Book Review: The Way We Eat- Why Our Food Choices Matter

Migrated Image

We loved The Omnivore’s Dilemma; It was a fast moving, engaging read that opened our eyes. We just finished Peter Singer and Jim Mason's The Way We Eat- and when it comes to writing, Peter Singer is no Michael Pollan. However, when it comes to grabbing you by the lapels, shaking you until you realize the seriousness of the issue and the scale of the problem, Michael Pollan is no Peter Singer, your eyes are not just opened, they are bug-eyed and popping right out of your skull. This is all new to us; we cover the prefab and design beat and never thought much about where our food came from- like many, we don't touch veal because of the stories about how the calves were treated. After reading this book, you realize that it is all veal- starting with beef, then pigs, chickens, turkey, eggs, and on to fish and even dairy products- ethically it is hard to justify eating any of it.

Like Michael Pollan, The Authors look at different meals with different families- a typical American Wal-Mart shopping family, a careful organic family and a vegan family of aliens in conservative Kansas. It is a useful tool for looking at the diets, but Singer does animals better than people. The vegan diet seems by far the healthiest , most sustainable and most appropriate, but the meal they served sounds so boring. We thought, can we do this?

Fortunately we do have choices- the book moves on to look at ethically and humanely raised meat (and here the book diverges from Michael Pollan, who was less than impressed with Whole Foods, whereas Peter Singer is. While the authors make a strong case that the Vegan diet (with a few side dishes from dumpster diving and clams) is the only truly ethical and sustainable diet, they do accept that being a concientious omnivore (like Michael Pollan) is the next best thing. It all comes down to the five basic principles:

Five Principles for Making Conscientious Food Choices
1. Transparency: We have the right to know how our food is produced.
2. Fairness: Producing food should not impose costs on others.
3. Humanity: Inflicting unnecessary suffering on animals is wrong.
4. Social Responsibility: Workers are entitled to decent wages and working conditions.
5. Needs: Preserving life and health justifies more than other desires.

We can do that. It will be more expensive, but Singer points out that our cheap food is subsidized by the cost to the environment, the health care system, and corn; We pay half as much for food as a percentage of our income as our grandparents did. It will be more work- farmers markets and CSA’s take time, but we will get to know the people who grow our food and whether or not it is organic, we know it will be better. It will be more seasonal- perhaps boring in winter when we will kill if we get turnip again, but an explosion of flavours when we follow local produce through its seasons.

Michael Pollan was interesting and illuminating; Peter Singer is life-changing. Everyone who cares about what they put in their mouth should read this. Everyone who cares about how living creatures are treated around the world should read this. Actually, everyone should read this. ::The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter, available at ::Amazon

In the last chapter the author summarized some tips for maximizing the ethics and sustainability of your diet- We will summarize them tomorrow.