Food Routes: Growing Bananas in Iceland and Other Tales from the Logistics of Eating
By Robyn Metcalfe
Published in March 2019
Thibault’s Score: 3/5
I would describe Food Routes as a great recap of the major news headlines from 2010 - 2019 about how food supply chains are changing.
First things first: the most disappointing part of this book is that it doesn’t even talk about growing bananas in Iceland! The author briefly mentions that Iceland tried to grow bananas in a single sentence and then never revisits it.
You will not get a basic introduction to food supply chains by reading this book. What you will get is a broad overview of the new technologies reshaping the space, and a good explanation as to why food supply chains are vitally important to the survival of human civilization.
Metcalfe outlines two futures. One where technology leads to evolutionary growth. Where current systems still exist but do so much more efficiently - augmented by self-driving trucks, digital tracking, the blockchain, etc… The other future is one of revolution, where fundamental paradigms are overturned. People are no longer concerned with the traditional trappings of quality food - instead they turn away from animal based proteins, embrace soilless vertical farming, and eat genetically engineered lab grown food.
If anything, this book is chilling. The unforeseen consequences of dietary “monocropping” could be huge - the health implications alone could be devastating. For example, when sugar was introduced into the American diet in the 1950s, most poor people still went hungry. Now, obesity is endemic, especially among the urban poor. CRISPR edited foods, lab grown proteins, and other radical innovations all show promise. The risk comes from government regulators forcing everyone everywhere to adopt the technology.
My main criticism about this book is that it is vague. Instead of explaining each individual technology, it jumps around too much. It has incredible width but very little depth. This book feels like it was written by someone with extreme ADHD.
Overall, I give this book a lukewarm recommendation for supply chain nerds and professionals who want to catch up on current trends. This book has a short expiration date. It will be irrelevant by 2022 or 2023. Reading this post-pandemic already makes me feel like a lot of the information is out of date.
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