Pig Tales–The Book

PIG TALES Cropped cover new

Pig Tales: An Omnivore’s Quest for Sustainable Meat

By Barry Estabrook

Published by W. W. Norton



Barnes & Noble






Advance Praise for PIG TALES


Kirkus Reviews—Starred Review!

 “A thoroughly researched, deftly written piece of investigative journalism.”


“Estabrook turns his keen journalistic eye to pig production: getting naked with a commercial pig farmer, hunting with a feral pig rustler, and digging deep into the environmental impact of  ‘Big Pig.’  While this might make you think twice about eating bacon, he provides balance in the engaging tales of farmers and processors who are thoughtful and eminently human, who treat their pigs with care. That’s where he finds hope and grace for all of us. This book is a must read.”

–Cathy Barrow, author of Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Kitchen

“Before Tomatoland, I thought I knew about the American way of farming.  Barry Estabrook proved that I was wrong, painting a devastating portrait of what was really taking place out in the fields.  It changed the way I cook and eat. Pig Tales is even more illuminating, a window into the world of pigs and pig farmers that every American omnivore needs to read. You will never look at a piece of pork in quite the same way.”

–Ruth Reichl author of Delicious!

“Estabrook tells two powerful stories here.  The first is about the appalling ways in which Big Pig raises animals, pollutes the environment, and uses the political system to avoid and fight regulation.  The second is about how skilled animal husbandry and respect for the intelligence of pigs produces calmer animals, more delicious meat, and a far more satisfying life for farmers and pigs alike.  Pig Tales is beautifully written.  It is also deeply touching.”

–Marion Nestle, Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, and author of Eat, Drink, Vote: An Illustrated Guide to Food Politics

“I’ve been a student of the pig for more than a decade and have come to understand this animal as something of a miracle worth revering, exploring, studying, caring for, and, yes, eating. The pig is one of a handful of animals we raise for our food, yet it is like no other creature, and one especially worth honoring. In Pig Tales, Barry Estabrook puts his substantial reporting, story-telling and writing talents in the service of the pig. He documents the horrors perpetrated in America on this miracle creature, the human thoughtlessness that allows it, but he also describes the ways to break away from those horrors, right now. Most importantly, by focusing on the pig, and the people who raise them, hunt them, revere them (Temple Grandin, the author himself, for instance), his story illuminates how we can change drastically and fundamentally the way we raise animals for food. Finally, this book shows how important it is for us to better understand all of our food, beyond the pig, how our is grown and raised and distributed before it reaches our families’ kitchens. This book appalled me, terrified me, and then filled me with hope.”

–Michael Ruhlman, author of Charcuterie and Salumi.

“Barry Estabrook has written a beautiful and clear-eyed examination of the world of pigs and pig farming. With his engaging prose and soulful, riveting stories, he illuminates the complexities of the pig industry, and the desperate need for reform. And he gives us hope, too, by telling the stories of the people who care for these remarkable animals—and the land—for future generations.”

–Alice Waters, Chez Panisse


From Publishers Weekly:

In the 2011 bestseller Tomatoland, Estabrook took on industrial agriculture, faulting it for destroying the crops we eat. In this fascinating volume, Estabrook turns his attention to hog farming and the natural history of the pig. Although he lives on 30 acres in Vermont and has some pig farming experience, Estabrook eschews the common “going back to the farm” storyline in favor of an investigative journalism tack. In elegant prose, he highlights various topics such as porcine intelligence, the pig’s ability to destroy a landscape, hunting wild hogs, industrial hog farming, conditions in livestock processing plants, and sustainable “retro hog raising.” Some of his points aren’t groundbreaking–he scorns factory farms that poison the pigs and the land, while praising local farmers who respect their pigs and their customers’we11-being and offer tasty and healthier pork-but he has an admirable ability to clearly portray each person with a connection to hog farming, swine research, or animal rights, creating a personal connections that go beyond facts and figures.




What the publisher has to say about Pig Tales

An eye-opening investigation of the commercial pork industry and an inspiring alternative to the way pigs are raised and consumed in America.

Barry Estabrook, author of the New York Times bestseller Tomatoland and a writer of “great skill and compassion” (Eric Schlosser), now explores the dark side of the American pork industry. Drawing on his personal experiences raising pigs as well as his keen investigative reporting, Estabrook shows how these immensely intelligent creatures are too often subjected to lives of suffering, sustained on a drug-laced diet just long enough to reach slaughter weight, then killed on mechanized disassembly lines. It doesn’t have to be this way, and Pig Tales presents a lively portrait of those farmers who are taking an alternative approach, proving that it is possible to raise pigs responsibly and respectfully in a way that is good for producers, consumers, and some of the top chefs in America. Provocative and richly informed, Pig Tales is bound to generate conversation at dinner tables across America.




Barnes & Noble





Photograph by Kathleen Frith, Glynwood

Photograph by Kathleen Frith, Glynwood

For media inquiries related to Pig Tales, please contact Erin Sinesky Lovett at W. W. Norton: elovett@wwnorton.com

Post to Twitter


  1. June Pagan says:

    Perhaps this will turn the pork-obsessed chefs and foodies heads around.There is always hope.

  2. Torsten Hvas says:

    I live in Denmark, and to my knowledge this is utterly nonsense. We have a gigantic outbreak of MRSA virus. Never eat anything but organic pig meat from Denmark. I read an article from the author in New York times, first I thought it was a April fools article, it might be worse in the states than in Denmark but for the sake of your own health, stick to organic meat

  3. While I still eat pork and love it, I feel like pork is too high on the food chain and eating it regularly may cause problems yet unidentified. However, some recipes, like Borscht, just don’t seem to work without it. I always choose organic, and after listening to your radio interview on America’s Test Kitchens, I will only eat pigs allowed to forage in fields. Those of you who haven’t heard the interview, I highly recommend it. I look forward to reading the book. If you are looking for recipes centered around humanely raised sustainable meats, please check out my website. http://www.newerahealthyeating.com

  4. Pam Johnson says:

    We raise Large Black Heritage Pigs in Carbondale Co. We raise them on pasture with organic grain and organic fruits and vegatables from the local grocery stores that would have dumped the in a land fill. This book and the following comments are so spot on. I was V.P. of advertising in my former life and saw tricks that the manufacturers used to con the public. I had the pork council as a client and was there when General Mills invented “Fruit Loops”.
    As a family we went West and bought a 100 acre horse farm. We are in the process of re-purposing our horse stalls into artist studios. My daughter is majoring in sustainability and started http://www.merrillsfamily farm 5 years ago. We also make bio-dynamically inoculated compost and have purchased a herd of Zebu cattle. Our large vision is to make our farm bio-dymic approved. And have a permaculture community of artists/craftsmen and animals. We have a wonderful story to tells and would love to share it if some one would like to take it on. We are just 30 minutes outside of Aspen. Again, thank you your book . Pam

  5. George Elsmore says:

    My wife and I enjoy bacon and other pork products. After listening to the NPR interview with Estabrook, we decided to boycott mainstream “supermarket” pork and have discovered a local farmer who humanely and organically produces farm raised meat products. We are able to visit the farm and see with our own eyes the conditions under which the food we will eat are raised. Yes, it costs more, but what price is paid for the inhumane, unnatural, chemically sustained and downright evil production of “Big Pork” that lines our supermarket shelves?

    The descriptions of the “Big Pork” production facilities provided by Estabrook are viscerally painful and heartbreaking, and should be broadcast on 60 Minutes to a larger audience.

    How could we have ever come to this?

  6. Teresa Wagner says:

    There is no such thing as “humane” meat. While it’s great that some farmers and organizations may now be treating animals better before they kill them so they can have “calmer” animals and “better tasting meat” (for the convenience and profit of the farmer/corporation), the issue of the suffering of the animals as they are slaughtered is not even discussed. There is no such thing as humane slaughter. And for anyone who has any any compassion whatsoever for animals, eating any meat is off the table.

  7. Judi Dressler says:

    Thank you so much for your interview on NPR and for your book. Farm animals don’t have protection by law because people want cheap meat, but the overuse of antibiotics in our meat and environment as a whole is so bad for all of us. And really, is the meat of an animal that has been depressed and scared its whole life, good for us?

    To treat any animal so inhumanely and as an object for our gratification is beyond disgusting and horrible. We ought to be better than that. All animals – people and others – need fresh air, to be able to run around, to touch each other, to have decent food, and to not be terrified throughout our lives. If we choose to eat meat, the animal at least deserves to have led a decent life.

Leave a Reply