by Betty Fussell
It was pigs, of all things, that brought them together, the cowboy and the lady. Some romances are so unlikely they have to come true, and that’s what happened when cattle rancher and pork producer Bill Niman met the vegetarian environmentalist lawyer Nicolette Hahn.
They both cared about animal welfare, but came at it from different angles. Robert Kennedy Jr. had hired Hahn several years ago to head his “hog campaign” to help remedy the abuses of factory pig farms. Niman had already made his brand of pork products synonymous with raising pigs humanely.
They had a common concern and a common enemy. And what could be more natural, organic and sustainable than a wedding at the ranch Niman built himself in Bolinas California, near Bodega Bay?
On the ranch today they raise goats as well as cows and sheep and share a love of animals in the field if not on the plate. While Niman told his story in “The Niman Ranch Cookbook” a couple of years ago, Hahn has now told hers in Righteous Porkchop, published this week.
The subtitle, “Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms,” speaks for all of us who have waged war against the industrialization of livestock and who believe in the integration of good food with good farming to produce a good life.
Earlier, I endorsed the book this way: “To tell her story, Nicolette Hahn-Niman has created a unique genre — half romance, half expose, narrated through her personal experience of the horrors of factory farms, mitigated by the human face of farmers and ranchers she’s met in her travels across the land. With a lawyer’s mind she dissects the extremes of industrial farming, with a woman’s heart she learns to mitigate her own extremes to create greener pastures for the animals, her husband and herself on the ranch she loves.”
Marion Nestle, who also blurbed Niman’s book (as well as my own), wrote last week on her blog that Righteous Porkchop is “a thoughtful and affecting memoir of her version of the events–her background as an activist lawyer, her romance with Bill, and their work together.”
Go read more on the history of Niman Ranch at the San Francisco Chronicle.