Nicolette Hahn Niman discusses her book, Defending Beef, and how regenerative cattle grazing is one of our most promising strategies for climate stabilizing carbon sequestration at scale. There’s an integral connection between the “protective vegetative blanket” of Earth’s grasslands and the essential role of grazing ungulates, especially the great bovines. Healthy grasslands have the highest carbon-storage capacity per acre, and are critical to the great hydrologic cycles of most continents. Well-managed rotational grazing, silvopasture, and other regenerative animal husbandry techniques are key to restoring natural grassland capacity for carbon, water, food production, and wildlife habitat – especially habitat for critical (and often endangered) pollinator birds and insects.
About Defending Beef
In Defending Beef (a Chelsea Green Publishing book), Nicolette details how our globed evolved over millions of years with very large herds of grazing animals playing a central role in Earth’s carbon cycles, water cycles, and atmospheric stability, and how that has been disrupted in recent millennia through human activity, especially industrialized mechanical and chemical agriculture. Buffaloe, bovines, caribou, wildebeest, cape buffalo, and other grazers moved through the landscape in vast, dense congregations. Now, through a form of agricultural biomimicry, humans can help restore balance by intensively grazing large herbivores, working in harmony with sunlight, rainfall, soil life, plants, and animals to sequester the anthropogenic carbon that we humans have released to the atmosphere in staggering amounts over the past three centuries, and especially since WWI and WWII. In tandem with substantial reduction in fossil fuel combustion, regenerative grazing is our most promising – and proven – strategy for climate change mitigation.
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What’s So Special About Cows?
With a potent ensemble of enzymes, microflora, and microfauna in their saliva and manure, cattle are literally walking, “mooing,” organic fertilizer dispensers. As biodynamic rancher Brook Le Van has described, Cattle tend to deposit twice the fertility that they consume when grazing in healthy pastures (see Brook’s and other related podcast episodes below). Additionally, as they selectively graze a mixture of grasses and herbaceous plants, cows naturally generate some of the most nutrient dense food available to humanity – with a unique blend of essential fatty acids, omega-3, and other brain-boosting, bone-strengthening, and immune-enhancing compounds difficult to obtain in sufficient quantities from other natural food sources. The intimate connection between our evolution and our consumption of grazing animals, according to Nicolette, is one of the most important threads running through the last 3,000,000 years of our species’ development – especially our brains and intelligence.
About Nicolette Hahn Niman
Nicolette Hahn Niman is a writer, attorney, and livestock rancher. She authored the books Defending Beef (2014, and 2d ed. 2021) and Righteous Porkchop (2009), as well as numerous essays for the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Los Angeles Times. She has also written for The Atlantic, The San Francisco Chronicle, and The Earth Island Journal. She is a frequent speaker at national and international conferences, and was one of just 23 speakers from around the world at the Nobel Week Dialogue 2016 in Stockholm, Sweden. She has appeared on The PBS Newshour, The Dr. Oz Show and in numerous films and documentaries, including Eating Animals and Sustainable, and her work has been featured in TIME, O Magazine, and The Guardian, among others. Previously, she was Senior Attorney for the environmental organization Waterkeeper, where she focused on animal agriculture; before that, she was an environmental lawyer for National Wildlife Federation. Hahn Niman served two terms on the City Commission for Kalamazoo, Michigan. Today, she lives in Northern California with her two sons, and her husband, Bill Niman, founder of the natural meat companies Niman Ranch and BN Ranch.
Resources & Related Episodes
Chelseagreen.com (Use code: YOE35 for a 35% discount on all books and audiobooks)
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