maybe I've taken more time to educate myself to my options, but I'm not sure the quality meat access situation is as dire as the book presents. At least, I'd like more discussion of the differences between Fleisher's full-service shop and the some-service meat departments dealing in good meats.

Next, although Jessica is given co-author credit, she barely exists as a character in the book, and her voice exists not at all. The book is written in a strong first person that one assumes to be Joshua, but at the same time I wonder how much that is Alexandra Zissu, the ghostwriter. This ties to one of my critiques: that after reading the whole thing, I don't have a very robust picture of who these people are. After an intriguing introduction and backstory the book drops all pretense to memoir in the later chapters which seems somewhat incongruous given the tale-of-hardship narrative early on that (on presumes) is resolved in the years the butcher shop has been profitable. Yes, I've argued to take this book for what it is and it's not a memoir... so why am I complaining? Partly because the memoir section is what drew me in, but then it was dropped. Partly because the book doesn't really have a center; it goes too many places but stays for too short a time and I think the memoir aspect could have held it all together better.

The same lack of follow-up could be said for the butcher shop itself - I never really get a feeling for what it's like there. After much talk of the display cases, for instance, there isn't a picture of them, or the rotisserie chicken either. They talk of sustainable jobs... but how many folks work at the shop. They categorize their customers in very broad strokes, but only tease with details or perspectives from any of them. They hint at their role in the community, but don't define what that is. And so on.

Like I said at the beginning, my concerns are largely of the ephemeral variety. I recommend this book highly so long as the reader knows what it is and what it doesn't pretend to be.

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars if you eat (anything) you must read this book! June 7 2011
By JoJoStar - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I am lucky enough to be able to shop at Josh and Jessica's shop, and after reading this important book I realise that I am privleged. If you care at all about the food you eat and where it comes from this is a must read. Informative, funny and most importantly, honest. We should all care as much about the inside of our body as we do the outside. This will be a classic.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A True Guide for Those Who Care What They Eat Aug. 2 2011
By Robert R. Perry - Published on
I highly recommend it this book to anyone who is interested in eating better meat but confused by all the terms and is wary of green washing. It is well written for the average consumer, precise but not too technical. As someone who teaches this subject to college undgrads I find it a pleasure to read and will recommend it to all my students.
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