In Defending Beef: The Case for Sustainable Meat Production, prior longtime vegetarian turned grass-fed rancher Nicolette Hawn Niman dispels the myth that eating meat is bad for our bodies and the earth and instead presents an opposite view: that grass-fed beef from small farms should be the center of our food production and the health of the planet.
She does this by presenting comprehensive information about the consequences of modern farming practices versus sustainable farming practices and their effect on the world’s water and nutrition.
About the Author
Author and livestock rancher Nicolette Hahn Niman was previously an attorney for the Waterkeeper Alliance, a non-profit group that focuses solely on clean water. Hahn Niman is also a nationally known advocate and public speaker for sustainable-food production and improved farm-animal welfare. She is also the author of Righteous Porkchop (HarperCollins, 2009), a book about moving beyond factory farming. She has written about climate change and environmentalism for numerous publications, including the San Francisco Chronicle, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, CHOW, and The Atlantic online. Today, she spends a great deal of time speaking and writing about industrialized livestock production. She lives on a ranch in Northern California, with her husband and their two sons.
Hahn Niman starts the book with an introduction to modern American farming practices and policies and a brief overview as to why this method of food production is making us overfed, sick, and underemployed. Hahn Niman dispels criticism regarding overgrazing and trampling. She details poorly managed crop cultivation leading to soil exhaustion and erosion, and how the cattle were wrongly blamed for the poor condition of our lands. She discusses how grazing animals can take the place of plowing and how our cropland can be better managed for greater sustainability.
She goes on to methodically dispel what she considers a great and unfortunate myth of today: that cattle is the cause of climate change. She discusses why grass is the most important plant for the health of our earth, its inhabitants, erosion rates, and crop rotation.
Then Hahn Niman dives into the subject of water, detailing the problems with agricultural chemicals and how they affect our water system and how a truly sustainable food system can keep the water pristine and plentiful.
Biodiversity, or the degree of variation among an ecosystem’s plants and animals, is also addressed, from microscopic organisms to elephants and their relationships to the fertile soil. Hahn Niman discusses the concept of “rewilding”, based largely on the premise that ecosystems cannot function without large herbivores.
Bringing the book full circle, Hahn Niman addresses nutrition, sharing some clear and shocking statistics regarding the health of Americans and chronic disease processes related to the contemporary diet. She also shares actions we need to work towards individually, as farmers, and as a community, leaving the reader with an understanding of what it means to be “sustainable”.
What’s The Takeaway?
Along with an understanding of the adverse effects of modern farming practices, readers learn essentials to a viable food system that is relevant to everyone, not just today’s farmers. The book is loaded with useful tidbits on human nutrition, global environmental concerns in relation to grass- and pasture-raised animal consumption, and how you can use this information as a consumer and caretaker of your own health.
What We Like
At Keto-Mojo we’re all about eating real whole foods from local and organic sources. After reading this book, we learned just how imperative the sustainable farming movement is for our health and our children’s health. We love that this book brings us back to the early agricultural practices, that just makes sense. We loved the overall message that we need humanely produced food from local organic sources. We need more small family farms, and to move away from the industrialized farming paradigm.
The Final Word
It’s time we all start truly caring more about our health, and the health of our earth. We highly recommend this book to anyone questioning the consumption of grass-fed animals, and those looking to improve the health of their family as well as the overall health of our environment.
Shop for “Defending Beef: The Case for Sustainable Meat Production” here.