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Defending Beef

The Case for Sustainable Meat Production
Narrated by: Nicolette Hahn Niman
Length: 10 hrs and 39 mins
5 out of 5 stars (4 ratings)

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Summary

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.

©2015 Nicolette Hahn Niman (P)2017 Novel Audio Inc.

Critic reviews

“[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)

"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)

"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)

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Superb, factual, laden with research

This is written by a vegetarian - yes, she is still a vegetarian, but she sees complete justification in humans eating meat, particularly beef. But there is a big BUT: this beef must be from cattle grazed on grass/rangelands. She is justifiably against intensive/confined animal farming and she provides much evidence as to how damaging this is to the planet. She gives a comprehensive history of grazing, before land was taken over for mass agriculture. Much land is only suited to grazing and thus can only be used to generate food for humans by having grazing animals convert the grass to meat. What I found astounding was the evidence that grazing by animals could be a necessary saviour of the planet's soil! Their impact on soil is beneficial and necessary - causing the soil to be rich in nutrients and better at dealing with rain than soil that has become more like desert after years of modern agriculture. She also spends time looking at the health impact of humans eating beef versus grain and sugar - the evidence is strongly for beef and against grain as a healthy diet. She describes the damage to the environment caused by the growth, transport and processes required to feed grain to the intensively farmed animals - they are certainly gobbling resources. I am sure many will criticise her book - this is a emotive subject. But I believed her - she quoted so much extensive research that it seemed utterly crazy that we are now being sternly told we must stop eating anything from animals. The evidence is that this is a complex subject and that if we all stopped eating animal products, this would create more (and bigger) problems than it would solve, leaving a planet totally unable to grow the food it requires.

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  • DeeperSeeker
  • 25-04-19

Good Facts

Could have left out all of your opinions in chapters 12 13 and 14.

Otherwise good stuff.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Dawn Marie Weber
  • 19-11-18

Misinformation

The lady has good intentions, but she only evaluates a small portion of the animal agriculture industry and suggests that all farmers should tear out their crops and replace them with grass for grazing, and then we should let all the large-scale operation animals out onto that grassland and only farm organic. 🤬🤬🤬She’s an environmental lawyer, so I guess I thought she would have the facts about real sustainable agriculture, but it looks like she had an agenda and didn’t look into any of the other aspects of things.

3 of 17 people found this review helpful