The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter Hardcover – May 2 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Ethicist Singer and co-author Mason (Animal Factories) document corporate deception, widespread waste and desensitization to inhumane practices in this consideration of ethical eating. The authors examine three families' grocery-buying habits and the motivations behind those choices. One woman says she's "absorbed in my life and my family...and I don't think very much about the welfare of the meat I'm eating," while a wealthier husband and wife mull the virtues of "triple certified" coffee, buying local and avoiding chocolate harvested by child slave labor, though "no one seems to be pondering that as they eat." In investigating food production conditions, the authors' first-hand experiences alternate between horror and comedy, from slaughterhouses to artificial turkey-insemination ("the hardest, fastest, dirtiest, most disgusting, worst-paid work"). This sometimes-graphic exposé is not myopic: profitability and animal welfare are given equal consideration, though the reader finishes the book agreeing with the authors' conclusion that "America's food industry seeks to keep Americans in the dark about the ethical components of their food choices." A no-holds-barred treatise on ethical consumption, this is an important read for those concerned with the long, frightening trip between farm and plate.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Less concerned with what people choose to eat per se, Singer and Mason make a case for how people's everyday food choices affect others' lives. They describe in vivid detail how applying industrial processing principles to animal husbandry has led to cheap foods whose cost savings occur at the expense of animals raised for profit and for product. Using Wal-Mart as an example, they lay out how huge retailers wield enormous power over prices and compel those far up the chain of food production and distribution to make unhelpful decisions. They hold up for admiration a Kansas family that has turned vegan so as not to participate in this particular destructive cycle of animal and human exploitation. They also thoughtfully and critically examine the ethical pros and cons of eating meat in any form. Urban dwellers far removed from the source of the foods they eat will find Singer and Mason's descriptions of food production more disturbing and violent than the quiet, attractive, plastic-wrapped displays in the local supermarket's pristine meat case. Mark Knoblauch
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top Customer Reviews
The three families represent a troika of ethical choices. One follows the Standard American Diet [SAD], of high levels of meat consumption and fast food. Their primary consideration is availability and cost. The second, although aware of the ethical options behind food production, are constrained by available time and family demands. The third, a "vegan" family has managed to shun all animal foods. Their greatest problem is acquiring foods that meet their standards. They are fully aware of the ethical questions arising from modern farming methods.
Farming in North America has undergone immense changes in only a few years. Where the "family farm" was once considered an optimum lifestyle, "agribusiness" has concentrated land, and coalesced the production methods. Now, "barrage" animal housing has usurped the open paddock and "free ranging" livestock. Chickens, whether as egg producers or meat, are crammed in ranks of cages, unable to move.Read more ›
An early quote comes from a Professor of Animal Science named Peter Cheeke. He is quoted as writing "for modern animal agriculture, the less the consumer knows about what's happening before the meat hits the plate, the better." If they did know, he thinks that many people would "swear off eating chicken and perhaps all meat."
What Singer & Mason do is actually find out how the meat got to the plate, and the answers are shocking. Rather than a PETA video, which hammers you over the head with animal cruelty, this book just builds and builds and builds the evidence until you finally realize that eating meat basically means condoning animal torture.
Highly recommended. Read this book. Think about what it says. Decide how you feel about it, and ask yourself if the meat industry deserves your money.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter
Basically, if it has a face, you shouldn't eat it; if it isn't truly organic, you shouldn't eat it; if you buy from your local farmers market, you shouldn't eat it because it's hurting farmers in 3rd world countries. I've heard these discussions before and a lot of what the authors write is a combination of common sense, an abundance of trying to beat a dead horse, with a touch of the offbeat (the positive ethics of dumpster diving for your food was a little out there).
What really bothered me though is that 290-some pages were wasted when the 10 page summation at the end of the book stated the authors' case pretty well. How many trees were cut down in the publishing of these extra pages?
That said, the book is extremely well writen and the authors' research well done. At the end of the day though, this is a restatement of what has been written about many times before (the length of the bibliography proves it too).
Your best bet is to go to your library and read the last chapter. You'll save a lot of time. When you are finished with the synopsis and want more details, only then read the whole thing.
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.