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.
©2015 Mark Essig (P)2015 Audible, Inc.
Packed full of interesting information. Read by Joe Barrett. What's not to like? Only the fact that after hearing this you will never eat supermarket meat again.
"I learned so much."
It is well researched, well written, and well performed. 5 Stars all around - and will highly recommend to everyone I know.
I love pigs, as they're interesting and intelligent animals. This book taught me things that I hadn't already picked up from the internet. It gets... difficult to hear at times, as some things in life aren't all butterflies and unicorns, but still well worth the knowledge.
"Story of the pigs and humans"
Great book for those interested in history and animals. Definitely on my way to become vegetarian after.
who knew pigs did so much for the world? this was a pleasantly informative read, with a positive ending.
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.
"Good micro history"
If you like micro histories like Steven Rinella's American bison then you'll love this one.
"Exactly As The Title Says"
This is literally a historical account of the pig,swine, hog, boar... Whatever you want to call it. Its history with people, who eats it and who doesn't (and why), and a history of farming the pig from antiquity to modern day.
Narrator did a fine job, but I had to take a star away for what could possible be the worlds worst Homer Simpson impression (it is unclear that the narrator has ever heard Homer Simpson based on it, in fact)
"Virtuous Carnivors? "
The author is four square against factory farming and global warming. I think climate change was the term actually used. About a decade ago global warmers ran off to Vegas to change their name out of some sort of small scandal but I got the message: methane from hog farms will kill all the polar bears. Anyway, this screed is routine as sunrise and simply sumarized by the cartoon pig 'Babe' who learns to herd sheep without agressive barking such as might be doled out by an impolite boarder collie. The author seems to have a grudge against border collies. Unicorns never came up in the discussion.
I give the book five stars anyway since I only had eight potatos to eat today. I am on a beer and potato diet out of curiosity (I am not making that up) since I learned in the last audio book 'The Untold History of the Potato' (also five stars) you can live healthy on nothing but potatos. True, the only food I like better unbasted barbequed pork is prime rib and can not properly be called a vegitarian. Still, this was a good enough listen. Who would have thought 'hog drives' would be more long lived then cattle drives and done over similar distances?
"Great information! Will recommend!"
Great information! Will recommend to anyone interested in food production or pigs in general. Enjoyed highly!
"Know your bacon "
There's a lot to learn in this book. Not all of it make me happy to know. I think it is important, at least for me, to eat less of somethings but to try to enjoy them more and be more aware of them. Quality over quantity is my name and this book help me think that way.
As a vegetarian even I found this book to be informative and entertaining, really good.
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