The Compassionate Carnivore
by Catherine Friend


Da Capo Life Long, 2008. ISBN 978-1-60094-007-1.
Reviewed by Cheri Rosenberg
Posted on 04/15/2008

Nonfiction: Food/Cooking/Kitchen

While Catherine Friend is an aspiring "Super-Compassionate Carnivore, able to leap over inhumanely raised meat in a single bound," she is better known as the award-winning author of the memoir, Hit by a Farm, epic adventure stories, and numerous children's books.

A perfect addition to any savvy consumer's library, The Compassionate Carnivore offers insight on methods of feeding, raising, and finishing animals. Since the mid-1990s, Friend and her partner, Melissa, have owned and operated a small sustainable farm in Minnesota and have learned first-hand "the impact modern agriculture has on animals, the environment, and [all of us]." In a comprehensive reader-friendly format, the author discusses timely topics, including nutrition, production, how animals live, reproduce and die, buying factory vs. non-factory meat, as well as how each person can make a difference. The book is filled with thought-provoking information, and all references are cited at the end. Friend explores what the meat industry, specifically super-sized "farms," cost consumers with respect to their health and their wallets.

The author fulfills her promise that "This will not be one of those cheerful self-help books that makes change sound so ridiculously easy...[and] at the other extreme, it's not intended to be one of those books about factory farming that's so depressing that you can't get out of bed for a week," in a practical way. She recommends taking one step at a time and not getting discouraged by minor setbacks, like eating pork from an inhumanely raised sow. Being a farmer greatly impacts the way she thinks about the meat she eats. She freely admits, "My path to becoming a compassionate carnivore has been paved with good intentions, but littered with the bones of pork-chop-on-a-stick." However, she and Melissa do all they can to raise happy sheep, and they take pride in providing nourishment. It's possible to show appreciation, kindness, and respect for animals and still eat them. She supports those who choose to be vegetarian and even recommends more vegetable sources of protein over factory-farmed meat, but she makes a great case for people who enjoy meat and want to eat it without an extra helping of guilt.

The Compassionate Carnivore is filled with insightful and often humorous anecdotes. When not horrifying me with various practices of making meat ready for market (E. coli from slaughtered animals who have soiled themselves, butchering animals while they're still alive, or not halting factory production even if a worker loses an arm), Friend had me roaring with laughter as she recounted about their flock not receiving the memo that sheep are supposed to follow, not lead, or how long it took two healthy women to catch a gimpy baby lamb. Backed by research, practical experience, and the desire to improve standards, Friend offers many sound suggestions. If more carnivores demand humanely raised meat, the supply will hopefully follow. Each of us can have a positive influence on the market, she believes. We can start by reducing waste—taking only portions of food we can finish—and working our way up from there.


Catherine Friend farms in Minnesota with her partner of twenty-four years. The author of six children's books, two nonfiction books for adults, and two romantic adventure novels for adults, Catherine would rather write than wrangle sheep, but is proud she can do both. She shares her life with between fifty and one hundred sheep, three llamas, two dogs, two cats, and lots of ducks and chickens. Learn more about her farm on the Rising Moon Farm website. Learn more about Catherine on her website.

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