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Animal, Vegetable, Junk: A History of Food

Animal, Vegetable, Junk - book cover

This book uses food as a lens to explore the history of human development. It explores the links between food and exploration, colonialism, slavery and capitalism, as well as the environmental implications of current industrialised food systems.

Publisher’s summary

From hunting and gathering to GMOs and ultraprocessed foods, this expansive tour of human history rewrites the story of our species—and points the way to a better future. 

The history of Homo sapiens is usually told as a story of technology or economics. But there is a more fundamental driver: food. How we hunted and gathered explains our emergence as a new species and our earliest technology; our first food systems, from fire to agriculture, tell where we settled and how civilisations expanded. The quest for food for growing populations drove exploration, colonialism, slavery, even capitalism.  

A century ago, food was industrialised. Since then, new styles of agriculture and food production have written a new chapter of human history, one that’s driving both climate change and global health crises. Best-selling food authority Mark Bittman offers a panoramic view of the story and explains how we can rescue ourselves from the modern wrong turn.



Bittman, M. (2021). Animal, Vegetable, Junk: A History of Food, from Sustainable to Suicidal. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston.


Read more here. See also the Table explainer An overview of food system challenges.

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