Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Review: A Bone to Pick

The more I read about food, the more I realize I don't know nearly enough about it.

Right now, this is more true than ever before. I find myself constantly curious about all things food. Where is it grown? What kinds of chemicals are used, and are those chemicals dangerous to me? How can I avoid them? What does organic actually mean in this day and age? What's the real deal with genetically-modified organisms (GMOs)? Should I really be concerned about factory farming? What's worse, fat or sugar? Or gluten? Should I go paleo? Or maybe vegan?

There are no easy answers to those questions, and the more I read about them, the more confused I get. But still, I keep reading.

My interest in nutrition and the way food is produced in our country has led me to spend countless hours reading books about food. So many I could never possibly list them all. Eating in the Dark, VB6, The China Study, What the Fork Are You Eating?, Wheat Belly, Animal Factory...

And now, A Bone to Pick by Mark Bittman.

Mark Bittman is already well-known for his prolific food writing; he's written several books and years worth of columns for The New York Times. In fact, this book is a collection of some of Bittman's most informative and popular columns from the past several years.

It is a tribute to the sad state of the food industry in America that the information offered in these columns has not changed in the years since they were initially published. We still don't label GMOs; animals still live and die in horrific conditions in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) across the country; dietary advice from "the experts" still changes from day-to-day, month-to-month, year-to-year, and different foods or nutrients go from good to bad to good again. We still have horrific outbreaks of food borne illnesses with alarming regularity. We still subsidize "bad" foods with taxpayer money.

Bittman offers his insight on these issues and more throughout the pages of A Bone to Pick. What's great about this book is that it provides information in small, digestible bites (if you'll forgive the pun). Certainly, many of the readers who will be drawn to this book will be self-described "foodies" (and he's got a column about that, too), but Bittman's straightforward writing style and the topics he covers will appeal to readers across the spectrum.

Don't pick up this book expecting to hear a long discussion on the virtues or organic farming or the reasons why most people would be better off if they ate less meat. Instead, Bittman will introduce you to some of the most important facts related to these and other topics that he feels are important. He talks about the importance of bettering conditions in all areas of food production; yes, better farm practices are important, but so is ending slavery in Florida tomato fields (and yes, that does still happen, even in our "enlightened" times), increasing pay for food workers, and doing something about all of that junk food advertised to young, vulnerable consumers. He does a little bit of digging into that flawed study that claimed that organic foods are no better than conventional foods. He even proposes some of his own ideas for better food labels.

A Bone to Pick is full of fascinating little discussions about everything food. This is a book that can be understood by anyone and should be read by everyone.

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own!

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