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In my grammar book, the following is stated:

2.5 animals
1. Use ’s when referring to the parts of the body of a living animal.
2. Use ’s when referring to the products of living animals.
3. Do not use ’s for dead animal body parts or products.

But today I read an article, with the following sentence:

a protester eats a raw pig's head outside a vegan ...

So I am thinking how does it fit in the rules above? Clearly, he was eating a part of a dead animal, so why not "pig head" then?

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The grammar book is being too prescriptive.

It is the case that when talking about items used as food we tend not to use possessive, but we do normally change to the "food" word. For example

At the butcher you could buy chicken breasts, beef steak and pork mince.

You wouldn't say "chickens' breasts" and certainly never "beef's steak" or "pork's mince".

Perhaps because we don't normally think of "pig's head" as food, it is more natural to use a possessive. Similarly, while "chicken feet" is the more common expression, you will also find "chicken's feet" being used (example). It would also be natural to say "I found a fox's skull in my garden." (though "fox skull" would not sound strange).

So for meat used as food, we don't use possessive. For parts of an animal that are not food, or which are not used as food in English speaking cultures, the possessive is possible and may be quite natural.

  • Thank you. Regarding the fox's skull, would "a fox skull" be incorrect/odd sounding?For example: "There were a lot of fox skulls", should the possessive still be there? – John V Mar 28 at 6:09

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