Consuming highly-processed, mass-distributed food has a negative impact on more than just our health. It also destroys traditional farming practices, dims our sense of both food artistry and appreciation, and dulls our collective reverence for the natural world. It replaces a sense of awe and gratitude for the natural vitality of lfe with a self-serving form of food-fetischism; offering us faux-food convenience-products and competitive-consumption tactics in place of actual food. It is part of a broader consumerist ideology that objectifies life and allows us to tolerate the abuse of animals, workers, and the land itself.
In We the Eaters, Ellen Gustafson, co-founder of the organization Food Tank does a great job of clarifying how dietary shifts backed by grassroots political pressure can lead to positive change in our food system. Advocating for thoughtful structural change, Gustafson points out the raw injustice of mega-corporations reaping billions of dollars on cheap highly-processed quasi-food while refusing to provide their own workers a living wage.
In the spirit of other influential works of food journalism such as Vandana Shiva’s Stolen Harvest, Andrew Kimbrell’s Fatal Harvest, Raj Patel’s Stuffed and Starved, Marion Nestle’s Food Politics, and Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation, Gustafson offers her insightful critique of the political, economic, and social impact of our industrial food system. She also reminds us of the most abundant ingredient in our current western diet, suffering.
“Almost every step of the industrial meat supply chain” writes Gustafson,” degrades someone or something…the cows, the land, the farmers and industry workers, the consumers, and the communities.”
Like the authors referenced above, Gustafson has crafted an articulate and informative work inspired by one key existential insight: a healthy, humane, and equitable food system can only arise from a more comprehensive and compassionate philosophy than capitalism.