Walk into a typical restaurant or supermarket in America, and it is difficult to find meat that resembles animals. Seafood seems to be the exception, as one can easily buy fish, crabs, or lobsters that resemble the animal form in restaurants and supermarkets. Many Americans will feel disgusted to sea a whole pig hanging in a shop, or to find various recognizable animal part in their food, while people in other countries may feel it is normal.

Was this brought from Europe? How long has this attitude about meat existed in America? How did it come about?

  • 1
    Pedantry here: One cannot easily buy fish, crabs, or lobsters that resemble the animal form. One can buy fish, crabs, or lobsters, both live and dead, whole or in part. .... what I mean is what you mean is we (Americans) don't like our meat "on the hoof". I would agree, with the sole possible exception being a hog used in a luau.
    – CGCampbell
    Sep 11, 2014 at 18:41
  • 2
    The issue isn't whether the animal is whole, but rather how easy it is to use. An unplucked chicken is a lot of work to cook, but one that's plucked and gutted is easy to toss in the oven. A whole pig (or even a whole ham) is more meat than I've ever needed at once, but a smaller cut of pork I can handle. A whole trout needs to be gutted and scaled, but a fish filet is easy to cook. Etc.
    – Joe
    Sep 11, 2014 at 21:04
  • 1
    Good closure. The actual question here relates to the Chicago meat works and the commodification of food culture in the 19th century. Sep 12, 2014 at 1:48

1 Answer 1


Since most Americans no longer raise their own animals, or have to preserve meat for long periods because fresh meat is readily available, they no longer need to buy meat in such large quantities that an entire animal is required, so it is cut up for convenience.

Even so, you can certainly purchase whole dressed game hens, chickens, and near major holidays 25 pound turkeys, so the driving force is not really a repugnance for animal shaped food.

EDIT: Another factor that would drive customers to demand whole animal food or unprocessed food would be fear of adulteration or substitution. A can of tinned meat might be horse instead of beef, but the entire cow standing there is pretty much a cow.

In the US, these days, the national inspection and labeling rules are such that few to none worry much about a package of meat in the store being some other product besides what is stated, and wholesome.

  • 2
    I dunno, you know those cows can be crafty. They've been known to throw horns on the mules while they sleep.
    – CGCampbell
    Sep 12, 2014 at 17:52

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.