Rebecca Thistlethwaite brings the same pleasant no-nonsense presentation to The New Livestock Farmer as she did to Farms with a Future, and with similar goals. This time pairing up with Jim Dunlop, business partner and husband, she aims to help both potential and experienced livestock growers find the information they need to create a sustainable, ethical, and profitable business.
The two immediately tackle the most often heard protest against meat: ethics and the environment, animals being treated badly and kept in horrid conditions that result in myriad knock-on effects. Thistlethwaite and Dunlop argue that the system doesn’t need to be this way in order for farmers to turn a profit and consumers to enjoy an affordable and delicious product.
Thistlethwaite and Dunlop take the definition of ethical and sustainable meat beyond animal treatment to encompass ecosystems. They start with soil and climate and recommend choosing what to raise based on that. Good meat, they believe, starts with the soil. Good soil means good pasture which means healthy animals and tasty meat. It also means sustainable farming practices which protects watersheds and habitats.
All topics, including regulations, marketing, and packaging are treated in a straight-forward manner, which is also how people are advised to run their business. (Trust, Thistlethwaite and Dunlop write, is the number one reason people will do business with you.) Concrete advice is offered wherever possible, and they don’t hesitate to say when things will get complicated or murky. Farming is tough business and meat is tougher yet. The system is not necessarily on the side of the small producer, but part of what this book aims to do is change that around some. New systems don’t alter by themselves and by giving people the tools they need, the authors aim to add momentum to an already rolling ball.
Thistlethwaite and Dunlop cover everything a person needs to know to get started. While the final chapter on financial management and general business topics feels rather brief, readers may find Thistlethwaite’s other book, Farms with a Future, an excellent companion volume. Customers too, will find plenty of useful information here as well. Understanding what goes into an ethical and sustainable meat production process would also make a world of difference on both ends of the table. Ethics, for the animals as well as the consumers, are part of the aim, and come up in every chapter. This is surely a book that will be kept close to hand in the early years and beyond.
Joan Bailey writes about food, farming, and farmers markets in Japan. You can find more of her work at www.japanfarmersmarkets.com