Raw Deal: Hidden Corruption, Corporate Greed, and the Fight for the Future of Meat

Image of Raw Deal: Hidden Corruption, Corporate Greed, and the Fight for the Future of Meat
Release Date: 
December 6, 2022
Atria Books
Reviewed by: 

Wow, Sorvino’s Raw Deal is about as depressing as they come. “They” being critiques/exposés of the food industry systems in the US. This one is relentless. But not very original. Unless adding even more rotten cases to the steaming dung heap of social outrage is considered originality.

Section one covers a multitude of industrial food sins in a watered-down history lesson of sorts explaining how the heck America got itself into this mess of mono-crop megalith monopolies that rub shoulders with the US government and legal systems. To say that it was all built on scandal, blackmail, bribery, and international espionage would not be too far off.

We’re talking a trillion-dollar industry to feed the 332 million people in our country every day. From soil, to seeds, to crop growing, to harvesting, slaughtering, distribution, preservation, packaging, product development, and the location of all of these endeavors, which incidentally are all run by people—the very ones who will be hungry after a long day of literally slave-like labor conditions. Money rolls around this system in droves, just not necessarily to the folks that would make one’s heart warm and fuzzy knowing they got just a bit higher up on the socio-economic food chain.

Sorvino’s solution to rampant corruption? Just don’t let anything get too big. She plucks out a few small operators as examples of optimal size and the “correct” business model that all late-capitalist companies should be modeled after if they care about accelerating the changes that are needed in this systemic crisis. Not a few thoughts later, she admits that this is a tall order and not enough to produce anything substantial. The truth of the matter is that the megalith monopolies have to divest themselves voluntarily into her ideal model. Change coming from the top? Or change coming from the bottom? Or change from everything in the middle of this gigantic system? She seems to call for change from every which way and them shreds them for trying.

Section two confuses things even more in three short chapters. Climate change, antibiotics, and meat accessibility are added to the discussion. The climate change section in particular is more of an offbeat discussion on soil quality and determining how much meat production is enough given that the amount of waste every year could feed all the famine-stricken locations around the world. More efficient and effective care of the land is in order, not necessarily more toxins and chemicals. Or just stop eating meat altogether.

Speaking of not eating meat, Section Three pulls meat alternatives into the final basket of dung-heap worthy ideas. Starting with a revisit of the “Climate Crisis” tag line, she again skirts into it by way of non-climate related topics: free range bison meat and the largest landowners in the system who all happen to be private billionaires, or otherwise untouchably powerful people.

Next in the line of fire, Sorvino jumps off from free range bison meat to genetic chickens, IPO fundraisers dumping obscene amounts of money into synthetic protein burger research and development, meatless meat sources, and 3D printing of steaks. She covers a bit about NASA creating Air Protein systems designed to convert carbon dioxide into a nutritious organism. And, not to be forgotten in this long stream of alternatives, mycoproteins—single-celled proteins from fungus.

All of these lab-grown proteins, which she covers here, in full disclosure and blatantly non-journalistic, Sorvino admits, she is not a fan of any of it—her opinions run more rampant than the slaughterhouse chickens with their heads cut off. These “foods” will not be on her table any time soon. She even discusses the facts that conclude that these non-meat protein alternatives are even more harmful to the earth than our traditional sources. The “raw deal” in this case is that the R&D dollars are being used to fund pointless and harmful endeavors that don’t solve any of the food system problems. This is money that is, in zero-sum fashion, not being put to better use elsewhere.

Her final call to righteous arms: Eat, “food that actively works to build stronger and healthier communities, with workers who are treated justly and have a seat at the table . . . it’s produced sustainably, with minimal inputs . . . that replenishes soils and encourages biodiversity, without leaving behind waste and water pollution. This definition should exist at all ends of the supply chain, from ranch to slaughterhouse to distributor to retailer.”

Sorvino rants from the top of her millennial soapbox about absolutely everything that has been wrong with food production and distribution for decades as if we didn’t know any of this until now. In a bit of a twist, she also rants about how ineffective various “solutions” are and why it’s all a waste of time, which we don’t have much left of to waste. Basically this is a hurry up and worry book. Raw Deal simply complains that no one who matters to her is benefitting from anything in the food systems that are in place. Workers and the planet are all getting a raw deal, everything requires Herculean efforts, and eaters are ending up with a lot of tasteless food stuff void of quality nutrition.

The raw deal is that so much needs to change it’s not even funny, actually it’s nauseating. Ultimately, how Sorvino personally eats, shops, cooks, and experiences food, is the “best” right way to go about solving this vast complex problem for our entire country. If we could all be a little bit more like her and care enough to do some good while selectively eating a hamburger, things would get better soon.