I know what you’re thinking. Do we really need another book about the perils of industrial farming? After all, haven’t great investigative journalists already covered this topic ad nausea in books like Fast Food Nation and documentaries like Food, Inc.?

True, but that doesn’t make author Nicolette Hahn Niman’s (yes, that Niman) new book, Righteous Porkchop: Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms ($23.99, Collins Living), any less worthwhile to read.

As long as factory farms continue to exist, the need for fresh perspectives on this ongoing issue will continue to exist as well.

After all, far too many consumers still believe the idyllic pasture scenes with free-ranging animals displayed on milk cartons and ground beef packages are representative of the life most farm animals live. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.

Worse yet, some consumers know the truth but haven’t been reminded of it lately — and their buying behaviors haven't changed.

For them, Niman’s candid and sincere storytelling will gently remind readers that factory farms won’t go away until consumers decide to do something about them. Her frank and eye-opening encounter with the world of factory farms will do far more to bring people around to the idea of demanding reform than any list of cold, disturbing facts could accomplish.

And, for those who are already familiar with the harsh realities of real farm life, Niman’s odyssey into the inner workings of the factory farm industry is worthwhile reading beyond the basic fact that her story is intriguing.

After all, during the course of her life, Niman has gone from a high-powered, vegetarian environmental lawyer to full-time rancher and wife of sustainable ranch mogul, Bill Niman, all the while battling big agriculture and everything that comes with it — inhumane animal confinement, sickening air and water pollution and the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, to name a few.

Niman covers well-trodden ground, but she expertly manages to intersperse interesting details, from the history of farm industrialization of chickens, pigs, cattle and even fish to the intricacies of starting a national reform movement on behalf of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s environmental organization, Riverkeeper.

Niman’s good old-fashioned common sense approach to a tough issue is a welcome relief for those tired of flimsy rhetoric, and it succeeds in knocking down the agribusiness industry’s heavily used claims that factory farms are simply a necessary evil.

“I have never seen a shred of evidence that meat from industrial operations is feeding the world’s malnourished,” she writes. “No matter how hard industrial agri-business tries to push animals out of our views and our minds, they remain part of our collective consciousness. And that’s a good thing.” 

MNN homepage photo: ChristianLohman/iStockphoto

'Righteous Porkchop: Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms'
Nicolette Hahn Niman's book is a gentle reminder that factory farms won't go away until consumers decide to change their shopping habits.