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Just Food, James E. McWilliams

2010/09/23

In this book, James McWilliams addresses the new wave of foodies and concerned shoppers trying to make informed decisions about local vs. organic vs. sustainable, and whether these labels really mean anything when slapped on a whole variety of products at the grocery store and farmer’s markets. His primary argument is that “local” does not equal sustainable or the best choice overall. He looks at the capability of land and climate to produce local foods, equipment and transportation costs, and the long-term impact of eating meat. He also makes a case for sustainable production of food, including a close look at aquaponics, growing fish and vegetables in an enclosed cycle, and suggests that more time and resources should be channeled into this field. As in most of these books, this one addresses the current confusion over labeling and its lack of regulation, as well as the lack of transparency in food production and processing.

I found this book to be excellent for providing balance in the food and nutrition pile of books. McWilliams does not jump on the local food bandwagon, but encourages consumers to ask questions and think critically while shopping. One caution is that he does rely heavily on other people’s studies, unlike many of the other foodie books, where the author does primary research and visits farms and food processing locations to get first-hand experience and commentary.

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