You Eat What You Are

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(Photo: dailyjoe)

Season 3, Episode 2

Americans are in the midst of a food paradox: we have access to more and better and cheaper food than ever before but at the same time, we are surrounded by junk food and a rise in obesity and heart disease.  In this hour-long episode of Freakonomics Radio, host Stephen Dubner talks about our massive but balky food network with economist Tyler Cowen, who argues that agribusiness and commercialization are not nearly the villains that your foodie friends might have you think. We also hear from food author/philosopher Michael Pollan, who weighs in on a number of food topics and urges, along with chef Alice Waters, a renewed appreciation for the American farmer.  

This episode also explores whether eating local is as good for the environment as we’d like to think. We check in on Santa Barbara County, Calif., one of the top agriculture-producing counties in the U.S. — which nevertheless imports nearly all of the produce it eats. And we run the numbers on how much carbon emission is generated by shipping food around the country (or the world).  Finally, we ask whether there is a moral upside to eating food grown far away, and we offer some unconventional advice for people trying to help the Earth a little bit with every meal.

This episode is a compilation of two earlier podcasts: You Eat What You Are, Part 1 and Part 2.


Along the lines of calculating carbon emissions due to the transport of foods has anyone run the numbers on the emissions that actually occur in generating power to charge electric automobiles? I find the commercial which begins with people powering up things such as PC's and toasters, etc. -(electrical apparati - which when turned on emit large plumes of smoke. The commercial then goes to a hybrid(?) car that supposedly runs with no emissions. Am I the only one that sees the irony there?

Boris Seymour

It is always interesting that there is never a discussion of flavor in locally grown and fresh food versus that which is produced industrially in other places at great distances from the consumption point. These news pieces are always technocratic and social scientific in approach. It is easy to quantify, but not so easy to qualify in a subjective, but concise manner. Taste is of the essence once you are not starving. In any other country other than the US, the taste of good food would have been a component of the piece.
If you are not paying attention to what you eat, you are living a diminished life.