Eat Less Meat, Eat Better Meat

Nicolette Hahn Niman

The list of Meatless Monday supporters continues to grow across the globe, and surprisingly to some, many of the latest enthusiasts make their living either cooking meat, such as chef Mario Batali or producing it, like rancher Nicolette Hahn Niman. What makes Meatless Monday so successful is its simple and inclusive message which promotes moderation with the goal of improving public health and the health of the planet.

Nicolette and her husband Bill run the BN Ranch in Northern California near the seaside raising beef cattle on pasture and heritage turkeys. Bill knows a thing or two about ranching. He founded the famous Niman Ranch Inc. known for its sustainable and humanely raised meats. Nicolette is a Renaissance woman of sorts—new mom, writer, environmental lawyer, and interestingly, a vegetarian.

I recently was able to catch Nicolette for a few minutes by phone to ask her why she and Bill support Meatless Monday. She made it clear that she didn’t have much time; she was in the midst of a writing project, running the ranch (Bill was traveling) and taking care of her 14-month-old son who I could hear in the background chatting and occasionally clinking the keys of their piano. Knowing that time was short; I got straight to the point:

RL: A lot of people mistakenly believe that the Meatless Monday campaign is promoting the demise of all meat production, while it has always maintained that its message is simply one of moderation and inclusion of omnivores and vegetarians alike. As a rancher yourself, what would you say to any farmer who is threatened by the MM campaign?

NHN: Bill and I are very supportive of the Meatless Monday campaign and here’s why: We think that to really improve the way food is being produced and the way people are eating in this country people should eat less meat but eat better meat. All food from animals—meat, dairy, fish, eggs—should be treated as something special. Anyone who is raising food animals in the traditional healthy way, without relying on industrial methods, drugs and chemicals, is someone who will benefit from people embracing that approach. We think the Meatless Monday campaign is part of a shift in attitudes about meat, towards something that is precious not something that is consumed without thought or in enormous quantities. Read More >

Taking the Meat We Eat Out of the Factory and Putting It Back on the Farm

awaOn Tuesday, Animal Welfare Approved and the Pew Environment Group presented a public panel discussion about raising pasture-based animals, and reclaiming these sustainable farming systems as the source of our meat and dairy.  The star-studded panel included Nicolette Hahn Niman, attorney and author of Righteous Porkchop, Carole Morison, former Purdue chicken farmer turned whistleblower and sustainable farming consultant, David Kirby, investigative journalist and author of Animal Factory and Dr. Patricia Whisnant, vet, rancher and president of the American Grassfed Association. As farmers, Carole Morison and Dr. Whisnant have had personal experiences with the industrial animal agriculture system currently producing most of the meat in our country today, and have chosen another path. Nicolette’s husband Bill Niman founded Niman Ranch, which he has since left as he felt that the standards declined to a point he couldn’t live with, after a management change in 2006. They continue to raise beef on pasture but sell under a private label. Kirby has turned his investigative skills on factory farming – the way we raise most of our meat today – and what he found out has spurred him to let out a battle cry to put an end to these factories that call themselves farms. Read More >