The Ethical Omnivore is a remarkable book by the owners of Feather and Bone, a butchery in Marrickville, Sydney’s Inner West. I have been a customer since 2012, when I found them through a Google search in my infinite quest for ethically raised and slaughtered meat.
Laura Dalrymple and Grant Hilliard are the owners of Feather and Bone. We can say they accidentally stumbled upon butchery as their previous professional lives were on the creative side of things.
Every single interaction I’ve had with Laura and Grant has been warm, friendly and informative. They are genuinely nice people and truly care about their craft.
The Ethical Omnivore
This book is written for those who care about where their food comes from out of compassion and worry about the fate of the planet. The Ethical Omnivore is half “content” and half recipes. I suspect there are people attracted to one part more than the other, but I encourage you to read it cover to cover. Yes, including the recipes even if you decide not to try them. At the very minimum, flip to the pages and look at the stunning photographs.
Part 1: Let’s talk
As mentioned above, this is the “content” section of the book, seasoned with stories from the farmers who grow the food that ends on our (Feather and Bone customers’) tables. The book starts with the beginnings of the butchery, i.e. how on Earth a filmmaker/sommelier and a graphic designer get into the butchery business.
As it’s explained in the book, the most important thing about growing food, including animals, is the soil. Laura and Grant explain what they have learned from the farmers: that mass-produced food – plant or animal – depletes the soil and is not sustainable in the long run.
This section of the book also opens our eyes to the fact that most of the food that is commercially available comes from a single breed (of animals but also applies to crops) that has been selected (some would say manipulated) to maximise financial output. The importance of preserving genetic diversity can be narrowed down to one word: health (of the soil, the animals, the crops and the consumers).
What comes next is perhaps the most controversial chapter in the book. Entitled “Looking the animal in the eye – Understanding the slaughter process” it is the closest most of us have ever gone to witness an animal dying for food. Note that this is applicable in Australia and doesn’t necessarily translate to what happens in other countries.
Another major takeaway of this book and the Feather and Bone philosophy is the use of the whole animal. Before reading this book, I was not aware that buying whole carcasses guarantees traceability of the animal. Using the whole animal is, of course, the best way of minimising waste and maximising nutrient intake. I’d argue it also trains one’s palate to appreciate more interesting and/or complex flavours.
Part 2: Let’s eat
This is the hands-on, recipe-packed section of the book. Most of the recipes were contributed by friends of Feather and Bone, from top chefs to farmers and customers like me. You will also find recipes for the ready-to-eat goodies sold in the butchery such as the chicken liver pâté and the ‘put-your-feet-up’ meat sauce.
The recipes are distributed in 3 categories:
- I can do that (short, easy to make recipes)
- You could do this (recipes that take a bit more time but are still easy)
- You should do this (more involved, perhaps intimidating projects)
You can expect dishes from all corners of the world, united by a common thread: to use and celebrate the whole animal.
The book wraps up with the butchery’s guiding principles, acknowledgements and resources for more information on the topics discussed in The Ethical Omnivore.
For more information about The Ethical Omnivore and the butchery head to Feather and Bone’s website.
You might also want to check out my recipes that showcase Feather and Bone’s products: