Philosophy has rarely considered the ethics of what we eat, because until very recently, we largely ate food grown on family farms and two generations ago most people were still pretty well acquainted with where their food came from. (Most grandparents or at least great grandparents have churned butter, pluicked a chicken, etc.) In today's world everything is pre-packaged and because we no longer have to think about it, we don't. The truth is we probably don't like or want to think about how the food gets to the supermarket. After all, it's tough enough to try and plan and shop for meals and then throw together something after a long day at the office. Add in trying to think about health concerns, trying to manage on a budget and hey, we have enough to worry about, right?
But it bothered me that I knew full well that if I had to kill my own food I would be a vegetarian...yet I love meat and just didn't want to give it up. So the last few years I bought organic and grass fed and cage free...and yet, I wondered, given all the articles about the meaninglessness of labels and the lack of real standards, am I paying more just to feel like maybe the animals are treated better, when in fact there is no difference? How bad have things gotten? Basically, bad enough that I feel I have to invest energy in changing my habits, or ok enough I can continue trying to focus on organics and grass fed/cage free meat and dairy, and that's enough for me?
I was hoping this book would help me answer that question. The truth is, I didn't look forward to reading it - I didn't want something preaching or someone trying throughout to get me to go vegan (great goal, don't know that I'm up for the task though). I am pleased to report that I didn't find it preachy and actually, it was quite an interesting read. There are some things I wish were covered that aren't, but I think the approach of selecting three families and looking at what they buy, then going behind the scenes and discussing the impacts of their choices, was well done.
If you enjoy philosophy and have any leanings, as I did, to consider more carefully the issue of today's diet and what you eat, I recommend this book. It can be hard to read in places. You don't want to believe how bad conditions really are in some factory animal farming - you kind of don't want to know - bit that doesn't mean you shouldn't know.
Ignorance is bliss. Reading this is not. But I would rather make informed choices and know the truth than continue to not think about the choices I make in the supermarket. If you decide to make changes, it's not that hard, as this book let's you know what to look for and questions to ask. For example, I was aware that beef needs to be not only grass fed, but ideally grass finished, but I never asked my organic beef grower about slaughter procedures used. And, I didn't know that when considering eggs I should look into not only free range free, but at are the chickens debeaked? I have a lot more information that I can use as a consumer to make smart choices after reading this book, both about vegetable and meat products. I have not had a problem going to local growers or producers and getting my questions answered, and if you want to be informed this book will help you make choices in your everyday food selections that benefit the environment and prevent creulty to animals. How far you go with it is entirely your choice. Topics covered include environmental impacts, third world country economics, worker conditions, fair trade, and animal living conditions as well as animal creulty.
It would be great if this topic were introduced in modern college ethics courses and if we all had time to learn about why our food choices do matter. This book offers something others don't along those lines and if you are an analytical or thoughtful person, or just want to know more about how what you buy in your weekly shopping trip affects the planet and the animals on it, it's worth your time.