I really enjoyed the River Cottage Meat Book and now I'm looking for something more thorough than coffeetable reading. I want to know more about what goes in to producing top quality meat, from diet to butchering. Not a trade manual so much as something that a layman might like to peruse. Anyone know of something?
If you are not already familiar with the book "On Food and Cooking", you should check it out. The section on meat is excellent. Harold McGee, the author, explains the science, history and gastronomy of meat (and every other edible item).
What's the difference between light meat and dark meat?
Why are hormones illegal in Europe?
Why is the word for the meat of the animal different from the word for the animal (e.g. beef and cattle)?
How has meat production changed in the last century and what have been the effects on quality and taste?
Have you looked at "How to Cook Meat" by Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby?
This is a cookbook but it is from two masters at getting the most out of the meat we have today. There is a good bit of reference material in it as well as discussions of what works best with different cuts.
There's also Adellis' "The complete meat cookbook", which I don't like as much as "how to cook meat" (between the two books of his that I have, I find that I often don't like things when following the recipe exactly).
I only have one pseudo-complaint about "how to cook meat", which is that it seems like a lot of the recipes are geared towards grilling, which due to my living situation is difficult (i'm limited to an extremely basic single burner gas grill and i'm not even supposed to have that). OTOH that might just be a faulty perception on my part because of the yummy recipes that I see which i can't make due to this :)
You might think about River Cottage Cookbook - which was the earlier book and covers Fearnley-Whittingstall's smallholding organic methods in some detail. It includes fish and veg as well as meat and, of course, has some good recipes.
Fergus Henderson's Nose to Tail Cooking is certainly a grand introduction to the ways of the animal. I love the Variety Meats volume of the old Time-Life Good Cooks series - easy to find online, but a bit expensive. (Visiting vegans will flip through it it as if it's hardcore porn.) The Willoughby/Schlesinger volume, as noted, is great - they did most of the meat in the 1990s revision of Joy of Cooking, which is worth picking up for that alone - well, maybe Alice Medrich's chocolate recipes too.
Thanks for the recommendations. I picked up How to Cook Meat and Nose to Tail Cooking. Both are great books. Ferguson because he was so much fun to read, the other guys because they provide a lot of very useful information about, well, how to cook meat.
I'm still looking for something more informative about the farming and butchering aspects. Everything I've seen, for example, has a broad guide to the different parts with a short list of their more specific cuts. I'd like to find a more detailed guide than the page with six boxes next to the cow. Or what it takes to raise a tasty cow, etc.