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Nicolette Niman, the marketing maven of Bill Niman's independent ranching operations in Northern California, environmental lawyer, activist, and author of Righteous Porkchop, and contributor to the Food Channel, published a balanced defense of meat in Saturday's New York Times. In it she argued that meat shouldn't be demonized for its contribution to global warming, because it isn't as potent a contributor as we think. Not the pasture-raised stuff anyway.
There's truth in her assertions, but I'm compelled to point out some qualifications. Niman is clearly vexed by the one-note activists whose goals are to promote vegan or vegetarian diets as the "only option"--for climate change, moral/animal welfare arguments, or both. As a partner in pasture-based systems, she wants to draw a clear distinction between the environmental record of industrially produced meat (and soy) versus other systems. And there are many.
But Niman goes too far in saying that "meat and dairy eaters need not be part of [the real story of meat's connection to global warming]." The halo of the small ranch is not entirely deserved. Nor is it within reach of most Americans--financially or practically. I'm a fan of what she and her husband do. In fact, I spent the better part of last week arranging the stocking of hundreds of Niman's heritage breed turkeys from the Bolinas farm and their distribution to a meat distributor, to go to the colleges and corporations we serve at Bon Appetit Management Company. The Nimans' BN Ranch is so local to some accounts that the turkeys could walk there themselves if they didn't have to be delivered dead. Their production systems are what meat production should be.