The Butcher And The Vegetarian: One Woman’s Romp Through a World of Men, Meat, and Moral Crisis

by Debbie Stoller

What do you do when you’ve been raised as a vegetarian but are told as an adult, by a doctor, that the only way left to treat your persistent, debilitating exhaustion is to eat meat?

When faced with this dilemma, Tara Austen Weaver decided that, if she were to eat meat, she would do it conscientiously. This book covers her explorations into the world of carnivorism, starting with her first, nervous trip to the local butcher shop-where, like a priest in a porn store, she buys chicken bits for stock quickly and with her head down-and culminating in a visit to sustainable, organic Prather Ranch in Northern California, where Weaver watches a cow being slaughtered. She seeks meat that was raised humanely and with respect for environmental issues. She also, of course, wants to make herself feel better. Deliciously.

Weaver skillfully depicts the barbecues and farms that she visits in the name of research, but her storytelling meanders a bit and repeats itself. She’s an award-winning blogger, and it shows: chapters read like posts, where none is reliant on the one before it. This is a skill, for sure, but in book form, it creates a narrative whose timeline gets tangled and has many “Can you believe this? ME eating MEAT?!” moments. She poses interesting larger-scale questions-is meat the territory of men? Will Americans’ unhealthy meat consumption and farming practices continue despite experts’ warnings?-and illuminates conscientious participation in one’s own diet. And, after a hearty foray into the pleasures of the flesh (and flank, and marrow, and skirt steak), Weaver finds an unexpected balance that revitalizes her health and matches her values.

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