In recent times I have often wondered how certain items evolved into their current status in the food chain. Items like beef, bread and even beer. What aided their popularity, production and even by-products? The more beef I eat, the more curious I am of how this ubiquitous food item has shaped the world and altered culinary tastes. This curiosity led me to BEEF; The Untold Story of How Milk Meat and Muscle shaped the World.

The title promised a lot but halfway into it, I was unsure if the promise would be delivered. What I expected was a detailed history of the farming of cows and how milk and beef production has evolved over the centuries and its ecological impact on the planet. Instead what the book provided were flowery anecdotes that jumped from Kenya to Spain and parts of America. The book is very choppy as its stories are all over the place. A great deal is spent discussing the relationship the Maasai and cows then jumps to bullfighting in Spain. While the culinary interludes are a welcome distraction from the disjointed anecdotes, the lack of a concise evolution of the beef and milk production make the book a poor read.

The final chapter attempts to redeem the book when the discussion shifts to industrial feedlots and pasture. The ecological impact of industrial cattle farming is also highlighted. However, the attempt is too late and too little. In all, this is a disappointing read as the promise is not delivered.


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