There are several books lining the shelves that contain information on animal rights, vegetarianism, and organic and fair trade food items. However, none seem quite as well-rounded, or nearly as objective and succinct as Peter Singer and Jim Mason's The Ethics of What We Eat. These two authors have put together an incredibly well-crafted and unbiased argument regarding making ethical choices at the grocery store, and "voting" with one's diet and wallet.
The book begins by taking the reader to the grocery store on a routine shopping trip with a few different families. The first family is what one might consider your stereotypical "meat and potatoes" American consumers. The second family, in contrast, are "conscientious omnivores" who pay fairly close attention to their purchases, buying certified organic and fair trade items, and eat little meat. The third family is vegan. The authors even foray into "dumpster diving" with a few people who contend that ethical eating involves not letting disposed of edibles go to waste. The day-to-day purchases (or scavenges) of each of these families are dissected and analyzed. Which one of these families is truly making the most ethically sound decisions when it comes to their daily food choices? What lies behind that "Certified Organic" label? What does it mean when something is labeled "free range" or "fair trade?" Is it worth paying extra money for something with the aforementioned labels?
While focusing quite a bit on factory farming, this book also discusses the ethics of buying locally grown food, sustainability of marine ecosystems, environmental impacts of food production (including water and gas use), and the global economy. Pros and cons are given for each side of each argument, and, though they ultimately seem to side with a vegan diet as being the most ethically sound decision, they do note that this may be too drastic a decision for many and leave it up to the reader to come to their own conclusions about what to place in their shopping cart. The authors are never "preachy" with regards to the information presented, as many of the books found in this genre so often are.
As if this book itself weren't packed full enough with useful information itself, the back of the book provides several good books, websites, and stores where more information can be found on any of the included issues. Overall, this book is very highly recommended for those who want to put some thought and attention into what they put on their plates and into their mouths. The food industry does indeed try to keep consumers in the dark, and it's time everyone took some initiative to educate themselves on their dietary choices. This is a great place to start.