This treatise on hunger and the world's food supply attempts to create a connection between what we eat, in fact, what we can afford to eat and a nefarious sort of big brother entity pushing out the poor and subsistence farmer. The reason for all this is the money to be made, of course. And to find out who is controlling the market, the author thinks he should follow the money trail.
He begins by visiting Domino's Pizza headquarters and talking to various management and scientific types there. We can use pizza as a stand in for other processed foods, as we are told it is the world's most popular food with combined revenue of 36B/annum. This part of the book is quite interesting as he discusses the various elements that go into a pizza from, dough, tomatoes, cheese, and even pepperoni. We learn that pepperoni is not a cooked meat but is merely fermented and dried with oil of paprika added to give it that reddish orange color. But a good amount of information is given on tomatoes and how the demand curve and therefore the price of the strain used for pizza sauce and ketchup is headed upwards making its producers - read large factory farms here , while the typical tomato grown by small and subsistence farmers which are smaller, less pulpy and have a thicker skin have a decreasing demand curve with the result that those crops cannot be sold at all or for little profit making the endeavor worthless to those people. We get similar information on cheese, and other ingredients. But the longest section is devoted to wheat used to make flour. We learn that hard red spring wheat used almost exclusively to make bread dough is supposedly controlled by big firms in New York through the use of forward contracts, derivatives, and electronically traded funds specializing in commodities, in this case more specifically - wheat.
There are many interesting facts revealed in the book as over half our crops are genetically altered either through chemicals or by use of radiation called mutagenesis. But a big surprise came in the certification of naturally grown foodstuffs. We might be expected to think that certification is the result of some quasi-government agency, but find out it is instead the result of 350+ separate organizations each trying to push their own agenda which greatly devalues such a designation.
I found the book somewhat uneven and definitely liberal or progressive in tone, and if you are of such a persuasion it will fortify your belief systems, if not you may be left wanting. The parts that I liked best were the first and last where we are told about all the ingredients that go into a pizza, where they come from, and how they are blended together to get the finished product. The last section deals with wheat, which not only makes pizza dough, but bread which feeds the world one. I almost forgot [as my mind was on pizza], there is a lengthy section on rice.
The part of the book that I felt dragged on endlessly was the central portion discussing world food conferences and all the people who participate in them. We hear from numerous philanthropists who are bound and determined to wipe out hunger forever, and various governments who continue to shovel money at previously failed programs. There is but slight mention to government heads in impoverished countries who steal the foodstuffs being sent to their populace and resell it on the black market at enormous profits; when your cost is zero your profit can be astronomical. I found the book most interesting on how food was produced and processed but less so on the economic aspects.