When Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., first asked Nicolette Hahn Niman to head up his environmental organization's "hog campaign," she balked. Investigating hog manure pollution was hardly the glamorous assignment she pictured when leaving everything to work for him in New York. But Kennedy, she discovered, is not a man who takes no for an answer.
Thus began Niman's fascinating odyssey into the inner workings of the "factory farm" industry and her transformation into an intrepid environmental lawyer who goes up against the big business farming establishment and—unexpectedly—finds love along the way.
Starting her work for Kennedy's organization in North Carolina, Niman uncovers the shocking practices of hog factory farms, including inhumane animal confinement and devastating water and air pollution. She organizes a national reform movement to fight these practices and shows again and again that livestock farming can be done in a better way—not only for hogs, but also for poultry, fish, and dairy cows.
Through Niman's work, she also tours the best of farms, where traditional farmers and ranchers treat their animals humanely and have joined with other farmers to successfully market the foods they produce. She profiles the innovative and cost-effective methods these operations have incorporated to make a profit by ethical, sustainable means.
Along the way, the story takes a surprising turn when Nicolette is swept off her feet by a high-profile cattle rancher. At first, they seem an unlikely pair: Nicolette, a thirty-something, urban, East Coast, vegetarian attorney, and Bill Niman, an older, West Coast, cowboy type. But they share a passion for raising animals with kindness, and she soon finds herself transitioning to ranching life at the famed Niman Ranch in Northern California.
In telling her story, Niman details not only why to choose meat, poultry, dairy, eggs, and fish from traditionally farmed sources (and avoid products tainted by chemicals and antibiotic-resistant bacteria), but also how to do so. She reveals what to look for on labels, why to skip animal products from outside the United States, and what questions to ask when eating out.
A searing account of an industry gone awry and one woman's passionate fight to remedy it, Righteous Porkchop is a must-read for anyone who cares about food sources or good eating.