The food system is one of the most successful, innovative and destructive industries on earth. It feeds us, but it is also killing us.

  • Diet-related disease is by far the biggest cause of avoidable illness and death in the developed world – much bigger than smoking.
  • In 1950, just 1% of the UK population was obese. Today, that figure stands at 28%.
  • By 2035, the NHS is projected to spend more on treating type 2 diabetes –
    just one of the conditions caused by bad diet – than it does on all cancers today.
  • The British eat more ultra-processed food than any other nation: it accounts for 57% of our diet.
  • A 10% increase in ultra-processed foods in a person’s diet is correlated with a 12% increase in cancers, 21% in depressive symptoms and 12% in cardiovascular disease.
  • The food system is also destroying our planet. It is the second biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, after the fuel industry, and the primary cause of deforestation, freshwater pollution and biodiversity collapse.
  • Agriculture uses 70% of all the freshwater on Earth.
  • 85% of the farmland that feeds the UK is used for rearing livestock for meat.
  • The combined weight of animals bred for food is now twice the weight of all humans.
  • None of this is inevitable. A better food system is within our grasp.
  • Health, food sustainability and enrivonmental impact are all interlinked
  • RAVENOUS tells us, in a thoroughly researched, entertaining and optimistic way, what we need to do to fix the food system

All of us must eat to live. This means that every one of us is dependent on – and part of – the food system. Yet very few of us really understand how that system works.

Henry Dimbleby does. The co-founder of Leon restaurants, he was until recently the lead non-executive director of Defra. His government-commissioned National Food Strategy – the most comprehensive review of the UK’s food system for more than 70 years – has been described by Prue Leith as “the best government document that’s ever come out”.

In Ravenous, he takes us on a guided tour of the food system, explaining everything from the hormones that regulate our appetite to the true contents of an egg sandwich. He shows us round a beef abattoir, takes us behind the scenes during the pandemic as retailers and politicians scramble to get food onto the shelves, unpicks the destructive economics of the industrial farming model, explains why cow burps are so dangerous, and tests the futuristic meat alternatives that may help us combat climate change.

Perhaps most importantly, Dimbleby demonstrates that we don’t have to remain trapped in this dysfunctional system. He shows us how we can change the way we grow, sell and consume food, so that it no longer makes us, or our planet, sick.

Jemima Lewis is a weekly columnist for the Telegraph, and the former editor of the Week.

To purchase Ravenous:
Amazon ;  Waterstones ;

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