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Defending Beef: The Case for Sustainable Meat

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.

In Defending Beef, Nicolette Hahn Niman — a longtime vegetarian — argues that cattle are neither inherently bad for the Earth nor is meat bad for 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, a former environmental attorney and activist, dispels 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.  Grounded in empirical scientific data and with living examples from around the world the author 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.

She also criticizes the modern, industrial food system — especially as it pertains to meat production — for being harmful to animals, the environment, and our health. Here’s a short excerpt from the book’s final analysis:

“I will be the first to agree that industrial methods for raising farm animals are indefensible, and I believe all people should join in rejecting them. Having seen it in all its gory details, I have no qualms about calling industrialized animal production a routinized form of animal torture. While Prohibitionists attacking innocent apple trees with axes seem absurd to us today, a lot of discussion over the ethics of meat eating likewise focuses on the wrong villain. Industrial animal production is rightly vilified; animal farming, on the other hand, is not.

What has really fostered my interest in the debate over meat eating is not a desire to encourage meat consumption but a longing for some nuance in the discussion. The issue is far from black-and-white, and polarized camps lobbing accusations at each other only hinder movement toward a better system. Building a food system that is more ecological and more humane is far more important to me than whether or not so-and-so is eating meat.

I believe the real issue is whether we humans are living up to our responsibilities of good stewardship of animals and the earth. Michael Pollan and others have proposed the idea that animals “chose” domestication based on a sort of “bargain” with humanity.  (…) However, it’s reasonable to assume, as well, that animals would never have opted for such an arrangement if torture had been part of the deal. Stated simply: By raising animals in factory farms, humans are violating their age-old contract with domesticated animals.

(…)

Individuals and groups are rightly concerned about adequate food supplies for the future. But they would do well to focus their attention on this imminent crisis, and on the way livestock are managed on the land, rather than on the absolute number of livestock, which has little significance. Properly managed grazing animals are an important part of the solution to feeding the world in the future.”

For more from Defending Beef, click here to read the Preface and Introduction.


4 Books for Growing Food in Winter

Don’t let cold weather stop you from producing and enjoying your own food. For many, the coming of winter simply means cultivation moves indoors or under cover. Small farmers, homesteaders, home gardeners, and commercial growers can extend the growing season with techniques outlined in these essential books. There’s no need for urbanites and small-space dwellers […] Read More

Is My Broth (or Stock) Bad?

Are you planning to start the GAPS diet or any other diet aimed at boosting gut health this year? If so, chances are that stocks and broths are critical components. Even if you’re not changing the way you eat, but you often have pots of aromatic goodness bubbling on your stove, you may have wondered, […] Read More

A Simple Way to Grow Fresh Greens Indoors This Winter

Just because the temperatures have started to drop doesn’t mean you have to live without fresh greens until Spring. Author and gardener Peter Burke’s innovative method of growing soil sprouts indoors can help you grow nutrient-dense greens all year long at a fraction of the cost of buying at market. Burke’s book, Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening, is […] Read More

Recipe: Medlar Cream Cake

If you’re looking for a simple cake to serve guests, try this medlar cream cake. What’s a medlar? The fruit of the medlar tree, Mespilus germanica, tastes like lightly spiced apple butter scooped soft right out of the russeted skin. The Occidental Arts and Ecology Center in California has a small but significant collection of […] Read More

Chelsea Green: In the Media 2016

Oh, 2016. Where did the time go? Each year, Chelsea Green receives hundreds of mentions (well over 1000 in 2016) in the media both big and small. From interviews, to excerpts, to opinion pieces by authors we’re always working to make sure that the mission and message of each book is spread far and wide. […] Read More
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