Synopses & Reviews
Four years ago, journalist Peter Lovenheim was standing in a long line at McDonald’s to buy a Happy Meal for his little daughter, which would come with a much-desired Teenie Beanie Baby—either a black-and-white cow named “Daisy” or an adorable red bull named “Snort.” Finding it rather strange that young children were being offered cuddly toy cows one minute and eating the grilled remains of real ones the next, Lovenheim suddenly saw clearly the great disconnect between what we eat and our knowledge of where it comes from. Determined to understand the process by which living animals become food, Lovenheim did the only thing he could think of: He bought a calf—make that twin calves, number 7 and number 8—from the dairy farm where they were born and asked for permission to spend as much time as necessary hanging around and observing everything that happened in the lives of these farm animals.
Portrait of a Burger as a Young Calf is the provocative true story of Peter Lovenheim’s hands-on journey into the dairy and beef industries as he follows his calves from conception to possible consumption. In the process, he gets to know the good, hard-working people who raise our cattle and make milk products, beef, and veal available to consumers like you and me. He supplies us with a “fly on the wall” view of how these animals are used to put food on America’s very abundant tables.
Constantly vigilant about wanting to be an observer who never interferes, Lovenheim allows the reader to see every aspect of a cow’s life, without passing judgment. Reading this book will forever change the way you think about food and the people and animals who provide it for us.
Lovenheims book is masterful. Never has a book so big, so
poignant, so important been written about the people who
produce our milk and meat for us and the 110 million cattle from
which they earn their livelihoods.... Peter Lovenheim confronts
us with some unintended consequences of our eating habits.
Franklin M. Loew, D.V.M., Ph.D.; member, Institute of
Medicine, National Academy of Sciences; and former dean of the
Cornell and the Tufts university schools of Veterinary medicine
Recalling Upton Sinclairs The Jungle, written in 1906, this
book, too, carefully examines the deep disconnect between what
we eat and where it comes from. Lovenheim is a meticulous
observer with a deep feeling for the people who open their worlds
to him....The books freshness, originality, and humanity
make it a rare journey of exploration.Scott McVay, President,
the Chautauqua Institution
"This is wonderful writing about the process of farming and the
people who farm. Its a serious book, lucid and endearing.
Lovenheim is good company as he follows two calves from birth
to griddle, but raises the hard questions we try not to think
about the same questions raised by E. B. White in Charlottes
Web.Mark Kramer, director of the Narrative Journalism
Program, the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard
[Lovenheim] writes respectfully of farmers and expresses many
of the same feelings Ive had during a twenty-five-year career of
handling farm animals....Lots of people including those who
actually work with farm animals are going to like this book."
Temple Grandin, author of Thinking in Pictures, and
nationally recognized expert in farm animal handling and
This is an important book. It reminds us that farmers labor
within a system they cannot easily change, and that the animals
from which our food comes are living beings. I hope this book
will inspire more dialogue between consumers and farmers about
the way we produce our food. José Bové, chairman,
Confédération Paysanne, France, and author of The World Is
Not for Sale: Farmers Against Junk Food
About the Author
Peter Lovenheim’s articles and essays have appeared in the New York Times, New York magazine, and other publications. A graduate of Boston University School of Journalism and Cornell Law School, he is the author of four previous books, including Becoming a Mediator: An Insider’s Guide to Exploring Careers in Mediation. He lives in Rochester, New York.