Bet the Farm
(Wiley, October 2012)
In 2008, farmers grew enough to feed twice the world’s population, yet more people starved than ever before—and most of them were farmers. In Bet the Farm, food writer Kaufman sets out to discover the connection between the global food system and why the food on our tables is getting less healthy and less delicious even as the the world’s biggest food companies and food scientists say things are better than ever. To unravel this riddle, he moves down the supply chain like a detective solving a mystery, revealing a force at work that is larger than Monsanto, McDonalds or any of the other commonly cited culprits—and far more shocking.
“In this energetic, wide-ranging work of investigative journalism, Harper’s editor Kaufman argues that the new food revolution involves collateral products and processes, not food itself. He discusses Big Food through specific products and goes far behind the curtain of corporate processes and practices. The book is often a stew of figures, from dollars to statistics with an alphabet soup of organizational acronyms and italicized buzzwords for flavor. Along the way, it probes the complications of marrying apparent incompatibles such as free market economics and slow food, how food-related information converts to capital, and how technology facilitates and oversimplifies the industry. Hunger, the lack of food, is often Kaufman’s subtext and eventually evolves into his main. Yet this is neither dry argumentative soup nor antiglobalization polemic, and the villains aren’t black and white; Kaufman’s tone is subtly ironic without being snarky—a nice addition to Michael Pollan.”
“This story should have been on the front page of the New York Times.”
– Jami Floyd, Political Analyst, MSNBC
“Kaufman makes a convincing and terrifying case that the same merchant bankers who destroyed our housing market–and economy–five years ago are at it again. This time their target is the world’s food supply.”
–Barry Estabrook, author of Tomatoland