Food Is the Solution: What to Eat to Save the World--80+ Recipes for a Greener Planet and a Healthier You

Food Is the Solution: What to Eat to Save the World--80+ Recipes for a Greener Planet and a Healthier You

by Matthew Prescott


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"This book is full of recipes that are good to eat and good for the earth. Check it out." -Ellen DeGeneres

In Food Is the Solution, Matthew Prescott, Senior Food Policy Director for the Humane Society and a leader in the environmental food movement, shows how our plates have the power to heal the world. This lavishly designed resource and recipe collection shows how anyone can help solve the world’s major issues—environmental problems chief among them—simply by incorporating more plants into their diets. Featuring investigative reporting, compelling infographics, and essays from notable contributors like Dr. Michael Greger, John Mackey, James Cameron, Paul McCartney, and Wolfgang Puck, Food Is the Solution will inspire us all to put more plants on our plates.

What we eat will determine what kind of world we live in and what kind of world we live on—and Matthew Prescott proves that meat-heavy diets are destroying the planet. Imagine a world in which we are all healthier. Imagine a world where the air is clean, forests dense, water pure, and animal life healthy. That world is a happier world, a better world—and the delectable plant-based foods Prescott shows us how to prepare in Food Is the Solution will help us create it.

“Food is power, and this book will help you use it.”

Chef David Chang, Momofuku

“Devour this book. Eat it up. It might just save your life and the world.”

— Michael Greger, MD, New York Times-bestselling author of How Not to Die

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250144454
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication date: 03/20/2018
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 805,575
Product dimensions: 8.10(w) x 10.10(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Matthew Prescott is a leading figure in the global movement to reform how we farm and eat. He’s Senior Food Policy Director for the Humane Society of the United States and adviser to the Good Food Institute. A sought-after speaker and thought leader, Prescott has spent over a decade and a half sharing his ideas with Ivy League universities, Fortune 500 companies, consumers, and more. His efforts have directly led to sweeping changes in the supply chains of hundreds of major food companies, impacted countless individuals’ diets, and have been covered extensively by the media: his work has been featured by CNN, in the pages of the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe, and countless more; his writing’s appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, Barron’s and others; his photographs have been featured in the Rolling Stone and Food & Wine; he’s been as a guest on national television news programs; and he was even once a guest on NPR’s Wait Wait...Don’t Tell Me. He lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, the author Lara Prescott.

Read an Excerpt



Imagine the Earth, spinning in orbit: our 197-million-square-mile, four-and-a-half-billion-year-old ball of nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon amid the quiet blackness of space.

But Earth is much more than that.

Zoom in through the outermost thermosphere, through the stratosphere, through the clouds. Pass over the North Pole's stark ice caps. Glide over Siberia, covered in snow-capped pine and birch trees. Watch the landscape move from white to green throughout Eurasia — over Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan — then to browns above the Middle East and northern Africa, and to blue over the Atlantic Ocean. Pass over New York City's gray skyscrapers, through the Shenandoahs, their chestnut and red oaks' brilliant shades of orange and yellow, and across the mighty Mississippi. Now slow yourself above the Midwest, above Missouri. Finally, pause above the tiny town of Arrow Rock — a pixel on the planet.

It's here in Arrow Rock, Missouri, where Day and Whitney Kerr bought a Greek Revival cottage, a fixer-upper. That was in 1980, long before they could have known that purchase would turn their own story into one of an epic battle for their land and livelihoods, for the literal earth beneath their feet.

"It was in terrible shape," said Day, who, along with his wife, purchased and restored the home to its former 1860s glory. "It never had indoor plumbing or central heating. No one had lived there for thirteen years. There were times when we thought we were just crazy, but Whitney and I are both committed to historic preservation. We respect history."

And Arrow Rock's got history everywhere one looks: for over a half century, the entire town has been registered as a National Historic Landmark. It was in Arrow Rock that Dr. John Sappington — whose home the Kerrs also restored — created the quinine pill; it was there that the Santa Fe Trail and Missouri River intersected, where lauded Missouri River artist George Caleb Bingham lived and worked.

It was also where, in 2007, hog farmer Dennis Gessling proposed building a massive factory farm that would confine nearly five thousand pigs — ninety animals for each of the town's fifty-six residents — and produce more than two million gallons of waste each year.

And he wanted to build it just a quarter mile north of the Kerrs' home.

"This is a historic site for the state and nation," said local bed-and-breakfast owner Kathy Borgman. "This is a spot where history was made. You can't move it. Who would want to come here if the air stinks so bad you cannot breathe it?"

All across the country, communities are threatened by confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) like the one proposed by Gessling.

"Factory farms can negatively affect rural historic areas in a number of ways," writes Jennifer Sandy of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. "CAFOs obviously have an immediate and negative impact on the historic rural landscape. They are large in scale, housing thousands of animals, and generally consist of utilitarian metal buildings and manure retaining ponds."

In these facilities, animals are confined by the thousands, tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands. In the case of pig-production facilities like the one proposed in Arrow Rock, breeding animals are most often confined inside individual gestation crates — metal cages that are essentially the same length and width of the pigs' own bodies, preventing them from even turning around. These animals endure this confinement day and night for four months, while pregnant. As they're about to give birth, they're moved into another, similar, type of crate — after which they're reimpregnated and put back in a gestation crate for the cycle to repeat. A mother pig lives like this for her entire four years on this earth.

These types of facilities are dramatically changing the American landscape, which was once dotted with more traditional-type farms — indeed, what most of us imagine when we think of a farm.

Today, those idyllic places are mostly gone — and that's no accident.

"Forget the pig is an animal — treat him just like a machine in a factory," recommended Hog Farm Management magazine in 1976. Two years later, National Hog Farmer advised: "The breeding sow should be thought of, and treated, as a valuable piece of machinery whose function is to pump out baby pigs like a sausage machine."

And so it was that factory farms were born — leaving a lasting mark on animals, our planet, our nation, and on individual communities.

"As small- and medium-sized producers are forced out," Sandy reports, "many historic farm structures are abandoned or demolished. Areas with factory farms also often see an increase in truck traffic, which can have visual and auditory impacts."

"Raising meat takes a great deal of land and ...has a substantial environmental impact."


The citizens of Arrow Rock, Missouri were not going to have it in their backyard.

"These CAFOs spend as little money as they have to get as much money as they can out of the animal," Day Kerr observes. "In the process, they do not protect the environment and have no regard for how they impact their neighbors."

So the Kerrs and their neighbors banded together and stood their ground, raising a stink with local and state governments about the proposed pig factory.

They incorporated as Citizens to Protect State Parks and Historic Sites. They formed alliances with other communities being impacted by CAFOs. They hired lawyers. They demanded reviews from the U.S. Department of Interior (since Arrow Rock is a national historic landmark). They generated press coverage and statewide buzz. They filed lawsuits — including against the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and its director.

And they won. After a prolonged battle, the people of Arrow Rock — resting stop for Lewis and Clark, and a town nearly crippled by a massive pig factory — claimed victory when Gessling officially withdrew his plans.

But things could have easily gone the other way.

In 2016, years after the controversy had been settled, I spoke to Kathy Borgman. She expressed concern that the same threat Gessling posed to her community still exists elsewhere.

"What we accomplished in Arrow Rock was successful in one regard," Borgman says. "But the CAFO problem continues all over Missouri, all over the country."

Indeed, elsewhere across the entire planet, factory farms continue wreaking havoc on the earth beneath us.

In fact, globally, animal agribusiness is by far the single largest user of land, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report Livestock's Long Shadow. "In all, livestock production accounts for 70 percent of all agricultural land and 30 percent of the land surface of the planet," found the FAO.

That's right: nearly a third of all the land on the planet goes toward producing protein from animals. And that production isn't happening in deserts and on craggy cliffs that might otherwise go unused.

So, leaving Arrow Rock and the Midwest on our global journey, we head southeast — over the Gulf of Mexico and western tip of Cuba, across the brilliant blue Caribbean Sea, eventually finding ourselves in perhaps the epicenter of factory farming's earthly impact: the Amazon rain forest.

Seventy percent of previously forested land in the Amazon is now pasture for farm animals, with animal feed crops covering a large part of the remainder. There's no example in Earth's history of old-growth and primary forestland being more quickly converted to human land use.

In the southeastern Amazon, more than half the woodland-savannah ecosystem of the Cerrado has already been converted to agriculture, mostly for the production of meat and animal feed. And three countries away, in Costa Rica, roughly half the small nation's tropical forest land is now used for meat production. The list goes on: in Africa, Southeast Asia, and elsewhere across the globe, we're losing rich, diverse ecosystems on account of our meat-heavy diets.

"The consumption of animal-sourced food products by humans is one of the most powerful negative forces affecting the conservation of terrestrial ecosystems and biological diversity," reports a study published in Science of the Total Environment. That's habitat loss for wild animals and native plant species, soil loss, water and nutrient pollution, and more.

If our diets don't change, things will get worse. Some countries, that same report found, may even require up to 50 percent increases in land used for meat production.

So how much land does it take, exactly, to produce meat for our diets? Looking squarely at the land impact of American meat consumption, researchers from Bard College, the Weizmann Institute of Science, and Yale University found that the animal-based portion of an average American's diet requires over 150,000 square feet of crop and pasture land annually — that's nearly the area of three NFL football fields used to produce meat, eggs, and dairy for each one of us, each year.

But the good news is, there's a solution. No, we don't all need to do as Day and Whitney Kerr, Kathy Borgman, and the other citizens of Arrow Rock, Missouri, did: we don't each need to take up legal and public battles against individual factory-farm operations.

But we can certainly stop funding the perpetrators.

After all, though Arrow Rock managed to stave off its proposed factory farm, unless we curb our reliance on animal products — by eating more plant-based foods — other communities across the world won't be so lucky.

"They tell you we've got more money than God and will outspend you and outlast you," laments Borgman, referring to the power of industrial agriculture. "So it'll be the tide of the markets and the tide of masses to really change things."

But how does each of us play a part in that growing tide? One way for us to help is dietary — and delicious. Many people are now practicing the "Three Rs" of eating: 1) reducing meat and other animal products in their diets by 2) replacing those products with plant-based foods, and 3) refining our diets so as to avoid products from factory farms.

We can enjoy more black bean burgers and fewer beef burgers, bean-and-rice burritos instead of chicken burritos, BBQ seitan or tofu instead of pulled pork, chickpea salad instead of chicken salad. We can try almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk, or any other variety of the myriad of nondairy alternatives now available at coffee shops and grocery stores nationwide.

We can participate in programs like Meatless Mondays — enjoying the time-honored tradition of a once-weekly vacation from meat. In fact, it was the U.S. Food Administration that created Meatless Mondays over a century ago to save resources during WWI. The effort was brought back during WWII, and then revived in 2003 by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health as a wellness and sustainability initiative. Countless individuals and even entire school districts (like Houston, Los Angeles, Detroit, and more) are now participating, and the idea has spread like wildfire across colleges, universities, hospital systems, and more.

These types of small actions can make a huge difference. In its 2016 report Shifting Diets for a Sustainable Food Future, the World Resources Institute found that by reducing animal protein intake in regions that currently consume the most, like the United States, per-person diet-related land use could be nearly cut in half.

Considering the impact factory farming has made and continues to make, the importance of a 50 percent reduction in our diet-related land use can't be underestimated. At this very moment, the Amazon continues burning to accommodate our meat-heavy diets. Right now, communities like Arrow Rock are pushing back against land grabs by would-be factory farmers. Farms are shutting down, replaced with factories. Rural landscapes across the country and world are being industrialized — forever changed because of our diets.

The evidence is clear: for the earth beneath and all around us — composed of rich, varied, important ecosystems and communities — we've all simply got to eat less meat and more plants.



Continuing our global journey, imagine leaving Arrow Rock, Missouri, and heading east. Pass over the Missouri River, then the Mississippi, their muddy waters flowing south. Pass over Illinois's Carlyle Lake — a 26,000-acre reservoir — and Indiana's Wabash River. Head north, then east again, along the coast of Lake Erie. Take notice of all the communities, from rural towns to major cities, built near these rivers and lakes, so settlers would have clean, reliable sources of water for drinking, bathing, and farming — for sustaining life. Finally, slow yourself over upstate New York's Finger Lakes region, and pause above one of those communities: the small town of Willet, nestled along the banks of the Ostelic River.

It was there in Willet, just a few days after Christmas 2008, that twenty-five-year-old Cody Carlson found himself hunched over, scraping frozen cow feces off a thick steel cable.

Carlson grew up in Manhattan, though he had been living in Santa Cruz, earning his degree in community studies from the University of California. Back on the California beaches, it would have been hard to imagine his current position: an undercover factory-farm investigator working for an animal protection organization, freezing his ass off on a massive dairy complex.

After graduating, Carlson landed a job at a Manhattan-based firm that conducts investigative research for corporations. There, he spent much of his time in the firm's pro bono division, offering free services to nonprofits. He'd been reaching out to environmental agencies he thought could use his services when, on the news, he learned about an animal cruelty exposé conducted by the group Mercy For Animals (MFA). Carlson, a vegetarian since the age of thirteen, was intrigued. He got in touch.

"I remember e-mailing them and basically asking if they'd like some free research from us," recalls Carlson. But what the MFA could really use, they told him, was a full-time undercover investigator.

Next thing he knew, he was quitting his job in the city, putting his belongings into storage, and driving upstate in search of work on a factory farm. After an unsuccessful attempt at getting hired at an egg-producing CAFO, Carlson saw a job posting for a "maintenance technician" at Willet Dairy in Locke, New York — nestled in the state's picturesque Finger Lakes region.

Though, as Carlson would learn, Willet Dairy was anything but picturesque.

The company's 7,800 cows allowed it to ship about 40,000 gallons of milk every day. Those cows also produced roughly 314 million pounds of manure in 2006, according to New York's Department of Environmental Conservation. That's equal, in weight, to almost 78,000 Ford F-150 trucks — from just one dairy facility in one state in one year.

It's a lot of waste — and helping manage it all was central to Carlson's role at the complex.

"When I went in for my interview, really the only substantive question they asked me was if I thought I could handle being ankle-deep in shit all day," he recalls. "'It's not a job for everyone,' they said."

During that interview, farm managers took Carlson on a walk-through to ensure he'd be up for the task.

"That was when I saw how these cows live — basically standing in overcrowded concrete aisles all day long, hock-deep in their own waste," he recounts. "Twice a day, they'd be moved out to a separate area, where they'd be hooked up to machines for milking. After that, they were brought back into the concrete aisles. That's basically their whole lives."

It was in those aisles where Carlson spent most of his time undercover as a farm "technician," documenting this routine abuse.

"Yeah, it was a generous title," says Cody with a laugh. "Basically, you've got all these cows standing there letting loose all day. There's an engine that pulls a V-shaped metal device along a steel cable to collect the manure. Eventually, it's pumped down to these massive lagoons that are basically poop ponds."

His job was primarily to fix the pulling and pumping system as it broke — which happened a lot.

"The cable would fray and hit the cows. It'd get clogged up. It'd freeze. We'd have to scrape the frozen feces off and un-jam the thing — basically like unclogging a gigantic toilet," said Carlson. "It was always something different."

And not just for Carlson.

"I can't even get a friggin' clean glass of water," said neighbor Karen Strecker, who described turning on her faucets only to find liquid manure pouring out. "I've been taking a bath and actually had cow shit pour into the tub," she said. "It's nasty."


Excerpted from "Food Is The Solution"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Matthew Prescott.
Excerpted by permission of Flatiron Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
FOREWORD by James Cameron,
INTRODUCTION Food Is the Solution,
Soups, Stews, Salads, and Sandwiches,
Main Dishes,
Sides and Extras,
Shopping for a Better World,
Praise for Food is the Solution,
About the Author,

Customer Reviews