Helene (Baker) Dunbar ’87

John, Keira, and Helene Dunbar

Helene experienced a crazy year in 2013. First she sold two young adult contemporary books, the first of which, These Gentle Wounds, was published by Flux on May 8 of this year. Then, in December 2013, she and her husband, John, brought their daughter Keira home from Bulgaria. Helene still lives in Nashville, works in marketing, and assumes that 2014 will probably be just at frantic.

Defending Beef: The Case for Sustainable Meat Production, the Manifesto of an Environmental Lawyer and Vegetarian Turned Cattle Rancher

Defending Beef: The Case for Sustainable Meat Production

by Nicolette Hahn Niman ’89

One doesn’t usually think of eating as a political act, let alone a revolutionary one, but for many, what lands on the dinner plate can provide not only nourishment, but has also become a means for saving the planet. What should and should not land on that plate and how it gets there is where the controversy, and the politics, begin.

Large-scale agricultural processes (or BigAg) have been linked to global warming, increases in obesity, and animal cruelty. Hahn Niman’s first book, Righteous Porkchop: Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms (William Morrow, 2009), in which she explored such controversial costs of BigAg, paved the path to her current work. Arguably, Defending Beef: The Case for Sustainable Meat Production, creates even more controversy.

For decades, the public has been told that eating meat, especially red meat, is bad for human and ecological health. It raises cholesterol and contributes to heart disease. Raising cattle turns lush land to desert, draining it of water and devastating plant life. Wildlife is adversely affected, soil becomes eroded, and pools of manure ruin air and land.

Citing meticulously researched international sources, Hahn Niman debunks these assertions and defends a return to more traditional farming practices.

A cattle rancher herself, Hahn Niman and husband Bill Niman offer an example of how livestock should be raised. At their ranch cattle are grass-fed; they receive no growth hormones, antibiotics, or corn feed; and the ranchers accompany the cattle right to the end of their lives at a local slaughterhouse, ensuring their last moments are as humane as possible.

Beef can be served to us in healthier form from healthier and happier animals, Hahn Niman contends. And, she adds, grass-fed cattle can contribute to solving the problem of global warming. Large ruminants, when allowed to graze naturally on pasture, enrich grasslands, prune back plants, encouraging new growth, and aid in sequestering carbon in soils.

Hahn Niman argues that overgrazing is less a matter of too many cattle and more a case of grazing mismanagement. She refers to the work of ecologist Allan Savory and his system for grazing herds of cattle in a manner closest to their natural behavior, allowing them to travel in dense herds, eating all in their path, then moving on to fresh pasture. The cattle press seeds into the soil as they pass through, and their manure serves as fertilizer for the field. Unusable land has thus been returned to productive grasslands.

Hahn Niman disagrees with the notion that beef is unhealthy in our diets. She cites statistics that American consumption of beef has fallen by approximately 22 percent while rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease continue to spike. And she argues that increased consumption of sugars and sweeteners in our diets as the real culprits.

Hahn Niman points out that approximately 1 billion of the poor worldwide rely on cattle for food and income, keeping livestock in places where cultivated food plants cannot take root.

Defending Beef is not an argument to eat more beef. Hahn Niman is, in fact, a vegetarian. To base the decision of being a vegetarian or vegan on concern for healthier ecosystems or personal health would, she states, be unwarranted. Rather, her mission appears to be to join all at the dinner table in a concern for farming practices that might heal the planet and help all who walk upon it, two- and four-legged.

Defending Beef urges readers to look beyond the shrink-wrapped package in supermarket aisles to the source. Whether dining on a plant-based diet or one that includes meat, the well-educated consumer knows her farmer and her rancher, knows what goes into the soil and into the animal before it goes onto the plate and into the human. (Reviewed by Zinta Aistars)

Chris Reynolds ’83

Chris was appointed managing officer and general counsel and chief legal officer of Toyota Motor Corporation. He maintains offices in Torrance, California and Toyota City, Japan. He also will have an office in Plano, Texas, once Toyota’s new headquarters there are completed. Chris joined the company in 2007 and before this recent promotion served as general counsel and chief legal officer, Toyota Motor America, and group vice president, corporate secretary, chief environmental officer, and chief compliance officer, Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc. Chris is a member of the American Bar Association and serves on the boards of the Los Angeles Urban League, the Constitutional Rights Foundation, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the Lincoln Family Life Center. He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science and studied abroad in Strasbourg, France. He earned his law degree from Harvard Law School.

Jody Clark ’80

Jody was appointed chief operating officer of Beatty Development Group. She will oversee the operational management of the firm, including asset management, development, leasing, and finance. Beatty Development Group is a Baltimore City-based mixed-use development firm specializing in the creation of contemporary design-forward buildings in urban settings. Its signature project, Harbor Point, is currently under construction. At K, Jody majored in sociology and studied abroad in Madrid, Spain. She earned her M.B.A. from Loyola University.

Quinn McCormick ’14

Quinn has joined Greenleaf Trust’s retirement plan division as a participant services coordinator. She is responsible for conducting retirement plan enrollment meetings, meeting with plan participants, developing educational and informational materials and supporting the participant call center. At K Quinn majored in mathematics, studied abroad in Costa Rica and was a stand-out player on the Hornet volleyball team. Located in Kalamazoo, Greenleaf Trust is an independent Michigan-chartered trust-only bank, focused on wealth management, trust and estate administration, and administration of company-sponsored retirement plans.

Mary (Seaberg) King ’79

Mary has been a senior vice president at Invest Detroit since 2009. Invest Detroit is a certified Community Development Financial Institution and a leading source of private sector financing to support economic and community development in underserved communities, primarily in Detroit. Mary manages Invest Detroit’s core city strategic fund (designed to provide lending to priority commercial real estate projects in Greater Downtown Detroit), the nonprofit predevelopment loan fund, and the new markets tax credit program. Mary also leads the efforts for Invest Detroit’s CDFI / CDE relationship management. Prior to joining Invest Detroit, she was vice president of commercial lending at Detroit Commerce Bank. At K Mary majored in political science and studied abroad in Clermont-Ferrand, France. She earned a M.B.A. at the University of Michigan.

Melissa (Stucki) Stevens ’96

elissa (Stucki) StevensMelissa has joined Cincinnati-headquartered Fifth Third Bancorp as senior vice president, chief digital officer and head of omni-channel banking. She will be responsible for creating the strategic plan for an integrated omni-channel customer experience, including both sales and service, for all lines of business. Prior to the move, Melissa had been managing director and chief operating officer for Citi Bank’s FinTech, a unit charged with creating a smartphone-centric business mode. At K she majored in English and studied abroad in Muenster, Germany. She earned a master’s degree from Michigan State University’s School of Labor & Industrial Relations, and an M.B.A. in Finance and Operations from New York University’s Stern School of Business. In 2014, she was named to Crain’s New York “40 under 40,” and last year was named to Bank Innovation’s “2015 Innovators to Watch.”

Jessica English ’94

Jessica won the grand prize in the Kzoom Video $10,000 video services giveaway in Kalamazoo. Jessica owns and operates Birth Kalamazoo, which offers natural childbirth and breastfeeding classes, birth and postpartum doulas, lactation consults, and birth doula training. She received $7,500 in video services, after receiving 4,091 votes in the online voting contest.

Carol Flanigan ’04

Carol has been named director of annual giving at Olivet College. She is responsible for the management and coordination of all giving efforts for the College’s annual giving program. Before taking the position at Olivet College Carol served as the executive assistant to Boston University’s assistant vice president for development. She earned her B.A. at K in English and studied abroad in Bonn, Germany.