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From the #1 New York Times bestselling author and pioneering journalist, an expansive look at how history has been shaped by humanity’s appetite for food, farmland, and the money behind it all—and how a better future is within reach. The story of humankind is usually told as one of technological innovation and economic influence—of arrowheads and atomic bombs, settlers and From the #1 New York Times bestselling author and pioneering journalist, an expansive look at how history has been shaped by humanity’s appetite for food, farmland, and the money behind it all—and how a better future is within reach. The story of humankind is usually told as one of technological innovation and economic influence—of arrowheads and atomic bombs, settlers and stock markets. But behind it all, there is an even more fundamental driver: Food. In Animal, Vegetable, Junk, trusted food authority Mark Bittman offers a panoramic view of how the frenzy for food has driven human history to some of its most catastrophic moments, from slavery and colonialism to famine and genocide—and to our current moment, wherein Big Food exacerbates climate change, plunders our planet, and sickens its people. Even still, Bittman refuses to concede that the battle is lost, pointing to activists, workers, and governments around the world who are choosing well-being over corporate greed and gluttony, and fighting to free society from Big Food’s grip. Sweeping, impassioned, and ultimately full of hope, Animal, Vegetable, Junk reveals not only how food has shaped our past, but also how we can transform it to reclaim our future.


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From the #1 New York Times bestselling author and pioneering journalist, an expansive look at how history has been shaped by humanity’s appetite for food, farmland, and the money behind it all—and how a better future is within reach. The story of humankind is usually told as one of technological innovation and economic influence—of arrowheads and atomic bombs, settlers and From the #1 New York Times bestselling author and pioneering journalist, an expansive look at how history has been shaped by humanity’s appetite for food, farmland, and the money behind it all—and how a better future is within reach. The story of humankind is usually told as one of technological innovation and economic influence—of arrowheads and atomic bombs, settlers and stock markets. But behind it all, there is an even more fundamental driver: Food. In Animal, Vegetable, Junk, trusted food authority Mark Bittman offers a panoramic view of how the frenzy for food has driven human history to some of its most catastrophic moments, from slavery and colonialism to famine and genocide—and to our current moment, wherein Big Food exacerbates climate change, plunders our planet, and sickens its people. Even still, Bittman refuses to concede that the battle is lost, pointing to activists, workers, and governments around the world who are choosing well-being over corporate greed and gluttony, and fighting to free society from Big Food’s grip. Sweeping, impassioned, and ultimately full of hope, Animal, Vegetable, Junk reveals not only how food has shaped our past, but also how we can transform it to reclaim our future.

30 review for Animal, Vegetable, Junk: A History of Food, from Sustainable to Suicidal

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    Mostly Junk, Barely Any Meat. This anti-capitalist, anti-European, anti-agriculture screed is little more than a run down of a leftist view of world history (with concentrations in the post-Industrial Revolution world) as it relates to food . It often points to old and out-dated research in support of its claims, and its bibliography is both scant - barely 1/3 the size of similar nonfiction titles - and not cited in the text at all. (Instead, it uses a system of referring to a particular phrase Mostly Junk, Barely Any Meat. This anti-capitalist, anti-European, anti-agriculture screed is little more than a run down of a leftist view of world history (with concentrations in the post-Industrial Revolution world) as it relates to food . It often points to old and out-dated research in support of its claims, and its bibliography is both scant - barely 1/3 the size of similar nonfiction titles - and not cited in the text at all. (Instead, it uses a system of referring to a particular phrase on a particular page number inside the bibliography itself, rather than having a notation in the text of the narrative. Which is obfuscation intended to hide the text's lack of scholarly merit, clearly.) For those who know no better, it perhaps offers an argument that will at least confirm their own biases. But for anyone who has studied any of the several areas it touches in any depth at all, its analysis is flawed due to the very premises it originates from. All of this to say, this is a very sad thing. Based on the description of the book, I genuinely had high hopes for it, as food and its history and future is something that truly fascinates me and this could have been a remarkable text. Instead, it is remarkable only for how laughable it is. Not recommended.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Chantal Lyons

    I haven't come across Mark Bittman's work before, but 'Animal, Vegetable Junk' is a marvel of research and argument. The book is chronological, beginning with a summary of the birth of agriculture. I scanned this bit, I'll admit - this period in history has already been well-covered in 'Sapiens' by Yuval Harari (who gets a mention). Where Bittman excels is the history of agriculture and the food industry in the USA. Now, I'm British, but I didn't really have a problem with the American focus. I a I haven't come across Mark Bittman's work before, but 'Animal, Vegetable Junk' is a marvel of research and argument. The book is chronological, beginning with a summary of the birth of agriculture. I scanned this bit, I'll admit - this period in history has already been well-covered in 'Sapiens' by Yuval Harari (who gets a mention). Where Bittman excels is the history of agriculture and the food industry in the USA. Now, I'm British, but I didn't really have a problem with the American focus. I assume the American food industry has served as a model for much of the rest of the world. The book certainly answers the question of "just why does America have such an obesity problem?". And while Bittman's writing isn't at the same level as Yuval Harari's (but then again, that author is in a league of his own), it still comes with plenty of shocks and some great one-liners like: "Bread had become a vitamin pill in the form of a sponge cake". Another thing to truly commend the book for is its exposure of structural racism. I knew, like anyone does, that food is just one of many issues wrapped up with racial inequality in the USA. But I had no idea just how powerful the collaboration has been between historical and modern racism, and the depravities of the American food system. Essential reading - for those in America and beyond. (Just one quibble - early on, the author says that primates are the only animals known to make tools - but corvids are also known to do this) With thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for a copy of this ebook, in exchange for an honest review)

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ramblin Hamlin

    **Thank you NetGalley and Houghton Miffin Harcourt for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. This book is published Feb 2nd I have read a few, of Bittman’s other books and I enjoyed them, sadly, this one fell a little short for me. I appreciated some of the history in the first few chapters. I’m talking about century old history that I was not aware of. I also appreciated the last two chapters where he shared what is being done now to help heal our environment and what w **Thank you NetGalley and Houghton Miffin Harcourt for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. This book is published Feb 2nd I have read a few, of Bittman’s other books and I enjoyed them, sadly, this one fell a little short for me. I appreciated some of the history in the first few chapters. I’m talking about century old history that I was not aware of. I also appreciated the last two chapters where he shared what is being done now to help heal our environment and what we can do to continue down the path of change. The middle section of the book felt a little dry and biased. It struggled to keep my attention though a large chunk of it. It felt very textbookish for me and I could only read it in small chunks. I also could have done without shaming pregnant mothers and families who choose to formula over breastfeeding. Essentially, it alluded to kids being picky eaters because of how the babies mother ate when pregnant and/or because of being given formula and pureed foods. I cringed when they talked about the “stoplight method” in regards to foods. Nothing makes a kid or person want food more than when you are told you can’t have it. We do have issues with our food system. There is much that needs to change and this book does present some good ideas for that. So I guess my recommendation is read the first and last few chapters and call it a day.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Judith von Kirchbach

    Coming February 2nd Mark Bittman’s highly informative “Animal - Vegetable - Junk” was a fascinating read - highly recommended to any science nerds and history bugs out there, or anyone else since we all need and consume food every day. Synopsis: The history of Homo sapiens is usually told as a story of technology or economics. But there is a more fundamental driver: food. How we hunted and gathered explains our emergence as a new species and our earliest technology. The quest for food for growin Coming February 2nd Mark Bittman’s highly informative “Animal - Vegetable - Junk” was a fascinating read - highly recommended to any science nerds and history bugs out there, or anyone else since we all need and consume food every day. Synopsis: The history of Homo sapiens is usually told as a story of technology or economics. But there is a more fundamental driver: food. How we hunted and gathered explains our emergence as a new species and our earliest technology. The quest for food for growing populations drove exploration, colonialism, slavery, even capitalism. A century ago, food was industrialized. Since then, new styles of agriculture and food production have written a new chapter of human history, one that’s driving both climate change and global health crises. Best-selling food authority Mark Bittman offers a panoramic view of the story and explains how we can rescue ourselves from the modern wrong turn. Review: The book tackles the history of agriculture, how damaging it has been and continues to be, and how it can be reshaped to respond to climate change and a world population of 10 billion people. I thought it was very interesting, I love history books with different focus points and my history nerd side was fully satisfied by the analysis of developments from early times through Middle Ages to modern times and industrialized agriculture from subsistence farms to large scale monoculture. Bittman excels in writing an accessible and gripping account of the history of agriculture and food industry. Speaking truth to power where simple profit interests were the leading decision components. Bittman does not come across as a radical, as suggested in some reviews, more as an observer and gatherer of scientific information. I thought the book was well researched and provided the background studies that statements relied on which is what I expect of scientific writing. Bittman is not recommending a specific diet or specific steps but he is showing which initiatives are leading the way in a good direction for combatting hunger and environmental effects and ends the book on a hopeful note. Thank you NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the eARC - opinions expressed are my own !

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ula Tardigrade

    An essential reading. In recent years in non-fiction, there was a trend of describing human history through one particular commodity or phenomenon: cod, chickens, cotton, mosquitos - you name it. While most of them bring an interesting new perspective and surprising facts, they are usually also shamelessly biased towards their subjects, overestimating their importance and influence. That is not the case with “Animal, vegetable, junk”, because food unquestionably is one of the most important things An essential reading. In recent years in non-fiction, there was a trend of describing human history through one particular commodity or phenomenon: cod, chickens, cotton, mosquitos - you name it. While most of them bring an interesting new perspective and surprising facts, they are usually also shamelessly biased towards their subjects, overestimating their importance and influence. That is not the case with “Animal, vegetable, junk”, because food unquestionably is one of the most important things that impacted our history (the only other example of such consequence that comes to my mind is that of infectious diseases). History of food means mainly the history of agriculture (or, later, "the Big Ag"), which maybe doesn’t sound too exciting but, believe me, it is. I would never think that I would be so fascinated with methods of soil treatment or farm industrialization. Mark Bittman is a great storyteller and can make almost any topic interesting. His writing is clear, witty, opinionated, full of interesting anecdotes and colorful characters. But it is a pleasure mixed with dread, as you learn more and more about what kind of world we’ve all created and how we turned our food into junk. Thankfully, the last chapters leave us with some hope and a plan of counteraction. Thanks to the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and NetGalley for the advance copy of this book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    Torn between three and four stars. I loved the first half, the history of food and agriculture and how we got to where we (mostly America) are. The second half seemed incredibly one sided and judgmental. I guess I was hoping for a bit less soapbox and bit more balanced, journalistic presentation of both sides. Despite all this, Mark Bittman is a very good writer and I enjoy the way he puts words on the page.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Cathi Davis

    The book has radicalized me. Not many books do that right? The first 1/3 of the book is a terrific mad dash through the history of agriculture. Wow what a ride. The fundamental change that becoming agrarian did to the human race ...yes obvious but children because (duh) you don’t have to carry them around like you did when you were a nomadic hunter gatherer. A quote “Larger populations demanded that land become more productive. When that wasn’t possible land had to be found. This usu The book has radicalized me. Not many books do that right? The first 1/3 of the book is a terrific mad dash through the history of agriculture. Wow what a ride. The fundamental change that becoming agrarian did to the human race ...yes obvious but children because (duh) you don’t have to carry them around like you did when you were a nomadic hunter gatherer. A quote “Larger populations demanded that land become more productive. When that wasn’t possible land had to be found. This usually meant mobilizing armies.” So more war Imperialism and colonization. Slavery. Famine. Deforestation overgrazing failure to fallow monoculture UPC (ultra processed foods) Another quote “Food was no longer something you cultivated outside your door...it was produced far afield, by exploited labor overseen by strangers then shipped in unimaginable quantities to supply huge markets.” Last quote “The riches of the rest of the world were stolen to create a powerful,beautiful and cultured Europe.” After this history lesson the statement that food security is a political issue is no longer in question. Our historic (and current) treatment of Blacks and Indigenous people in this country was the foundation that allowed the White population to dominate. What if free land HAD been given to freed slaves?! (Instead of limiting the Homestead Act to white males) Would our society be different today? Maybe. The issue of reparations is a hot button topic even today but when you read the history —and the inaction(and outright discrimination of the USDA) yes we are obliged to make amends The middle third is mostly about the American way of farming and the triumph of “science” over sense. I am of the generation that believed that only science could solve world hunger. Yes the factory farms are unnerving but what is the alternative...hunger? After reading this I no longer believe this. It is not science to ignore the degradation of the soil water and air because of factory monoculture farming. We have an agricultural system built on profit that ignores science “Organic” has become a marketing ploy that doesn’t address the underlying problems. Crop rotation soil health fallowing...farmers who do this can increase yield without resorting to GMO seed super hybrids antibiotics and monoculture Add in the use of real scientific methods in farming that set soil health as a paramount goal and you’re even reducing your carbon footprint. I don’t mean to write the whole book in this review but every page is astounding. The exclusion of agricultural and domestic workers from the Social Security Act and the Fair Labor Standards in 1938 because of southern Democrats. And the vestige of that (tipping excluded from minimum wage) continues today. The Middle section also includes a survey of nutrition (or the lack) but much of this is well known especially if you’ve read Michael Pollen’s books. The last third tries to be the hopeful part highlighting the green shoots of change. Not that much joy and it kind of ends suddenly with a “support the Green New Deal” without the same detail from the rest of the book. Clearly he had reached the “publish now” deadline. But...from being a “the Green new Deal goes too far and is more than climate change” I now understand the connections between a living wage sustainable agriculture and climate change. So green shoots Prairie strips Kernza Full Belly Farm HEAL (Health environment agriculture labor) food alliance Our Roots ALBA (agriculture and land based training association) In summary he says we need to move to a system of agriculture whose primary purpose is nourishment not the current system of profit (above nourishment...is it even a factor to Big Ag?) Big Ag wants us to worry over feeding 10 billion which allows them to focus on higher yields (and higher profits) but this is a misdirection. Last quote (really) “There is already enough food ...for all humans to live well and without ravaging our planet. To let desperation and scarcity myths guide our vision is to fall into industry’s hands. Better to prioritize food security for all and intelligently use the abundance that already exists.” Amen

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Gray

    If you're familiar with Mark Bittman's work, you know that he's passionate about food, how and what we eat, and the future of the planet. If not, know that he's been committed to these issues for years and this is the culmination of a lot of his research over the years. Beginning with a history of agriculture in the US and continuing through to how we must look at it in the future, it is at times a book which might aggravate but it will always inform. You, like me, might not agree with some of h If you're familiar with Mark Bittman's work, you know that he's passionate about food, how and what we eat, and the future of the planet. If not, know that he's been committed to these issues for years and this is the culmination of a lot of his research over the years. Beginning with a history of agriculture in the US and continuing through to how we must look at it in the future, it is at times a book which might aggravate but it will always inform. You, like me, might not agree with some of his assertions (notably about feeding infanta and children) but his views are thought provoking. His journalistic style is well suited to the subject (which could have been either a screed or too intense in lesser hands). I've been a fan of his for years and have watched his evolution. This is a terrific addition to his library. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. Informative and instructive, this is a must read for his fans and for those interested in the food industry.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    This new book by Mark Bittman, food critic of the New York Times, is an interesting overview and synthesis of how the global and especially the US food system got to be the way it is today. That is, primarily serving the needs of investors, while inflicting widespread damage on the environment, human health, and the economic well-being of farmers. In the final chapter he points to some hopeful signs, but on the whole it's a sobering indictment of the American food production system. This new book by Mark Bittman, food critic of the New York Times, is an interesting overview and synthesis of how the global and especially the US food system got to be the way it is today. That is, primarily serving the needs of investors, while inflicting widespread damage on the environment, human health, and the economic well-being of farmers. In the final chapter he points to some hopeful signs, but on the whole it's a sobering indictment of the American food production system.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Larka Fenrir

    “Three things are true at the same time. The world is much better; the world is awful; and the world can be much better.” - Max Roser, philosopher Even though Max Roser's quote references to many aspects of this world, in this book particularly the author and food writer Mark Bittman applies it to the food system, and more specifically the one present in the USA. The book is divided in three sections: “The Birth of Growing”, “The Twentieth Century”, and “Change”. In “The Birth of Growing” we le “Three things are true at the same time. The world is much better; the world is awful; and the world can be much better.” - Max Roser, philosopher Even though Max Roser's quote references to many aspects of this world, in this book particularly the author and food writer Mark Bittman applies it to the food system, and more specifically the one present in the USA. The book is divided in three sections: “The Birth of Growing”, “The Twentieth Century”, and “Change”. In “The Birth of Growing” we learn how we evolved from being hunters and gatherers to the current condition of breeders and farmers, an evolutionary step that, as we will see, is the inherit cause of many of our world's problems. A first look on the matter can be found in the second chapter, where the author explains the foundation of the Eurasian and American civilization, their periods of prosperity and decline, and their causes. Same aspects in a different part of the world, the New one, will be explored in chapter three, with a particular remark on the destruction brought by the colonialists, and the enslavement of black people. From here, we will proceed to see how Englishmen exploited not only the American colonies, but also Ireland, India and China, originating famines at home and oversea. In the last chapter of the section, the issue on soil impoverishment is tackled, as well as the reason American wasn't (yet) affected, but instead flourished, at our future's health cost. “The Twentieth Century” is now all about America: how it evolved from the Industrial Revolution and WWI, and how the codependency of farmers and banks starts are all topics covered in the first chapter. It goes on deepening the understanding of food as political weapon that gave birth to the food industry and new versions of food we all know nowadays, as well as the brand and marketing to sell them created in this period. In the second half of this section the protagonist are the health consequences of this new processed food, what has been done about it and the beginning of lies so hard to uncovered once and for all. On the same wave, we'll also see how fast food originated, and how junk food is engineered to be addictive since a young age, with particular attention to sugar, salt, and saturate fats. The last chapter will change topic yet again, getting into the consequences of the United States as leader of the global agricultural industry: the big lie of the Green Revolution spreads around the globe, not unlikely its pesticides and GMOs with their consequences on the environment. The author leaves us with a (partial) bright sight on the matter: “Change”. Like its name reveals, is all about what we have done and what we could do to improve our health and environment. Now evident things such as the “Four Laws of Ecology” by Barry Commoner had to be written, in sharp opposition to the “Four Laws of Capitalism” of John Bellamy Fosters [both can be found here], and the important first steps into this battle, in which a better attention on labels and the kind of product we buy (with particular attention to the bio ones) lead the way for a more sustainable way of life. Switching to a plant based diet will also impact largely, without the negative effects (ecological and moral) of both the industrial animal production and fishing; the author also points out how farming and climate change influences each other, and reminds us of the first positive changes to our food system, such as agroecology. In conclusion, according to Mark Bittman we don't know what a functioning food system would look like, but we have the guide lines to get there, and it must be based on cooperation, while its goals must be equality, justice, and judicious treatment of the Earth. I'm only a beginner for what concerns the topic from a point of view strictly historical, so I can't say much about that, if not that the style of the book reminded me of another book, although of a different topic (history of human societies): Guns, Germs and Steel . The facts are presented in an exhaustive and yet not pedantic nor overwhelming way. On an environmental point of view, however, I had my fair share of articles and books on the argument, and most of all I have the first hand experience from the years spent being a vegan, with particular attention on animal welfare and the advantages of a plant based diet on the environment, animals and people. In those paragraphs in which the author explained the correlation between the elements involved, I found myself nodding along and appreciating the way he expressed the most critical (and difficult) facts and thoughts on the matter. As the author rightfully said Not everyone realizes it, but plants create biomass, and animals, for the most part, consume it. Plants turn sunlight, air, water, and soil into stuff, including food. Dependent and even parasitic, animals do none that: We can create biomass only by helping and encouraging — or at least not hindering or destroying — the work of plants. Yet, pathetic as we are in that regard, we’ve become the only creatures in history who can destroy the world. Another important aspect that gets discussed is the equality, something that in a civilized world should exist in every aspect of human life, and yet it's missing in its basic forms. Bittman addresses the injustice women, black people, and other minorities (only to name a few) are subdued to, something it's difficult to imagine in a simple act of survival as providing food for ourself and our families might seem. Once more, food isn't just food, but the way we think about it and the way we approach it can change everybody's lives. This book opens your eyes on the perversity of a system that managed to camouflage itself, that promoted itself between the good guys, the one attending your every need, while it's inexorably chewing and spitting our home and the people that thinks disposable, all in the name of profits. For decades, Americans believed that we had the world’s healthiest and safest diet. We didn’t worry about its effects on our health, on the environment, on resources, or on the lives of the animals or even the workers it relies upon. Nor did we worry about its ability to endure — that is, its sustainability. We have been encouraged, even forced, to remain ignorant of both the costs of industrial agriculture and the non-environment-wrecking, healthier alternatives. Yet if terrorists stole or poisoned a large share of our land, water, and other natural resources, underfed a sixth of the population and seeded disease among half, threatened our ability to feed ourselves in the future, deceived, lied to, and poisoned our children, tortured our animals, and ruthlessly exploited many of our citizens we’d consider that a threat to national security and respond accordingly. Contemporary agriculture, food production, and marketing have done all of that, with government support and without penalty. That must end. To meet the human and environmental crises head-on, we must ask ourselves: What would a just food system look like? I believe we can answer that question (and I try to), and although getting to that place won’t be easy, it’s crucial — because nothing is more important than food. You can’t talk about reforming a toxic diet without talking about reforming the land and labor laws that determine that diet. You can’t talk about agriculture without talking about the environment, about clean sources of energy, and about the water supply. You can’t talk about animal welfare without talking about the welfare of food workers, and you can’t talk about food workers without talking about income inequality, racism, and immigration. In fact, you can’t have a serious conversation about food without talking about human rights, climate change, and justice. Food not only affects everything, it represents everything. My goals are to show how we got here, to describe the existential threats presented by the state of food and agriculture, and — perhaps most important — to describe the beginnings of a way forward. It’s a given that Big Food, like Big Oil, is unsustainable, if for no other reason than that energy and matter are finite, and the extraction of limited resources is precarious. As with the climate crisis — to which food production is a major contributor — there’s still time to come to our senses and change things for the better. It isn’t a sure bet, but it’s possible. The conversation starts with an understanding of the origins, evolution, and influence of food. Animal, Vegetable, Junk attempts to provide that understanding, and to imagine a better future. It’s a chronological telling that blends scientific, historical, and societal analyses. (It also occasionally reflects my personal experience.) It’s an ambitious book (perhaps too ambitious; you’ll be the judge of that), but one I had to write. I hope it changes the way you think about food, and everything it touches. Table of contents I. The Birth of Growing 1. The Food-Brain Feedback Loop 2. Soil and Civilization 3. Agriculture Goes Global 4. Creating Famine 5. The American Way of Farming II. The Twentieth Century 6. The Farm as Factory 7. Dust and Depression 8. Food and the Brand 9. Vitamania and “the Farm Problem” 10. Soy, Chicken, and Cholesterol 11. Force-feeding Junk 12. The So-called Green Revolution III. Change 13. The Resistance 14. Where We're At 15. The Way Forward Conclusion 16. We Are All Eaters Rating: ★★★★ Other books by the author are all available here Top 3 lists on GoodReads on environment • Best Enviromental Books • Best Sustainability Nonfiction • Best Climate Change Books ***Thank you to the author and NetGalley for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.***

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    A very interesting history of food production and agriculture.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Alan Clark

    Well researched, engaging exploration of agriculture’s past, present and future.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Every human should read this. Our future (literally) depends on it.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    One thing I have always wondered about small organic farming is whether it is really a solution for feeding the world. This book answers that question solidly--and so many more. It is harsh where it needs to be harsh, but incredibly hopeful, as well. Oh, and the answer is yes. peasant farming feeds 70% of the world using 25% of agricultural resources. The other 75% is big ag, producing mostly crops (corn and soybean) that we don't even eat or that go into products that can barely be called food. One thing I have always wondered about small organic farming is whether it is really a solution for feeding the world. This book answers that question solidly--and so many more. It is harsh where it needs to be harsh, but incredibly hopeful, as well. Oh, and the answer is yes. peasant farming feeds 70% of the world using 25% of agricultural resources. The other 75% is big ag, producing mostly crops (corn and soybean) that we don't even eat or that go into products that can barely be called food. An amazing and enlightening read.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jack Reid

    The food system in the United States is messed up. I imagine anyone reading this book agrees with the idea, unless they work for Big Food and are keeping up with public discourse. In a nod to Harari's Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Bittman states his central argument and takes us back to the beginning of time. It was a bit extravagant and unnecessary for me as I just read Sapiens. Still, Bittman's unique voice shines through in his writing, keeping the text interesting enough to continue The food system in the United States is messed up. I imagine anyone reading this book agrees with the idea, unless they work for Big Food and are keeping up with public discourse. In a nod to Harari's Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Bittman states his central argument and takes us back to the beginning of time. It was a bit extravagant and unnecessary for me as I just read Sapiens. Still, Bittman's unique voice shines through in his writing, keeping the text interesting enough to continue reading. I view myself as well-read in nutrition literature. Hence, none of the ideas presented here are new. But, Bittman cites his references and hits on all the major nutritional reviews of the past century. The key takeaway - processed foods aren't good for you. Instead, processed foods are the byproduct of the excesses of the American farming system, amplified by strong government support. After WWII and the recovery of European farming systems, the U.S. farming system faced an existential crisis. We produced too much of too few crops. Rather than scale back the industry, Big Food pushed forward by inventing new foods and pushing them to the general public. For anyone who follows the food industry, it's not a new story. But Bittman offers insightful historical context for government backing of Big Food (again, it's nothing new) and presents his arguments in a concise, entertaining manner. I enjoyed everything except the final two chapters, which dealt with the solution. I flip through an entire book before starting a review to ensure I don't only write about the last couple of chapters. If I did, I would rate this text far lower. After presenting a compelling narrative leading us to the present, Bittman offers a scattershot of solutions in a whirlwind 40 pages at the end. It took me four days to get through this section. Like Sapiens, it's often best to address causes and solutions in different books for this reason. The narrative gets muddled. I can only read about a myriad of small-scale solutions for so long before I get lost in my thoughts. Leave it for the website or the next book. I won't let the unfocused ending spoil the magnificent body of the work. Bittman bit off a lot when he decided to craft a narrative explaining today's horrific food system. And he does an excellent job, adding to my list of recommended reads for people interested in the complexities of our food system today.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy Garber

    I liked Mark Bittman the excellent cookbook writer. But I'm in love with Mark Bittman the advocate of social food justice. In this book, Bittman traces the history of agriculture from its beginning (possibly humanity's biggest mistake?) through medieval serfdom to American genocide, slavery, and the literally death-dealing power of multinational neoliberal capitalism. Bittman says in his introduction that he feels this is the most important book he has ever written, and it has certainly made me I liked Mark Bittman the excellent cookbook writer. But I'm in love with Mark Bittman the advocate of social food justice. In this book, Bittman traces the history of agriculture from its beginning (possibly humanity's biggest mistake?) through medieval serfdom to American genocide, slavery, and the literally death-dealing power of multinational neoliberal capitalism. Bittman says in his introduction that he feels this is the most important book he has ever written, and it has certainly made me reconsider the history of food on this planet and in this country - and my role in upholding the murderous status quo.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Donna Boyd

    Thank you to #NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for providing me with a digital copy of this book prior to publication in exchange for my review. Animal, Vegetable, Junk by Mark Bittman is a very informative book about the history and the future of food. Bittman starts out by stating the obvious, that "obtaining food has driven human history from the start." Without food, there would be no humans so it makes sense that the need to find food is paramount. What I had not thought about befor Thank you to #NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for providing me with a digital copy of this book prior to publication in exchange for my review. Animal, Vegetable, Junk by Mark Bittman is a very informative book about the history and the future of food. Bittman starts out by stating the obvious, that "obtaining food has driven human history from the start." Without food, there would be no humans so it makes sense that the need to find food is paramount. What I had not thought about before this book is that our diets had to be flexible and opportunistic; we had to eat what was available to us depending on where we lived and what the climate or season was at the time. Bittman claims that it is ingrained in us to eat as much as we can whenever we can which was not a problem when we led a more active lifestyle. It is only now that we lead a much more sedentary lifestyle that this has become a problem that we need to address and we need to begin eating a healthier diet. He also brings in the various ways that food has led humans to some of the most ruinous moments in our history such as slavery, famines and being a big factor in climate change. Bittman closes the book with a bit of hope. He talks about things that can be done to turn things around and start moving things in a more positive, healthy direction for human beings as well as for the health of our planet. I will be surprised if this book is not turned into a tv documentary or series. I learned a great deal from reading this book and I recommend it.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kim Willis

    It was just ok. The book tried to cover too much. There were some interesting tidbits here and there but a lot of this has been covered in other books. I found some of the research cited outdated and I did not like that the so called facts were not footnoted - even in the back where there was some attempt to cite references by chapter, the citations were not adequate. It is obvious the author is agenda driven- to end modern agriculture. I feel he does not have a good enough grasp of all that entai It was just ok. The book tried to cover too much. There were some interesting tidbits here and there but a lot of this has been covered in other books. I found some of the research cited outdated and I did not like that the so called facts were not footnoted - even in the back where there was some attempt to cite references by chapter, the citations were not adequate. It is obvious the author is agenda driven- to end modern agriculture. I feel he does not have a good enough grasp of all that entails and he certainly does not acknowledge what is being done already in modern agriculture to try and mitigate concerns of sustainability. There is both good and bad in modern ag and no doubt some changes are needed but in this book modern ag is the enemy. The author may know about food and cooking, but his knowledge of food production and advances in modern ag is sadly lacking.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Laurie

    Fascinating look into the history of agriculture and what we can do to solve today's food problems. There are areas where the book does feel a bit dense and textbookish, but overall it contains solid insights into industrial agriculture and factory farming, and the need to make significant changes to our food supply methods. Thank you, NetGalley, for the ARC. Fascinating look into the history of agriculture and what we can do to solve today's food problems. There are areas where the book does feel a bit dense and textbookish, but overall it contains solid insights into industrial agriculture and factory farming, and the need to make significant changes to our food supply methods. Thank you, NetGalley, for the ARC.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Nancycsc

    So great - everyone who buys food and eats should read it

  21. 5 out of 5

    Koren

    I read this book with a sense of defeat. I wondered how in the world I, as an individual, could make a change in how we eat and how we treat the environment and has big business overtaken the world that we are powerless to change. I still feel that way, but at the end the author offers hope and many ways that we can change the world one step at a time. Now to see if these things come to fruition. If you have read other books on this topic I don't know that there is much here that you don't alrea I read this book with a sense of defeat. I wondered how in the world I, as an individual, could make a change in how we eat and how we treat the environment and has big business overtaken the world that we are powerless to change. I still feel that way, but at the end the author offers hope and many ways that we can change the world one step at a time. Now to see if these things come to fruition. If you have read other books on this topic I don't know that there is much here that you don't already know, although I think it helps to refresh our thinking once in a while.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Annie

    DNF at 55%. The ideological slant became too heavy-handed, and I was uncomfortable how the author seems to value these grand narratives over well-sourced analysis (even though I'm probably on the same page on a lot of issues). Interesting at many points, but I am worried about internalizing statements that are presented as obvious fact when they're the equivalent of an odd uncle making sweeping generalizations about the brokenness of the modern world over family dinner. DNF at 55%. The ideological slant became too heavy-handed, and I was uncomfortable how the author seems to value these grand narratives over well-sourced analysis (even though I'm probably on the same page on a lot of issues). Interesting at many points, but I am worried about internalizing statements that are presented as obvious fact when they're the equivalent of an odd uncle making sweeping generalizations about the brokenness of the modern world over family dinner.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bryan

    This is like reading a history book focused on how food affected every aspect of civilization. It is really well done. It is also very sad, the lessons that we learned and the things that we give up for corporations to make more money. We give up things like health, community, and clean water to accommodate the demands of these large corporations.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jackie

    It took me days to read the first section of this book and hours to read the next two. It really gains momentum as it goes. What a succinct and damning review of our food and agricultural system. The chapter called "Where We're At" was devastating. The hope offered was too brief, but that's no fault of the author. It took me days to read the first section of this book and hours to read the next two. It really gains momentum as it goes. What a succinct and damning review of our food and agricultural system. The chapter called "Where We're At" was devastating. The hope offered was too brief, but that's no fault of the author.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Valerie Horner

    I tried to read this book; I really did. I come to my sustainable agriculture roots paternally. My father who was a successful executive in the steel industries in the 50’s who also had a deep interest in agriculture. He had read Mr. Faulkner’s 1943 masterpiece Plowman’s Folly which transformed the farming industry over the next 20 years. In the mid 50’s my father bought 40 acres of prime farmland in Illinois and began using Faulkner’s “radical” ideas of crop rotation and contour plowing. Still I tried to read this book; I really did. I come to my sustainable agriculture roots paternally. My father who was a successful executive in the steel industries in the 50’s who also had a deep interest in agriculture. He had read Mr. Faulkner’s 1943 masterpiece Plowman’s Folly which transformed the farming industry over the next 20 years. In the mid 50’s my father bought 40 acres of prime farmland in Illinois and began using Faulkner’s “radical” ideas of crop rotation and contour plowing. Still working in either Chicago or St. Louis, he hired his German neighbors to plow and harvest the land for him with his new fangled methods which vastly improved the soil, fertility, and kept the loss of topsoil down. We also always had a large compost pile in our backyard regularly supplemented with manure and a garden. I inherited this green bug from my father and not only love to garden, but love to cook from the things my garden produces. I am dismayed at the present state of agriculture with huge chemical companies and their GMO’s and over use of I tried to read this book; I really did. I come to my sustainable agriculture roots paternally. My father who was a successful executive in the steel industries in the 50’s also had a deep interest in agriculture. He had read Mr. Faulkner’s 1943 masterpiece, Plowman’s Folly which transformed the farming industry over the next 20 years. In the mid 50’s my father bought 40 acres of prime farmland in Illinois and began using Faulkner’s “radical” ideas of crop rotation and contour plowing. Still working as a vice-president of a steel company, he hired his German neighbors to farm the land for him with his new fangled methods which vastly improved the soil, fertility, and kept the loss of topsoil down. We also always had a large compost pile in our backyard regularly supplemented with manure and a garden. I inherited this green bug from my father and not only love to garden, but love to cook from the things my garden produces.I am dismayed at the present state of agriculture with huge chemical companies and their GMO’s and over use of glysophosate dominating the industry, to the destruction of the small family farm, to China and tech billionaires buying up farmland across the US. I was prepared to like Mr Bittman’s book I realized immediately, however, that Bittman is of the Howard Zinn school of thought and basically nothing the United States has ever done is any good. His history is broad and full of ridiculous invectives. For example “American slavery, the cruelest and most nakedly evil economic system ever created..” A student of history should know that slavery has been widespread for as long as history has been around. Was American slavery really crueler than the Aztec system of taking their male captured in war and pulling their hearts out while still alive while enslaving their women and children? Was it crueler that most of the ancient world’s system of making men into eunuchs? Slavery still exists in many places including the sexual trafficking of women and children in this country. The truth is owning and using other people has always been unfortunately very profitable. So I stopped reading on page 85. For the life of me, I don’t understand how the NYT’s, academics, and other lefties whose parents probably immigrated to the US around the turn of the 20th Century and were given every opportunity to succeed (which their ancestors took by the way) could have turned so hard against this great country which has given great blessing throughout the world. I found his rank bitterness and hostility towards Western Civilization and the US poisoned a book that perhaps had some good things to say. I just couldn’t read far enough into it to find them. dominating the industry, to the destruction of the small family farm, to China and tech billionaires buying up farmland across the US. I was prepared to like Mr Bittman’s book I realized immediately, however, that Bittman is of the Howar Zinn school of thought and basically nothing the United States had ever done is any good. His history is broad and full of ridiculous invictives. For example “American slavery, the cruelist and most nakedly evil economic system ever created..” A student of history should know that slavery has been widespread for as long as history has been around. Was American slavery really crueler than the Aztec system of taking their male captured in was and pulling their hearts out while still alive while enslaving their women and children? Was it crueler that most of the ancient world’s system of making men into eunuchs? Even today slavery exists in many places including the sexual trafficking of women and children in this country. The truth is owning other people is unfortunately very profitable. So I stopped reading on page 85. For the life of me, I don’t understand how the NYT’s, academics, and other lefties whose parents probably immigrated to the US around the turn of the 20th Century and were given every opportunity to succeed (which their ancestors took by the way) could have turned so hard against this great country which has blessed the world with incredible technology, a constitution more copied than any other political document, and so much more. I found his rank bitterness and hostility towards Western Civilization and the US poisoned a book that perhaps had some good things to say. I just couldn’t read far enough into it to find them.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Bagus

    “We are what we eat,” that much is true when we talk about what constitutes us as human beings (at least, organically). I personally think that this book will be a nice complement to Yuval Noah Harari's Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind and Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel: A Short History of Everybody for the Last 13,000 Years in explaining the history of mankind. Many pieces of literature start analysing the history of mankind through the lenses of politics, geography and culture, but “We are what we eat,” that much is true when we talk about what constitutes us as human beings (at least, organically). I personally think that this book will be a nice complement to Yuval Noah Harari's Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind and Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel: A Short History of Everybody for the Last 13,000 Years in explaining the history of mankind. Many pieces of literature start analysing the history of mankind through the lenses of politics, geography and culture, but little of those which treating the roles of foods as the defining factor which constitute our civilisation. According to many works of literature, our daily consumption began to change as humans began to practice agriculture which favours monoculture practices and sedentary lives, which finally contributed to the rise of the human population as well as more technological and cultural innovations. And this is the central theme repeated throughout this book, that we are basically f*cked-up with our current food system, whose purpose is no longer to provide nourishment to the people, but rather generating more profits for the actors behind the heavily-industrialised food industry. Capitalism is one thing to blame in this book as it promises everlasting economic growth, an idea that at times threaten the sustainability of nature. Basically, Mark Bittman has two proposals in this book. First and foremost, there is the need for the whole agricultural and food industry to change their system, by relying less on technology and follows the traditional practices in many parts of the world that have been proven more sustainable. At times, this first proposal would need the backing of government support or some powerful local actors who are able to influence government decision in passing some legislation that could benefit small and local farmers. The second proposal is addressed more on the consumers, to change their habits and eating fewer junk foods which contribute to many of our chronic diseases. This is less sound, and the author himself acknowledges that changing our habits is not an easy task especially when we are educated in a culture that favours instant edible foods and there are countless supplies from the industry. Most of Mark Bittman’s ideas in this book are depressing. And it will be more depressing if you read it while eating your big burger procured from the closest McDonald’s franchise while drinking ultra-sugared Diet Coke (I wouldn’t recommend both). Mark Bittman tries to avoid statistics in his book, but each paragraph speaks volume about the danger we have been in and the need to advocate for more sustainable agricultural practices which cause fewer harms to nature and farmers. If you are afraid that this book will all be on the negative sides of our food security, there will be a penultimate chapter which discusses the positive achievements in some parts of the world to regulate better foods for society, which I think deserve more mention in this urgent discussion. Overall, this is a really enjoyable book for me and changed my view regarding the food industry and our daily food consumptions. However, it remains curious as to how the author’s ideas could be implemented in influencing several parties that have been benefited from the status quo in the food industry. I could easily imagine there will be many parties whose positions will be threatened by the existence of this book (maybe they will hire some researchers to publish books or articles to counter the ideas). === Also published on: https://bagusanugerahyoga.medium.com/...

  27. 4 out of 5

    Owlish

    Adding this one to the list of books I wish everyone would read. Think of it as a food-focused companion to "This Changes Everything." Also have to admit that I often do judge a book by its cover, and this cover design is one of my all-time favorites. Some select important passages: "Hunger is not a symptom of underproduction but of inequality, of abusive power and wealth." p. 55 "By providing consumers with the name of every ingredient in their processed food and letting them decide what's good an Adding this one to the list of books I wish everyone would read. Think of it as a food-focused companion to "This Changes Everything." Also have to admit that I often do judge a book by its cover, and this cover design is one of my all-time favorites. Some select important passages: "Hunger is not a symptom of underproduction but of inequality, of abusive power and wealth." p. 55 "By providing consumers with the name of every ingredient in their processed food and letting them decide what's good and what isn't, the government dodges all responsibility under the pretense of 'freedom of choice'." p. 138 "Not only does ethanol contain less energy than gasoline, but by some calculations (they're complicated, and controversial) it takes more energy to produce ethanol than the fuel yields...Currently, forty percent of the United States' corn crop is used to produce sixteen billion gallons of ethanol per year, which means that around thirty-five million acres, an area close to the size of Iowa...is devoted to growing corn destined to make inefficient fuel." p. 185-186 "Curtailing the consumption of sugar is a public health priority, and it's likely that sugar will be thought of as the tobacco of the twenty-first century." p. 187 "Capitalists may understand that resources are finite, but they choose to ignore that fact (as they ignore the climate crisis), instead pretending that unending growth is achievable. You might argue that this has served parts of humanity well in the past, but it would be fruitless to argue that it ever served all of humanity well, and it's now threatening our existence." p. 224 "That 'USDA Organic' doesn't mean 'no monocropping' is a huge determinant. Almost all the problems I've described in industrial agriculture are present in certified organic agriculture. The significant exceptions are that workers in organic fields are not exposed to as many dangerous chemicals, that the foods contain fewer chemical residues, and that organic farming does not support the products of genetic engineering." p. 241 "'Food deserts' are about a lack of money, not a fluke of location. It's money that brings supermarkets and good food options to a neighborhood. Supermarkets are profit chasers, and the minute they smell money in a neighborhood, they flock to it. Similarly, bringing a grocery store to a lower-income neighborhood, if people's incomes remain low, doesn't improve things much." p. 251 "Six billion pounds of pesticides are used worldwide each year, about a pound for each human. Much less than one percent of sprayed pesticides actually reaches the target species, but these chemicals contaminate land, water, and living creatures all over the planet and are found in around eighty-five percent of all foods." p. 252 "Where antibiotic use in meat production is highest (the United States, China, and India), so is the prevalence of antibiotic-resistent bacteria. Where it's been curbed, as in the EU, resistance is much lower. Experts agree that, if left unchecked for a generation, resistance to antibiotics will saddle routine medical procedures with mortal risk." p. 257 "In the United States, undocumented Mexican workers make up eighty percent of the farmworker population, and they're literally irreplaceable: United Farm Workers reached out to four million American citizens to solicit farmwork during a period of historic unemployment in 2010. Twelve thousand people applied. Twelve showed up for work. None lasted a single day." p. 263 "Capitalism depends on everlasting economic growth, which is impossible according to both science and common sense. That growth is measured by GDP, which includes all money spent on goods and services. By these standards, war is an asset, because it stimulates production; clear-cutting a forest for farmland creates jobs and goods; growing corn and soy to produce sellable junk, and even the healthcare costs resulting from that-- all represent 'growth'. The costs of this growth are then charged against the health and well-being of the majority of humans, and of the planet itself. Thus 'growth' and GDP are terrible measures of well-being." p. 290-291

  28. 5 out of 5

    Geoffrey

    In Animal, Vegetable, Junk, Mark Bittman provides not merely a history of food production, but a history that’s meant to show how modern food production has turned into an unsustainable mess loaded with flaws - including unsustainable monoculture-heavy farming practices that deplete limited natural resources and degrade the environment, mass exploitation of workers, ever-increasing consolidation into ever-fewer monopolies, and policy after government policy that has put financial wellbeing a ver In Animal, Vegetable, Junk, Mark Bittman provides not merely a history of food production, but a history that’s meant to show how modern food production has turned into an unsustainable mess loaded with flaws - including unsustainable monoculture-heavy farming practices that deplete limited natural resources and degrade the environment, mass exploitation of workers, ever-increasing consolidation into ever-fewer monopolies, and policy after government policy that has put financial wellbeing a very few ahead of the health and nourishment of the many, to name just a couple of the key problems. Bittman begins literally at the very start, and provides a fairly broad history of food production starting from prehistoric hunter-gathering societies up to the twentieth century. This I would definitely call the weakest part of the book, because as usually happens when covering such large chunks of time in less than a hundred pages, the summarizations and generalizations felt oversimplified to a fault, not to mention a bit dry. But, once he begins to focus on American-style industrial-scale food production, marketing, and consumption and its ripple effects around the world, the book very quickly picks up and becomes well worth the slog of the first several chapters. Now, none of the information that Bittman covers is groundbreaking or new - its all information that one can pick up in various other books and exposés, like Eric Scholsser’s Fast Food Nation> or Michael Ross’s Salt Sugar Fat (authors and works whom Bittman references throughout the book). However, what makes Animal, Vegetable, Junk work so well is it’s all of that information is now condensed together into a singular narrative to show all the various factors and incremental decisions that have all contributed to where we unfortunately find ourselves today. The book not only informs, but also alarms, and not unintentionally either. Bittman’s ultimate message - that the current system is ultimately based on greed and profit needs to be overhauled - is not at all a subtle one. I was already feeling the call to arms before reaching the last few chapters, where Bittman unequivocally advocates for major change at both the micro, everyday level and the drastically needed macro level as well. Having literally just finished the book, I’m not sure how specifically I will take action next, but I do know that it will happen - things definitely cannot remain as they were before I picked up this book. Not even two months into 2021, but this already feels like Animal, Vegetable, Junk will be my most effectively eye-opening reads of the year.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Cooking makes us human. And yet “The people who create, process, cook, and deliver the food we eat--often still go hungry...Just about every hand that helps bring food to our tables belongs to a person who may well be worried about putting food on their own...Eating well is important, but the ability to do so is far from universal...The most glaring failure of our food system is not hunger...but diet.” “The burger is fundamental to our national consciousness...A third of Americans now eat fast f Cooking makes us human. And yet “The people who create, process, cook, and deliver the food we eat--often still go hungry...Just about every hand that helps bring food to our tables belongs to a person who may well be worried about putting food on their own...Eating well is important, but the ability to do so is far from universal...The most glaring failure of our food system is not hunger...but diet.” “The burger is fundamental to our national consciousness...A third of Americans now eat fast food daily...today fast food symbolizes the modern American diet.” As William Crookes noted, “The very first and supremely important munition of war [is] food.” “The marketing of junk amounted to an organized attack on our collective health.” Eating is a political act. “Hunger is not a symptom of underproduction but of inequality, of abusive power and wealth...Power is that the nexus of all the interlocking issues that define the food system, and an ethical restructuring of food systems must write the historical wrongs of land and wealth distribution and empower the worlds most vulnerable people...evolution or revolution, they will mean the true self-determination.” “Providing the food we need to sustain ourselves and flourish is the single most fundamental and important human occupation...How we relate to land and the food we grow has everything to do with how we live on the earth, and who benefits and suffers from that treatment.” In contrast to agriculture, “the worst mistake in the history of the human race,” agroecology is “producing food in harmony with the planet and its inhabitants.” Built on the premise of food sovereignty, “its goals are to get land to the landless and to enable farmers to control what they produce while making a living and stewarding the earth.” “We are now in the Anthropocene: the era in which humans have changed the face of the earth and will determine its future...Now is the time to put to rest the myth of American exceptionalism, to convert global competition to global cooperation.” Change is planted one seed at a time; health is our harvest.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jaclyn Rosamond

    Processed food versus actual real food. Mark Bittman’s timely book on the history of food humans have eaten since long before written history and right up to twenty-first century, is an alarming, eye-opening look at the modern food industry. Animal, Vegetable, Junk, is a well-researched book on how today’s food became a non-nutritious scramble to part people from their money while crippling the health of nations and enforcing inappropriate farming methods on countries around the globe. It’s not j Processed food versus actual real food. Mark Bittman’s timely book on the history of food humans have eaten since long before written history and right up to twenty-first century, is an alarming, eye-opening look at the modern food industry. Animal, Vegetable, Junk, is a well-researched book on how today’s food became a non-nutritious scramble to part people from their money while crippling the health of nations and enforcing inappropriate farming methods on countries around the globe. It’s not just about the simplistic story of fat, sugar and salt in food products in our supermarkets, it’s also about the way foods have been grown and the unavoidable pesticides present in our food and how they are utilised to grow so-called “healthy” crops It’s also about the cynical exploitation through junk food advertising, especially to children, setting young people on a journey to obesity, diabetes and chronic ill health. Ultimately, in his final chapters, Bittman offers a way forward for our food. Around the world there are incremental changes taking place – demand for organic food is increasing, individuals and small groups vote with their money to choose healthy products, some countries provide nutritious school lunches for children, small farms implement biodiversity and soil fertility techniques, France, at government level, is pushing for lower meat intake, Britain is encouraging “meatless Mondays”. Every pushback to big agriculture and its monoculture obsession becomes a challenge humanity needs to take up. As individuals we can challenge big agriculture’s attempts to control our dietary intake by choosing not to buy junk food, by choosing nutritious options, by not lining the pockets of those whose only motive is greed, not the health of humanity. This book is not a quick read, but it’s well worth reading.

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