Barons: Money, Power, and the Corruption of America’s Food Industry by Austin Frerick is a factual account detailing the who, what, how, when, and why of the US food industry becoming sordid. He chose sevenBarons “robber barons” who control parts of our food production system (hogs, grains, coffee, dairy, berries, slaughterhouses, and grocery stores) to elucidate what the American food system has become. In the tradition of Upton Sinclair and Gail Eisnitz, Frerick provides a well-researched and clear view of what has happened — and is still happening— in our country. Importantly, Frerick also includes potential solutions.

This book is an easy and enjoyable read, except for the content. Frerick shows a knack for explaining the ongoing detrimental ramifications of the consolidation in our food system in clear, easily understandable terms. He removes the artificial distance between our food system, what we eat, and ourselves so one can relate, personally, to the damage being effected upon us: damage to our health, our pocketbooks, and our environment.

Frerick states that his “vision for the American system is simple. It’s one in which any American can sit down in a locally owned restaurant or go to a neighborhood grocery store and buy affordable, local food that was grown, picked, processed, transported, cooked, and served by folks earning a fair wage.” Barons makes incontrovertible arguments to support his vision and offers viable solutions to achieve this vision. This book should be required reading for anyone who buys their food.


Book review by Rich Wallick