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Portrait of a Burger as a Young Calf: The…

Portrait of a Burger as a Young Calf: The Story of One Man, Two Cows, and… (edition 2002)

by Peter Lovenheim

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Title:Portrait of a Burger as a Young Calf: The Story of One Man, Two Cows, and the Feeding of a Nation
Authors:Peter Lovenheim
Info:Crown (2002), Edition: 1ST, Hardcover, 288 pages
Collections:Your library, Environment
Tags:environment, agriculture, food, animals

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Portrait of a Burger as a Young Calf: The Story of One Man, Two Cows, and the Feeding of a Nation by Peter Lovenheim



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The author decides to follow a calf through the meat process, 'from conception to consumption". He starts by watching a bull be "collected", and the the cow inseminated, and ends with the slaughterhouse. In the meantime, over a two year period, the author struggles with moral and ethical dilemmas, gets to know people in the business, and finds out a lot more than perhaps he bargained for. Overall, a good solid book and easy to read, but the author violates one of the cardinal rules of journalism - he gets involved with the people he's writing about. He understand this, obviously, because he mentions several times how wrong it is of him to get involved with the calves he has bought, but he doesn't seem to spot that his objectivity might be a bit impaired by his friendship with the humans. He also has the unfortunate habit of looking at the world a bit more simplistically than is ideal, while thinking he's looking at it realistically. He commits what I consider a major (and potentially) dangerous blunder of naivete, when he talks with a ruthless, high-powered business man and when he realizes the guy has a picture of his grandkid on his desk, suddenly assumes he must be a nice guy because he has grandkids. For some reason, we've gotten into the unfortunate habit in this country of thinking that ruthless, heartless businessmen will also be friendless, loveless Scrooges or Mr. Potters. This also has the unfortunate side affect of rendering the shy loner a scary individual, when nothing may be further from the truth. He also deals with his subject way too superficially; he raises a lot of issues, but misses the real question on many of them, such as the use of bovine growth hormone in milk cows, and he totally drops the ball in the routine use of antibiotics in cow feed. This could be because he doesn't consult any biologists other than a farm vet, and he doesn't consult any books except industry written and sponsored books. As a result, he has written a book that, rather than being an expose or a solid non-fiction book, is only rendered grittier than Charlotte's Web by the descriptions of some fairly brutal practices. These he assumes must be done because the people doing them say they are necessary. This weakens the book considerably, as there is absolutely no discussion of environmental issues or even really human health issues, and the animal health issues are dealt with only superficially. He does come to a conclusion that is biologically accurate in reference to whether humans need to eat meat, but there were some encounters through the course of it that just left me cold. In addition, his continual insistence on how hard the farmers work (something I don't doubt, since I was raised on a farm myself, and my grandfather was a dairy farmer) often came off sounding like an accusation that the rest of the world doesn't work. That is not true, and many of his assumptions for that reason sound extremely insulting. Overall, a decent introduction to the meat industry for people who don't want to have to work too hard, but there are much better sources out there. ( )
  Devil_llama | Nov 24, 2012 |
A journalist decides to follow an animal from conception to consumption to learn more about how living animals become our food.Lovenheim learns about the animals, technology, and people involved in each step. He observes the life of cattle at a dairy farm and buys two calves to be boarded with other calves being raised for beef. While Lovenheim strives not to interfere with the process, he does attempt to change his calves' diet and ultimately does not slaughter his calves. Still, he observes a calf from the same herd killed and butchered at a custom slaughter house, so the observation is complete. Further completing the work is Lovenheim's moral and ethical considerations about the process and eating meat in general. He also conveys much respect for the work of the agricultural laborers he interacts with. Lovenheim's observations, from artificial insemination to custom slaughterhouse, can teach many of us about the process, even those of us who grew up on farms. ( )
  MissyAnn | Sep 14, 2009 |
This was a very good book, very easy to read, a good story and educational. I love agriculture and I learned a lot about the dairy industry from this book. It wasn't always easy to read, but I thought Lovenheim did quite a good job of writing his story "unemotionally," even though it seemed mostly clear that he didn't really like what he was seeing a lot of the time. Overall, he did a good job of not interfering in the conception to consumption process. ( )
  jopearson56 | Jan 21, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0609805444, Paperback)

Four years ago, journalist Peter Lovenheim was standing in a long line at McDonald’s to buy a Happy Meal for his little daughter, which would come with a much-desired Teenie Beanie Baby—either a black-and-white cow named “Daisy” or an adorable red bull named “Snort.” Finding it rather strange that young children were being offered cuddly toy cows one minute and eating the grilled remains of real ones the next, Lovenheim suddenly saw clearly the great disconnect between what we eat and our knowledge of where it comes from. Determined to understand the process by which living animals become food, Lovenheim did the only thing he could think of: He bought a calf—make that twin calves, number 7 and number 8—from the dairy farm where they were born and asked for permission to spend as much time as necessary hanging around and observing everything that happened in the lives of these farm animals.

Portrait of a Burger as a Young Calf is the provocative true story of Peter Lovenheim’s hands-on journey into the dairy and beef industries as he follows his calves from conception to possible consumption. In the process, he gets to know the good, hard-working people who raise our cattle and make milk products, beef, and veal available to consumers like you and me. He supplies us with a “fly on the wall” view of how these animals are used to put food on America’s very abundant tables.

Constantly vigilant about wanting to be an observer who never interferes, Lovenheim allows the reader to see every aspect of a cow’s life, without passing judgment. Reading this book will forever change the way you think about food and the people and animals who provide it for us.

From the Hardcover edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:11 -0400)

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