Book Report: Foodopoly

Reviews of books relevant to the food movement.

My nose buried in a book - Foodopoly

One sentence summary of this book: Foodopoly systematically takes the reader through every sector of the food system substantially affected by the political power of big food companies.

Book title: Foodopoly 
Author: Wenonah Hauter
Publication Date: 2012
Number of Pages: 310
Keywords: policy, power, big ag, antitrust laws

Memorable quote: “Changing our food system is a political act. We must build the political power to do so. It is a matter of survival.”

Key points:

Reading Foodopoly
Book review of sustainable food books - Foodopoly
  • The causes of the current food system crisis are: deregulation, consolidation, and too much control exerted by a small number of massive companies.
  • Walmart is an example of a powerful company that forces small suppliers to fall in line or get out of the game via its unique distribution and logistics model. This has pushed many small and midsize food growers out of business.
  • The organic food movement started with an ideal and a responsibility, but has been co-opted by large companies looking to capitalize on growing consumer demand for the label.
  • The meat industry in the US is not closely regulated for safety. Better safety practices would reduce profits for huge meat companies, so they have lobbied against more regulation for years. The FDA needs to majorly step it up in response.
  • Factory farming (of cows, chickens, and pigs) is full of unsavory, unsafe, and unfair practices for both animals and humans.
  • Biotechnology has been co-opted by very large companies who consolidated technology and power over the past 30 years. They now have a staggering amount of control over agriculture, both nationally and globally.
  • We can’t shop our way into a more sustainable system in the future; we need to build political power and then change (and enforce) laws.
Reading about sustainable food and political power

My opinion: Wenonah Hauter’s thesis in Foodopoly is clear from the introduction, it’s the quote at the top of this post. She 100% believes that to fix our broken food system we need to regain political power from large corporations. The rest of the 300 pages of her book is spent proving that. And, yes, it’s convincing. Her book is well-researched, making it the type of publication I wish I could keep in my back pocket when I need a quick stat or quote about the food system. The first section of the book was a bit slow to me, but the middle section really picked up. Hauter throws in some simultaneously whimsical and also unnerving infographics. They help her prove her points and make for enjoyable (and uncomfortable) visuals.  

Should you read it?: Yes. This book is a denser and more research-based complement to the popular works you’ve probably read already (i.e. The Omnivore’s Dilemma). When you’re ready to take the next step into understanding our food system in the US, pick up this book. It hits the main points of each major food topic and drives home (maybe a bit too often) the need for harnessing our power to make change.


Have you read this book already? I want to hear your opinion!