- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (June 9, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0316033758
- ISBN-13: 978-0316033756
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #204,375 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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
Eager to dispel the mythology surrounding local and organic foods, historian McWilliams (A Revolution in Eating) outlines the shortcomings of contemporary ideology regarding "food miles" and offers a series of prescriptive ideas for a more just, environmentally sustainable food system. The rational and data-driven argument-presented with chatty asides-tackles the conventional wisdom about transportation, aquaculture, and genetic engineering. McWilliams urges concerned consumers to move beyond the false dichotomies that have come to characterize the debate-global vs. local, abundant vs. deficient, organic vs. conventional-and imagine a middle ground within the existing system, even if it runs the risk of "selling the sustainable soul." He presents thought-provoking ideas about food reform, sulfur fertilizers, and eating meat. At times, McWilliams shortchanges his own arguments by failing to disclose the financial or institutional backing of his sources (including various talking heads, esoteric-sounding think tanks, and scientific journals), leaving readers to comb extensive footnotes and web links to determine how the evidence stacks up. McWilliams's perspective acts as a welcome foil to folksy, romanticized notions of the food revolution, using sound rhetoric and research to synthesize an examination fit for anyone who takes seriously the debate over a sustainable food system.
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 has guts. Some of the changes he champions will draw fire from all quarters...but he also presents ideas that may appeal to both the greenerati and capitalistas...McWilliams forgoes sloganeering in favor of measured logic, but he doesn't downplay the notion that a worldwide food crisis is imminent and that we had better fix things. Soon."―Mike Shea, Texas Monthly
"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
The author strives at length to clarify that he is sympathetic to the ideals of locavores, fans of organics, opponents of GM foods, etc. But it's hard to miss the tone of provocation that seeps through. I think that provocation is warranted, though I predict it will ultimately turn potential converts away rather than convert them.
The author's main beef is with the fetishization of "food miles" (the distance food travels from the farm to the market), rather than many other more important contributors of food's environmental impact (including the production process and the cooking method). It is hard to reasonably disagree with this argument (though clearly many people do). He expands to criticize proponents of organic farming, opponents of GM food, meat eaters, and opponents of aquaculture. These arguments are more open to debate. Then, in the last chapter (besides the conclusion), he brings everything together with a criticism of how food policy in most countries (including the US) and internationally is doing exactly the opposite of what it should be doing. I would have preferred more meat to this section of the book, although this part is much more in line with the locavore/organic ideology than the rest of the book.
If you care about food, sustainability, the environment, or world poverty, then you should read this book. If you disagree with the conclusions, you should think about why you do, and if you have good reasons for doing so. I would suspect that you don't.
Fairly moderate ideas about food miles, agricultural chemicals, GMOs and international trade get submerged when the author delivers his most heart felt argument-- that we all would best save the planet by simply stopping (or nearly stopping) to eat meat, whether grain-fed or raised on the open range. (How likely is this in our McDonald's world?)
While Professor McWilliams presents many rational arguments, I think he does a disservice to his objective when he consistently demonizes those growing the food of this nation by such pejorative terms as members of "a food system that's inherently corrupt and degrading to the natural world." Most all of us, in his bellicose view, operate subsidized factory farms and are driven solely by corporate greed.
While there are good reasons for reforming many U.S. agricultural policies, this book is not likely to bring any but those already committed in to the diaphanous world of "sustainability" to the negotiating table.
Here is my "one additional point:" I find it hard to take seriously someone who makes a dismissal of Wendell Berry in a footnote: "Wendell Berry is a poet." Yes, he is. He is also a farmer and son of a farmer and grandson of a farmer -- and back for I don't know how many generations. McWilliams lost credibility with that snarky note.