Killing it: an Education

You might read a book about meat because you’re curious about how to prepare it. Maybe you’re wondering where it comes from, or whether you should even eat it at all.

“Killing It: An Education” lives up to its subtitle. It’s a thoughtful, challenging portrayal of society’s relationship with meat, set against Camas Davis’s journey from hometown food editor to founder of the Portland Meat Collective.

If you’re a meat producer or all about animal rights, you’ll find exactly what you’d expect. If you’re the environmentally-motivated vegetarian whose hackles rise when your lunch goes up a trophic level, you may find fresh perspective. And everyone else will find a timely reminder of the gap between the dinner table and the hidden realities of industrialized agriculture.

You’ll stay for the story. The book is equal parts food blog, travel diary, and philosophic journey as it romps between Davis’ childhood in western Oregon and the idyllic countryside of rural France. The episodes of well-intended urbanites learning to raise, slaughter, and butcher their own dinner strike particularly close to home—not just for their familiar setting, but for the challenging questions they tend to imply. Could we do it? What would it cost? And why don’t we?

And then it’s time to think. By the end of the book, it’s impossible to visit a supermarket without at least a vague suspicion of the story behind the shelves. America’s alienation from its food supply may be clearest at the butcher’s counter, but tropical fruits and processed foods beg plenty of their own questions.

From the abattoir to the banquet table, Davis’ engaging prose is reason enough to make Killing It worth a read. But between its vivid imagery and punchy vignettes lies a welcome meditation on the meaning, methods, and ethics of eating meat. Whether carnivorous, vegan, or somewhere in between, you’ll never look at a pork chop the same way again.

“An animal deserves a good life, a good death, a good butcher, and a good chef,” goes the old saying. A fitting memoir, too.