It all started rather innocuously. Pawlick wanted to make a very simple salad. He bought four attractive-looking tomatoes at the supermarket and discovered, once home, that they were too hard to slice. So he decided to place them on the counter, to let them ripen. They didn't. After several days, out of curiosity, he picked one tomato up, took it outside and threw it against a fence, to see how it would fare. "It bounced off, undamaged, like a not-very-springy, red tennis ball." (p.2) Why was it so? Pawlick was hooked on finding out how the answer.
Thus begins an engaging investigation which led Pawlick to depict the myriad of problems generated by an industrial food system solely dedicated to profits.
Decline in nutritional value
By comparing food tables which display the content in vitamins, minerals, protein and other substances in our food, Pawlick highlights how much our food has lost its nutritional value over time. Tomatoes, for instance, have lost 17 % of their vitamin C content since 1963. The loss is even greater in broccoli (45%) or potatoes (57%).
I had read about this trend before. What I didn't know was that while the vitamin content of our fruit, vegetables and even our meat, is declining; the fat content and the sodium level are on the rise. Tomatoes, for instance, now have 65% more lipids while their sodium content has risen by 200%! The same pattern repeats itself among fruit, vegetables and meats.
Increased level of toxicity
What this study also painfully demonstrates is the growing number of additives that are now embedded in our food. What is their impact on our health? That's a critical question. Pawlick traces the presence of antibiotics, acrylamide, arsenic, dioxins, bovine growth hormones and many other food contaminants in our food.
Pawlick also explores the conditions under which we raise animals for slaughter. This is a particularly difficult section to read through and while Pawlick writes in an engaging manner I found this chapter in particular very challenging to follow through.
"Acts of Subversion"
Luckily, Pawlick doesn't end his exploration there. In response to these alarming changes that he painstakingly documents, he proposes "acts of subersion" designed to reclaim our food. Pawlick is a farmer who grows his own food and who is passionate about gardening. Naturally, he wants to see more people growing food in their backyards. He is also a strong proponent of using heritage seeds and growing food in an organic manner. For those who don't have access to food, Pawlick talks about the joy of community garden or purchasing food from farmers' markets. Pawlick also is a strong advocate of the slow food movement which supports people in regaining a grounded sense of connection with food.
This case study is hard to read. I could not get through it quickly. I feel, however, that it is a worthwhile read which charts a sober, if not scary portrait of the industrial food system and ways it is destroying our food.