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Ugly Vintage Meats: Before There Were Food Stylists

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Cookbooks and adverts prior to the 1980s had a knack for making food look downright horrible.  Even tasty dishes could look horrifically inedible in the hands of an old school food photographer.  Looking at these vintage pictures of grey and grizzled meat, it is instantly apparent that we take for granted the skills of the modern food stylist….


pot roast from hell

Barf!  Take a good long look at that meat.  In the hands of a modern food stylist, this pot roast will make your mouth water.  This grey, fatty mess, on the other hand, will cause quite a different physical reaction.


grey and sickly meat

Who wants to take the first bite of this apparently diseased pot roast?  And take note of that glistening fatty coat.  Deelish!  For more on this check out: Vintage Gristle: Glistening Mounds of Mid-Century Meat


7-18-2015 10-32-21 AM

I’m not sure spearmint gum is a great combo with hamburger meat to begin with; and the fact that the “hot sandwiches” look like ghoulish Halloween snacks doesn’t help matters.


7-18-2015 10-39-14 AM

The shimmering glaze is a little troubling, but at least it distracts you from the “prune stuffed” nightmare within.

Again, this might actually taste okay; but in the days before food stylists, meat had a tendency to look stomach turning.

7-18-2015 10-44-11 AM

The once noble salmon reduced to this… the indignity of it all!

Still, it at least appears the proto-food stylist was at least trying.  Trying and failing, but trying nonetheless.


7-18-2015 10-50-47 AM

The obvious question is, with fantastically awful food ideas like the one above, could even the modern day food stylist, with all the powers of Photoshop at his or her disposal, be able to make them look edible?


7-18-2015 11-00-58 AM

From the Pillsbury’s Meat Cook Book ©1970.  Words fail me.



It’s as if this early food stylist was trying to tell us something with this red “X” – what could it be?

Of course, the smells emanating from this German liver sausage would be all the warning you’d need.



I’ll give credit to trying to bedazzle this gut-wrenching mess with a hardboiled egg inside, but it’s a lost cause – nothing can save this dry discolored briquette .

meat loaf afterbirth

When your meatloaf resembles afterbirth, there’s a problem.


Whatever it is, I think it’s done.


sausage horror

I know this was a decade or so before food styling became a formal science; but, they still should have known better.

  • David

    Being a vegetarian, looking at that slop really made me nauseous.

  • Andrew Ayers

    I don’t get the comments about the whole meat visuals. Granted, these images were pretty ugly (and I am almost certain most of them are prior to about 1985 or so – many definitely had a 1960s or 70s look to them) – the idea that meat shouldn’t look like meat makes me wonder about people today.

    Yes, meat comes from animals – deal with it. Also, meat (especially meat with flavor and tenderness) has fat – well marbled beef is considered by many if not most to be the best you can have on your plate. I especially hate how consumers have influenced the pork industry to make most of their meat bland, flavorless, and dry by reducing the fat of it to near nothing. I recall in the 1980s how you could get pork chops with a nice rind of fat on the outside to keep it moist and flavorful – but not any longer (if you want that, though, you can get it at Asian markets).

    I want my meat flavorful. I want my meat fatty. I want my meat to be cooked properly and not within an inch of it’s life (with an exception to ground beef – that said, a hamburger cooked to a perfect medium is a thing to be experienced). Unfortunately, as time goes on, people seem to have this fetish to make meat producers rethink their products in such a way so they don’t have to be reminded that meat is ultimately from a living and breathing animal.

    Heck – I know people who only eat chicken nuggets and find buffalo wings disgusting – because they have bones in them! The horror!

  • Charles Volcher

    Miracle Whip IS FAKE MAYONNAISE!!!!! you want REAL mayonnaise eat Hellmens or Best Foods