‘On The Future of Food’ is a book containing the text of a speech given by HRH The Prince of Wales at The Future of Food conference in Washington, DC last year. Neatly sandwiched between an informative forward by Wendell Berry and well thought out afterward by Will Allen and Eric Schlosser, this book is a valuable resource and its publication by Rodale is something I think may well be looked back on as a turning point in years to come.
As someone who has long been an advocate of ethically raised meat, sustainably fished seafood, local and seasonal food, using up your leftovers, growing your own and patronising farmer’s markets, I was pretty sure I knew most of what was going to be in the Prince’s speech when I opened up this book. However I confess even I really had no idea of the depth of the problem, or how entwined the circumstances that have brought our world to this point really are. The evidence Prince Charles presented genuinely shocked me. In fact, I think he is quite right when he says that the general picture of the perilous state we are in is ‘actually very vague’, even amongst those of us who think we know a fair amount about it. This is the first time I have read something that explains the situation so comprehensively and cohesively or that offers such practical solutions to the issues that face us.
The Prince’s speech highlights many areas of concern including our water resources, something even more critical when you consider it takes 2000 gallons of water to produce one single pound of beef. He also cites a study that found we have become so dependent on fossil fuels in food production that it estimates ‘a person on a typical Western diet consumes, in effect, a US gallon of diesel a day’. So today’s average 12 ounce steak dinner almost certainly comes with a side of antibiotics, some pesticides, several ounces of fossil fuels and 1500 gallons of water. It’s a bit of a plateful.
Prince Charles further explains the effect of industrial farming on the environment and how in some cases the nutrients are literally being stripped out of the soil. He also bravely takes on the large corporates who would have us believe that high yield industrial methods of farming are better because they are cheaper, without being honest about the actual long term financial toll they physically place on the environment and on consumers themselves.
On The Future of Food is powerful, enlightening, hopeful, and definitely something I believe everyone should read.
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