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Unlike other barnyard animals, which pull plows, give eggs or milk, or grow wool, a pig produces only one thing: meat. Incredibly efficient at converting almost any organic matter into nourishing, delectable protein, swine are nothing short of a gastronomic godsend—yet their flesh is banned in many cultures, and the animals themselves are maligned as filthy, lazy brutes. As Unlike other barnyard animals, which pull plows, give eggs or milk, or grow wool, a pig produces only one thing: meat. Incredibly efficient at converting almost any organic matter into nourishing, delectable protein, swine are nothing short of a gastronomic godsend—yet their flesh is banned in many cultures, and the animals themselves are maligned as filthy, lazy brutes. As historian Mark Essig reveals in Lesser Beasts, swine have such a bad reputation for precisely the same reasons they are so valuable as a source of food: they are intelligent, self-sufficient, and omnivorous. What’s more, he argues, we ignore our historic partnership with these astonishing animals at our peril. Tracing the interplay of pig biology and human culture from Neolithic villages 10,000 years ago to modern industrial farms, Essig blends culinary and natural history to demonstrate the vast importance of the pig and the tragedy of its modern treatment at the hands of humans. Pork, Essig explains, has long been a staple of the human diet, prized in societies from Ancient Rome to dynastic China to the contemporary American South. Yet pigs’ ability to track down and eat a wide range of substances (some of them distinctly unpalatable to humans) and convert them into edible meat has also led people throughout history to demonize the entire species as craven and unclean. Today’s unconscionable system of factory farming, Essig explains, is only the latest instance of humans taking pigs for granted, and the most recent evidence of how both pigs and people suffer when our symbiotic relationship falls out of balance. An expansive, illuminating history of one of our most vital yet unsung food animals, Lesser Beasts turns a spotlight on the humble creature that, perhaps more than any other, has been a mainstay of civilization since its very beginnings—whether we like it or not.


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Unlike other barnyard animals, which pull plows, give eggs or milk, or grow wool, a pig produces only one thing: meat. Incredibly efficient at converting almost any organic matter into nourishing, delectable protein, swine are nothing short of a gastronomic godsend—yet their flesh is banned in many cultures, and the animals themselves are maligned as filthy, lazy brutes. As Unlike other barnyard animals, which pull plows, give eggs or milk, or grow wool, a pig produces only one thing: meat. Incredibly efficient at converting almost any organic matter into nourishing, delectable protein, swine are nothing short of a gastronomic godsend—yet their flesh is banned in many cultures, and the animals themselves are maligned as filthy, lazy brutes. As historian Mark Essig reveals in Lesser Beasts, swine have such a bad reputation for precisely the same reasons they are so valuable as a source of food: they are intelligent, self-sufficient, and omnivorous. What’s more, he argues, we ignore our historic partnership with these astonishing animals at our peril. Tracing the interplay of pig biology and human culture from Neolithic villages 10,000 years ago to modern industrial farms, Essig blends culinary and natural history to demonstrate the vast importance of the pig and the tragedy of its modern treatment at the hands of humans. Pork, Essig explains, has long been a staple of the human diet, prized in societies from Ancient Rome to dynastic China to the contemporary American South. Yet pigs’ ability to track down and eat a wide range of substances (some of them distinctly unpalatable to humans) and convert them into edible meat has also led people throughout history to demonize the entire species as craven and unclean. Today’s unconscionable system of factory farming, Essig explains, is only the latest instance of humans taking pigs for granted, and the most recent evidence of how both pigs and people suffer when our symbiotic relationship falls out of balance. An expansive, illuminating history of one of our most vital yet unsung food animals, Lesser Beasts turns a spotlight on the humble creature that, perhaps more than any other, has been a mainstay of civilization since its very beginnings—whether we like it or not.

30 review for Lesser Beasts: A Snout-to-Tail History of the Humble Pig

  1. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    Homer: Are you saying you’re never going to eat any animal again? What about bacon? Lisa: No. Homer: Ham? Lisa: No. Homer: Pork chops? Lisa: Dad, those all come from the same animal. Homer: Yeah, right, Lisa. A wonderful, magical animal. - from The Simpsons, Season Seven, Episode Five, “Lisa the Vegetarian” (1995) “The 10,000-year history of the domestic pig is a tale of both love and loathing. A prodigious producer of meat – chubby bulwark against human malnutrition, centerpiece of medieval feasting Homer: Are you saying you’re never going to eat any animal again? What about bacon? Lisa: No. Homer: Ham? Lisa: No. Homer: Pork chops? Lisa: Dad, those all come from the same animal. Homer: Yeah, right, Lisa. A wonderful, magical animal. - from The Simpsons, Season Seven, Episode Five, “Lisa the Vegetarian” (1995) “The 10,000-year history of the domestic pig is a tale of both love and loathing. A prodigious producer of meat – chubby bulwark against human malnutrition, centerpiece of medieval feasting and southern barbeque, precious mother-source of bacon – the pig has just as often met with contempt. For thousands of years, many people have either refused pork entirely or approached it with extreme caution…” - Mark Essig, Lesser Beasts: A Snout-to-Tail History of the Humble Pig I don’t want to hog any of your time, sow I’ll keep this as short as possible, without hamming it up: Mark Essig’s Lesser Beasts is all about pigs. It follows the humble, much-maligned, oft-deprecated Sus scrofa from Neolithic times to today, tracing the rise and fall and rise of a versatile, clever, and delicious animal. Even if you do not eat pigs for religious, dietary, or taste reasons, this is a fascinating book. Lesser Beasts is a species of the literary genre known as the micro history that – like books before it on cod, milk, paper, and salt – gives a fast-paced survey of the entire existence of a single thing, and how that thing has affected the world around it. Focusing in this case on the pig, Essig begins in the Neolithic Era and ends less than three-hundred pages later in the present day. A work of synthesis rather than primary research, and an artifact of popular history rather than of the academic variety, Lesser Beasts is a book that is just plain fun. In terms of pacing, it starts at a sprint and does not let up, gleefully hopping from one topic to the next. On one page you have pigs being fed to the workers building the pyramids; on the next, you are learning about some of the heart-attack-inducing ways that the gluttonous Romans prepared their pork. You hear about the journey of pigs around the world, and how they were elevated or despised in certain cultures, and by certain religions. In some places, they were the animal of choice for elites, while in others, their mud-wallowing, garbage-chewing ways gave them a low reputation, which is a reputation they maintain to this day. For example, if anyone compares you to a pig – comparisons made on many a grade-school playground – you can rest assured you are being insulted. Essig writes with a lively, engaging prose that is informative, sharp, and witty. When discussing the cutthroat intelligence of pigs – which as Orwell’s Animal Farm observes, is pretty high – he notes: [P]igs are fractious, independent minded, and difficult to herd. Given the chance, they’ll happily turn the tables and make a meal of a person. There’s nothing humble about that…Compared to cows and sheep, pigs are arrogant bastards. “There’s always a certain tension about a bunch of pigs walking around,” a twentieth-century hog farmer said. “You never know when they’re gonna flare up – start bitin’ off another one’s ear or something. You just don’t get the calm, peaceful feeling like when you see a herd of sheep.” His statement reveals frustration but also admiration. It’s the voice of a father who loves best his worst-behaved child, who knows that docility is close kin to stupidity, who sees in his hogs a bit of himself… Essig also provides plenty of easily digestible factoids about oinkers that you may or may not want to share while slicing the honey-glazed ham at Christmas. The most mesmerizing, in my opinion, is the pig’s ability to act as a walking trash compactor, a Midas-like creature turning waste into food: Pigs eat shit. In many villages around the world today, pigs linger around peoples’ usual defecation spots awaiting a meal. Some English pigs in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries had the same habit. In China, archaeologists discovered a terra cotta sculpture, dating to about 200 AD, showing a pig in a sty, with a round, roofed building just above it. The structure was originally identified as a grain silo for storing pig feed, but the model in fact depicted a combination pigsty-outhouse: people sat on an elevated perch and made deposits to the hungry pig below… This is both interesting and gross, and definitely got my kids’ attention when I shared it at breakfast the other day. Other parts of Lesser Beasts are a bit more serious. Indeed, the book ends with a rather extended sequence on factory farming, that is handled with a deft touch. Without reverting to humorless pedantry, Essig does a good job laying out the ethical shortcuts that are taken to achieve economies of scale. I have a tendency to tune out food scolds, since such scolding typically comes from a place of unthinking class privilege. That is, it’s incredibly easy to advocate for more humane, more expensive food, when you can easily afford that moral surcharge. Essig, though, handles this topic with equanimity. *** The one shame of Lesser Beasts is that it ends on this down note. That’s because pigs – for me at least – generally make me pretty happy. It is a walking buffet. For many years, I worked as a public defender, which is a long-hours, low-pay, extremely high-stress job, that did terrible things to my hairline and liver. One of the upsides, though, was a yearly “Pork Off” held by people in the office, in which we’d purchase a pig, roast it, and spend a day eating and drinking like we were the kings and queens of all creation. We even made t-shirts. I’m wearing one of them now. As such, I have come to equate the pig with a certain kind of joy. One of my happy-triggers is the hunger-inducing scent you get when you walk into a barbeque joint. In my house, in which no one can ever agree on anything, we can all agree on bacon. One day, while having breakfast, my daughter Gracie asked where bacon came from. “From a pig,” I said, “Like Peppa.” Gracie briefly got a concerned look on her face, as she thought about consuming her favorite (at the time) cartoon character, a British pig named Peppa, who taught her weird slang. The concern quickly vanished, and she held up a dripping piece of bacon, laughed like a psycho, and said: “I’m eating Mummy Pig!” *** Since the Coronavirus Pandemic began, we have been getting our groceries delivered. Every week, I’m the one who usually puts in the order. Because certain food items are often out-of-stock, I’m in the habit of over-ordering, trying to cast as wide a net as possible. With hogs on the brain, that meant purchasing a variety of pig-derived cuts of meat, hoping that some of them would be available. Well, I hit the pig-pot, and to my wife’s consternation, everything that I ordered ending up being in stock, and left on our doorstep: shoulder steak; rib chops; pork belly; loin steak; spare ribs; bacon; pulled pork; and even a charcuterie plate. It was not, I should add, inexpensive. To the contrary, I believe it was at least half the bill. As I tried to make room for these items in the deep freeze – while also avoiding my wife’s withering gaze – it occurred to me that Homer Simpson was absolutely correct. The pig is a magical animal. Clever, adaptable, and mouthwatering.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jean

    The dog and pig domesticated themselves. In the distant past, wild pigs came into early human settlements and stayed. Pre-Christian European societies loved the pig. Move into the desert areas and the pig was shunned. In England there were penalties for destroying oak trees as acorns made the best pig food. What I found most interesting was the early European explorers would drop a boar and sow on an uninhabited island to make it into a future food supply stop. The Spanish conquistadores introduc The dog and pig domesticated themselves. In the distant past, wild pigs came into early human settlements and stayed. Pre-Christian European societies loved the pig. Move into the desert areas and the pig was shunned. In England there were penalties for destroying oak trees as acorns made the best pig food. What I found most interesting was the early European explorers would drop a boar and sow on an uninhabited island to make it into a future food supply stop. The Spanish conquistadores introduced pigs to South American. Essig claims it was the pig that allowed China to feed its massive population. Essig not only covers the history of the pig but the anatomy, physiology, factory farming and the culinary arts of the pig. The book is well written and research. It provides all you would ever want to know about the pig in an entertaining and educational manner. Essig also reviews the religious views of the pig throughout history. I know that Winston Churchill is the most quoted person in the world, but I never expected to find a quote from him in a book like this. The quote is “A dog looks up to you, a cat looks down at you, but the pig looks you in the eye and treats you like an equal.” This book was a delight to read. Joe Barrett does a good job narrating the book. Barrett is an actor and award winning audiobook narrator.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Barry

    Early candidate for one of the best books I read in 2020. A fascinating book on the history of the pigs and their love-hate relationship with human beings since the beginning of recorded human history. Mr. Essig tells a truly captivating story of how the pigs came to domesticate themselves, like the wolves, and provided essential public services for early human settlements. Furthermore, the book also touches on the various reasons why various cultures throughout the history have had, to say the l Early candidate for one of the best books I read in 2020. A fascinating book on the history of the pigs and their love-hate relationship with human beings since the beginning of recorded human history. Mr. Essig tells a truly captivating story of how the pigs came to domesticate themselves, like the wolves, and provided essential public services for early human settlements. Furthermore, the book also touches on the various reasons why various cultures throughout the history have had, to say the least, troubling relationship with the pigs, through no fault of the pigs, mind you. The last few chapters deal with the development of pigs farming practices in the US and the developing countries in the past couple of decades. The tone of the book is light, despite some of the horrific facts presented here. It is also extremely engaging, full of fascinating odd facts that made me chuckle a few times. For example, did you know that in Medieval Europe pigs could be imprisoned, tried, convicted and hanged for crimes such as hurting children, destroying crops, and even accidentally killing people? And that such imprisonment and punishment were meant to teach lessons, as if the people expected the pigs to understand human laws (or did they know how intelligent the pigs were/are?) In any case, it was a non-stop amusing read from start to finish. In a more personal note, coming from a Muslim-majority country, I do not actually know the exact reason for the prohibition of pork consumption for Muslims, because I'm not a Muslim myself. But, I definitely learned that the various reasons that I've heard (that the pigs are filthy, impure, closely related to human flesh, etc.) have had long historical roots since the beginning of recorded human history. Further, that the divided opinions on pigs have cycled through the same old arguments (I guess history does repeats). As a Chinese-descendant, obviously I've been introduced to pork cuisine since I was a kid, especially on important festive days. I do enjoy eating some pork cuisine here and there. But, I do prefer my poultry, fish/seafood, and beef than pork. I find it interesting that how different cultures view pork consumption. Obviously, there are cultures or religion followers who prohibit pork. But, there were cultures that loved pork cuisine as much, if not more, than the Chinese. Furthermore, as an avid reader of the fantasy genre, I do find that roasted boar is a typical royal fare for the lords and ladies of the fantasy worlds. Apparently, historical facts do agree with the typical fantasy novel scenes, I'm happy to read. Overall, this is probably a strong candidate for one of the best books that I'll read in 2020. Highly engaging and entertaining. I definitely learn a thing or two from this book, which is what one should want to achieve from any non-fiction book. Bravo. 4.5 Star.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Kelsey

    I enjoy reading these "micro-histories" and since this one involved an animal--one that you can eat, it combines two of my greatest interests. I was fascinated with the story of how pigs were domesticated and co-evolved with humans in some ways similarly to dogs. Because of their nature however, pigs are unique among domesticated farm animals. Essig does a great job of describing just why that is, much of it having to do with the fact that they are omnivorous--and pretty smart. I learned a lot o I enjoy reading these "micro-histories" and since this one involved an animal--one that you can eat, it combines two of my greatest interests. I was fascinated with the story of how pigs were domesticated and co-evolved with humans in some ways similarly to dogs. Because of their nature however, pigs are unique among domesticated farm animals. Essig does a great job of describing just why that is, much of it having to do with the fact that they are omnivorous--and pretty smart. I learned a lot of interesting--often disturbing--things about these animals, including the changing historical attitudes towards them (often based in religion but also in social ways), their role in driving Native Americans off their lands, and how taking away access to raising them was used to control freed slaves and poor whites in the South after the civil war. Essig very skillfully leads the reader right up to the present, in the later chapters turning to the problematic ways pigs are being bred and raised in this country. There is hope for a change to more humane methods here, but unfortunately in China where pork consumption is soaring, the practices are moving in the opposite direction. This book is interesting and fun to read, but as someone who eats pork, it also gives me pause. It certainly makes me want to cut down on or buy only humanely raised pork.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    This has to be one of the best and most engaging books I've read this year. It was well-written, and flowed in a logical and easy to read way. The information was well researched and drawn from a variety of sources. The author managed do this while putting his unique spin on the book and without making the book dry, which so often happens with cultural histories. I have already recommended this book to family and friends and will continue to do so. This has to be one of the best and most engaging books I've read this year. It was well-written, and flowed in a logical and easy to read way. The information was well researched and drawn from a variety of sources. The author managed do this while putting his unique spin on the book and without making the book dry, which so often happens with cultural histories. I have already recommended this book to family and friends and will continue to do so.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Andy

    These single-topic books like Salt: A World History are hit or miss. This one's a hit. It stays interesting from beginning to end by not getting bogged down anywhere too long. It concludes with a middle of the road recommendation for where to go from where we are now with industrial pig farming. These single-topic books like Salt: A World History are hit or miss. This one's a hit. It stays interesting from beginning to end by not getting bogged down anywhere too long. It concludes with a middle of the road recommendation for where to go from where we are now with industrial pig farming.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jessika

    Look, I picked this book up for the most superficial of reasons: I liked the cover. But since I am trying to broaden my reading, this was seemed a good fit. And wow. I was so pleasantly surprised by how accessible and honest-to-god enjoyable this was to read. Essig has a wonderful, conversational style that made reading this a true joy. Essig does highlight the religious angle, but he teases out the more interesting relationships between pork and social class and personal freedom. When lower cla Look, I picked this book up for the most superficial of reasons: I liked the cover. But since I am trying to broaden my reading, this was seemed a good fit. And wow. I was so pleasantly surprised by how accessible and honest-to-god enjoyable this was to read. Essig has a wonderful, conversational style that made reading this a true joy. Essig does highlight the religious angle, but he teases out the more interesting relationships between pork and social class and personal freedom. When lower class have more access to pork, the elite shun it. When pork is scarce, the elite are all about it. When the poor can provide their own food, the rich get concerned and pass laws to control that shit. It's really fascinating. And did you know pigs were HANGED LIKE CRIMINALS? I DIDN'T. I also didn't know that pigs had a track record of breaking into houses and biting children, so. Learning something new everyday.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Rolando Beramendi

    I am a "Porketarian", and Mark's book makes me love the Pig even more. His research is so thorough and his narrative is so personal, I felt I was sitting with him or listening to him speak to us as he did at Zingerman's Camp Bacon two years ago. I strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in history, anthropology and animal husbandry. He made me quite aware that rich farmers and big corporations are feeding the poor people, while small farmers sell theirs at farmers markets for four time I am a "Porketarian", and Mark's book makes me love the Pig even more. His research is so thorough and his narrative is so personal, I felt I was sitting with him or listening to him speak to us as he did at Zingerman's Camp Bacon two years ago. I strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in history, anthropology and animal husbandry. He made me quite aware that rich farmers and big corporations are feeding the poor people, while small farmers sell theirs at farmers markets for four times the price of Walmart, and they are struggling... and only rich people can afford it! This book will sit right next to SALT, and COD, since my interest is on food and ingredients. Let's hope many people will read it, so that we can have more "Virtuous Carnivores" as he calls us and continue to preserve the pork's ability to "divide"! Bravissimo Mark!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Chrisl

    Learned from and enjoyed reading Essig ... would liked to have traveled, briefly, generations ago, with pigs on hill country roads. When Mother worked grocery, she also raised a couple pigs, Maxi and Minnie ... fed them leftover junk food, time expired at food store, the section she stocked. Meat was horrible tasting. Nor did I enjoy herding escaped M&M on a cold snowy night. Think they were relieved to be 'penned.' Learned from and enjoyed reading Essig ... would liked to have traveled, briefly, generations ago, with pigs on hill country roads. When Mother worked grocery, she also raised a couple pigs, Maxi and Minnie ... fed them leftover junk food, time expired at food store, the section she stocked. Meat was horrible tasting. Nor did I enjoy herding escaped M&M on a cold snowy night. Think they were relieved to be 'penned.'

  10. 5 out of 5

    Alexis Hall

    This is exactly what you'd think it is. It's a history of the pig. It's quite, err, detailed - although I found the style engaging enough that I didn't actually get bored (at least, not very often. There is an awful lot of information here about pigs). I was particularly into the sections about the cultural history of the pig: why we tend to scorn such an intelligent, adaptable creature. Things take a slightly more political turn towards the final section of the book because, wow, have we been sh This is exactly what you'd think it is. It's a history of the pig. It's quite, err, detailed - although I found the style engaging enough that I didn't actually get bored (at least, not very often. There is an awful lot of information here about pigs). I was particularly into the sections about the cultural history of the pig: why we tend to scorn such an intelligent, adaptable creature. Things take a slightly more political turn towards the final section of the book because, wow, have we been shitty to pigs since the 1970s. I am not particularly sentimental about animals but I do like pigs (both personally, and also in terms of consumption) and, nevertheless, this made me uncomfortable. But that's not about the book (although I will note it gets notably more emotive in these sections) so much as the general discomfort in thinking about the impact of your own behaviour on the world. Or, y'know, pigs.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Madeline

    Be ready to read a review that waxes effusive but I LOVED this book. I'm a big fan of nonfiction books, which I know is not everybody's cup of tea. I think it is difficult in a way to review nonfiction books (because, well, they are nonfiction) so the basis of my reviews for this genre of book is 1) how interesting can you make the topic at hand and 2) did I learn anything new. I have an animal science degree, so I would say I know more about most farm animals than the average. Growing up in the P Be ready to read a review that waxes effusive but I LOVED this book. I'm a big fan of nonfiction books, which I know is not everybody's cup of tea. I think it is difficult in a way to review nonfiction books (because, well, they are nonfiction) so the basis of my reviews for this genre of book is 1) how interesting can you make the topic at hand and 2) did I learn anything new. I have an animal science degree, so I would say I know more about most farm animals than the average. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, though, I had very little experience with pigs. However, I knew of their intelligence, and the few times I did interact with them, you know "someone is home" when you look into their eyes (their eyes, by the way, look just like ours and come in human colors....so let that sit for a while....) This. Book. Was. EXCELLENT. I love history, I love food, I love animals - this book is a marriage of all of these things. I think the cherry on top is that the author has a sense of humor and humanity sprinkled throughout that makes this nonfiction piece truly excellent and come alive. 1. The history- I've been really into Biblical history as of late, and this book does an excellent job of paralleling the pig's history with the early origins of humanity. The author does an expert job of explaining certain religions' movements away from consuming pig (Judaism, Islam) and how the pig also became seen as food for the poor, even in ancient times. The author is also ESPECIALLY good at going through important turning points in American history, with the pig along for the ride (great job!) 2. The food - this book didn't get as much into the use of food in ancient/modern dishes, but there was enough information sprinkled about that the author was clear in his intentions to show that pork as a food product is so intertwined with class, and that the pig, for all its usefulness as a food animal, doesn't really get the appreciation it deserves for creating an excellent product. 3. The animal - I still look at pigs with a certain amount of guilt. I am a hearty meat eater, and I stand beside those who raise animals for meat and people who eat meat (I could go on but this is not the main point of my soapbox - if you raise an animal humanely for meat, you've done nothing wrong, and meat is a part of humanity's gastronomical history, so get over it). However, I have always felt bad for pigs. They are the most intelligent of all of the farm animals, and we arguably treat them the worst. I already didn't eat too much pig for this reason, and now I really need to look at where my pork comes from. I don't think raising pigs en masse is good for anyone (for the environment, for the pigs, or for people), so we need to start thinking of some alternatives as to how to raise them, make them more available, and make humane pork more affordable. Anyway - Mark Essig, my hat is off to you! Your passion, meticulous research and amazing voice throughout this book make this book an early contender for "Fan Favorite of 2020". I think one thing Essig does fabulously well is begs the question "Why do we have this love/hate relationship with the pig?" He doesn't answer this (he wants the reader to) but I think I know the reason.... Because the things we both love and hate in pigs, we see in ourselves. ***drops mic***

  12. 4 out of 5

    John

    I listened to this book on Audible. Perfect for those who like to listen to non-fiction. The book is what it purports to be: a history of the pig from earliest times to the present. The book discusses the pig's earliest role in keeping early settlements free from garbage, its as a food source for the poor, the Roman's love of pork, and the role of pigs in settling and feeding America. The author primarily limits his discussion to the role of the pig in the west, although he provides some anecdot I listened to this book on Audible. Perfect for those who like to listen to non-fiction. The book is what it purports to be: a history of the pig from earliest times to the present. The book discusses the pig's earliest role in keeping early settlements free from garbage, its as a food source for the poor, the Roman's love of pork, and the role of pigs in settling and feeding America. The author primarily limits his discussion to the role of the pig in the west, although he provides some anecdotes about pork production in the far east. I don't think there was any question I ever had about pigs that was not answered in this book. The book ultimately ends with the age of modern industrial pork production, which is depressing. But the author correctly points out the dilemma -- "humane" pork or inexpensive pork? -- and notes that pork producers are slowly making improvements. Your take on this probably depends on whether you like bacon.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Don

    Pigs thru history Quite a lot better than expected. Mostly a history of the relations of men and pigs. Then animal cruelty at the end. It seems that pigs have it worse than chicken. So pretty bad. Kinda glad I don't eat much pork. Pigs thru history Quite a lot better than expected. Mostly a history of the relations of men and pigs. Then animal cruelty at the end. It seems that pigs have it worse than chicken. So pretty bad. Kinda glad I don't eat much pork.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Aaron

    This book is legitimately good and its kind of weird that I read it. Pigs are these really cool animals and we probably shouldn't eat them anymore. This book is legitimately good and its kind of weird that I read it. Pigs are these really cool animals and we probably shouldn't eat them anymore.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Cree

    I always thought pigs were interesting creatures. Now I know they are. it is fascinating to know that Pigs have always been the O.Gs. They been holding humans down for centuries.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    I don't know that we learn too much from studying history through the lens of the pig. Yet this book was still full of mildly interesting factoids. The pig was more important in early societies, and in early America, than I knew. The book gets less interesting in the second half, when the focus turns to modern American pig farming. > Cows gestate for nine months and produce one calf; sheep and goats require five months and give birth to one or two offspring. A sow, on the other hand, gestates fo I don't know that we learn too much from studying history through the lens of the pig. Yet this book was still full of mildly interesting factoids. The pig was more important in early societies, and in early America, than I knew. The book gets less interesting in the second half, when the focus turns to modern American pig farming. > Cows gestate for nine months and produce one calf; sheep and goats require five months and give birth to one or two offspring. A sow, on the other hand, gestates for less than four months and produces eight or twelve or even more piglets, all of which grow to slaughter weight far more quickly than a calf or a lamb. Born at 3 pounds, today's piglet balloons to 280 pounds by six months of age, at which point it is also ready to breed. > The Chinese character for "home" is formed by placing the symbol for "pig" under the symbol for "roof": home is where the pig is. … The practice was widespread—the same Chinese character designates both "pigsty" and "outhouse"—and has survived into the present on Korea's Cheju Island. In the 1960s more than 90 percent of farmers on the island used a pigsty-privy > In humans, the somatosensory cortex—the part of the brain responsible for sensation—is wired primarily to the hands. In pigs, nearly all the touch-sensitive nerves terminate in the nose. > the poor often raised pigs in order to gain control over their own food supply. A powerful central state, intent on controlling all aspects of the economy, would have seen such dietary autonomy as a threat to its control and a potential source of sedition > This explains why certain animals came to be declared unclean: they are predators and scavengers that eat the flesh of animals from which the blood has not been drained. Unlike Adam and Eve, the Israelites were no longer vegetarians—even so, they could eat only vegetarian beasts. > Any meat can be cured with salt, but lean meats like beef tend to become tough when so preserved. Cured pork, with its generous veins of fat, remains tender. > Jesus himself had little love for pigs. While traveling among the Gaderenes near the Sea of Galilee, he came across a man possessed. He said to the demons, "Go," and the demons went out of the man and entered a herd of pigs: "Behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters." The swine numbered 2,000, and yet no one mourned their loss. Jesus would rescue one lost sheep, but he sent thousands of swine to their deaths. > The court records of medieval Europe record dozens of cases in which pigs were tried and convicted of attacking children. > When archaeologists dig up castle sites around England, they find that pig bones begin to dwindle not long after the Black Death and are replaced by those of fowl, especially wild birds, which had become the new marker of wealth > the pig is the perfect animal for colonization, breeding quickly and providing abundant meat in the difficult years when the land is being tamed. One writer explained that in pioneer-era Minnesota, only when farms were well established could settlers start to raise cattle and "emancipate themselves from the benevolent tyranny of the pig." > Feed conversion is a complex process, but one key is having lengthy intestines, the better to extract every bit of nutrition from food before it exits the body. In wild boars, the ratio of intestinal to body length was about 10:1. In the common woods hog, it was 13:1. In improved Corn Belt hogs like Berkshires and Poland Chinas, it was 18:1. Whereas woods hogs took two or three years to reach market size, the new types reached slaughter weight at eighteen months or less. > The best estimates suggest that in antebellum America, five times as many hogs were driven as all other animals combined. In 1847 one tollgate in North Carolina recorded 692 sheep, 898 cattle, 1,317 horses, and 51,753 hogs … The largest cattle drives, from Texas to Kansas, involved as many as 600,000 cattle a year, but they lasted just fifteen years or so. Hog droving, by comparison, involved hundreds of thousands of animals during peak years and on some routes lasted nearly a century. > Henry Ford said that the idea of the assembly line was inspired by a visit to a slaughterhouse. > Fat was nearly as valuable as meat. Lard served as the primary cooking fat in the United States until the middle of the twentieth century and was exported in bulk to Latin America and Europe. The highest quality, leaf lard, came from around the organs and was used for baking. Lesser varieties were turned into industrial oils and grease. Some lard was separated into two parts, lard oil and stearin. The oil was used in lamps—it competed with whale oil in the pre-kerosene era—while stearin was turned into candles and soaps. … Prussian blue—a dye used by printers—was derived from blood, as was albumen for the photographic industry. > not until the 1950s did per capita beef consumption surpass that of pork. … Beef was best eaten fresh, not salted, and artificial refrigeration at home was uncommon until after World War I. For a butcher to sell fresh meat from a nine-hundred-pound steer, he needed the large customer base that only an urban area could provide— and even in 1900 only two out of five Americans were city dwellers. > Americans in the nineteenth century got most of their meat and fat from pigs. In his 1845 novel The Chainbearer, James Fennimore Cooper notes that a family is "in a desperate way when the mother can see the bottom of the pork-barrel." (This sentiment underlies our expression "scraping the bottom of the barrel.") > in 1820 some 20,000 hogs lived in Manhattan, about one pig for every five people > Southern leaders began to close the range after the Civil War, and their main purpose was to take food out of the mouths of the poor. The abolition of slavery had created a labor shortage in the southern plantation economy. > packers started injecting brine into the ham with needles. Later they invented "vein-pumping," which involved blasting brine from a high-pressure hose into a large vein in the ham and allowing the animal's circulatory system to spread it through the meat. Such methods cut a three-month cure down to a week, then later to just a few hours. > in 1920 and found that nearly a third of cities with populations over 100,000 used swine feeding as their primary garbage-disposal method; an even higher percentage of smaller cities did so > In the 1950s, a 180-pound hog carcass yielded 35 pounds of lard. By the 1970s, a pig of the same size produced just 20 pounds of lard. … In the 1930s, pigs gained a pound of weight for every four pounds of feed they ate. In the 1980s, that pound of gain required three and a half pounds of feed. > A 250-pound hog excretes 7.8 pounds of feces and 2.65 gallons of urine per day, about four times as much as a human being of equivalent weight. The 60 million pigs in the United States in 1995 produced almost as much waste as the country's 266 million people. Strict rules governed the disposal of human waste; not so the pig waste.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Zach

    A good look at the political economy and environmental history of pigs. I learned so much about pigs! And about how closely their fates and ours have entwined. The book is really strong when it's doing class-aware analysis of pig-eating throughout time. I'm sad to say that I knew so little about the important role that pigs played in traditional farm (and, over time, urban) life as the receptacles for all manner of waste. The book reminded me of the significant differences between pigs and nearl A good look at the political economy and environmental history of pigs. I learned so much about pigs! And about how closely their fates and ours have entwined. The book is really strong when it's doing class-aware analysis of pig-eating throughout time. I'm sad to say that I knew so little about the important role that pigs played in traditional farm (and, over time, urban) life as the receptacles for all manner of waste. The book reminded me of the significant differences between pigs and nearly all other domestic farm animals, and reaffirmed my belief that they are far more clever than most give them credit for. (And that they likely have emotional lives of their own, a current in animal history that I wish Essig went into a little more.) While other books have walked through the ethical minefield of meat eating, Essig takes a political economy approach, and focuses his attention (and some needed alarm) at how market capitalism has remade the cultural practice of pig-eating from something that was once an ethical compromise in a harsh world into a regime bordering on nihilism. My only critique is that the author should have used the opportunity to inveigh more forcefully against the current abhorrent way in which millions of pigs suffer and die. Though all the tales of how human societies related to pigs in the past are really amazing and can and should shed light on and inspire current modes of husbandry, the fact is: ethical carnism does not exist in late capitalism. Any demand for meat feeds directly into a market almost entirely controlled by vertically integrated confinement operations. The author's final thoughts in the book are elegantly stated -- we must learn to accept higher prices for animal welfare -- but after learning all I did in this book about pigs and their lives, I can't help but feeling that calling for a higher price on their meat as your parting thought somehow, well, misses the whole point.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Dead John Williams

    Dear Pig are you willing to sell for one shilling your ring? The complete history of the pig. How the pig has fed us, delighted us, assisted us, repelled us, and finally shamed us. Reminded me very much of Cod by Mark Kurlansky in that it is very thorough, well written and engaging from the get go. The pig through the ages and how it has adapted to everything we have asked of it. How it helped us conquer the West and the East and the North and the South. How the pig has marched beside us on our g Dear Pig are you willing to sell for one shilling your ring? The complete history of the pig. How the pig has fed us, delighted us, assisted us, repelled us, and finally shamed us. Reminded me very much of Cod by Mark Kurlansky in that it is very thorough, well written and engaging from the get go. The pig through the ages and how it has adapted to everything we have asked of it. How it helped us conquer the West and the East and the North and the South. How the pig has marched beside us on our genocidal forays to other lands. How other creatures perished in the heat and humidity or the cold but not old pig. How pig has come to be reviled by religions and lauded by farmers. There is a lot in this book and I was dreading the end because it is inevitable when laying out how this animal has served human kind so well and for so long that its present state has to be told as well. And what do we do to thank the pig for its eons of faithful service? We keep it in metal cages where it is unable to turn, lay or even shake its head. And we do this knowing that pigs are highly intelligent, social creatures. What does that make us? and who really are the lesser beasts? A brilliant read!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Michael Flanagan

    A book on the history of the pigs, how can one resist the powerful pull of such a book? The answer for me was I could not and I was rewarded by one of the best reads of the year for me. Lesser Beasts is one of those books that is perfect in everyway it is history at its engaging best. By telling the story of the pig Mark Essig also piggy backs the story of the human race in it's telling. By tracking the evolution of the pig and its relationship to humanity it examines, religion, farming practice A book on the history of the pigs, how can one resist the powerful pull of such a book? The answer for me was I could not and I was rewarded by one of the best reads of the year for me. Lesser Beasts is one of those books that is perfect in everyway it is history at its engaging best. By telling the story of the pig Mark Essig also piggy backs the story of the human race in it's telling. By tracking the evolution of the pig and its relationship to humanity it examines, religion, farming practices, economics and sociology. My view of the pig has been for ever changed I know have much respect from this lesser beast. This respect though will not stop me eating bacon but I will chose my pork products more carefully from now on. If you are looking for a awesome read that is left of centre than absolutely read this book.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    The title says all you need to know about the subject of this book. Esssig has written an witty, interesting, intelligent and ultimately confronting book on our tasty friends. While they have been with us for millennia, often in very close quarters, they have been loved and shunned in equal measure. Now, unfortunately, they are largely abused and mistreated due to the industrial production systems which give us cheap pork, at the cost of the the pig's welfare, well-being and 'pigness'. Though Essi The title says all you need to know about the subject of this book. Esssig has written an witty, interesting, intelligent and ultimately confronting book on our tasty friends. While they have been with us for millennia, often in very close quarters, they have been loved and shunned in equal measure. Now, unfortunately, they are largely abused and mistreated due to the industrial production systems which give us cheap pork, at the cost of the the pig's welfare, well-being and 'pigness'. Though Essig's writing is frequently amusing, at this stage there is nothing for those of use with any concern for the proper treatment of animals to laugh at. But maybe that will change.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    Accessible and fascinating history of the pig and pork. A tad repetitious for the first bit - human culture kept repeating itself so it's hard to avoid - but the timeline moves along at a good pace. Lots of interesting tidbits that most readers won't know and a few interesting illustrations accompany the text. This isn't a "morality" book like, say, Foer's Eating Animals or Omnivore's Dilemma, but it certainly will make anyone think about this animal and how we, as a culture, treat it. Very easy Accessible and fascinating history of the pig and pork. A tad repetitious for the first bit - human culture kept repeating itself so it's hard to avoid - but the timeline moves along at a good pace. Lots of interesting tidbits that most readers won't know and a few interesting illustrations accompany the text. This isn't a "morality" book like, say, Foer's Eating Animals or Omnivore's Dilemma, but it certainly will make anyone think about this animal and how we, as a culture, treat it. Very easy to read and a good one for natural and anthropological history buffs as well as any foodie, farmer, or ecologist's shelf.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mahlon

    I thought this work would be more about cooking and eating pigs(which I like very much) instead there was much more pig Biology then I was expecting, but if you like pig Biology this may be the book for you.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tosin Adeoti

    This evening I finished Mark Essig's "Lesser Beasts - A Snout-to-Tail History of the Humble Pig". Here is an interesting book about the evolution of the relationship between pig as an animal and humans in the Western world. It transverses the period of the appearance of Sus scrofa, the Eurasian wild boar, to the present day hog. It answers age-long questions about why pigs provoke feelings of disgust, why so many people have rejected pork, and why certain societies have made the animal an object This evening I finished Mark Essig's "Lesser Beasts - A Snout-to-Tail History of the Humble Pig". Here is an interesting book about the evolution of the relationship between pig as an animal and humans in the Western world. It transverses the period of the appearance of Sus scrofa, the Eurasian wild boar, to the present day hog. It answers age-long questions about why pigs provoke feelings of disgust, why so many people have rejected pork, and why certain societies have made the animal an object of adoration, symbol of celebration and an emblem of surplus. A lot of people familiar with pigs already know that out of our domesticated friends, pigs are the closest to humans. Of course, like chickens, pigs are also omnivores. But it's in intelligence that pigs beat all other animals. Pigs can figure out how mirrors work and use them to scan the landscape for a meal. A pig that knows where food is cached will delay its gratification until no other pigs are present and then enjoy the meal by itself. It can learn to perform tasks—open a cage, turn a heater on and off, play video games—more quickly than nearly any other animal. They are the only animal we keep purely for their meat. They don't give us milk, wool, or eggs. Only meat. Apart from their short period of gestation (less than 4 months), their fecundity is unmatched, producing as much as 20 piglets at a go. Even more amazing, by six months of age, the pigs have ballooned to 125kg, ready to start giving birth. And to say that every part of the pig, except its squeal, is useful is profound. Yet this does not make the pig adored by all societies across human history. Its lifestyle when kept as a domestic pet is repulsive. Pigs will eat dead animals, rotten food, and human feces. While these characteristics of cleaning up the waste that accumulated in towns and villages of old were certainly useful public health measures at a time when there was no sewage systems in our world, not many people were inclined to eat animals which they have seen eat their remains, especially when they have other meat options. And so it was no surprise that societal beliefs were codified by two of the major religions into divine laws. Abstainance from pork became a marker of cultural identity for the Jewish race during their servitude under the Greek and Roman empires. At a point, the question 'who were the Jews?' was most easily answered by 'Those people who didn't eat pork'. That the great Roman empire with its advance sewage system, eliminating human wastes and refuse, had improved the method of pig breeding would not upend divine laws. So while the Romans embraced pork above all meat, the Jews rejected it. One called the pig abominable, the other miraculous. One saw the pig as a carrier of pollution, the other as a sign of abundance. The Greek and the Romans deified pigs. They were the most common sacrificial animal in both Greece and Rome. Greeks saw it as a symbol of fertility and purity; Romans killed pigs to seal public agreements, such as contracts and treaties, and to mark important private occasions, such as births and weddings. The part about how Christians came to embrace pork is especially interesting. A lot has been written about the colonization of the Americas. But do you know that the pig proved the perfect animal for colonization, breeding quickly and providing abundant meat in the difficult years when the lands were being tamed. It was only when farms were well established could settlers start to raise cattle and “emancipate themselves from the benevolent tyranny of the pig.” Cows and sheep are animals for more settled times. As the Americas were being won, Europeans counted on the pig. This buttresses the fact that when humans are left with nothing, the pig has always being available as a source of meat, then as conditions improve, humans move on to rarer and more expensive meat. The animal bred fast and plentiful to fill humans. The author spent the last few chapters on the industrial scale production of pigs and pork. How constant improvement in drugs, and feeds produced cheap food for humans. A book about pigs would not be complete without the call for humane treatment of pigs by capitalists intent on generating as much profit as possible. Yet it's about economy of scale. If consumers would put their money where their mouth is, producers would raise pigs in better conditions according them more freedom. And this is an interesting point. Because as more people in the West eating more than enough meat are concerned about the conditions of the pig, countries with a raising middle class like China and Brazil are only too happy to have more protein on their dinner tables. And it makes perfect sense. The period of great demand for meat led to innovation in meat production through large scale industrial pig processing plants in the West. Other parts of the world simply want to have food to eat above all else. The problem of meat for people in poor countries can be easily solved by the pig. With its diet controlled, the factors which earned it an abominable animal are no more. But religious beliefs are not so easily cast aside.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Edward Sullivan

    A fascinating, engaging history of how closely intertwined humans and pigs are in so many ways.

  25. 4 out of 5

    SHNILA PARVEEN

    "And the pig, because it has a cloven hoof that is completely split, but will not regurgitate its cud; it is unclean for you. You shall not eat of their flesh, and you shall not touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you." - Torah (Leviticus) To become impure is to be abandoned by God, the belief which made Judaism ban pork completely and Islam to follow the same suit. Israelite ban on Pork was not significant for the locals before conquest of the region by Greeks and Romans since "And the pig, because it has a cloven hoof that is completely split, but will not regurgitate its cud; it is unclean for you. You shall not eat of their flesh, and you shall not touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you." - Torah (Leviticus) To become impure is to be abandoned by God, the belief which made Judaism ban pork completely and Islam to follow the same suit. Israelite ban on Pork was not significant for the locals before conquest of the region by Greeks and Romans since they already did not eat pork. For profligate Romans, pig was a relish and symbolic of their lavish food habits. Pigs have been dealt with such contrast treatment all through the course of human history. You are what you eat, goes the classic adage. The treatment towards pigs was always commensurate with whatever the social and economic circumstances of the time allowed the creature to eat. Pigs never stopped being the last means of subsistence of the poor and downtrodden. Thousands of years ago, Pigs chose a different path to evolution. Thick body, small eyes, probing snout, multipurpose teeth and simplest gut allowed them to eat almost anything. When humans evolved from hunter gatherers to settled farming lifestyle, the wild boars of Old World came out of jungle and took up life in villages to eat garbage generated by newly sedentary humans. In this way, unlike other animals Pigs domesticated themselves. Digesting and thinking are the most energy-intensive processes in animal physiology. Omnivorous lifestyles required more brainpower to look for the variety of food. To develop a bigger brain, animal must lose extra gut. Simpler digestion means that pigs lack the microorganisms which digest and transform fatty acids and the fat is deposited in the same form in which it is ingested. A pig eating trash tastes different from pig fed on hazelnuts and corn. It was not uncommon for pigs to be fed with not just the human garbage but also pork scraps. This pig cannibalism allowed many livestock diseases to transmit into human on eating undercooked meat, leading to a new setback to the reputation of pork in food industry. For the longest time, pigs enjoyed the supremacy over other meat alternatives, specially due to convenient food habits and easy to cure flesh. Pigs were a compatriot to the colonists in their conquest of American land, being a mobile food supply. With the economic growth and technological advances, alternatives like beef and chicken swept off the food industry out of the grip of pork and its variants. Meat was no longer required to be cured and dried for preservation and could be eaten fresh. The industry felt a dire need to rebrand pork as a clean white meat free of the health hazards of red meat. This provided a basis for the onset of cruelty dished out to pigs in the name of the practices providing leaner meat. Worldwide, chicken production has overtaken meat industry largely due to lack of religious restrictions, but pork industry still thrives in Asia, mainly China. The growing middle class population can now afford to eat meat regularly. The insatiate demand for meat encourage the unethical and cruel farming techniques. Humans can satisfy all their nutritional needs by eating plants, instead they feed the plants to animals and eat the animals without caring for the costly, complicated and cruel process involved. Our selfish barbarity on animals throughout the course of the history has been far too many. If nothing else, humans should be ready to pay a price for ethically raised animals. George Orwell was right in saying that all animals are equal but some are more equal than others, we just never allow them a lifetime to learn. This book is a well-researched and even better written account of this lesser beast. To its credit, 30% of the book is made up of citations and references.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Iuli

    The pig deserves a biography immensely for all the sacrifices it did for us humans. One of the most interesting human conundrums is the fact that everyone knows the horibble conditions in which pigs are made to exist before they get sliced up. Conditions they wouldn't wish on the theire worst enemies much less on an innocent animal who's probably even more smart than a dog. Yet they still go to the supermarket and buy steak and bacon to cook at dinner. Not just this, besides having no problem ea The pig deserves a biography immensely for all the sacrifices it did for us humans. One of the most interesting human conundrums is the fact that everyone knows the horibble conditions in which pigs are made to exist before they get sliced up. Conditions they wouldn't wish on the theire worst enemies much less on an innocent animal who's probably even more smart than a dog. Yet they still go to the supermarket and buy steak and bacon to cook at dinner. Not just this, besides having no problem eating them after they live a short and miserable life they also have one of the worst reputations of all animals: they are shit eaters and incredibly filthy as well as greedy and ugly. Well to use Candide's words: “Do you believe,' said Candide, 'that men have always massacred each other as they do to-day, that they have always been liars, cheats, traitors, ingrates, brigands, idiots, thieves, scoundrels, gluttons, drunkards, misers, envious, ambitious, bloody-minded, calumniators, debauchees, fanatics, hypocrites, and fools?' Do you believe,' said Martin, 'that hawks have always eaten pigeons when they have found them?”. Reading this you will be fascinated by the pig's history and might even feel bad for him later in the book. But it will also make you see and question humans for how they became so adept at exploiting everything on this earth including the humble pig. No one said it better than Orwell: “Man is the only creature that consumes without producing. He does not give milk, he does not lay eggs, he is too weak to pull the plough, he cannot run fast enough to catch rabbits. Yet he is lord of all the animals. He sets them to work, he gives back to them the bare minimum that will prevent them from starving, and the rest he keeps for himself.”

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mi Ae Lipe

    In all the years I've read about food history, I've never been completely satisfied by the typical explanations given for why pigs and pork are taboo in Jewish and Muslim dietary cultures; they seemed too simplistic, especially given pork's relatively easy availability when compared to beef or lamb, which requires pastureland. So, when I learned about this book, I was intrigued. I'm happy to report that at last, my questions have been adequately answered—and I learned so much more. Mark Essig doe In all the years I've read about food history, I've never been completely satisfied by the typical explanations given for why pigs and pork are taboo in Jewish and Muslim dietary cultures; they seemed too simplistic, especially given pork's relatively easy availability when compared to beef or lamb, which requires pastureland. So, when I learned about this book, I was intrigued. I'm happy to report that at last, my questions have been adequately answered—and I learned so much more. Mark Essig does a fantastic job of laying out a history of the pig as food, century by century. Sometimes it was the only protein that kept people from starving; as a free-ranging creature, it also represented a valuable food source that was difficult for authorities to regulate (and tax). But he also tells how the pig was not only beloved for its eerily humanlike qualities and its convenient domestic partnership with humanity but also fiercely reviled as a symbol of filth, inferiority, and unpleasantness because of its personal habits and convenience as a cultural scapegoat. One of the more intriguing—and horrifying—details in the book is the fact that in medieval Europe, pigs who attacked or killed people (especially children) were officially tried in the courts, sentenced to death, and executed exactly in the same manner that wrongly accused Jewish people were—equating the two as subhuman beings. Which is bitterly ironic, given that Jews famously least want to be associated with this animal. Essig finishes the book with a deep dive into the history of the modern US pork industry and its unprecedented factory-farming efficency—at a huge cost of cruelty for the unfortunate pig, who deserves so much better from us.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ernest Spoon

    Family legend has it that age three I watched my grandfather, uncle and father butcher a hog. That evening for dinner, or supper as my maternal grandparents called it, my grandmother prepared pork tenderloins. She admitted to my teenaged aunt, she was worried how I would react to the pork dish she cooked knowing I had witnessed the hog's dismemberment. As related by my aunt to me many, many years later, I hopped up onto my chair at the kitchen table and, with a smile upon my face, said, "Pass th Family legend has it that age three I watched my grandfather, uncle and father butcher a hog. That evening for dinner, or supper as my maternal grandparents called it, my grandmother prepared pork tenderloins. She admitted to my teenaged aunt, she was worried how I would react to the pork dish she cooked knowing I had witnessed the hog's dismemberment. As related by my aunt to me many, many years later, I hopped up onto my chair at the kitchen table and, with a smile upon my face, said, "Pass the pig!" My grandfather was among the last of small Midwestern farmers who raised cattle, hogs, sheep and chickens, as well as growing a number of different crops. Of course in Mark Essing's history of the long relationship of humanity to swine, the brutality of modern hog confinement operations comes as the end. And it is a sad ending to the tale of the pig. Recently I tried some "Italian" sausages made from a pre-CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) breed of hog. My friends thought the flavor was too gamy. I thought it was just OK and finished what they didn't. I also buy my beef and pork from a small farmer. The best way small, traditional (traditional at least since mechanization) is to sell directly to consumers. And I have noticed the pork does have a different flavor to that of the grocery store meat counter. And it's redder.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Zac Stojcevski

    What a fantastic feast for the brain. A charting of our often paralleled history with our porcine cousins and our circuitous (d)evolution. Seeing the cover and the title, I though, yeah - OK... why not it might be an interesting book I flick through. My son read it from cover to cover and could not stop whetting my appetite for it with the facts and interesting historical presentation within. On completion, he shoved it across my desk and exclaimed it was one of the most memorable reads of his l What a fantastic feast for the brain. A charting of our often paralleled history with our porcine cousins and our circuitous (d)evolution. Seeing the cover and the title, I though, yeah - OK... why not it might be an interesting book I flick through. My son read it from cover to cover and could not stop whetting my appetite for it with the facts and interesting historical presentation within. On completion, he shoved it across my desk and exclaimed it was one of the most memorable reads of his life. I commenced my read of it. I applaud the author in the way that a subject such as the humble pig that can be converted into such a well researched, well written and laid out idea! I feel enriched for the experience for which I am grateful to Essig for his successful efforts. I have had passing episodic experience with live pigs and this book rekindled my pleasure, fear, revulsion and sadness associated with pigs and the context of the particular interactions. Book of the year for me so far.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Dawn

    I never would have expected this book to make it into my hands, much less fascinate me as much as it did. Not on my 2018 reading list, I picked up this book to research one specific topic that had gained my curiosity. Essig's writing held me captive and I ended up reading it cover to cover. (Would it be too much to say I devoured it?) (Sorry, couldn't resist.) The history of pigs turned out to be quite a tale. Adaptable in a way humans should envy. Alternately revered and jeered, depending on th I never would have expected this book to make it into my hands, much less fascinate me as much as it did. Not on my 2018 reading list, I picked up this book to research one specific topic that had gained my curiosity. Essig's writing held me captive and I ended up reading it cover to cover. (Would it be too much to say I devoured it?) (Sorry, couldn't resist.) The history of pigs turned out to be quite a tale. Adaptable in a way humans should envy. Alternately revered and jeered, depending on the current culture. Their more modern history can be a little difficult to (ahem) digest, but when asked if this would cause me to remove pork from my diet, I say "heck no, pork is delicious!" (Sorry, vegans. I, like the pigs, am an omnivore, though assuredly not to quite the extreme degree of swine.) For non-fiction, this was unexpectedly engaging. Essig has a very readable tone to his writing style, which lends itself to credibility with a healthy dose of conversational wit. Truly glad I went a little astray from my plan and learned about the pig.

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