April 13, 2010


Edited by Moby with Miyun Park
160 pages, New Press

Review by Marie Mundaca

Let’s be honest, the majority of the people who are active in the small planet food movement—the movement where you know the emotional state of the cow that your milk came from (and really, why are you drinking cow milk anyway?)—are affluent folks. Buying products from small local farms is an incredibly expensive and time-consuming proposition. At my local farmers’ market, 6 eggs cost 7 dollars. At Whole Foods, organic apples average around $2.99 per pound. I don’t know what meat costs anymore (I’ve been a veg for a long time), but a few years ago my friend told me she spent forty dollars on her small free-range Thanksgiving turkey. It was important to her that he could run around and have sex. But for $25 I could have gotten him a blow job near the Lincoln Tunnel!

Anyway, the average American can’t afford the luxury of happy meat. But that didn’t stop bon-vivant and “musician” Moby from “editing” a book on the horrors of factory farming. What does Moby know about editing a book? Not much, judging by the fact that the book has TWO subtitles! I’m sure the real editor was food activist Miyun Park. The book is made up of essays by rich white people, with Cesar Chavez’s granddaughters thrown is as tokens. Almost every contributor has something related to promote: we have John Mackey, the wacky and contentious CEO of Whole Foods Markets, Sara Kubersky, the co-owner of vegan shoe store Moo Shoes, Lauren Bush who is still pretending to be a co-founder of FEED… you get the picture. While the basic idea of the collection is sound—factory farms are a pretty bad way to produce food—who wants to be preached to by people who have something to gain? It dilutes the message.

The book is not fun. It’s very preachy, and the allegedly fascinating charts are quite dull. There are no cute drawings of cows and pigs. I like my “fascinating” charts to be cute! The information is important, but the presentation is so condescending it’s hard not to have the urge to run out and order a crave case of White Castle sliders just on general principle. The essays outline the myriad problems with American farming, specifically the meat industry: the workers and the animals are treated poorly, our taxes subsidize these bad practices, there is a lot of waste, factory processes can make the meat disease-ridden. Because the factory farm business is so heavily subsidized, fast food becomes very cheap and attractive to the working poor, single parent families, and other members of at-risk populations. Populations get fat and ill.

But what is the solution? Gristle offers none. As a single unemployed vegetarian, I’m fortunate enough to live in a city where I can get my fruit and veggies at the farmers’ market (but not eggs. As much as I want to support my local farmers, I draw the line at $1.20 per egg). But if I were a single mother living in the Midwest, you can bet I’d be stretching my dollars at the incredibly cheap Walmart. Moby and pals don’t know what real life is like in America, and all their preaching isn’t going to change that.