The Carnivore's Manifesto

Eating Well, Eating Responsibly, and Eating Meat


By Patrick Martins

With Mike Edison

Foreword by Alice Waters

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One of The Atlantic’s Best Food Books of 2014: fifty ways to be an enlightened carnivore, while taking better care of our planet and ourselves, from the founder of Slow Food USA.

We have evolved as meat eaters, proclaims Patrick Martins, and it’s futile to deny it. But, given the destructive forces of the fast-food industry and factory farming, we need to make smart, informed choices about the food we eat and where it comes from.

In 50 short chapters, Martins cuts through organize zealotry and the misleading jargon of food labeling to outline realistic steps everyone can take to be part of the sustainable-food movement. With wit, and insight, and no small amount of provocation, The Carnivore’s Manifesto is both a revolutionary call to arms and a rollicking good read that will inspire, engage, and challenge anyone interested in the way we eat today.


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The Revolution Starts Now

This book is an action-based approach to eating meat and living well on the planet Earth. It is about pleasure, and dignity, and fairness.

Every year Americans eat more than ten billion livestock. Unfortunately, most of these animals are the product of inhumane, nonsustainable, and cruel factory farming, the stuff of fast food and supermarket specials. It's a system that is bad for animals, is bad for people, and punishes an overtaxed environment.

THE CARNIVORE'S MANIFESTO effects a path to liberating ourselves from fast food and corporate agriculture and the destruction they bring. THE CARNIVORE'S MANIFESTO recognizes that a virtuous alternate American farm system has always existed, and has incredible potential to grow as a viable option to feed all Americans.

When it comes to the sort of greedy corporate farming and aberrant agriculture that supplies most Americans with their meat, we are completely in solidarity with our vegetarian friends. It is our belief that no one should be subjected to the unacceptable and harsh practices of that system.

The meat we celebrate is the righteous kind, from healthy animals of sound genetics that have been treated humanely and allowed to pursue their natural instincts. Antibiotics and growth hormones are not part of the system. The environment is respected, and fair labor is practiced.

Unfortunately, not everyone has access to quality food all the time, but all people deserve to eat this way. We dismiss the claim that good food is elitist, and that we should accept low standards of food quality for anyone. We applaud anything that moves the dial in the right direction, away from the Industrial Food Complex that has betrayed our trust: slowing down, eating meat in season, investing in local businesses, or getting cozy with your butcher.

This is a practical guide. We aren't confusing day-to-day life with impossible-to-achieve ideals, nor do we think we can create some sort of feel-good food utopia—the B in pretty much every BLT in the nation comes from a cruel system—but we are certain we should strive for it.

Following the advice in this book will ensure that you have a better relationship with the world around you and the food on your plate. You will feel better and have more fun.


It boggles the mind when food is confused with fashion. Food is not a handbag; it is about sustenance and survival. It is the ultimate intimacy—you put it in your mouth. You put it in your body.

There is no bigger issue of our time than our food supply and the earth's ability to provide it for us. On every front, we are spoiling our nest. The thin layer of topsoil that feeds the planet is fraying like a cheap suit. Global warming is turning agricultural havens into deserts. Pesticides are poisoning a water supply that is quickly drying up in many areas. Our livestock are so overbred for fast growth that their bones are weak—a quarter of all chickens arrive at the slaughterhouse already injured and in pain. Antibiotics are fed to animals because they are presumed to be too sick to live without them, and humans who eat them, especially children, are becoming immune to certain medicines because of this chemically tainted food chain. We have lost most of the independent farms in this country. We need action!

My company, Heritage Foods USA, moves sixty thousand pounds of pasture-raised heritage and rare-breed pork and beef every week, and five times that amount of meat in October, November, and December because of all the turkeys, geese, and goats that are naturally ready for harvest during the holidays. Working with some of our nation's best farmers and chefs to get this food on the table is an honor, a responsibility, and a privilege that we cherish.

The reason we focus on pure heritage and rare-breed animals—like Red Wattle pigs and Narragansett turkeys—as opposed to their overbred commodity counterparts—is that many of these less common breeds have been pushed to the brink of extinction because they don't grow fast enough or produce enough lean meat to satisfy the corporate demand for maximum profit. A corporate chicken, the kind favored by fast-food companies, is hardly a chicken at all. It is a hot genetic mess of an animal.

There are dozens of varieties of cows, pigs, sheep, goats, chickens, ducks, geese, and turkeys. Each type looks different, acts different, tastes different, and comes from a different agricultural tradition, but from the perspective of the boardroom, there is little incentive to raise these beasts, even though many of them are renowned for their taste.

Maintaining rare and heritage breeds is crucial for a healthy and safe food supply. The viability of the livestock population depends on a strong genetic base. Novel pathogens, natural or man-made, can wipe out one variety while having no effect on another, which means that relying on only one or two is dangerous—we have to keep rare and heritage breeds viable by creating an active market for them.

Heritage Foods USA is responsible for moving whole animals, nose to tail. Selling every piece is the key to sustainability and to supporting the farmers who supply us, but it's a real challenge to sell all the parts from all the pigs and cattle that come in all year round. Thankfully, a network of visionary restaurants and a constellation of home chefs around the country are committed to ordering consistently and often.

My first run at the meat business was selling heritage turkeys, and for that I have to thank Frank Reese, the owner of the most important poultry farm in America. His farm in Kansas is a seething cauldron of biodiversity—he has dozens of poultry breeds, and in many cases his is the last farm in the world to be home to these breeds. Let me tell you how I found myself out there with his birds, listening to him talk so passionately about the need for more Americans to consume sustainable, heritage poultry.

In the spring of 1998 I had the cosmically great fortune of being in the right place at the right time, at a dinner at Remi in New York, where Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini happened to be dining. As usual, he was captivating the entire room, gesticulating like a wild man while preaching the virtues of sustainability in his Piedmontese dialect, keeping everyone laughing, but also delivering an unassailable gut check when it came to the realities of his cause. The owner, Francesco Antonucci, did me the great favor of introducing me to Carlo, and I quickly became a rapt disciple of Slow Food.

Carlo began Slow Food in 1986, largely to counter the homogenizing effects of fast food and its invasion of the Old World. Slow Food's first act was brutal in its simplicity, its message bell-clear to Italians: When the first McDonald's opened on the Spanish Steps of Rome, Carlo and his crew of high-minded anarchists from Bra, Italy, sat there and ate pasta in protest. Slow Food. It is now an international nonprofit movement dedicated to promoting producers, ingredients, regional cuisines, and biodiversity in the food supply.

Soon after our chance meeting at Remi, Carlo invited me to come to Italy to work with him. By then the Slow Food movement had about thirty thousand members, mostly in Europe. I arrived just months before Slow Food put on its second Salone del Gusto in Turin. Every single person of Carlo's hundred-person staff was working every waking moment to turn this event—which took over the entire Lingotto Fiat factory in Turin—into something of a miracle.

The Salone was an amusement park for food lovers—almost every artisanal food in the world was represented there, and you could taste them all in the Grand Market Hall or in classroom-style educational seminars led by experts. One hundred thousand people attended the Salone—no one had expected half that—and the publicity it generated helped Slow Food transition from an Italian organization to a global one. The year after the Salone, Slow Food membership swelled to over sixty thousand in sixty countries.

As Carlo became more of an international figure, he refined his message, although he never toned down his delivery. He is an amazing speaker, as anyone who has ever heard him in action can testify, the kind of guy who can talk his way into or out of anything, whether it is dodging a speeding ticket or igniting a movement.

The only truly modern answer to the question of how to deal with food, he repeatedly said, is eco-gastronomy, an understanding of what quality food is but also the knowledge of where it comes from. Being a gastronome alone, he continued, was gluttonous, and the people who only celebrated food on their plate were plainly stupid. On the other hand, ecologists and environmentalists were largely born of do-gooding American eggheads, and they were suicidally boring. Taste combined with traceability was the only answer—the unified theory, as physicists might say—and Carlo steered his movement to educate the public about good, clean, and fair food. At the same time, he never forgot to have fun.

The crucial Slow Food project that put the eco into practice was the virtual Slow Food Ark of Taste. Onto this imaginary but much-vaunted Ark, Slow Food boarded endangered foods with the goal of promoting them—the kind that have been pushed to the brink of extinction because of apathy or a corporate food culture that only respects a fast-faster-fastest mentality and profits at any cost. The international Ark grew to be a true catalog of biodiversity and was the perfect metaphor to bring to a country steeped in Old Testament lore.

Carlo loved the idea of his movement getting a foothold in America, the country responsible for starting the plague of fast food that was now infecting the world. Fueled by the success of the Salone, Carlo and I took two three-week marathon tours of the United States. We stopped in more than a dozen cities and talked to foodies before there even was such a word, and we were blown away by the depth of America's true gastronomic tradition, especially when it came to beer, wine, cheese, and bread. The amazing people we met on farms, in restaurants, and in homes were the leaders of the new food movement.

When we returned to Italy, I worked to capitalize on our goodwill tours and raise Slow Food membership in the States, so that we might have the funds to start a national headquarters in New York. I spent my days clanging away at my typewriter, firing off press releases and updates on Carlo's activities and our office happenings, and announcing the opening of new chapters.

Stories sprang up like poppies—we seemed to be in every major newspaper and magazine in the country. Suddenly we were receiving dozens of e-mails and calls to our toll-free number from people interested in paying $60 to become a member and receive the Slow Food magazine, which was appropriately called Slow. Once we had a few members signed up in a given city or town, I would pester them to hold a meeting of local members with the goal of starting a local chapter, or convivium, as we called it at the time. These were great folks, some of the most inspiring activists I have ever met. By March of 2000 I had achieved Carlo's first goal of 2,000 memberships in the States and was sent home with my Italian coconspirator, Serena Di Liberto, to run Slow Food USA out of my apartment in New York.

When I arrived back home, I realized that our successful fund-raising and ambition had only created a greater need to raise money, to pay for the expense of a real office and a staff, which were needed to support the infrastructure of a growing movement. What we needed was a singular project that would galvanize and focus the current membership and convert others to the cause, all while also keeping Slow Food in the news. And thus the Ark became the vehicle—while signing up members, organizing events, and publishing our national newsletter, the Snail, I was busy getting biblical, boarding agricultural products onto our American Ark.

We boarded many foods, like rare varieties of apricots and apples, but the heritage turkey was by far our ideal poster child: It was American, everyone ate it, it even had its own holiday. The traditional, tastier breeds of turkey had been pushed aside in favor of larger-breasted and faster-growing birds concocted in corporate laboratories. For breeds like Bourbon Red, Narragansett, and Jersey Buff, only a few dozen breeding birds were alive and in action. We needed to do something—and fast—or these testaments to deliciousness would go the way of the dodo.

In 2001 we sent out the press release announcing the heritage turkey breeds' ceremonial entry onto the Ark of Taste, and soon Marian Burros wrote a New York Times article announcing that the following year Slow Food USA would begin selling these rare birds to Slow Food members. We were surprised—we weren't quite ready to get into the retail meat business; it was still in the planning stages. But the fire had been lit, and about ten minutes after the story came out I called Frank Reese, the godfather of heritage poultry, and told him he had no choice but to get on board—we needed birds for the next Thanksgiving. Frank obliged and took a huge risk by raising eight hundred heritage turkeys for us on his small farm in Kansas.

When the Italian and the US Slow Food boards of directors got wind of the project, they went into panic mode, worried that because we were selling a food item as a profit center, we might jeopardize the nonprofit status of Slow Food USA, or that someone might get sick eating the bird—the very animal we had been celebrating! They also believed that the Ark should not endorse an individual producer. They tried to kill the project.

But it was too late. The shoot-first-think-later approach I had learned from Carlo had already made sure that the sales flyer had gone out to all Slow Food members in the United States. So the directors asked that I start my own company to take full responsibility for the project, which I did, calling it Heritage Foods USA. At first it was the marketing arm of Slow Food USA, but eventually it would grow to be its own self-sustaining business, selling and promoting heritage meat and supporting independent farms.

The project almost crashed a few times—loading hundreds of turkeys onto a FedEx truck in the back of a slaughterhouse was beyond the scope of anything I had been prepared for—but ultimately everyone got their birds and Frank got paid. The second year we sold about fifteen hundred turkeys; the initiative became the most successful Slow Food operation in the States, and all the profits went to fund Slow Food. Meanwhile, about fifty other farms around the country started to raise heritage turkeys for their local Slow Food convivia, great news for our mission to promote biodiversity. At some point the suits on the board of directors seemed to forget that they'd been against the idea from the start.

Many of the farmers who now raised the turkeys with Frank to help meet the sudden demand were calling me, asking if I could help them secure a more regular source of income, since naturally mating turkeys are seasonal, and only available around Thanksgiving. These farmers also raised heritage breeds of pig, cattle, and sheep, as well as ducks and geese. By 2004 Slow Food had grown to more than 11,000 members and 130 chapters, and I was proud that the movement had the infrastructure to survive without me running it. I decided it was time to work directly with independent farmers. In my final letter as the president of Slow Food USA, published in the Snail, I invited the membership at large to sign up for my new full-time venture.

The first year we sold everything from half lambs to wild rice to charcuterie, all via FedEx, to home chefs. Then, in the spring of 2005, I took a life-changing trip to visit our family of farms with a small group of believers, including chefs Mark Ladner and Zach Allen from the Mario Batali–Joe Bastianich restaurant group. As expected, they fell in love with the farmers, and with the taste and quality of the meat. Ladner, especially, took a huge leap of faith and said that if we could supply his restaurant Lupa in New York City with pork for six months without fucking up, then the other restaurants in their group—including Babbo and Del Posto and places they were planning to open in Las Vegas and LA—would follow and support us, too.

We ordered our first batch of pigs—Red Wattles, because they were Mark's favorite—and told our farmers to start ramping up production. It was a commitment that would take them years to fulfill because of the slow growth rate of heritage breeds, but we were confident we would succeed and not leave them hanging. Our new partners at Paradise Locker Meats in Trimble, Missouri—whom we met through one of the farmers and have grown to love like family—skillfully cut and processed the meat. Then we found a trucking company, Cannonball Express, to deliver our first few pigs in parts to New York City.

Lupa was mostly buying pork shoulder and jowl, so I started calling my chef friends and cold-calling around to see if anyone would be interested in trying the parts of the pig that Lupa didn't need, including some terrific cuts like bellies, spareribs, hams, and my favorite, the porterhouse chops. The response was amazing, and the next week I found myself hauling ass through the streets of New York in a rented U-Haul van to deliver the meat before it went bad in the summer heat. About a year later we met Pat LaFrieda, the great New York meat distributor, and his right-hand man, Mark Pastore, and we made a great deal with them to deliver our food for us locally. Months later we found a similar delivery service in Northern California, Preferred Meats, owned by Bala Kironde, and Heritage Foods USA really started to hum.

By 2008 we were going through 150 pigs a week, in addition to small numbers of other livestock, not to mention 8,000 turkeys at Thanksgiving. Restaurant groups, including Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group, signed on for weekly deliveries, as did independent restaurants like Oliveto, A16, and Americano Restaurant at Hotel Vitale in the Bay Area. Then the cure-masters followed and helped us move all the parts of all our pigs. Two of America's great charcutiers—Sam Edwards in Virginia, and Fatted Calf's Taylor Boetticher in California—became our champion customers, transforming our business.

We now deliver to roughly 150 restaurant partners every week, and they are the lifeline for an entire network of independent farms and processors—by supporting heritage breeds and a return to traditional flavors, they are keeping about fifty family-owned businesses up and running. And as our wholesale division expanded to meet a growing demand, we also began to expand our mail-order division, which now sells hundreds of products directly to people's homes, including bison, lamb, goat, and maple syrup.

Today we do much the same thing on the same schedule as we did when we began—pigs are killed on Mondays and Tuesdays while we make sales calls, and then they are cut to order on Wednesdays and Thursdays while we dedicate time to our mail-order division. We do our accounting on Friday, and we work with all the same people we did when we started. Goats, turkeys, ducks, and geese join the fray in October, November, and December. Heritage Foods USA keeps growing, but it never really changes that much—over the years we have learned that the best way to support America's independent farms is to buy from them, and that anything else is bullshit.

Since Slow Food began, we have seen fads melt and trends rise and fall. We've seen the food world morph into fashion, where sizzle rules the day no matter where the steak came from.

But the spate of fancy events and color photographs and chef competition shows on television has done little to help American independent farmers sleep at night—or to improve the chances that our planet might survive the current onslaught of corporate farming and the looming realities of climate change. We are drowning in recipes and food porn—when it comes to the real issues that concern our farmers and the health of America's food supply, the food media is failing. It isn't much more than a beauty pageant.

The revolution needed a voice, something to punch through this insipid wall of tawdry, feel-good fluff—so in 2009, largely inspired by Carlo Petrini's 1975 pirate station in Italy, Radio Bra Onde Rosse, we began the Heritage Radio Network, an Internet-based radio station out behind Roberta's restaurant in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Carlo rescued an old military surplus transmitter to start his station; we built ours out of a couple of recycled shipping containers and put a garden on the roof.

Chris Parachini, Brandon Hoy, and Carlo Mirarchi had opened Roberta's a few months earlier, and were at the vanguard of a new generation of restaurant at once cool and sustainable. Roberta's was unlike any other in America—the restaurant itself was built by the owners themselves out of an old auto body shop with rescued and recycled materials, in an industrial district that nearly burned to the ground during the great blackout of 1977. Now it is very much at the hub of a fantastic new food movement, and the food that comes out of the pizza station and kitchen is delicious. This is also where I met my coauthor, Mike Edison, whose book I Have Fun Everywhere I Go—itself a romp through slow culture—had resonated with me. I invited Mike to talk about his work on my radio program, The Main Course, and he became a frequent guest and a good friend, eventually beginning his own show.

Heritage Radio now reaches millions of listeners a month. We produce our own content that directly competes with the food coverage on NPR, CNN, and every other major news portal. At the core of the station are thirty fantastic weekly shows—hosted by a diverse group of chefs, authors, visionaries, lunatics, journalists, historians, and hedonists—about food technology, beer, cheese, food history, politics, and cocktails, to name just a few of the myriad, plus a few outlier shows covering alternative music, arts, and pop culture. The station started as something of a clubhouse for subversive foodies but has grown into a legitimate media outlet—we are a source for hard news and opinion, a beacon for like-minded progressives who do not view food as simply fodder for the style section.

The first meat question brought up at every sustainable food conference is, without fail, "Should we eat meat, or not?" And my answer is: "Wow, that is one stupid question!" As a nation we sank our teeth into more than ten billion livestock last year. Animals are a huge part of our culture, part of the cycles of agriculture.

The next question we always hear is "How negative are the environmental consequences of meat production? Shouldn't we stop raising cattle for food?" Answer: "Another stupid question!" Since consuming meat is a reality, isn't it better to support a sustainable alternative rather than bleat about an unrealistic vegetarian dream world?


  • "The Carnivore's Manifesto is about a lot more than eating meat. It's about living well and having fun while being conscious of what goes into your body."—Mario Batali
  • "Passionate, thoughtful and more than occasionally amusing."—Ralph Gardner Jr., The Wall Street Journal
  • "Patrick Martins is the shepherd of domesticated animal rights. Tend to them mercifully, then 'eat 'em if you want to keep 'em,' he's always said. This manifesto offers a unique perspective in an edgy, guerrilla style. You'll find it impossible to put to pasture."—Mark Ladner, executive chef at Del Posto, New York
  • "Read this book!"—Carlo Petrini, founder of Slow Food International
  • "Martins, founder of Slow Foods USA and Heritage Foods USA . . . has created a blueprint for healthy eating, sustainable farming, biodiversity, as well as for protecting culinary traditions and cultural differences. [He] is passionate, preachy, and, above all, practical-he doesn't want you to make your own ketchup or give up pizza, just to buy the best meat and produce that is in season and to chose "quality" food over "commodity" food."—Publisher's Weekly

On Sale
Jun 10, 2014
Page Count
272 pages

Patrick Martins

About the Author

Patrick Martins is a distributor of locally raised meat through his company Heritage Foods USA, which sends over 60,000 pounds of meat every week to New York’s top restaurants. He is also a founder of Slow Food USA and a founder and on-air personality at Heritage Radio Network, which has over 1 million visitors a month. He lives in Brooklyn.

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