James E. McWilliams Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly. Little, Brown 2009.
With the emphasis on ‘just’ McWilliams asks all Americans concerned with issues of food production to look beyond our own immediate and often elitist solutions to understand the true global implication of our activist food policies and politics. All in all many of his ideas are interesting and worthy of discussion.
And I was right there with him up to the chapter on meat animals. I don’t like factory meat farms either but becoming a vegetarian is not the solution I’d choose to combat them. What bothered me was the 38 pages of chapter 4 “Meat – The New Caviar: Saying “No,” or at Least “Not as Much,” to Eating Land-Based Animals” which came down to an elitist demand of vegetarianism as the solution to American meat eating. To give him his due McWilliams does offer a full chapter on the potentials of aquaculture as potential sources of animal. But more important than my difficulty with McWilliam’s meat position is that he makes literally not one mention of dairy products, egg or feather production, leather and wool production; all of which require the raising of herds and produce food and income for millions of the world’s people. While it is within the realm of possibility that (some) people would (someday) give up beef, pork, chicken, there’s no way people will be giving up dairy (cheese, yogurt, butter, not to mention milk among lactose tolerant populations), eggs, shoes, or wool textiles. In the long conversation on food policy we have to include this broader more generous perspective or find we are only speaking to ourselves. So anyone sucking down a yogurt smoothy and wearing a down jacket while they rant about meat should probably re-access their positions.