Thursday, March 25, 2010

Off the Shelf: 'Righteous Porkchop' by Nicolette Hahn Niman

Off the Shelf is an occasional (OK, very occasional) feature wrapping up a book about a food-related topic. These are not reviews; think of them as extended book jackets with important pull-out points.

"Righteous Porkchop: Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms" by Nicolette Hahn Niman is divided into a few distinct sections. In the first, she details her work for Waterkeeperand its legal battle against factory farms; she focused mainly on hog farms. The second part (which is in the middle and near the end), focuses on Niman's focus on the Niman Ranch. And the third part focuses on other animals, including cows, fish and more.

The most interesting part of the book is the first part, during which the author describes her work at Waterkeeper. She travels to several states, visiting factory farms and goes on an expedition in North Carolina along the rivers and in the sky, viewing those farms from a different angle.

The other interesting part of the book was after she married Bill Niman, the co-founder of Niman Ranch. She wrote about how she wanted to be of greater use around the farm and how that spurred her education.

"Cow" was one thing that intrigued me. On farms, the word is used specifically to refer only to mature females who have given birth and weaned at least one calf. In other words, it's not a generalized term for all bovines.

And now, the hail of bullets:
  • The U.S. bans the use of growth hormones in poultry and pork, but not in beef
  • Pfiesteria piscicida organism, a result of excess nutrients in the water after liquefied manure seeps into water, "liquefies fish flesh while giving off dangerous vapors"
  • With the increase of mass-production farming, for egg-laying chicken breeds in many areas starting in the 1930s, many newborn chicks were simply killed since they would be of no use
  • In late 1998, after a hog market crash, the cost to raise was greater than the cost to sell, so many were simply throwing newborn pigs into manure lagoons to avoid raising them
  • Slaughterhouse byproducts are often ground up and sold to factory farms, which use them as a feed for other hogs and bovines
  • Niman visited a couple of Wisconsin farms, she writes [I should make clear that these were farms she visited that had good practices; these are not factory farms]; Bert and Trish Paris of Belleville and the Klessigs family farm (fellow Wisconsin food blogger Jeanne Carpenter has written about the Parises and about the Klessigs here, here and here)

1 comment:

Lo said...

Ah, yes. Yet another book revealing the scary truths about factory farming. So, did you think the book did a good job with the material? Same news, different book?