Your Reading List

What do your customers care about?

Check out the mainstream books, films and other media that are shaping what consumers think about what you do

Gluten-free, organic, GMO, free-run — these just hint at the kind of vocabulary being tossed about by consumers today. Packed with good intentions and a little knowledge, such notions are warping the demand for food products, and they may be laying a path for legislation.

Never before has there been so much being written, said and shown about food. Through TV, blogs, TED talks, podcasts, social media, celebrity chefs, movie streaming services, and good old-fashioned books, consumers are constantly getting told what to think about our food supply.

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Some of it’s good. Some of it isn’t. Either way, though, it shapes public opinion and drives food choices.

To help keep up, Country Guide asked food trend watchers to share the books, documentaries and other sources of information they think have done the most to influence popular opinion on food and food systems in the past decade.

Delving into these sources, you’ll have a better appreciation of where your customers are coming from.

This is only a sampling, but it’s enough to open our eyes.


Documentary films

Fed Up
Narrated by TV celeb Katie Couric, this 2014 film looks at the fattening of America, pointing the finger at how the lobbying power of “Big Sugar” blocks attempts to apply restraint.
Available on Netflix.

Food, Inc.
The 2008 American documentary film that looks at how production agriculture and the food industry have changed over the past 50 years.
Available on Netflix.

Just Eat It: a food waste story
A 2014 Canadian film that shines a spotlight on the food waste issue.
Available online at www.knowledge.ca/program/just-eat-it

Food Chains
A 2014 American documentary about agricultural migrant labour in the United States.
Available on Netflix.

GMO OMG
As you can guess from the title, this 2013 documentary explores the health and environmental risks of genetically modified organisms (GMO) and the implications of GMO labelling.
Available on Netflix.

Books worth reading

Diet for a New America: How Your Food Choices Affect Your Health, Happiness and the Future of Life on Earth
By John Robbins (2012)

In this update of his 1987 book, Robbins examines the moral, economic and emotional cost of American food choices (also on DVD).

The Unhealthy Truth: One Mother’s Shocking Investigation into the Dangers of America’s Food Supply — and What Every Family Can Do to Protect Itself

By Robyn O’Brien (2010)

Mother of four, Robyn O’Brien chronicles her journey to understand what triggered her infant daughter’s food allergy and the discoveries she makes about the American food system along the way. O’Brien has been likened to food’s Erin Brockovich.

You’ll also find O’Brien’s podcasts on her website and through iTunes.

O’Brien also summarizes her journey in a TEDx Talk which can be viewed here.

Twinkie, Deconstructed
By Steve Ettlinger

This 2007 book is a result of his quest to understand the ingredients in packaged foods prompted by his young daughter’s question: “Daddy, where does Polysorbate 60 come from?”

What to Eat
By Marion Nestle

This 2007 book claims to cut through the jargon to help readers make informed and sensible food choices.

The Conscious Kitchen: The new way to buy and cook food to protect the earth, improve your health and eat deliciously
By Alexandra Zissu

This 2010 book is intended to be a practical resource to help people make good food choices.

Clean Food: A Seasonal Guide to Eating Close to the Source (Revised edition, 2012)
By Terry Walters

The Clean Food cookbook contains recipes for healthy meals that are “closer to the source.”

Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health
By William Davis, MD (2011)

While highly controversial, there is no doubt this book by a cardiologist has influenced the wheat-free movement.

In addition to the books and documentaries, there are some individuals who have been influential on the food scene.

  • Mark Bittman, cookbook author and former New York Times food columnist, has promoted Meatless Monday, a global food movement active in 44 countries. www.meatlessmonday.com/the-global-movement/
  • Jamie Oliver, world-renowned chef and food campaigner, is on a mission to end childhood obesity by promoting healthy eating, good government food policies, and food literacy. www.jamiesfoodrevolution.org
  • Closer to home, chef Michael Smith, with his focus on simple, fast, healthy family meals and his work with Canadian pulses (lentils, dried beans, chickpeas), is making an impact.

Note: Books may be available through your local library as e-books, audiobooks or in print. Local libraries may also have films on DVD. If the local library system doesn’t own a book, they may be able to access it for you through an Inter Library Loan. Many documentaries are available online through sites like iTunes, YouTube or through video streaming services such as Netflix (which currently allows you to sign up for one month free). TVO, PBS and CBC and other networks may be air them or make them available through their websites.


Science writer Michael Pollan has become a household name when it comes to food. You’ll find his many books listed on his website at: michaelpollan.com/books/.

In his 2007 book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, Pollan follows food chains including organic from source to plate, developing an account of what Americans are eating and the health implications.

In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, published in 2009, Pollan proposes “a new (and very old) answer to the question of what we should eat that comes down to seven simple words: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Pollan’s documentary, by the same title, is available for a limited time on the CBC website at www.cbc.ca/passionateeye/episodes/in-defence-of-food.

Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual (2011) — If looking for a quick read on this subject, this is it.

Cooked — Michael Pollan’s 2013 book, has been turned into a four-part video series available for viewing on Netflix. Pollan explores the power of the four elements — fire, water, air, and earth — to transform the stuff of nature into delicious things to eat and drink. He charts the development of grilling with fire, cooking with liquid, baking bread and fermenting everything from cheese to beer.

Looking for more?

Food Tank is a U.S.-based non-profit organization with a focus on spotlighting environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable ways of alleviating hunger, obesity and poverty, world-wide. You’ll find a list of food advocacy films and books on their website at www.foodtank.com.

Films
foodtank.com/news/2013/09/twenty-six-films-every-food-activist-must-watch

Books
foodtank.com/news/2016/05/food-tanks-summer-2016-reading-list

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