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Showing 1-10 of 15 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 49 reviews
on January 12, 2013
The negative reviews of this book all seem to miss the point. This book is a polemic against locavorism. As such it is an attack on the various beliefs of those who strive for a world where the food trade is reduced to the local level. Critics who charge this book with being `one-sided' have apparently neglected to read the introduction or the conclusion. If they had they would realize that the purpose of the book is not give a holistic analysis of the food industry; rather the point is to describe how the food industry evolved and how beneficial the very efficient global food trade has been.

The polemical nature of this book is the key to understanding its structure. Critics have tried to poison the well by noting how the book was inspired by a remark made to one of the author's Japanese wife. Apparently a comment was made that Japan is the most parasitical nation on earth. It was declared parasitical because it imports most of its food. Critics will have you believe that the authors are writing out of a vengeful ethic but this obscure and erroneous. Anyone with a basic understanding of trade knows that individuals specialize in what they do best. Japan is a nation with a high population and little land area for farming. As a nation they specialize in complex consumer goods rather than agriculture. There is nothing parasitical about this relationship. Rather than constructing a verbal vendetta, the authors set out to answer one question: `if locavorism is so attractive, how is it that our system of food delivery so divorced from the ideal of local food production?'

In answering this question the book is set up as a series of locavore myths. A polemic is an attack on the fundamental beliefs of one's opponent. The beliefs they attribute to locavores happen to center around a fundamental lack of economic knowledge. Thus five of the seven chapters demonstrate how locavore beliefs are founded in myth rather than fact. Critics blame the authors for leaving out the benefits of eating local. This criticism isn't valid in that that is not the intent of the book. Furthermore, critics argue that there are cases where local production can be more efficient than importing. Again, this misses the point. The authors do not assert that a global market will always be more efficient than eating locally. Rather the claim being made is that a global food trade dominates local production because it tends to be more efficient. This is a tendency, not a rule. To this I would add that foodies have always had the option of eating local food. Chefs have always known that fresher is better and that local often translates as fresher (and often cheaper) food. The authors could have written a larger book which may seem more `balanced' to the palate of these readers, but it would be a longer, less concise book.

One critic writes,

"Also, on the issue of security, you have to be out of your mind and living in fantasy land to believe that a centralized, monoculture food system is more secure. In order to believe that our system is more secure than a more dispersed, locally-focused system, you have to somehow forget everything you are taught in economics about mitigating risk. On this subject, the authors have achieved an impressive level of amnesia."

Is objection is misleading. The authors never make the claim that monoculture is preferred. Rather they claim that individual farmers hedge their bets against crop failure. Individual farmers know their land best and have every incentive to plan and harvest as to maximize their properties potential. Rather than advocating a `centralized' food system, they are advocating as much decentralization as possible. Further, should crop failure occur, the best safety net is a global market. In the absence of long-distance trade local markets have no access to food during emergencies. Far from advocating monoculture and centralization, the overarching point is that economies are complex. Creating special policies for any industry can only serve to destabilize production.

This critic goes one to say,

"The authors also make a bunch of outright false claims with no evidence to back them up. For example, that small farms are somehow less safe than large ones. This is such a crazy claim that I don't even know where to begin. I guess in order to believe something like that, you need to forget that small farms have to follow the same guidelines as large ones..."

Again, this is a misrepresentation of the material. The actual claim was that large farms have an advantage over smaller farms due to the benefits of an economy of scale. Likewise, it is cheaper (or more efficient) to enforce safety measures over a larger inventory than a smaller one. This fact would tend towards greater control over production. Again, this is a tendency not a rule. This critic goes on to mention that major bacterial outbreaks have come from factory vs. family farms. This may be true. However this does not imply that smaller farms are safer. The volume of production of meatpacking plants is staggering and the amount of failure is very small. One advantage of centralized meatpacking not mentioned by the authors is ease of tracking. Having few centralized distribution hubs makes for rapid discover of problems whenever bad meat is found. For example, if I get sick off meat I buy from Sobeys, it's easier to discover which supplier supplied the bad meat if Sobeys has one rather than one-hundred suppliers. But I must reiterate, this does not imply that larger suppliers are necessarily better.

Critics also seem to disparage of the authors because they are Economic Policy Analysts. I do not understand how this is a criticism. Their tone seems to imply that they are hack economists who are not true economists. This is a foolish distinction. It is the role of policy analysts to suggest the best available policies. Economists may make good policy suggestions but, as academics, they are more concerned with theory than practice. The primary goal of the book is to account for why food production is the way it is. Given a shallow reading it may appear to be a mere apology for the status quo. A closer reading would reveal that no apology exists. Rather the authors demonstrate how policies of free trade have led to wealth and safety. The policy suggestions present in the book advocate greater freedom of trade.

The Locavore's Dilemma's critics seem to have a bad case of sour grapes. It seems they want horror stories about food supply failure and instability. They denounce this work as a work of ideology but it is their own inability to read this book in its proper context that betrays their own desire for ideological confirmation.
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on February 5, 2017
A very good book, which deflates many invalid arguments in favor of localism. I strongly recommend it.
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on June 9, 2013
Being in the nutrition field, I get tired of hearing the same old stuff -- eat only plants, grow your own food, eat only from local sources, etc. Few books deal with the down sides of these directives. This one does, with respect to eating locally. It identified a lot that is on the side of eating globally, showing that local eating can have high environmental and health costs.
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on January 31, 2013
Reading this book was like watching a cat play with a mouse. Its ad hominem-free deluge of data and arguments actually made me feel embarrassed for buy-local activists such as Michael Pollan, whose ideas are discussed in the book.

An overlooked point the authors emphasize is that modern agriculture, more than anything else, is about getting more from less. Odd that so many activists genuinely believe that doing the opposite is better for the environment.
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on September 17, 2012
Pierre Desrochers and Hiroko Shimizu patiently examine the claims of my neighborhood farmer's market devotees in their splendid The Locavore's Dilemma: In praise of the 10,000 mile diet. The great success story of our time (not just for Americans but for residents of half of the 34 OECD countries) is that most of us are more at risk for obesity than famine.

Foods of great variety reliably delivered via an international supply chain consisting of an uncountable number of specialists is an amazing achievement. And it was not always so, but (sad to say) many people don't get it. They love their "locally grown" (fine), but ignore the costs (dumb) and often want to impose their romanticized choices on others less wealthy (worse than dumb).

"Isn't it possible that crushing bugs and removing weeds by hands were neither very effective nor the most productive use of one's time?" p. 185. There are many compelling lines like this, scattered through the book.

By all means, enjoy your local food, but avoid preaching about its virtues until you have read this essential book.
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on July 12, 2015
Required reading for class. It was actually an interesting read.
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on February 8, 2015
I rated this book one star not because I disagree with it, but because it is a very poor argument.

Desrochers and Shimizu here offer a mostly economic analysis not of the locavore movement, but of the results of a hypothetical food market in which everything is produced regionally, all else being equal. However, were you to ask a self-proclaimed locavore or were to pay attention to the literature of the movement, you would realize that the idea is much more nuanced and complex. Some examples of problems in the book:

- They frequently cite historical farming data as an analogy to local food production, pointing out the famine, malnutrition, and inefficiencies of anywhere over 50 years ago. This ignores the fact that most successful small farmers rely heavily upon what science and innovation has taught us and don't simply go back to the ox for the sake of shunning the tractor. They do the same with subsistence farming that takes place today in the third world, as if to say, "those people are miserable! Why would you want that?" while failing to see how vastly different local production would be.

- They assume that local shoppers are ignorant of the types of food that can grow in their region and what is in season at what time. They cite the problems of eating local food that is out of season as if the practice would be widespread.

- The utmost goal of food policy according to Desrochers and Shimizu seems to be affordability and convenience to the consumer, ignoring such topics that locavores bring up as just wages for ag workers and farmers. They even criticize farmers markets on the grounds that it takes longer to shop there than at the supermarket.

- They defend monocultures by listing off advancements in ag science in the last century - an argument that truly does not follow. They then discuss the Irish potato famine as a reason why monocultures can prevent famine.

- They defend packaging for food because it helps keep products fresher for longer, which will "increase the probability of food being consumed instead of ending in a landfill or incinerator." This might be a good point if your goal is reducing total volume of waste, but wouldn't a locavore prefer a tomato in a landfill to a wad of plastic wrapper?

- They state that the introduction of invasive species usually has the effect of increasing the level of biodiversity in a region, which is really a moot point that ignores the locavore's argument.

- They have an uncanny faith in markets and regulation (though they spend a long time criticizing trade restrictions, a point that is only magically relevant). They discuss how buying food from farmer's markets can be dangerous, yet praise the safety of commercial food because of health regulations.

Desrochers and Shimizu are economic policy analysts, and their work here follows their field - it is primarily economic, ignoring many other factors that locavores would point toward. So while they are extremely - and even overly - critical of locavores, they fail to really engage the argument and instead break down a hypothetical philosophy that no one is even suggesting in the first place.
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on May 25, 2014
This particular book makes it clear that when it comes to food, things are not always as they might appear. This scholarly analysis will appeal to anyone who wants to go beyond the trendy movements and the slogans and see which ones hold up to scrutiny and which ones don't.
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on July 6, 2014
It's nice to read a book debunking this myth that local food is better and big business is somehow making us less healthy.
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on September 2, 2014
This is a great contrast to the other agenda-driven pubs which wholeheartedly condemn the US food system.
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