Catherine Friend
Catherine Friend
The Compassionate Carnivore

Da Capo Press, 2007

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Compassionate Carnivore

Or, How to Keep Animals Happy, Save Old MacDonald's Farm, Reduce Your Hoofprint, and Still Eat Meat

Consumers are becoming more and more concerned about what happens to their food before it hits their tables. As an animal-loving, animal-raising, animal-eating farmer, Catherine Friend tackles the carnivore’s dilemma, exploring the contradictions, nuances, and questions surrounding the bewildering choices facing today’s more conscious meat-eaters. Using her own struggle to become a compassionate carnivore, Friend offers concrete tools readers can use to talk to farmers and processors, to negotiate the Brave New World of humanely-raised meat.

awards and recognition

Minnesota Book Award in General Nonfiction, 2009

reviews and readers' comments

“This is the read you need … Friend comes to complex yet clear conclusions about the right way to eat meat. Smart, personal, and funny, The Compassionate Carnivore will make you want to hug a cow, and order a rib eye.” (Women’s Health)

“As a sustainable sheep farmer for fifteen years, Friend is smarter than the average bear when it comes to fixing what’s wrong with America’s dysfunctional food system…I braced myself for the usual defensive claptrap about human sovereignty over animals that vegetarians hear all too often, but I am pleased to report that I was wrong. Instead, The Compassionate Carnivore speaks in the most appealing terms of gratitude, moderation, and sustainability…I applaud Friend’s approach of finding balance between the extremes of mindless consumption and hyperawareness.” (Kate Munning)

“Friend is a refreshing voice in the eat-better movement…The Compassionate Carnivore is both an entertaining memoir and a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of how America raises its meat…Mostly her book is about the history of the modern American farm: how it went from small to big and then to enormous, with a few renegade small-scalers (such as Friend herself) either hanging on or reinventing the farm-wagon wheel. Yes, much of this is as grim as it is familiar — but Friend manages to make it lively and even funny without burying her essential moral seriousness.” (

“Friend’s direct, yet tactful approach will educate without making the reader feel judged for their decision to be a carnivore. It’s an informative and at times funny approach to get people to think about what they eat and the process meat goes through before it gets to your freezer.” (

“Friend’s sincere gratitude…shines through in her writing.” (Bust)

“While Friend’s book asks readers to change their meat-eating habits, it does so without being a chirpy, unrealistic self-help tome, or a gruesome factory-farm expose … While Friend can be critical, she can also be funny.” (City Pages)

“What works with this book is Friend has done the research but writes it in her style, which is informed but conversational… Friend delivers her thoughts as a talented writer who also farms and cares about her animals.” (Rochester Post Bulletin)

“Friend knows this is an emotionally charged subject, and she tackles it head-on and unapologetically.” (St. Paul Pioneer Press)

The Compassionate Carnivore is a clear and direct handbook on how to make informed decisions when buying meat.” (

“In an interesting, conversational and empowering way, Friend gives you more than you can chew, but chops it up into bite-sized pieces.” (

“In this deeply personal account of her involvement in the humane raising of sheep, self-described shepherd, animal lover, and committed carnivore Catherine Friend leads us through the lives of meat animals—in our industrial food system, and on her farm—with metaphor, compassion, and wit. Acknowledging how complex the ethical choices have become, her goal is to show us how important it is to ‘remain at the table,’ helping support those farmers who raise animals humanely. A rich and enjoyable read.” (Joan Gussow, author)

“I loved Catherine Friend’s philosophy on how to be a compassionate carnivore, and I cried when I read the chapter ‘Letter to My Lambs.’ It really is possible to deeply care about animals and eat meat.” (Temple Grandin, author)

“Three carnivores live in our house. And if you eat meat, there will be blood. The Compassionate Carnivore will help you face the ugly slaughterhouse facts. She’ll also help you make the right choices for your body and soul. There’s no better guide through this moral thicket than a grass-farmer who eats her own meat.” (Nina Planck, author)

“… Friend has a unique and intimate perspective on the morals, economics and practicalities of raising and eating meat humanely. With low-key, Midwestern humor, she takes readers on a tour of an abattoir, writes a love letter to her lambs heading for slaughter and relates how chivalry has been bred out of roosters…. Readers interested in the subject will likely be familiar with Friend’s overall treatment, but fostering a long-term commitment to the cause, she believes, is an act of respect that will affect the lives of the millions of animals raised in this country every year,and her suggestions are so reasonable that even the most rampant, mainstream meat-eater might consider trying them.” (Publishers Weekly)