Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Righteous Porkchop: Or Don't Be a Supermarket Zombie

It is a striking and disturbing image. There are "lagoons" in North Carolina yet forget any idyllic visions you might possess. These lagoons lack white sand beaches or crystal clear water and no one would want to vacation near them. For these lagoons are actually disgusting pools of liquified hog manure! They are the place for enormous amounts of waste produced by huge factory hog farms.

To understand the creation of these lagoons, as well as much more about the perils of factory farms,. you should read Righteous Porkchop: Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms by Nicolette Hahn Niman (HarperCollins Publishers, Feb.2009, $23.99). This new hardcover book, 322 pages long, reveals disturbing facts about the "factory farms" that produce our pork, poultry, beef and seafood, and offers an alternative of small, more humane and sustainable farms. This book is not for the faint of heart but I think it is a very important read.

Nicolette Hahn Niman used to work for Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., spearheading a campaign against hog factory farms, especially the pollution they cause. The lagoons of manure can be very dangerous, causing all sorts of environmental problems. While working on this problem, Nicolette researched and studied other factory farms as well, the results of which end up in this book. Nicolette's contributions eventually led to some success against the pollution caused by hog farms.

The industrialization of agriculture eventually led to the creation of huge factory farms, where profit seems to be the driving force. Concerns for the animals seems to take a back seat. For example, in the hog factories, the pigs are kept in very crowded conditions, allowing them no room for any exercise. Their air may be contaminated with ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, dust, viruses, bacteria and more. There is little genetic diversity with these animals, as the factories seek only a particular type, to produce the lean pork they seek. There must be a better way.

Nicolette discusses the similar and significant problems of other factory farms, from chickens to dairy cows. Much of that information may disturb you yet these are issues most of us rarely consider. We simply go to the market and buy a plastic wrapped piece of meat, ignorant of its source. We don't understand what we might be missing, or how our meat might be better from different sources. Nicolette advises against being a "supermarket zombie." You can view this book as a wake-up call, as a cautionary tale of the serious problems we and our environment face.

Fortunately, Nicolette is not just a doom sayer or an extremist. She discusses alternatives to these factory farm, as well as providing advice for locating better foods. This includes both supermarkets and even fast food restaurants. She also discusses how small, local farms can be more efficient and cost effective than huge factory farms.

This is an excellent book, well written and compelling. It deals with very important issues which we all should know more about. It not only points out problems, but also offers alternatives and solutions. This may be a good introductory book to understand these issues yet even those familiar with the issues will find value within its pages.

As I previously stated in my Itadakimasu post, "Let us step back and think more about the sources of our food." And the Righteous Porkchop is a great first step.

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1 comment:

Finance Foodie said...

Hi Richard, I just attended the NY Wine Expo and thought of your site...I am far from a wine expert (more like opposite) but I wanted to share my story (pictures) with you!


Take care, FF