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Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly Paperback – June 9, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"McWilliams presents some appealing alternatives to the views of both the agrarian romantics on the left and the agribusiness capitalists on the right. The author advocates a judicious use of genetically engineered seeds and food products, believes we must reduce our passion for land-animal protein...and urges more attention to the nascent science of aquaponics...He concludes that the best food-production model may be "a broad pattern of regionally integrated, technologically advanced, middle-sized farms." Rich in research, provocative in conception and nettlesome to both the right and the left."―Kirkus Reviews
"Enlightening....James E. McWilliams is stirring up trouble, the kind that gets noticed-and the kind that makes us all scratch our heads and think harder....Just Food ultimately offers a brave, solid argument that anyone who cares about their food-and everyone should care about their food-should consider."―Meridith Ford Goldman, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
PRAISE FOR A REVOLUTION IN EATING:
"Fascinating....Anyone curious about the cultural history of that meatloaf on the dinner plate will gobble it up."―Tina Jordan, Entertainment Weekly
"The lucid style and jaunty tone....make this accessible to all."―Publishers Weekly
"McWilliams has penned an illuminating account of the evolution of foodways in the colonial
"McWilliams's examination of the culinary history of Colonial America is more than a....gastronomic tour....A lively and informative read."―The New Yorker
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Top Customer Reviews
In summary, McWilliams argues
1) that global food production is more fuel-efficient and more economically necessary (for developing countries that need export markets) than is local food production/consumption ("locovorism");
2) that organic farming is no more healthy for people and for the land than is "wisely practiced" conventional agriculture;
3) that genetically-modified crops, in the right hands, are not to be feared and are in fact necessary to feed the ten billions of people who will live on this planet by 2050;
4) that we must drastically reduce our production and consumption of meat animals and non-farmed fish;
5) and that we must get rid of "perverse" subsidies that undercut fair trade.
Informed readers will likely find themselves in near-total agreement with McWilliams' last two points. Factory-farmed beef consumes 33 calories of fossil fuel for every single calorie of meat produced, as well as creating huge amounts of air, soil, and water pollution and--on the other end--causing serious health problems in those who over-consume. Other animals, including range-farmed animals, may be less damaging to the environment and to their consumers, but still require (by a 3-to-1 ratio) more energy to produce than they offer in return.Read more ›
Unfortunately, there are too many inconsistencies, retailing of old canards as if they were surprising new facts, and an embarrassing lack of critical analysis of technoscientific hype.
For inconsistency, let me just detail one especially glaring contradiction. The general theme of the book is supposed to be that we have to find a "golden mean"--that is, to make sustainable eating more practical and acceptable to the world at large, we need to steer between the extremes of the local, organic purists and the conventional food system. Yet in the middle of the book we learn that by far the most important thing people can do to eat more sustainably is to give up eating meat. Now, in principle I tend to agree with McWilliams on this point, though I am a bit more positive about the grassfed and free-range meat alternatives than he is. But how in the world can you pass this off as advocating a moderate or "golden mean" position? In fact, McWilliams is something of an extremist on the meat issue--and for good reason, though, as I've said, he could afford to rethink his dismissal of the arguments in favor of grazing animals. (At one point, he glibly dismisses the objection that some land is only suitable for animal grazing by strangely contending that the land could grow plant crops if only it weren't so degraded by the hooves of cattle.Read more ›
Admittedly, there are problems associated with a Michael Pollan type diet: beef is still resource intensive and costly to produce, organic farming methods still use harmful but naturally occurring pesticides, but McWilliams often conveniently disregards the fact that as individual consumers, these buying decisions are the only means we have to make a difference (albeit a very small one.) In a section that apparently slipped by the proofreader, McWilliams states that "Ultimately, however, these solutions are left for others to design and implement. We can only stand by and encourage these plans (which is admittedly, all we can do when it comes to many of the thorniest agricultural issues.)"
The audience for a book such as this is the same Michael Pollan crowd that McWilliams feels is not doing enough, even though they now have chickens in their backyards and have joined the local CSA farm.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book was fantastic. While some may feel that McWilliams is being hard on the local or organic movements, he simply shows that these systems are not free from criticism. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Amanda
This is a deeply flawed book that nevertheless has some value. McWilliams is correct in what he says, but the problem is, his assumptions are all wrong. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Yin-Haan
Being very familiar with the environmental impact of eating meat I was encouraged to see McWilliams explain exactly how meat production and consumption impact the earth. Read morePublished on January 3, 2014 by Lucy
What if we worked simultaneously on slowing - or dare I say stopping - human population growth? Right now, millions around the globe are starving or malnourished. Read morePublished on November 13, 2013 by L. G. Cameron
I give it two stars because i did not have a choice to not giving star. I haven't read this book and will not. Read morePublished on November 1, 2013 by Lien Pham
Like any book on the economics and ecology of our food supply, Just Food is deliciously controversial, offering a bounty of subjects that at some point are sure to displease... Read morePublished on June 12, 2013 by Nick Angelis
I definitely don't agree with everything Mr. McWilliams has to say and could argue a number of points but he makes many valid arguments about how we need to eat. Read morePublished on April 29, 2013 by sofatima
The author offers an objective view on a very controversial topic. He asks the question that few others are willing to ask: "How are we going to feed 7 billion people in a manner... Read morePublished on February 5, 2013 by Ted