Much of what Schlosser covers in this boo I was already familiar with, thanks to things like Food, Inc. But I’ve never read a book about the industrialization of food before and, as books are wont to do, Schlosser covers this in much more detail than any documentary you’re going to watch.
For the most part, this is an engaging and even darkly amusing read, full of tragic but humourous depictions the kind of hypocrisy we’ve come to expect from American champions of “the free market” who take advantage of government subsidies and regulations, but who think nobody else should (and who think they were successful only due to their own genius and hard work). There’s a lot of awful stuff, too, about what’s in industrialized food and what happens to workers. The one positive thing I can take away from this is that it’s not as bad in Canada. (Well, two positives: things have swung a little bit the other way in terms of quality since he first published the book, too.)
This book leaves me with a moral dilemma that I will likely resolve poorly:
- boycott industrialized food – as I should be doing as I’ve known about factory farming and other things for some time – until the food is better and the workers’ conditions are better, and generally take a positive stand for humanity, OR
- save money and continue to allow myself to spend it on other things.
This picture is too black and white for the real, everyday choices, and I will say that I likely buy more local stuff than some people (at least some of the time) and I buy far less fast food than nearly 100% of the people I know, but, for me, this is still how the choice feels:
- How far am I willing to extend my circle of morality? To anonymous, poorly paid, food factory workers?
- Who matters more? It’s their safety versus my convenience and savings.
- Now that I have read this book, what am I willing to do about it?