Book Review: “Righteous Porkchop” by Nicolette Hahn Niman

Factory farming continues to be the norm for animal production in this country despite its obvious shortfalls. This exists, only because there are not enough people aware of the problem to generate the outrage that will one day be heard. “Righteous Porkchop” is Nicolette Hahn Niman’s memoir about that very topic.

How could I not be intrigued, she is or has been a lawyer, animal rights activist, vegetarian and cattle rancher. In an arena where many well-researched texts list so many facts and statistics, hers is a refreshingly clever and witty love story that also tells a grim tale of animal cruelty above all else.

Beginning with the poultry industry, Niman paints a picture of torturous conditions for animals, externalized costs of environmental abuses, worker conditions in factory farms, and the affects on communities. She then proceeds with similar stories of hog farms, dairy farms, beef cattle ranches, and even fish farms. Her ability to weave personal narrative into an otherwise depressing tale is what makes the book unique.

Through her diligence working with Robert Kennedy at the New York-based Waterkeeper Alliance to her most unlikely romance with rancher Bill Niman, she gains insight into the world of meat production and CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations). Armed with this new found knowledge, Niman steers the story toward a personable discussion of what animal husbandry should be. Using several modern examples of farmers bringing animal welfare and sustainability to the forefront of their businesses, she closes with a practical guide to buying meat and animal products.

“Righteous Porkchop” will leave readers empowered to make more sustainable choices, a little pissed off at the current state of our industrial food system, a little leery of our government leaders shaping these policies, and a lot entertained.

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