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Bet the Farm: How Food Stopped Being Food Hardcover – October 1, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-0470631928 ISBN-10: 0470631929 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (October 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470631929
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470631928
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #58,344 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Much has been made of the organic, local, and slow-food movements, but when it comes to feeding seven-billion people, these laudable efforts represent a small fraction of the food supply. Food has become in effect a type of currency, and the universal currency of food is pizza. Kaufman deconstructs a Domino’s pizza, tracing it back to the soil to find out how the massive quantities of wheat, tomatoes, meat (pepperoni), and milk (cheese) in it are produced. Surprisingly, he discovers a different movement of sorts, a sustainability movement being undertaken by the likes of industry giants Unilever, Tyson Foods, and the nation’s largest grocer, Walmart, a company that has taken a proactive stance on the ecological impact of its products. At the Ohio State University’s experimental research station, Kaufman considers the pros and cons of genetically modified food in a world in which new organisms are treated as intellectual property. These examinations lead us on a quest to discover why, in a world of food surpluses, a billion people still go hungry every day as food becomes increasingly globalized, industrialized, and commoditized. --David Siegfried

From the Inside Flap

In the last half decade, the world has seen two devastating spikes in the price of food, and a third may be on the way. In 2008 and 2010, farmers gathered record wheat harvests, yet more people starved than ever before—and most of them were farmers. How is that possible?

In Bet the Farm, Harper's magazine contributing editor Frederick Kaufman investigates the hidden connection between global food and global finance by asking the simple question: Why can't delicious, inexpensive, and healthy food be available to everyone on Earth?

You will find his discoveries shocking.

Like a detective intent on solving a mystery, Kaufman travels from the corporate headquarters of Domino's Pizza and Tyson Foods to Walmart's sustainability research center, to mega-farms and organic farms and numerous genetic modification laboratories. Kaufman goes to Rome to the meeting of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, and finally ends up on Wall Street and the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, where he discovers the answer to the riddle. His investigation reveals that money pouring into the global derivatives market in grain futures is having astonishing consequences that reach far beyond your dinner table, including the Arab Spring, bankrupt farmers, starving masses, and armies of scientists creating new GMO foods with U.S. marketing and shipping needs in mind instead of global nutrition.

Our food is getting less healthy, less delicious, and more expensive even as the world's biggest food companies and food scientists say things are better than ever and that the rest of us should leave it to them to feed the world. Readers of Bet the Farm will glimpse the power behind global food and understand what truly supports the system that has brought mass misery to our planet.


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Customer Reviews

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Read the book and make your own conclusions.
James F. Kisela
Kaufman's bold thesis in "Bet the Farm" deserves to be considered in line with the best of the new thinking that's been catalyzed in the wake of the financial crisis.
Tristia
The book is easy as well as actually fun to read, and complex subjects are broken down into bite-size pieces, pardon the pun.
ProdigyHavoc11

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Theoros on November 3, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book is an eye-opening account of how our food system works, or fails to work, often to the disadvantage of billions. The story is packed to the brim with information, but is never dull. Kaufman is a lively writer, able to bring humor to his discussion while reminding us that food system is--literally--a deadly serious business. There is a lot of fine critical writing about food these days, but Kaufman's book is different from almost all of it: instead of examining food's industrialization, he explains its financialization. Most of us know little or nothing about that, but by the time you're done with this book you'll realize that it's something everybody needs to understand. A couple of the previous reviews complain that the book is "political." That's utterly false if they mean it's duplicitous or engaged in cheap, partisan point-scoring. But I would say it is political in the oldest and best sense of the word: it asks us to think and care about important, common things, and about how we share the world with other people. That it also provides flashes of wit along with the information and insight is an added benefit
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By ProdigyHavoc11 on November 1, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Occasionally, some one sounds the alarm about a coming crisis. Many times people ignore the warning or assume things are just fine the way they are (think of the housing market circa 2006). This is one of those books where the call needs to be listened to - before it is too late.

I've followed Mr. Kaufman's work for many years now - and no one knows the ins and outs of the food industry better. If you are one of those people who think that oil is speculated on out of control, wait until you read this and find out what speculators are doing to food!! They are literally "betting the farm" with my - as well as your - daily bread (and also our water!).

The book is easy as well as actually fun to read, and complex subjects are broken down into bite-size pieces, pardon the pun. You will see how the increase in food prices (driven by a wacky financialization of food stuffs) is already causing a farrago of problems throughout the world. And why it's only going to get worse unless we do something.

In sum, anyone wishing not to see future food riots and masses of people going hungry and starving - or who simply do not wish to pay exorbitant amounts for their own food - should read Bet the Farm. In the future, people will either point to it as a book which got people to take action, or a book whose messages was tragically not heeded.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By John Martin on July 26, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Bet the Farm, subtitled "How Food Stopped being Food," demonstrates how food has become a commodity and the negative impact that resulted. The author starts with the example of a pizza and how the major providers of this food (Dominos, Pizza Hut, etc.) have manipulated the market for such food staples as tomatoes, cheese and pepperoni with the result that many small farmers have been forced out of business, an increasing inequality in income has grown, more people are obese and at the same time more are hungry, environmental degradation has resulted, the conversion of some food crops to fuel has negatively impacted the supply of food as food and other negative consequences.

The author recounts his visits to various food companies and other food agencies and conferences to illustrate his points. The book is highly readable and informative. It also makes one think before ordering that pizza or hamburger. I recommend reading it along with "Why we Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows" to get a good picture of the food industry and how it harms us.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By James F. Kisela on February 4, 2014
Format: Hardcover
This is an overview for the layman of the current state of affairs in regard to the production of food, the distribution of food and the monetization of food. In short, there are millions of starving people who don't have enough food they can afford, yet there is a ample supply of actual food, he argues. Why can't we get the two parts of the equation to match up.

Mr. Kaufman doesn't have an answer and argues that no one else does either, but the disconnect seems to be in the financial linkage between actual crops and virtual replications of those crops reduced to derivative formulas that drive large scale movements of money into and out of the market, thereby distorting the pricing mechanisms which used to determine the "market" price of a crop.

Read the book and make your own conclusions.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Totten on December 10, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Very engaging read. I had read the shorter piece in Harper's and enjoyed reading the longer story of the author's journey to understand why the world has found the solution to world hunger to be so challenging. The conclusion may surprise many readers.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 22, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Disturbing, eye-opening, and absolutely of the highest significant social import. Kaufman attaches a remarkably clear high definition wide-angle lens to the camera he points towards food at scale, which is what food is becoming more and more as he clearly demonstrates through this investigative narrative. Perhaps the best book of the decade, and it reads like a series of highly engaging investigative essays. It will likely go down as a must read for anyone who consideres themselves in-tune with the contemporary human condition. If that isn't enough, it will utterly challenge your understanding of what food is, GMO, hunger, scarcity, famine, and how the very essence of foods' value has been hijacked via an insidious financial-roach-motel of never ending rolling buy orders for a highly derived and abstracted mixed-commodities index that seems to be wrenching the value-function of food from its very object, and of which there is by design no mechanism for exit.
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