Rural and Urban Styles of Meat

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

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There are two traditional, indeed ancient ways of obtaining meat from animals, and they produce meats of distinctive qualities.
One method is to raise animals primarily for their value as living companions— oxen and horses for their work in the fields, laying hens for their eggs, cows and sheep and goats for their milk and for wool—and turn them into meat only when they are no longer productive. In this system, slaughtering animals for meat is the last use of a resource that is more valuable when alive. The meat comes from mature animals, and is therefore well exercised and relatively tough, lean but flavorful. This method was by far the most common one from prehistoric times until the 19th century.