Making the Animals on the Plate Visible: Anglophone Celebrity Chef Cookbooks Ranked by Sentient Animal Deaths

Food Ethics 2 (1):17-37 (2018)
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Recent decades have witnessed the rise of chefs to a position of cultural prominence. This rise has coincided with increased consciousness of ethical issues pertaining to food, particularly as they concern animals. We rank cookbooks by celebrity chefs according to the minimum number of sentient animals that must be killed to make their recipes. On our stipulative definition, celebrity chefs are those with their own television show on a national network in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada or Australia. Thirty cookbooks by 26 such chefs were categorized according to the total number of cows, pigs, chicken, fish and other species they included as ingredients. The total number of animals killed was divided by the number of non-dessert recipes to generate an average number of animal deaths per recipe for each book. We outline the rationale for our project and its methodology before presenting a ranked table of 30 cookbooks by celebrity chefs. This method generates several interesting findings. The first concerns the wide variation in animal fatalities among cookbooks. The chef with the heaviest animal footprint killed 5.25 animals per recipe, while the omnivorous chef with the smallest footprints killed 0.19 per recipe. Clearly, not all approaches to meat eating are equal when it comes to their animal mortality rate. Pigs and large ruminants are all substantially bigger than poultry, which are themselves bigger than many fish. The prime determinant of a chef’s place in the index was the number of small animals his or her recipes required. Whether a chef cooked in the style of a particular cuisine (Italian, French, Mexican etc.), by contrast, had no discernible influence on his or her ranking. We analyze how different chefs present themselves—as either especially sensitive or insensitive to ethical issues involving animals and food—and note cases where these presentations do or do not match their index ranking.

Author's Profile

Andy Lamey
University of California, San Diego


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