Animal, Vegetable, Junk: A History of Food, from Sustainable to Suicidal

Houghton Harcourt. Feb. 2021. 368p. ISBN 9781328974624. $28. HEALTH
Asking “What would a just food system look like?,” Bittman considers the place of food in history and the role agriculture plays in human rights, climate change, and social justice. The first part of the book is heavy on history, examining the evolutionary aspects of diet, agriculture, and human consumption, along with sustainability, the importance of soil, and the connection between civilization and agriculture, including the impact of colonialism and political discourse on famine. The second part considers the current state of the modern (mostly Western) diet, factory farming, and the rise of junk food, while the last chapters offers hope and the possibility that we might establish sustainable alternatives to industrial agriculture. Bittman also moves through food and agriculture history to recount the impact of the potato famine in Ireland and how food administrator turned president Herbert Hoover politicized food in order to win office. Bittman’s writing can be dense, but he provides a wealth of information, from the “birth of growing” to the history of factory farming, monoculture, “junk,” and the future of agroecology.
VERDICT Recommended for readers of food and diet history and those interested in the future of agriculture and sustainable farming.
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