Defending Beef: The Case for Sustainable Meat Production

Category: Book
By (author): Niman, Nicolette Hahn
Subject:  BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Industries / Agribusiness
  COOKING / General
  SOCIAL SCIENCE / Agriculture & Food (see also POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Poli
  TECHNOLOGY & ENGINEERING / Agriculture / Animal Husbandry
  TECHNOLOGY & ENGINEERING / Agriculture / Sustainable Agriculture
Audience: general/trade
Awards: Best Books About Food - Food Tank (2014) Winner
The Best Food Books of 2014 - Tom Philpott, Mother Jones (2014) Winner
Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing
Published: October 2014
Format: Book-paperback
Pages: 288
Size: 9.00in x 6.03in x 0.75in
Our Price:
$ 33.95
Availability:
Available: 3-5 days

Additional Notes

From The Publisher*

For decades it has been nearly universal dogma among environmentalists and health advocates that cattle and beef are public enemy number one.

But is the matter really so clear cut? Hardly, argues environmental lawyer turned rancher Nicolette Hahn Niman in her new book, Defending Beef.

The public has long been led to believe that livestock, especially cattle, erode soils, pollute air and water, damage riparian areas, and decimate wildlife populations.

In Defending Beef, Hahn Niman argues that cattle are not inherently bad for either the Earth or our own nutritional health. In fact, properly managed livestock play an essential role in maintaining grassland ecosystems by functioning as surrogates for herds of wild ruminants that once covered the globe. Hahn Niman argues that dispersed, grass-fed, small-scale farms can and should become the basis for American food production, replacing the factory farms that harm animals and the environment.

The author-a longtime vegetarian-goes on to dispel popular myths about how eating beef is bad for our bodies. She methodically evaluates health claims made against beef, demonstrating that such claims have proven false.  She shows how foods from cattle-milk and meat, particularly when raised entirely on grass-are healthful, extremely nutritious, and an irreplaceable part of the world's food system.

Grounded in empirical scientific data and with living examples from around the world, Defending Beef builds a comprehensive argument that cattle can help to build carbon-sequestering soils to mitigate climate change, enhance biodiversity, help prevent desertification, and provide invaluable nutrition.

Defending Beef is simultaneously a book about big ideas and the author's own personal tale-she starts out as a skeptical vegetarian and eventually becomes an enthusiastic participant in environmentally sustainable ranching.

While no single book can definitively answer the thorny question of how to feed the Earth's growing population, Defending Beef makes the case that, whatever the world's future food system looks like, cattle and beef can and must be part of the solution.

Review Quote*

"I have long wished for a single compilation with all the scientific evidence that counters the charges of the anti-beef propagandists. Well, now we have it. It's Defending Beef, The Case for Sustainable Meat Production by Nicolette Hahn Niman."--Allan Nation, The Stockman Grass Farmer

Review Quote*

"Defending Beef is full of important insights and information, things anyone who cares about food and agriculture, including vegetarians, ought to know."--Edward Behr, editor and publisher of The Art of Eating

Review Quote*

The Art of Eating-

"Serious thinking about food and agriculture fills Defending Beef: The Case for Sustainable Meat Production (Chelsea Green, softcover, $19.95).The beef Nicolette Hahn Niman defends is unprocessed, raised outdoors using humane methods on pasture or range. A lawyer, married to a rancher, she started with an anti-meat bias and remains a vegetarian (seemingly from habit). She answers criticism that cattle-raising contributes to desertification, world hunger, and global warming. She presents the ecological importance of trampling by hooves - natural grasslands are a product of wild-animal grazing. The key for ranchers is well-timed pauses to let plants regrow. Problems come when grazing land is left to "rest" too long. Real environmental damage, she argues, comes from plowing up grasslands to plant crops. …  Most of her assertions come with references to scientific studies pro and con. Niman believes red meat is healthful, taking an Atkins-esque view that animal fat is not responsible for making people fat. In contrast to her own diet, she tentatively proposes: "We should eat what our bodies evolved to eat" - mainly meat and wild plants. And she ties benign methods to the highest quality beef, giving her rancher husband's view that the best taste comes from the meat of British breeds; the cattle are at least two years old and fattened on the year's best grass. Beef is ideally a seasonal meat, she argues, although she doesn't believe it harms cattle to feed them some grain."

Review Quote*

"In response to the ecological objection that cattle production produces more harm than good, biologist, environmental lawyer, long-time vegetarian and rancher, Nicolette Hahn Niman presents the case that raising cattle can in fact have many environmental benefits. These benefits, she argues, include helping to sustain grassland as well as producing nutrient efficient products for human consumption. Using scientific data, Niman argues how small-scale, grass-fed cattle operations are actually part of a long-term sustainability solution."--Food Tank, "Top 10 Books About Food in 2014"

Review Quote*

"A longtime critic of industrial agriculture and a lawyer by training, Niman mounts a lawyerly case for pasture-based beef production. She does so from an interested position. She's the wife of Bill Niman, one of the nation's most celebrated grass-based ranchers. But critics who want to dismiss Niman's advocacy on economic-interest grounds have to grapple with the mountains of evidence she brings to bear. The main ecological question that haunts grass-fed beef involves climate change. Cows emit methane, a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon, when they burp, which is often. But by grazing, they also promote healthy, flourishing grasslands, which suck carbon from the atmosphere and store it in soil. In doing so, they convert a wild vegetation that people can't digest into a highly nourishing foodstuff. So on balance, do cows contribute to or mitigate climate change?  The conventional view holds that the burps win. Niman casts more than reasonable doubt on that verdict. Citing loads of research, she argues that enteric emissions (methane from burps) are likely overstated and can be curtailed by breeding and techniques like abundant salt licks, and more than offset by the carbon-gulping capacity of intensive grazing (where farmers run dense herds through a pasture for a short time, and then give the land plenty of time to recover). She also shows that healthy pastures also provide plenty of other benefits, including habitat for pollinating insects and birds, which are declining rapidly as industrial grain farming-mostly for grain to feed confined animals-expands."--Tom Philpott, Mother Jones, Best Food Books of 2014

Review Quote*

"[T]he former environmental lawyer and now rancher Nicolette Hahn Niman … has now collected her thoughts in the elegant, strongly argued Defending Beef."--Corby Kummer, The Atlantic, Best Food Books of 2014

Review Quote*

The Los Angeles Times-

"If you are looking for a book to inspire fisticuffs at the Thanksgiving table, you've found it. Her "manifesto" calls for a revolutionized food system - one that requires cows. … One after another, Hahn Niman skewers the, ahem, sacred cows of the anti-meat orthodoxy. Eating meat causes world hunger? No, livestock are critical food (and cash) for 1 billion global poor, many living where plant crops cannot be grown. Deforestation? Forests are cleared primarily for soy, almost none of which goes to feed cows. Red meat and animal fat are the cause of the current epidemic of cardiovascular disease? The 1953 Keys study that spawned this belief actually showed no causation between the two and pushed us into the deadly grip of trans-fats and the true killer: sugar. Overgrazing ruined the American West? No, it was improper grazing and, in some cases, not enough cattle. … She's not trying to change your mind; she's trying to save your world. And if you're an eater trying to pick your way through this divisive debate, you're cheering the information on every page."

Review Quote*

The Wall Street Journal-

"Using a potent mix of scientific data and neoteric theories about health and environment, Ms. Niman makes a convincing case that grass-fed cattle should be a part of a sustainable food culture. If I were not already a consumer of grass-fed beef (I buy it frozen), I would be upon reading this book. … The problems with beef today ‘are problems of land management, water resources, pollution, animal welfare, and food safety,' Ms. Niman writes. She honors the cattleman culture, hoping the industry will self-correct, and to that end she shares the techniques that her husband developed to produce great-tasting grass-fed beef. Some of the author's observations touch on larger topics, like the gross amount of food waste in this country (a whopping 50% of all food produced) and how our system of food subsidies ‘leads us to eat an abundance of unhealthy foods.' These problems actually suggest pathways by which you and I might drive change, but they are not explored here. That may be because ‘Defending Beef' is true to its title: It seeks to persuade, not inflame."  

Review Quote*

Publishers Weekly-

"After learning from her rancher husband the benefits of raising and eating beef, Niman (Righteous Porkchop) delivers a head-on attack against everything negative that has been said about the cattle industry. An environmental lawyer and vegetarian, Niman is a force of nature when it comes to debunking the untruths about how raising beef effects global warming, the connection between eating beef and heart disease, and that eating beef is the reason Americans are fatter than ever. Reading Niman's pointed and convincing prose, like when she states: 'compared with other ways of producing food, the keeping of grazing livestock, when done appropriately, is the most environmentally benign,' one can only imagine challenging her combination of intelligence, passion, and thoroughness. Despite the title, Niman isn't always on the defensive. In fact, she continually proposes ideas how to make meat production better by promoting the land- and animal-friendly practices of free-range, grass-fed ranching as a safer, more ecological, and healthier alternative to BigAg and industrial meat farming. Niman saves some of her most convincing and damning criticisms for her own vegetarianism as she demonstrates how raising livestock is not only a better option for the world's hungry masses, but also a better option for the planet's health. It sounds hard to believe, but Niman is almost impossible to disagree with."