Thursday, April 14, 2011

Book Review: Righteous Porkchop

In recent years, I’ve read a number of books on animal agriculture and Righteous Porkchop by Nicolette Hahn Niman is only the latest.  I was intrigued by the title, but I feared that it might be a repeat of earlier information, and I would become bored or would be made to feel really guilty.  However, this was not the case.

Hahn Niman has a great writing style and a unique perspective. She’s a vegetarian environmental lawyer who, while crusading against factory farms, falls in love with a cattle rancher, Bill Niman (founder of natural meat company Niman Ranch).  Sounds like a movie, right?

Her book is both informative and entertaining.  It includes clear and authoritative explanations of the environmental and health consequences of factory farming.  In fact, I understand more about the industry than I ever have.  But, it isn’t just a litany of dry facts.  All the information is interwoven with details from Hahn Niman’s personal life story and anecdotes from her career.

She also engages the reader to consider the ethical considerations of animal agriculture.  Without coming across as smug or preachy, Hahn Niman provides a thoughtful treatise and gives advice on how to proceed to more mindful eating in your own life.  She doesn’t criticize meat eaters, but asks consumers to be more thoughtful in their purchase decisions.

I appreciate that the book addresses and answers the argument that only industrialized agriculture can produce enough food to feed a growing population.  I’ve never believed that was true.  Plus, she provides examples of animal producers who have embraced husbandry and shows that it is possible to make a profit raising animals ethically.  I’m glad these individuals who care about animals, and yet eat meat, are not treated as villains.

If you are interested in learning more about what you eat without feeling like a bad guy for your current choices, then this is the book for you.  I think you’ll feel more inspired to make friends with a local farmer, too.

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