The best books on the future of food

Richard Munson Author Of Tech to Table: 25 Innovators Reimagining Food
By Richard Munson

Who am I?

Innovators long have fascinated me. I helped launch a clean-energy startup and advance legislation promoting environmental entrepreneurs. I’ve written biographies of Nikola Tesla (who gave us electric motors, radio, and remote controls) Jacques Cousteau (inventor of the Aqua Lung and master of undersea filming) and George Fabyan (pioneer of modern cryptography and acoustics), as well as a history of electricity (From Edison to Enron). I love reading (and writing) about ingenious and industrious individuals striving to achieve their dreams. 

I wrote...

Tech to Table: 25 Innovators Reimagining Food

By Richard Munson,

Book cover of Tech to Table: 25 Innovators Reimagining Food

What is my book about?

Imagine eating a burger grown in a laboratory, a strawberry picked by a robot or a pastry created with a 3D printer. You would never taste the difference, but these technologies might just save your health and the planet’s. Today, landmark advances in sensors, computing, and engineering are driving solutions to the biggest problems created by industrialized food. Reinvention is desperately needed. Pollution, climate change, animal cruelty, hunger, and obesity have festered under Big Ag, and despite decades of effort, organic farming accounts for less than 1 percent of U.S. croplands.

My book offers profiles of 25 food and farm innovations, including supplements that lower the methane in cattle belches, drones that monitor irrigation levels in crops, urban warehouses that grow produce year-round without poisonous herbicides, and more. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Fate of Food: What We'll Eat in a Bigger, Hotter, Smarter World

Why did I love this book?

What’s not to enjoy about a behind-the-scenes tour of an Army research center that takes increasingly detailed biometric data and devises ways to print, on-demand meals that meet that soldier’s total nutrient requirements. The Natick, Massachusetts, lab is only one of the captivating stops on Little’s worldwide search for food innovations. I particularly enjoyed her descriptions of remote-controlled robots in Shanghai and vertical farms growing greens in shipping containers. While most environmentalists ignore farms and food, Little highlights the truth—that “ag contributes more than any other sector, including energy and transportation, to climate change.”

By Amanda Little,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Fate of Food as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


In the fascinating story of the sustainable food revolution, an environmental journalist and professor asks the question: Is the future of food looking bleak—or better than ever?
“In The Fate of Food, Amanda Little takes us on a tour of the future. The journey is scary, exciting, and, ultimately, encouraging.”—Elizabeth Kolbert, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Sixth Extinction

Climate models show that global crop production will decline every decade for the rest of this century due to drought, heat, and flooding. Water supplies are in jeopardy. Meanwhile, the world’s population is expected to…

Book cover of Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman: Conservation Heroes of the American Heartland

Why did I love this book?

I was inspired by Horn’s observation that many of the men and women doing today’s most consequential environmental work would not call themselves environmentalists. Debunking the pervasive myths that conservation innovators must be bicoastal, political activists, Horn profiles a Montana rancher, a Kansas farmer, a Mississippi riverman, a Louisiana shrimper, and a Gulf fisherman—all stewards of the land offering creative ways to restore soils and protect wildlife.

By Miriam Horn,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Kirkus Best Book of 2016

Many of the men and women doing today's most consequential environmental work-restoring America's grasslands, wildlife, soil, rivers, wetlands, and oceans-would not call themselves environmentalists; they would be too uneasy with the connotations of that word. What drives them is their deep love of the land: the iconic terrain where explorers and cowboys, pioneers and riverboat captains forged the American identity. They feel a moral responsibility to preserve this heritage and natural wealth, to ensure that their families and communities will continue to thrive.

Unfolding as a journey down the Mississippi River, Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman…

Book cover of Cowed: The Hidden Impact of 93 Million Cows on America’s Health, Economy, Politics, Culture, and Environment

Why did I love this book?

When it comes to discussions about meat, wouldn’t you like something balanced rather than strident? Denis and Gail Hayes offer a well-researched and well-written look at the role of cows in our history and diets. The book’s appeal is that it is both too radical for most cowboys (except the couple hundred ranchers actually doing it right) and too honest about the important role animal protein played in human evolution for the vegans. Cowed also delivers an array of quotable facts, such as “Eating a pound of beef has a greater climate impact than burning a gallon of gasoline.” 

By Denis Hayes, Gail Boyer Hayes,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cowed as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Cowed, globally recognized environmentalists Denis and Gail Boyer Hayes offer a revealing analysis of how our beneficial, centuries-old relationship with bovines has evolved into one that now endangers us.

Long ago, cows provided food and labor to settlers taming the wild frontier and helped the loggers, ranchers, and farmers who shaped the country's landscape. Our society is built on the backs of bovines who indelibly stamped our culture, politics, and economics. But our national herd has doubled in size over the past hundred years to 93 million, with devastating consequences for the country's soil and water. Our love affair…

Book cover of Clean Meat: How Growing Meat Without Animals Will Revolutionize Dinner and the World

Why did I love this book?

I first “met” Shapiro during one of his fascinating TEDx presentations. His book only adds to my fascination with the race among entrepreneurs to create and commercialize cleaner, safer, sustainable meat—without slaughtering animals. Shapiro offers a front-row seat to that race to create enough food for the world’s ever-growing, ever-hungry population. Meet the innovators offering clean meat—real, actual meat grown (or brewed) from animal cells. 

By Paul Shapiro,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Clean Meat as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Paul Shapiro gives you a front-row seat for the wild story of the race to create and commercialize cleaner, safer, sustainable meat—real meat—without the animals. From the entrepreneurial visionaries to the scientists’ workshops to the big business board­rooms—Shapiro details that quest for clean meat and other animal products and examines the debate raging around it.

Since the dawn of Homo sapiens some quarter million years ago, animals have satiated our species’ desire for meat. But with a growing global popula­tion and demand for meat, eggs, dairy, leather, and more, raising such massive numbers of farm animals is woefully inefficient and…

Book cover of Billion Dollar Burger: Inside Big Tech's Race for the Future of Food

Why did I love this book?

Here’s another engaging tale of the entrepreneurs and renegades fighting to bring lab-grown, cell-cultured meat to the world. I appreciated Purdy’s description of this competition as an “edible space race,” and unlike my other highlighted book, Billion Dollar Burger highlights the “difficult regulatory landscape” concocted by Big Meat lobbyists trying to keep protein alternatives off the shelves. He outlines ways to overcome that opposition and create healthier, more sustainable, and more humane food options.

By Chase Purdy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Billion Dollar Burger as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A fast-paced, gripping insider account of the entrepreneurs and renegades racing to bring lab-grown meat to the world.

The trillion-dollar meat industry is one of our greatest environmental hazards; it pollutes more than all the world's fossil-fuel-powered cars. Global animal agriculture is responsible for deforestation, soil erosion and more emissions than air travel, paper mills and coal mining combined. It also depends on the slaughter of more than 60 billion animals per year, a number that is only increasing as the global appetite for meat swells. The whole world seems to be sleepwalking into a food crisis.

But a band…

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