Is the Whole-Animal Lifestyle for You?

Thinking about going whole hog? Find out if the whole-animal lifestyle is for you by considering these factors.

  • In "Uncle Dave’s Cow" author, cook and busy urban mom Leslie Miller provides a guide to sourcing and eating local meat, including how to find and evaluate farmers and how to store and preserve your purchases.
    Photo Courtesy Skipstone

  • Illustration By Ayun Halliday, Uncle Dave’s Cow

  • Illustration By Ayun Halliday, Uncle Dave’s Cow

  • Illustration By Ayun Halliday, Uncle Dave’s Cow

In Uncle Dave’s Cow, author, cook and busy urban mom Leslie Miller shows city dwellers how to go whole hog—or cow, goat or lamb. Her guide to sourcing and eating local meat covers how to find and evaluate local farmers, plan for meat cuts and quantities, store and preserve your purchases and dish up a whole animal, one part at a time. This excerpt on considering the whole-animal lifestyle comes from chapter 3, “Is the Whole Animal Lifestyle for You?”

You can purchase this book from the Mother Earth Living store: Uncle Dave’s Cow.

Is The Whole-Animal Lifestyle For You?

Whether you care most about the quality and flavor or the conditions in which your meat was raised, or you are trying to support local farmers, buying a whole animal at a time is a surprisingly good choice for many people.

For example, have you dubbed yourself that darling of new lifestyle buzzwords, a “flexitarian”? Now, I would call a person who tries to eat a mostly grain- and vegetable-based diet without completely eschewing meat a cheating vegetarian, but I’m not here to judge. Though this may seem counterintuitive, I have found I eat less meat when I only eat meat that I know, making the whole-animal lifestyle a good fit for flexitarians as well as avowed carnivores. And it’s meat you can feel good about to boot.

Do your kids eat nothing but hot dogs? Buying whole animals and cooking them is a spectacular gift to your children, in understanding where and how your food was raised, in knowing exactly what you’re getting (and not), and in teaching them about a variety of animal parts and how delicious they can be. Or maybe your kids never eat hot dogs because you’re concerned about E. coli, pesticides, hormones, or antibiotics, or want to avoid processed foods or artificial ingredients. Well then, how about if you make your own? Even if you don’t want to get fancy, I will tell you that children love both pounding and grinding meat. Buying whole animals also gives you the opportunity to show kids exactly what goes into sausages, as well as all the parts on an animal we can eat. Okay, when it got to the point that I was separating out the primals on our dog to show Atticus the component meat cuts of an animal (“Here’s his rack, and here, the loin . . . ”), I knew I had gone too far. But I think there’s a sweet spot in there somewhere in which your kids don’t think meat grows wrapped in cellophane.

For all those Idea People like me, who act before they think and need help making it all the way to the finish line once they’ve got a carcass in the freezer, I’m here to help. Help you, for instance, to know before you buy a whole animal that an average cow comes with a hundred pounds of ground beef and only about twelve New York strips, that a pig’s hind leg is called a fresh ham, and that a whole goat will fit in an apartment freezer. This book will give you the answers you need for that important conversation with the butcher that involves the term “cut sheet.”

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