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Monday, July 30, 2007

Book Review: The End of Food

I finished The End of Food: How the Food Industry Is Destroying Our Food Supply-And What You Can Do about It by Thomas Pawlick last night. This is a solid book that describes everything from how our food is raised to how our food is packaged. The first chapter runs through the lack of choice that we as consumers are given, limited to only a few out of thousands of varieties of tomatoes, apples, and other produce. Food growers and supermarkets select the most hearty and most profitable varieties, rather than the tastiest or most nutritious. Chapter Three runs through the cornucopia of additives, preservatives, and other crud that gets into pre-packaged foods, or as Pawlick calls it, a "Witch's Brew".

You'll also get a glimpse into the factory farms that produce the beef, chicken, eggs, and pork that are found in every supermarket and will most likely walk away vowing to eat only grass-fed, sustainably raised meats and eggs. Reading his account of how egg-laying chickens are treated assures me that I won't be eating any of the chicken that ends up in cans of soup and processed into other forms that make it impossible to see the abuse these animals endure (after they're depleted of egg-laying potential, they are chopped up for soups and such). I stick to grass-fed beef and antibiotic/hormone-free chicken, veal, and pork and since I don't eat much in the way of prepackaged foods, it's easy for me to avoid stuff like canned chicken soup. It was disturbing nonetheless. Hopefully this book turns you on to farmer's markets and community-supported agriculture, grassfed meats and chickens, and possibly even prods a few of us into planting our own gardens and raising some of our own food.

The book is only ~240 pages and is a pretty easy, but informative, read. I went through it in about 5 or 6 days of reading. The last chapter is actually just a list of resources for people wanting to plant their own gardens, get into farming, etc. I haven't read many of the books on his list, so I can't vouch for the quality of them, but I can say that it's at least 10 pages of further reading.

Bonus review: Plagues and Peoples by William H. McNeill - I finished this book right before I started The End of Food. It's not really a health-related book, but it is a good read into how epidemic viruses and plagues shaped history and helped lead us to where we are today. He examines both macroparasites (such as government taxes, barbarian hordes, and wars) and microparasites (measles, smallpox, etc) and how a shift in the level of stress caused by either can destroy a population. For instance, the government must be sure not to overtax their citizens so as to make it worthwhile for the citizens to keep working and growing the population. Similarly, what works today from a macroparasitic level may not work tomorrow when smallpox is ravaging through a country. The writing is dry, but I found the subject matter quite interesting.