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Righteous Porkchop: Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms Hardcover – February 17, 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

For the past several centuries, the watchword of American industry has been standardization. Everything must be uniform and orderly, parts interchangeable. This urge to trim production costs eventually invaded agriculture, even animal husbandry. The result was chicken and hog farms where animals never saw the light of day and grew fat on drug- and hormone-laden feed. Lately, many writers have cautioned that huge industrial farms create as many problems as they solve. There are issues of animal disease, waste disposal, and inferior meat, let alone concerns of animal welfare advocates. Niman outlines all of these matters, documenting them carefully. She cites some recent studies that indicate that hidden costs of industrial farming actually make meat more expensive when environmental cleanup costs are factored into the equation. Attorney Niman chronicles her personal mission to enlighten the world of industrial agriculture, an odyssey that culminated in her marriage to one of the nation’s most noted sustainable ranchers. --Mark Knoblauch


“Righteous Porkchop is a searing, and utterly convincing, indictment of modern meat production. The book also brims with hope and charts a practical (and even beautiful) path out of the jungle.” (Michael Pollan, author of Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food)

“This necessary book—part memoir, part exposé—may briefly put you off your feed, but its reasoned case for healthy and humane farming practices has the sweet savor of truth.” (O magazine)

“The fact is, most of us are hypocrites when it comes to food.... Fortunately for people like us there’s Nicolette Hahn Niman, a generally sane and sympathetic character, pushing us gently but firmly in a direction we know we should already be heading.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

“A thoughtful and affecting memoir... Righteous Porkchop firmly establishes Hahn Niman as a major national voice for efforts to reform industrial animal production.” (Marion Nestle, professor, New York University and author, Food Politics and What to Eat)

“A portrait of animal farming, from the small-scale to the mega-scale, that’s as notable for its clarity as it is for its vision. Required reading for anyone who eats.” (Dan Barber, chef and co-owner of Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns)

“When Nicolette Hahn Niman became a cattle rancher, she discovered that when animals are given a life worth living, they can be raised for food in an ethical and sustainable manner.” (Temple Grandin, professor, Colorado State University and author of Animals in Translation)

“Nicolette Hahn Niman is the smiling face of conscientious eating—righteous, but never self-righteous. With warmth and an engaging plainspokeness, she persuasively makes the case that activism bears results, that humane farmers are happier farmers, and that ‘compassionate carnivore’ is not an oxymoron.” (David Kamp, author of The United States of Arugula)

“Righteous Porkchop is a compelling call for overhauling the way we produce food from one the nation’s most credible advocates. It’s also a great read. I highly recommend it.” (Matthew Scully, author of Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals and the Call to Mercy)

“The story that Nicolette Hahn Niman tells in this book is full of heroes and villains (of the two footed kind). Food lovers can only hope that America takes her message to heart and votes at the check-out counter.” (Peter Kaminsky, author of Pig Perfect: Encounters with Remarkable Swine)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; First edition/Full number line edition (February 17, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061466492
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061466496
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,503,011 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By K. M. VINE VOICE on March 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After reading Nicolette Hahn Niman's reporting on conditions under which pigs, chickens, dairy cows and other cattle, and even farmed fish are kept before ending up on our dinner tables, one can hardly be other than in fervent accord with her statement above. Niman faithfully describes the artificial, often terribly cramped containment pens or cages that crowd thousands of pigs, cattle, or laying hens together. Often the animals never see the outdoors, never breathe anything but the stink of their own waste, never get to raise their own offspring, and never even get a meal that isn't laced heavily with harmful drugs and blood and excrement from other animals. And sometimes they die barbarically.

Raising stock this way is excused by agribusiness as necessary to maximize economies of scale and profits. But the author of Righteous Porkchop: Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms systematically shoots down these flimsy justifications. For example, she points to studies that show the high investments needed to undertake and maintain these huge confinement facilities generally lead to a revolving debt operation, whereas farmers with a more natural and smaller operation can outperform on a dollar in / dollar out basis. Also, the pollution produced per animal is far greater in confinement plants (and they are plants, rather than farms). Animal manure from thousands of head run off into water channels, liquefy, and pool into big lagoons. This form of animal waste gives off ammonia, methane, and other gases that shouldn't be in our air. Not to mention -- again -- the horrific odor that wafts for miles.
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Format: Hardcover
For many years, I thought I had been doing the right thing, eating the right foods and watching out for my health. I thought I was an environmentalist, caring about the preservation and good stewardship of the natural world we live in.

Holy cow, was I wrong.

Some time ago, I was reading another good book about human behavior, and what is required for us to behave against our own values. Compartmentalization was a concept I came to understand is absolutely necessary for most of us to act in ways that are not in accordance to our own values. To do wrong, we must push out of our awareness the realization of consequences to our actions. We must stuff things into a locked away place and live in denial.

Picture the mind as a house with many rooms, each with a door. Well, there was this room in my mind ... and it had a door, and I had firmly closed it. Inside that room was a vague realization that animal abuse was happening in order to put food on my plate. Gee, I love that steak, that juicy burger, that slab of bacon! Did I really want to know how it got there?

Now I know. The door to that room is wide open, and I have no intention of closing it again. Once most of us are aware, most of us do change our behavior. Most of us, when you get down to it, are pretty nice people. Most of us want to do the right thing and we love our pets, we love the natural world around us, and we care to preserve it.

So how is it that our supermarkets are filled with food produced in food factories, by an industrialized form of agriculture that is fast ruining our environment and obliterating a type of lifestyle many of us find admirable? How is it that we tolerate the cruelest forms of animal abuse imaginable? And consider this: we don't have to.
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Format: Hardcover
I've read many, if not most, of the major books about the industrialization of our food supply and I think Righteous Porkchop is the best one yet. It's well written and engaging but at the same time it's loaded with fascinating facts and information. With close to 300 notes at the end of the book, the research done for this book is unmatched. But what is especially unique about the book is that it is written as a memoir, so the story line propels the reader forward from start to finish. I consider Righteous Porkchop a book that everyone should read to learn about where their food comes from and how it's produced.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It changed my diet in a way you would not expect, but mostly this book is about the personal journey of the author. This book was recommended to me by someone in the food industry as the best informative writings of how mass produced meats are made (they cal it CAFO - concentrated animal feed operations). Unbelievable how mass produced food is made. Ironically, it turned me into a beef eater (no spoilers here as to why). Worse than the food part, the book identifies a major source of pollution in the environment. I suppose meat was enough to write about, but a second book on air and water pollution would be nice. No spoilers, but the book explains why.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you've read Jonathan Safran Foer's book, "Eating Animals," or Eric Schlosser's, "Fast Food Nation," you would definitely like Nicolette Hahn Niman's, "Righteous Porkchop." All make compelling arguments for rejecting the factory farm model and for seeking out more humane, sustainable food choices. Unlike Foer though, she doesn't stump for the adoption of a vegetarian/vegan diet. Rather, she makes the case that humanely-raised meat is still a valid option.

Niman's chapter on pasture-raised, grass-fed beef was especially intriguing to me because I felt like it offered a unique, almost contrary, opinion on the merits of cattle ranching. Authors like Michael Pollan and especially Eric Schlosser have taken that industry to task in their books. Niman makes some very compelling arguments that maybe we shouldn't be so quick to throw them under the bus. I love her willingness to challenge conventional wisdom. I was also quite impressed that she, a vegetarian, and her husband, a rancher who eats meat, could create a life together. They're the food equivalent of James Carville and Mary Matilyn.

Browsing other people's reviews, I wasn't shocked that strict vegans and animal rights activists would level the charge that she's "morally schizophrenic" but I certainly don't agree with the accusation. While Niman doesn't eat meat, she does use dairy products and eat eggs, but I think she does an excellent job of explaining that while dairy and eggs can be terrible for the animals and the environment in the industrial-agricultural model, on small-scale farms with responsible farmers and ranchers acting as stewards of their cows and chickens, it's perfectly acceptable.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
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