Down to Earth

Nicolette Hahn Niman never thought that she would have anything positive to say about animal agriculture. An environmental lawyer and a committed vegetarian who had seen the horrors of industrial livestock production up close, her life changed when she married a rancher and began to perceive the complexities of both animal and crop production. She’s author of the book, Defending Beef: The Ecological and Nutritional Case for Meat, and we talk about the new and updated edition of the book, in which she makes the case that well-raised livestock can be part of the climate solution–and that good meat can improve human health.

You can get 35% off the book if you visit chelseagreen.com and enter the code POD35. Many thanks to Chelsea Green, a terrific publisher of many environmental and agriculture books!

1’55 the polarization of the country, including the food system
2’45 transformation from anti-meat to pro-meat
3’21 water/pollution in livestock production, her work with Waterkeeper Alliance
4’50 marrying a rancher 18 years ago
5’23 understanding the issue from many perspectives
6’18 truth and fiction in the anti-meat narrative
6’43 we keep more poultry than we did a century ago, and fewer cattle and hogs
8’03 Americans are not eating more red meat or dairy–we’re the same or lower than a century ago
9’43 we’re eating more grain, sugar, and carbohydrate, which correllates with public health problems
11’30 rethinking truisms about fat consumption
12’32 rethinking the idea that animal fat is bad for you
12’52 fat doesn’t make you fat
13’23 good fats and bad fats–above all real fats
13’58 foods that actually lead to obesity and heart disease
15’06 the other culprit is processed food, which appear contribute to diet-related diseases
16’11 unhealthy meat with a lot of inputs and the question of their contributions toward health issues
16’56 toxic chemicals across the food system, not just meat–and they affect not only food but also soil and water
17’41 grass fed meat is a lot likelier to be healthy
18’14 we don’t even know long term impact of agricultural chemicals
19’43 what does the bad side of animal agriculture look like
19’57 the perils of monocultures and oversimplified/industrial models of food production
20’44 the many problems of CAFOs, from cruelty to pollution to health issues
21’30 the manure problem
22’09 the carbon footprint/fossil fuel use of CAFOs
23’56 meat as part of a climate solution
24’38 earliest co-evolution of grazing animals and grasslands
25’00 the role of predators on the landscape originally
25’52 how grazing animals affect the land–and what happens when you take them off
27’22 good livestock production mimics natural grasslands
27’57 better to have the right number of animals on the land than to “rest” the land, as long as it’s well managed
28’34 restoring land with grazing animals, increasing water flow and water retention in the soils
29’34 the science of good grazing practices leading to carbon sequestration and healthy ecosystems–via biomimicry
30’31 resting land the right amount
30’58 the claims about the carbon sequestration potential of soil…it’s one part of the solution
31’42 the importance of getting off of fossil fuels
32’46 crop agriculture can also be very destructive, e.g. the North American prairie
33’58 the destruction of the plow
34’19 the benefits of no-till farming
36’04 restoring the American prairie
37’16 the killing of animals in order to grow crops
38’10 all agriculture involves killing
38’48 book: The Mindful Carnivore by Tovar Cerulli
40’24 doing our best to buy ethically-produced food
41’20 the benefits of farm life for communities and for children
42’23 the opportunities children have on the land to observe animals and the cycles of life
43’08 observing owls
45’23 how do you go from big farms to small/medium sized operations
46’16 a lot of people going into farming from non-farming backgrounds
47’11 a renaissance in agriculture, with seeking a more meaningful life in regenerative ag
49’07 Nicolette’s transition from vegetarianism to meat eating
51’34 the importance of muscle mass in maintaining bone density–and the importance of meat for muscles
54’12 eating meat dramatically reduced her sugar cravings
57’25 “it’s not the cow, it’s the how”
58’20 Chelsea Green discount