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Food Inc.: A Participant Guide: How Industrial Food is Making Us Sicker, Fatter, and Poorer-And What You Can Do About It

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Food, Inc. is guaranteed to shake up our perceptions of what we eat. This powerful documentary deconstructing the corporate food industry in America was hailed by Entertainment Weekly as "more than a terrific movie -- it's an important movie." Aided by expert commentators such as Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser, the film poses questions such Where has my food come from, and who has processed it? What are the giant agribusinesses and what stake do they have in maintaining the status quo of food production and consumption? How can I feed my family healthy foods affordably?

Expanding on the film's themes, the book Food, Inc. will answer those questions through a series of challenging essays by leading experts and thinkers. This book will encourage those inspired by the film to learn more about the issues, and act to change the world.

338 pages, Kindle Edition

First published February 17, 2009

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About the author

Karl Weber

109 books28 followers
Karl Weber, president of Karl Weber Literary, is a writer, editor, and book developer with over twenty-five years' experience in the book publishing industry. He is an expert in general-interest non-fiction publishing, specializing in topics from business and personal finance to politics, current affairs, history, autobiography, self-help, and personal development.

Weber's recent projects include the New York Times bestseller Creating a World Without Poverty, co-authored with Muhammad Yunus, winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize (2008) and its sequel, Building Social Business (2010); the New York Times number one best seller What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception by Scott McClellan (2008), which Weber edited; and two best-selling companion books to acclaimed documentary films, Food Inc. (2009) and Waiting for “Superman” (2010), both of which Weber edited.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 235 reviews
Profile Image for Alicia.
422 reviews1 follower
February 2, 2010
I thought this book would be all about the big bad food lobby. How a few companies are running everything. And while that is true (and scary) this book really surprised me with its diverseness.

The best part of this book was that it had real practical solutions to problems. At the end of most chapters it had a little section called "what can you do?" and it had bulleted suggestions if you wanted to get more involved or change your actions.

I also like that they didn't push being vegetarian or vegan. They instead said that you should look for local, fresh produce and meats. You should meet the farmers who raise the food and ask them a few questions. They even give you the questions to ask!

Also, I enjoyed that the authors advocated cooking. He made a GREAT point about how we spend millions of dollars renovating kitchens and then eat 25% of our meals in our car! I mean, I personally know SEVERAL people with huge renovated kitchens that have no idea how to dice a tomato. The author says, "people these days don't know that chickens actually have bones! You need to do your own cooking"

Finally, I like how varied the themes were. They talked about farming in California, pesticides, ethanol fuels for cars, World hunger, planting gardens, etc. It was a very diverse range of topics and with a different author writing about different ideas, the book didn't really get stale. And it didn't feel like they were slamming their ideas down your throat.

This book made me want to plant a garden, visit my farmer's market here in Provo and start canning my own veggies. I mean, I know how to do those things, so I need to start doing them. Teach MY daughter how to can, passing it on to the next generation.

Really a good book, not gruesome (with details of how animals are killed) nor pushy in it's rhetoric. Just your basic information. Take it or leave it.
Profile Image for The Hofs.
214 reviews
December 7, 2009
I have to confess, we watched the movie! I could not find a way to link the movie but I do feel like everyone should see this!! We watched with the older children and they found it worthwhile as well. It is a compliment to the "Wal Mart Effect" and "Fruitless Fall". It makes us ask ourselves what is the point of a successful business? Money or product? Is it possible to achieve in both areas? Most of the information about the general benefits of eating well we already knew but to see the fruits (?) of cheap food, subsidized crops etc and where that leads the health of our country is eye opening. I am ready to don my overalls and raise chickens! We are fortunate in that we have our raw milk and eggs delivered weekly and buy a grass fed cow to butcher. But the chickens, not sure if I can eat perdue or tysons ever again. . .
Profile Image for Barb.
234 reviews7 followers
December 1, 2009
Disclaimer...I perused but didn't read the book, a collection of essays by people who are involved or who have investigated the food industry. However, I watched the documentary based on the book. Yes, we know fast food is bad and organic is best, but after watching the movie, I may never be able to eat again, period. The impact on our health, weight, economy, immigration policy and life style is huge and disturbing. For me it begs the question - can we mass produce to make things affordable and thereby float everyone's boat or does it just depreciate quality and make us all poorer in the end? Is the question always about quality vs. quantity? And who gets the quality if all can't get the quantity? Philosophers may weight in... :)
Profile Image for Anny.
310 reviews26 followers
April 6, 2020
I was expecting to read the book version of the movie. It was not. This book only contains extra materials for the film (Q&A, essays, notes, links and further readings).
Profile Image for Becca | Life's A Pearl.
211 reviews15 followers
July 8, 2014
I haven't seen the documentary that lead to this book, but now I'd like to check it out. Food, Inc. was lent to me by my best friend. It has opened my mind to a world of issues and knowledge that I never realized existed. There is an astounding amount of information in this book. I loved the set up of each chapter, featuring one food issue and "another take" article at the end. I'm happy to be informed and grateful for the large amount of resources listed at the end of the book and within certain articles. They give you a start for ways to get involved and start making a difference, as well as places to continue your research. Learning how the food industry has changed in only the last 30 years reminded me of all the ways society has changed in the last 50 years (going back to Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking and how modern society deals with death). Those of us growing up in this era just assume it is normal. I had never really given much thought to industrial food so I was shocked to see how the system affects the entire world and issues of climate change. Also if I hadn't already made the decision to become vegetarian, I certainly would have after reading this book. There isn't an agenda here though. Lots of great facts and questions are offered for those looking to still eat meat raised in humane and safe conditions. It has inspired me to purchase local cage free eggs, organic dairy products (assuming I don't go vegan) and locally grown produce. You can make the biggest difference by choosing how to spend your food money.

If you found this review helpful, please check out my blog - www.beccaswainfromauburn.wordpress.com. I try to review at least one fiction and one nonfiction book each week!
Profile Image for Alexandre Klaser.
Author 1 book23 followers
November 26, 2021
The book starts with a broader perspective, focusing on the role of big corporations, perverse short-term economic incentives and all of its impacts in the global food industry.

It then, frustratingly, starts to delve into couch activism, especially focused on the context of the USA, providing "feel good about yourself" actions, without ever discussing again that if the global economy and its big players don't change, individual actions won't matter much.

There are some pieces of dietary guidelines and advice that are still based on the now very contentious diet–heart hypothesis that only serve to reinforce the impression that a lot of spokespeople from the status quo were invited to share their convenient perspective.

So, the overall feeling is that this book is written mostly by Americans targeting American citizens, to make them feel a bit indignant but not enough to make them question the wicked foundations of their economic and political systems, the ones responsible for the mess we're in.

In the end, the "what you can do about it" focuses on palliative actions that may have an impact on the physical and mental health of individuals from a particular region, but it never risks to poise you to take a more activist stance.
Profile Image for Stephanie Froebel.
338 reviews23 followers
April 20, 2018
This is a book consisting of 13 essays relating to various topics on the food crisis. This being a book published in 2009, there were some inaccuracies and irrelevancies, but for the most part, it was all relatively accurate. Some essays were engaging, spectacular, and informational, while others were dry, dull, and dreadfully boring. For the bad essays and the good essays, they average at about 3 stars (hence the rating)
Profile Image for flms23.
195 reviews
July 18, 2015
This book will change how you think about food. It's not a book about or for vegetarians though it might make you pause about eating meat--if not for ethical reasons than for your own safety and health. The book investigates the atrocious conditions that animals and workers (many undocumented) suffer at the hands of the corporate titans who control the Agri-food industry. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Joaquin Ramas.
145 reviews
May 23, 2022
Kind of just a condensed book of the APES curriculum but still good to always refresh ur memory on how the food/meat industry ruins our lives😍😍

Also liked how he had what can you do sections at the end of everything and just resources at the end

Idk go green eat less meat buy organic slay😍
Profile Image for Jess.
1,500 reviews101 followers
September 3, 2012
I've been hearing about this book/movie for a long time and I finally found the time to read it and also watch the movie. It was just amazing. It really brought to people's attentions the problems with industrial food. And it's not just about fast food and the obviously unhealthy effects on people.

There were some issues that I never even thought about. I've read books on the subject of what meat production (factory farms) have done to the environment and also on animal cruelty. So I eventually stopped eating meat. But this book pointed out to me that the issues are far greater than animal cruelty and pollution of the environment. There's the issues of worker's rights, illegal immigrants and how they are working in dangerous conditions. Then there's the farmers who are forced to grow the same crops of corn and wheat because of government subsidies. Other crops cannot be grown because there is no room and the government will not provide money for growing those crops. There was also the issue of hormones being used on the animals that are fed to people. And how lack of standards by the FDA and USADA are resulting in more outbreaks of bacteria. The issues just go on and on.

But what I found most enlightening about this book was that it spoke to how a regular individual (like me) could do my part in helping. Since I do eat veggies a lot, one thing I could do was ensure that the products I'm buying are locally grown. This means shopping at local farmer's markets or going to the small section in the grocery store for local and organically grown food. Yes this might mean more money in the short term, but it saves everyone money in the long run. More money now means less money spent in the future on health care.

If you enjoy books by Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser then this book will be more enjoyable because it takes their ideas one step further. I highly recommend it!
Profile Image for Sathish Sekar.
Author 3 books1 follower
May 15, 2013
As touted on the cover, this book is a great companion to the acclaimed documentary: Food Inc.. Most of the essays either complement or expand upon subjects addressed in the film. Topics like farm worker abuse and excessive corn production (for ethanol) are explored in the depth that these sensitive issues deserve. Joel Salatin's essay can only be described as 'compelling'. His down to earth wisdom is an inspiration to the reader. His call to simply "opt out" of the industrial food system is so refreshingly simple that it begets most of us. Eric Schlosser and Michael Pollan provide astute expertise just as they did in the film.

One criticism I have is that there are some essays that seem to focus on the whole climate change/global warming belief as opposed to the industrial food system. This tends to distract from the central focus of the book. Whether or not global warming (or climate change or whatever they call it now) is real is not within the scope of this review. But for those who do not prescribe to this view the essays in this book are clearly slanted to the affirmative.

Besides that one annoyance, the essays in this book are very interesting. Your previous perception of modern food will definitely challenged. The movie does a better job of exposing people to this information for the first time. Nevertheless, this book will change your outlook on food, health, and even our modern industrial system.
Profile Image for Nicole.
33 reviews
January 28, 2011
I picked up the book at my local library after hearing all the disgustingly interesting comments from my peers on how the movie changed their daily diet. I would have much rather watch the movie, but they didn’t have that available in my library.

Regardless, the book was very informative. I had trouble understanding some content because of my lack of knowledge on the food industry, but the range of the topics in the book were wide enough for me to comprehend 2/3 of it easily.

What I loved about the book is the “What Can You Do?” at the end of each chapter. It gave me some helpful suggestions on how I can help to make things better. I learned so much from this reading and even though it was a little bit dull, like reading a history textbook, it was educational. However, I feel like I’m more of a visual person, so maybe I should watch the movie as well. That might clear up some confusions I had with the book.

If you’re looking for something educational and not just for some guilty pleasure, try this book!
Profile Image for Dennis Littrell.
1,079 reviews46 followers
September 2, 2019
From the front lines of the food wars

This book is a companion piece to the documentary Food Inc. It consists of 25 essays on topics ranging from agribusiness, to so-called "frankenfoods," to pesticides and hormones, to biofuels, to nutrition and global hunger. The essays are written by acknowledged experts including Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation (2006) and Michael Pollan, who wrote some of the best books I have read on food, including The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World (2001), The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (2006), and In Defense of Foods: An Eater's Manifesto (2008)--see my reviews at Amazon.

The topics are presented in a fairly balanced way with one essay followed by an essay termed "ANOTHER TAKE." For example Peter Pringle's piece "Food, Science, and the Challenge of World Hunger--Who Will Control the Future?" argues that genetically modified (GM) foods are not as dangerous as some think and they can, with proper precautions taken, help us feed a growing world population. However in the next essay, using the term "genetically engineered" (GE) foods, Ronnie Cummins argues that such foods are dangerous and threaten to take away from local farmers the ability to grow food and give that power solely to agribusiness.

In his essay, "Exploring the Corporate Powers behind the Way We Eat," Robert Kenner recounts his experience making Food Inc. emphasizing how closed and secretive are the big corporations that produce and process our food. They wouldn't let him and his camera crews into their plants and they made the people who would talk to him feel threatened. There was no counter to this, possibly because the agribusiness people wouldn't participate in the book just as they wouldn't cooperate in the making of the film. This is damning. Secrecy and closed-doors suggest that they have something to hide.

Nonetheless I have mixed feelings. There is no question that in an ideal world we would all have local access to organically grown and minimally processed foods--free range chickens and vegetables grown with natural fertilizers in a sustainable family farm environment where the animals are treated humanely. But we don't. Why? The usual answer is you can't produce food cheaply enough in that manner to feed a world of six and a half billion people. This book in effect argues that you can, and the real reason we don't is that the big corporations have a stranglehold on not just our governments but on the science and logistics required to deliver and present the food including labor, transportation, storage, and the markets. Small and local can't compete.

However, what is hardly mentioned in the book and seems almost taboo to say is that the underlying problem, which is only going to get worse, is the enormous demand for food put on our resources because we have too many people living on this planet. I can see a Wendell Berry kind of agrarian paradise possible after we cut our numbers by perhaps half (more would be better) with a larger percentage of the population choosing to become farmers.

Currently the Slow Foods, sustainable foods, organic foods, and the humane treatment to animals movements are mainly supported by society's well-to-do, its elites educationally and economically. The average person cannot afford to shop at Whole Foods, which is sometimes called "Whole Paycheck." Neither can your average urban or suburban dweller conveniently find his or her way to the local farmer's market, if there is one.

But the main problem in the United States is public ignorance. The average person has little understanding of nutrition and is bombarded by conflicting claims in the literature as the big corporations pay for studies that support their interests. On television and elsewhere there's an endless stream of ads promoting fast and cheap food, adulterated food, and food that entices and seduces with depictions of juicy, fatty, starchy essences. A secondary problem is the loss of the tradition of the home cooked meal. As Joel Salatin writes in his essay "Declare Your Independence": "Learn to Cook Again"(!). Much of the food that is bought at supermarkets and taken home to prepare is of the "throw it in the microwave" variety. With many if not most households having two bread winners or a single parent, who has the time and energy to prepare a complete home-cooked meal?

So ultimately the stranglehold that agribusiness has on our society is the result of an unhealthy lifestyle pursued by most people, a lifestyle that has removed us from the land and thrown us onto the concrete and asphalt jungles of our cities and suburbs, has taught us little to nothing about our real relationship with the natural environment and the foods that have sustained us for thousands of years. Instead we live in ignorance in an artificial and unsustainable world of mass produced, sanitized junk food, force fed to us as if by gigantic steam shovels. Or, to change the image, like our cattle, hogs and chickens we are kept at the trough and stuffed to the gills with an ever flowing stream of denatured concoctions of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, sugars and additives until perhaps someday we'll burst. Obesity and chronic disease reign supreme and all our days we will dwell in the house of the overfed and the under nourished.

I applaud editor Karl Weber and the others who contributed to this excellent book and hope it is widely read. And I wish the producers of the documentary a huge audience. Understanding and education come first. We as a society have to know there is a problem, and if this book and accompanying film reach large number of people, that will be a giant step in the right direction.

--Dennis Littrell, author of “The World Is Not as We Think It Is”
Profile Image for Sandra.
4,072 reviews13 followers
Want to read
September 15, 2014
This isn't a replica of the documentary (which I did watch), but actually a bunch of essays. Some from people who were in the documentary, some not. Initially I was worried the movie would be preachy, but I thought they did a good job of covering all sides of the topic. Really, it's the big business/government side of it that is so disturbing. I liked the comparison to the tobacco company and how they seemed to big to fight, because this does at times feel like we're fighting a losing battle. Good info, I'll check the book out at some point.
Profile Image for Myra.
1,265 reviews7 followers
June 17, 2017
This is the companion guide to the movie. Which I don't think I've seen.

While this is a very informative book, I would not call in engaging or even interesting a lot of the time. It's a collection of essays from various people, so the writing ranges from highly technical to very basic. A lot of ideas are repeated from one essay to the next, so that got tiring. Also, eight years later, the book already feels really dated to me. I admit to skimming many of the later chapters. If this is a subject that is totally new to you, there is a lot of good substance in here. If you are already familiar with a lot of the issues, there will be little new information.
289 reviews1 follower
November 30, 2014
I actually only saw the movie; did not read the book. But the movie was excellent a 'must see'. Interview with Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms. Michal Pollan (Omnivore's Dilemna) played a major 'role'.

Was quite good.
Profile Image for Darnell.
1,113 reviews
May 29, 2016
It's nice that they collected a group of authors without enforcing agreement between them. As such, however, the essays are a bit of a mixed bag. I also feel like someone with more knowledge on the subject would have found it very basic overall; this is meant as an introductory text.
Profile Image for Miami Mike.
Author 1 book
May 15, 2022
“The way we eat has changed more in the last 50 years than in the previous 10,000.” That's the opening line for the movie based on the book, Food, Inc. I have the book in front of me and it's considered a "companion guide" to the movie.

If you don't have the inclination to read the 300-page book, I certainly suggest that you watch it on YouTube; the movie is a mere 93 minutes and was Oscar-nominated for best documentary, featured on Oprah, and soared to the #1 selling DVD online.

I give testimony in my book, The God Food Diet, of three "revelations" that have completely changed my life - this movie/book is one of them. Food, Inc. remains a classic and here's the Variety quote on the back cover "Food, Inc. does for the supermarket what Jaws did for the beach."
115 reviews1 follower
August 2, 2020
Excellent. Truly eye opening to the quality of food Americans consume, the type of media used to get our attention, and the absolute power the fast food industry, large agriculture and farming industries have over the people who toil in the fields and do the dirty work. Highly recommend to any of my socially conscious friends. Check out the documentary on Netflix- for similarly thought-provoking reads surrounding diet, consumerism, and other topics, check out Fast Food Nation and The Omnivores Dilemma
Profile Image for Teresa.
198 reviews
March 12, 2023
I rarely do this but this book was honestly just so dull. It was a slog to read, had questionable science and lots of scare tactics, and was simply outdated. The documentary, which I watched about 15 years ago, was a bit better in that it was short but still suffered for its exaggeration, especially when it comes to Canadian food systems which many don’t realize are significantly different from American ones.
July 22, 2017
Since this book was the accompanying guide to the movie I watched the movie as well. It was informative and eye opening, yet at times stress inducing and covered American-centric political debates. Overall a very solid, informative piece that I can recommend to anyone who wants to known more about our food (beyond our common knowledge of animal mass production).
Profile Image for Erin.
7 reviews1 follower
October 24, 2021
For an accompanying book to a documentary it provided only opinions and the story of how the story was told - would have appreciated more academic proof of what they discussed in the movie and answers to questions about how to take action on the information in Food Inc.

great documentary though, and it was fun to hear how it came to be
Profile Image for Katie.
Author 1 book5 followers
July 8, 2017
This book really resonated with me, especially since I am striving to eat an organic, healthier diet. There are many things we can do as individuals to raise awareness & to take better care of our bodies. It's just a shame that a lot of it costs more money.
Profile Image for JTRyan.
514 reviews
July 31, 2019
"We all assume that whatever is must be normal." (186)

Informative, but ten years in, it feels like we know most of this already. At this point, we might need an update for new stats and to see if we've made any progress as a nation.
Profile Image for Amy Maddess.
168 reviews6 followers
October 29, 2019
I feel like this would have been more inspiring if I would have read it years ago, or if there were a new edition with updated statistics. It was good, it's just a lot of it is common knowledge so it didn't seem as mindblowing as it would have when it was first released.
Profile Image for Tami Kendall.
34 reviews
March 18, 2020
I really like the documentary, so when I fell upon the book I knew it was a must buy. My only complaint is that the book isn't more of a step by step guide. I was expecting more instruction, more "do this, don't do that" kinda book. Though it does list a lot of resources for you.
Profile Image for Katie.
325 reviews1 follower
April 15, 2021
The most aggravating thing about this book is the lack of change in 10+ years. It feels like we're still in the same place fighting the same large corporations and billionaires who control how the food business is allowed to operate.
Profile Image for Karen.
28 reviews2 followers
September 3, 2017
A bit dated, but still inspirational and good information.
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