Friday, October 16, 2009

Righteous Porkchop

The first time I heard anyone talk about industrial pig factories it was Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. What he described was so unfathomable I reasoned it must not be true or he was exaggerating. Or something. The speech was likely made at the same time the author of Righteous Porkchop, Nicolette Hahn Niman, worked for Kennedy at Waterkeeper Alliance as a staff attorney and head of a national campaign to combat pig factories.

Maybe I haven't been paying attention between the time of that speech half a dozen years ago and two weeks ago when I picked up Righteous Porkchop. I thought the pork industry had cleaned up its, please excuse me, cleaned up its shit for all I heard about it.

They haven't.

Righteous Pork may change that. NHN spends the first half of the book describing her work with the pig factories and the people and communities who worked alongside her. Which is why I didn't want to put the book down. It's not all pretty reading but the people and communities affected by the factories are.

In some ways the story is an unfolding drama. I found myself more than once, okay, a lot, routing for the local communities but NHN also shows the corner the factory owners have gotten themselves into and I couldn't help but route for them too; that they could find a way out. No one is having a good time.

There's a little bit of spying; quite a few bad politicians. There's a guy hired by the pork industry to tail NHN to community meetings. Eventually someone does have a good time and there's romance too.

The later part of the book visits industrial chicken and fish, factory dairies and beef. Did you know that it's a widespread practice to feed factory hens red dye to make the yolks of their eggs yellow? I had no idea. I also learned the correct terminology for the animals on a dairy. They are not all cows.

There's a lot to learn from Righteous Porkchop. It's a smart book with history.

My only criticism is Niman Ranch beef comes across too precious in Niman's telling. In one example she praises a retailer for carrying Niman beef, overlooking the foreign imports in their produce department. That would have been fine but she goes on to knock the produce department of another retailer that doesn't carry Niman beef.

And I loved this book. It's an important read revealing the truth that corporate meat producers don't want us to know. It's to their benefit to keep us ignorant. Righteous Porkchop's changes that though, one knowledgeable page at a time.

Rated: Four and a half stars.
Recommended: For everyone; vegetarian and meat eaters alike.


Farmer's Daughter said...

This is our second year raising our own pigs for meat, and they've only got a few weeks left. I think I'll buy this book for my father in law, who will then have more reasons to explain why we raise our own meat, rather than just saying "It tastes better!" (Which is true).

Donna said...

I suppose it's just preaching to the choir, but I want to read this one -- thanks for the review!

Kale for Sale said...

Farmer's Daughter - I bet he would love this book. It would give him much to talk about. I do want to say this is not a book for an expecting mom to read. Not that I'm a mom but in my observation the expecting period is more a time of nesting. This is not a nesting book.

Donna - I didn't actually expect to like this book and was surprised. I guess that's the best way, isn't it? To not have expectations and then to be surprised.

Going Crunchy said...

I think I want to read this just because of the darn cool title.