Food historian and self-described “full red-blooded carnivore” Betty Fussell understands that Americans are “caught up in the romance of beef.”

As she writes in Raising Steaks: The Life and Times of American Beef:

I felt that when I ate steak, I was sinking my teeth into the myth of the Frontier—the Marlboro cowboy busting his bronc, the cast-iron skillet on an open fire, the smell of tobacco and burnt coffee, a soft neigh or two from a tethered horse, the clank of a metal spur, the wheeze of a harmonica, a black sky full of stars.

But Fussell also acknowledges the stark realities of factory farms and slaughterhouses, animal cruelty, E. coli, mad cow disease and the toll meat production takes on our environment.

She talks with folks like Connie and Doc Hatfield of Country Natural Beef, who prove it’s possible to raise cattle humanely, without feeding them hormones or antibiotics, and without polluting the environment.

This makes Raising Steaks a fascinating anthropological read for organic foodies, whether you’re a meat eater, vegetarian or flexitarian.