Nicolette Hahn Niman: Defending beef

Over the past 70 years, the beef industry has evolved into an industrial feedlot system designed to put as much weight on cattle as fast as possible. However, one woman disagrees with that method and believes cattle should be moved back to the grass-fed system.

Nicolette Hahn Niman expressed her views on the beef industry and presented her book, Defending Beef, to an audience at the University of Missouri on Nov. 2.

The lecture took place in the Agriculture Building and covered a variety of topics, from criticisms of the beef industry to the nutritional benefits of beef to how the industry can be changed for the better.

“My role is to talk about these issues in a big picture sense,” Niman said in reference to current criticisms and problems facing the beef industry.

Niman has unique credentials when speaking on the current state of the beef industry and how it can change for the better. As stated on her personal website, she has written for numerous publications, been an attorney for the Waterkeeper Alliance and the National Wildlife Federation, and has served on the city council of Kalamazoo, Michigan. In addition, she is both a vegetarian – and a rancher.

To begin her presentation, Niman outlined the criticisms of the beef industry that she would seek to argue against. The main criticisms were about the negative impacts that the beef industry currently has on the environment.

Niman asserted that the industry is not harmful in and of itself, that it is actually currently doing good in some areas and could go on to do even better if some changes were made. She explained that the main change that must be made is that cattle must be moved out of confined feedlot systems and back into open grazing systems. Raising grass-fed cattle is less water intensive, helps prevent grasslands from being overtaken by forests, and is less harmful towards the environment as a whole.

In the end, what truly needs to happen are honest, big picture conversations between the opponents and proponents of the beef industry, a conversation that Niman assisted in by writing Defending Beef and speaking with members of the University of Missouri community.

Niman plans to continue her work advocating for an improved beef industry while promoting her book.