We should all know exactly where our meat comes from. But what if you took this modern day maxim to its logical conclusion? What if you only ate animals you killed yourself?
Fed up of friends claiming to care about the provenance of their food, Louise Gray decides to follow the argument to its logical extreme. Starting small, Louise shucks oysters and catches fish. Gradually she gets to know countrymen and women who teach her how to shoot pigeons and rabbits. As she begins to reconnect with nature and her own upbringing in the countryside, Louise starts to question modern attitudes to the meat we eat.
How did we end up eating so much meat, with no idea how animals are raised and killed on our behalf?
Louise begins to look into how our meat is processed, including the beef in burgers, cheap chicken, bacon and farmed fish. She researches halal slaughter and visits abattoirs to ask whether modern technology can make eating meat more humane. She goes on a pheasant shoot and onto a grouse moor and contemplates whether there is still a place for game shooting in modern Britain. And she delves into alternative food culture in the UK, sourcing roadkill and cooking herself a lovely bit of squirrel stir-fry. The biggest animal Louise kills is a red deer stag, a moment she describes in a chapter about taking responsibility, growing up and her relationship with her own father.
Towards the end of her challenge, Louise explores alternative sources of protein, including insects, in vitro meat and plant-based proteins. She reflects on the impact of the growing global demand for meat and argues that all of us eating less meat should be a key part of fighting climate change. Louise's writing about nature, food and the environment is liberally dashed with humour and she gets to the heart of modern anxieties about where our meat comes from, asking the most important question of all: is it possible to be an ethical carnivore?
Louise Gray is former Environment Correspondent on The Daily Telegraph. Since 2014 she has been freelance, writing for the BBC, Scottish Field, Sunday Times, the Guardian, Country Life and the Spectator, among others. She specialises in writing about the countryside and climate change.
"A highly original work, executed with complete conviction. Heart-warming, engaging and impossible to put down, it treats a challenging subject unflinchingly. Recommended reading."
– Juror, 2017 Guild of Food Writers Awards
"A charming and eye-opening book"
– the Guardian
"A carefully balanced yet truthful and unpreachy book."
– Hattie Ellis, author of Planet Chicken and The One Pot Cook
"Beautifully written. Brave and personal."
– Kerstin Rodgers, author of V is for Vegan
"The author more than earns her stripes [...] It's impossible not to admire her."
– The Evening Standard
"This humane, adventurous and wonderfully illuminating exploration will entertain and challenge everyone, from carnivore to vegan."
– Patrick Barkham, author of Badgerlands and The Butterfly Isles
"Vivid, visceral and honest. Gray observes without ever being detached, and that's a rare talent."
– Ella Risbridger, author of Eating with My Fingers
"Compellingly readable, wise and kind. There's plenty of serious reflection too, all the more arresting for Gray's lightness of touch."
– Charles Foster, author of Being a Beast
"Superb. Brilliantly written and needed to be said."
– Tim Hayward, author of Knife and The DIY Cook
"A very personal, heartwarming book that carries you along like a good novel. The writer's dedication to her subject is inspiring and she totally throws herself into her research. Brave and ruthlessly honest, it will change the way you think."
– Juror, Food Book Award, 2017 Guild of Food Writers Awards
"A thorough, engaging, sometimes shocking account of where our meat comes from. It is also, importantly, a book about caring."
– Malachy Tallack, Caught by the River
"Sensitive and powerful."
"Well paced, well researched and politically even-handed."
– Country Life
"Louise Gray is a micromaster."
– The Scotsman
"The book has charm and style [...] The accounts of hunting trips with her father contain some vivid and quite moving nature writing."
– the Guardian
"Fascinating [...] Told in beautiful, descriptive prose that shows her love and knowledge of nature."
– Western Mail
"This is a must read for anyone who wants to know more about where the meat and fish they eat comes from [...] and the environmental and social impact."
– The Press and Journal
"This brave project by Louise Gray is told in beautiful, descriptive prose that shows her love and knowledge of nature."
– Sunday Post
"A fascinating insight [...] The book is neither preachy nor lacking in laughs. Gray writes with humour and humanity."
– Sunday Herald
"This is a book that all should read – but it isn't simply a duty, it is a gritty pleasure [...] it is a thought-provoking and enjoyable read. But now and again, when a life is about to end, you'll feel the emotion of the author and it will make you look at dinner differently."
– Mark Avery, author of Inglorious
"This is a really important exploration of the meat industry, our relationship with meat and animals through history and offers an insight into what the future could hold – but it's also a good read that reads like you're talking to an old friend down the pub."
– Liz O'Keefe, food journalist and author of The Mushroom Cookbook