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The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter [Hardcover]

by Peter Singer, Jim Mason
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 2, 2006 157954889X 978-1579548896 1st
A thought-provoking look at how what we eat profoundly affects all living things--and how we can make more ethical food choices

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.

Peter Singer, the groundbreaking ethicist who "may be the most controversial philosopher alive" (The New Yorker), now sets his critical sights on the food we buy and eat: where it comes from, how it's produced, and whether it was raised humanely. Teaming up once again with attorney Jim Mason, his coauthor on the acclaimed Animal Factories, Singer explores the impact our food choices have on humans, animals, and the environment.

In The Way We Eat, Singer and Mason examine the eating habits of three American families with very different diets. They track down the sources of each family's food to probe the ethical issues involved in its production and marketing. What kinds of meat are most humane to eat? Is "organic" always better? Wild fish or farmed? Recognizing that not all of us will become vegetarians, Singer and Mason offer ways to make the best food choices. As they point out: "You can be ethical without being fanatical."

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Ethicist Singer and co-author Mason (Animal Factories) document corporate deception, widespread waste and desensitization to inhumane practices in this consideration of ethical eating. The authors examine three families' grocery-buying habits and the motivations behind those choices. One woman says she's "absorbed in my life and my family...and I don't think very much about the welfare of the meat I'm eating," while a wealthier husband and wife mull the virtues of "triple certified" coffee, buying local and avoiding chocolate harvested by child slave labor, though "no one seems to be pondering that as they eat." In investigating food production conditions, the authors' first-hand experiences alternate between horror and comedy, from slaughterhouses to artificial turkey-insemination ("the hardest, fastest, dirtiest, most disgusting, worst-paid work"). This sometimes-graphic exposé is not myopic: profitability and animal welfare are given equal consideration, though the reader finishes the book agreeing with the authors' conclusion that "America's food industry seeks to keep Americans in the dark about the ethical components of their food choices." A no-holds-barred treatise on ethical consumption, this is an important read for those concerned with the long, frightening trip between farm and plate.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Less concerned with what people choose to eat per se, Singer and Mason make a case for how people's everyday food choices affect others' lives. They describe in vivid detail how applying industrial processing principles to animal husbandry has led to cheap foods whose cost savings occur at the expense of animals raised for profit and for product. Using Wal-Mart as an example, they lay out how huge retailers wield enormous power over prices and compel those far up the chain of food production and distribution to make unhelpful decisions. They hold up for admiration a Kansas family that has turned vegan so as not to participate in this particular destructive cycle of animal and human exploitation. They also thoughtfully and critically examine the ethical pros and cons of eating meat in any form. Urban dwellers far removed from the source of the foods they eat will find Singer and Mason's descriptions of food production more disturbing and violent than the quiet, attractive, plastic-wrapped displays in the local supermarket's pristine meat case. Mark Knoblauch
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Rodale Books; 1st edition (May 2, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 157954889X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1579548896
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #85,562 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
84 of 85 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting on both a philosophical & a practical level December 27, 2006
Philosophy has rarely considered the ethics of what we eat, because until very recently, we largely ate food grown on family farms and two generations ago most people were still pretty well acquainted with where their food came from. (Most grandparents or at least great grandparents have churned butter, pluicked a chicken, etc.) In today's world everything is pre-packaged and because we no longer have to think about it, we don't. The truth is we probably don't like or want to think about how the food gets to the supermarket. After all, it's tough enough to try and plan and shop for meals and then throw together something after a long day at the office. Add in trying to think about health concerns, trying to manage on a budget and hey, we have enough to worry about, right?

But it bothered me that I knew full well that if I had to kill my own food I would be a vegetarian...yet I love meat and just didn't want to give it up. So the last few years I bought organic and grass fed and cage free...and yet, I wondered, given all the articles about the meaninglessness of labels and the lack of real standards, am I paying more just to feel like maybe the animals are treated better, when in fact there is no difference? How bad have things gotten? Basically, bad enough that I feel I have to invest energy in changing my habits, or ok enough I can continue trying to focus on organics and grass fed/cage free meat and dairy, and that's enough for me?

I was hoping this book would help me answer that question. The truth is, I didn't look forward to reading it - I didn't want something preaching or someone trying throughout to get me to go vegan (great goal, don't know that I'm up for the task though).
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216 of 240 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Superb Book on the Ethics of Eating May 3, 2006
Disclosure: Peter Singer and I corresponded extensively during his writing of _The Way We Eat_, and his new book favorably references both of my books.

Right now, Michael Pollan's _The Omnivore's Dilemma_ is already well on its way to becoming the top-selling book on food politics released this decade. Peter Singer and Jim Mason's new book, _The Way We Eat_ has the profound misfortune of being released just three weeks later, and this new title finds itself the grape to Pollan's steamroller.

This chance situation is a terrible shame, since _The Way We Eat_ is the better researched and more carefully thought-through book. Both of these titles are excellent, but if you're only going to read one I'd urge you to read Singer.

For two books that trace the origins of our food, these titles have surprisingly little overlap. Read both of these books and you'll know more about food than 99 percent of Americans -- and if you grew up eating the standard American diet it's almost inconceivable that you'll continue eating in this fashion.

If you decide to read both books, be sure to read Singer first. As I've noted in my review of _The Omnivore's Dilemma_, Pollan makes some ill-informed arguments in favor of including animal products in the diet. The trouble is that Pollan is such a gifted writer that he ends up being highly persuasive even when he's on very thin ice with his facts. Reading _The Way We Eat_ is a wonderful way to prepare for _The Omnivore's Dilemma_ --- you'll be in a prime position to critically analyze both the strengths and weaknesses of Pollan's flawed but vitally important book.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A full-course meal November 10, 2006
Few facets of human existence affect our health and the environment as much as what we eat, and surely none has a greater impact on animals. Thus, the time seems perpetually ripe for good books on human food choices. The authors of this one, both vegetarians and probably vegans, succeed in presenting a well-reasoned and reader-friendly discussion of their subject.

The book is built around the food habits of three American families, one who subscribe to the traditional "meat and potatoes" diet, another who are conscientious semi-vegetarians, and the third who are vegans. Each serves as a base from which to examine food production and its consequences. We travel from factory farms to farmers' markets, from kitchens to ocean trawlers to dumpsters. We hear from people who work in all of these environments. And the authors provide analyses without sermonizing.

Several trends emerge. Large meat corporations talk of educating the public about modern meat production, but fail to return phone calls and flatly deny access to their meat processing facilities. We learn of "the law of gravity of big business"--with big corporations buying up organic brands then cutting corners to maximize profits. We meet farmers who move their animals from intensive indoor confinement to outdoor pasture situations. One such, a pig farmer, describes how many hassles he now avoids by letting his pigs run outside on pasture: no more tail-amputation, no antibiotics, no special weaning feed (his piglets wean naturally at 8 weeks instead of artificially at 2 weeks), and "scouring" (diarrhea) is replaced by "pasture poop" that doesn't stink (I can attest to this, as a regular visitor to a sanctuary with free-roaming pigs).
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Important read
Very informative and eye opening. I wouldn't say I enjoy it bc it is upsetting but I think more people should read it so we can make changes
Published 2 months ago by Shelly McCauley
5.0 out of 5 stars Complements, responds to and goes beyond Pollan's work
Having read and enjoyed many books on eating from Michael Pollan (Omnivore's Dilemma, In Defense of Food), Peter Singer (Animal Liberation), and Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation),... Read more
Published 16 months ago by AP
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
This is a great non judgemental look at our food industry. They follow the daily diets of three different families, tracing several of their food choices back to where the... Read more
Published on November 2, 2011 by TRACY
5.0 out of 5 stars Philosophical, not preachy
I enjoyed the book. It was not an easy read, but the authors do make a great case for why our food choices matter. Read more
Published on August 29, 2011 by Spiritually Growing
5.0 out of 5 stars ETHIC cuisine
In an auspicious convergence for the ethics of eating, the year 2006 heralded publication of two divergent but equally important answers to the puzzling questions of the morality... Read more
Published on September 25, 2010 by Mark M. Braunstein
3.0 out of 5 stars Terrible copyediting
I read this awhile ago, so I won't try to address the book's ideas in detail. Suffice it to say, I was sympathetic to the authors' points - I'm a vegetarian - but thought Singer's... Read more
Published on January 7, 2010 by Nitpicker
4.0 out of 5 stars an urgent challenge for everyone
very good, accessible book overall, though with some unfortunate typos. but that's just the bored copy editor in me. Read more
Published on November 6, 2009 by Matthew Sullivan
5.0 out of 5 stars The ethics of eating
Many factors enter into our choice of foods to eat--taste, nutrition,convenience, cost & food safety--but Singer & Mason add another dimenion--the ethical. Read more
Published on August 15, 2009 by Shane Andre
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
Really incredible information, particularly because he doesn't tell you what you might think he'll say - especially the information about eating locally. Read more
Published on July 5, 2009 by A. Drugay
5.0 out of 5 stars Thorough and thought provoking
I've been checking out audiobooks from the library to make my commute time go by faster. Since I've enjoyed books like In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto and What to Eat... Read more
Published on April 30, 2009 by Chicago Book Addict
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