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Food & Agriculture

Do we need to drop our beef with... beef?

April 17, 2015

The beef and cattle industry has been a target for environmentalists, especially those who already abhor eating meat. At GreenBiz Forum 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona, Nicolette Hahn Niman argued that that beef isn't all bad, at least in an environmental sense.

"I think beef has gotten an unjustified bad rap for being damaging to the environment and bad for human health," Niman said to GreenBiz's Joel Makower in a Studio C interview. "What I'm arguing in my book is that we actually need these grazing animals as part of the food system, and that they provide very healthy, nutritious food."

"The whole importance of the grazing animals is that they live on grasslands, and they eat nothing but grass  I mean they are capable of living that way," she continued. "And they are actually a really important part of maintaining those grassland ecosystems."

Niman said that we don't have to stop eating beef to save the planet.

"People tend to look at his is issue in very reductionistic ways," she said, pointing to the arguments that cattle generate methane and trample the land they graze on. "If you look holistically that grazing animals have on the food system, they have a very important beneficial role."

Makower asked Niman if she thought everyone had the green light to simply eat more beef.

"I don't necessarily advocate that. In fact, I think probably American eats more beef than is advisable," Niman said. "Beef is a more resource intensive food than other foods, so I think everyone should consider that."

"We should have very diverse diets with lots of fruits and vegetables," she continued. "I think meat, and beef especially, is a very healthy part of that diet. I don't think we need to eat more of it."

"I just think that when we do eat beef, we should eat it carefully," she said, noting that grilling has the potential to be carcinogenic. "And we should source it carefully."