Diet for a Dead Planet: How the Food Industry is Killing Us

By Christopher D. Cook. <I>New Press</I>. $24.95.

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Just looking at its putrescent manure-green dust jacket, it’s clear that Diet for a Dead Planet isn’t light fare. Inside, Christopher Cook lays out a far-reaching takedown of the American food industry, from factory farms to supermarkets to federal regulators. Dead Planet further explores the stomach-churning realm described by Eric Schlosser and others, where a corporate oligarchy increasingly controls our food from farm to grocery shelf, to the detriment of our health and the environment.

Cook takes a disturbing look at the food-borne bacteria that kill thousands of Americans each year and are becoming more resilient thanks to the meat industry’s addiction to antibiotics. He shows us corporate lawyers menacing a rural African American woman in her 90s for complaining about a giant hog farm. (“We will ask the court to put you in prison,” they write in a cease-and-desist letter.) Cook also investigates how supermarket chains shake down food producers for kickbacks called “slotting fees” that can run into the millions of dollars and effectively keep small or independent food producers off the shelves. (Eliot Spitzer, where are you?)

If Cook sees some glimmers of hope in the upsurge of community gardening and the organics movement, he has some grim predictions here, too. As “natural” foods become more lucrative, they risk getting sucked into the machine, becoming just another offering in the “corporate cornucopia.”

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest