You may not be aware of this – not consciously, at least – but you do not control what you eat. Every mouthful you take is informed by the subtle tweaking and nudging of a vast, complex, global system: one so intimately woven into everyday life that you hardly even know it's there.
The food system is no longer simply a means of sustenance. It is one of the most successful, most innovative and most destructive industries on earth. It sustains us, but it is also killing us. Diet-related disease is now the biggest cause of preventable illness and death in the developed world – far worse than smoking. The environmental damage done by the food system is also changing climate patterns and degrading the earth, risking our food security.
Few people know the workings of the food system better than Henry Dimbleby, co-founder of the Leon restaurant chain, government adviser and author of the radical National Food Strategy. In Ravenous, he takes us behind the scenes to reveal the mechanisms that act together to shape the modern diet – and therefore the world. He explains not just why the food system is leading us into disaster, but what can be done about it.
Henry Dimbleby is the co-founder of LEON, and the Director of The Sustainable Restaurant Association, which runs some of London's most successful street food markets. His work with DEFRA culminated in the National Food Strategy – a policy proposal widely praised by industry wide figures such as Yotam Ottolenghi and Sir Partha Dasgupta. In 2013 he co-authored The School Food Plan, which set out actions to transform what children eat in schools and how they learn about food.
"Shocking [...] a highly readable account of what needs to be happen in order for us to both save the planet and fit into those old jeans again [...] Dimbleby promises to show us how the crisis can be averted. [Ravenous] delivers on that promise"
"A call not only for a healthier food system, but for a more sustainable one"
– The Times
"Fascinating [...] comprehensive and concise [...] a clear, reasoned and meticulously footnoted argument for a coherent food policy"
"A rallying call for radical change, both passionate and meticulously researched"
"An unputdownable, fast-paced, cracking good read [...] there's absolutely no doubt in my mind that Henry Dimbleby's book Ravenous could change the world, or at any rate the UK"
– Prue Leith, Guardian
"[Ravenous] sets out how we can escape from the system we're trapped within which means that currently 60 per cent of adults in the UK are obese, with the number estimated to rise to 80 per cent by 2060."
– i Paper
"Gripping [...] the scope of [Ravenous] is huge – climate change, the health crisis our diet has created, environmental damage wrought by intensive agriculture, damage done to the land, to rivers and to biodiversity [...] accessible, fascinating, grim but not entirely without hope"
– India Knight, The Times
"Dimbleby is absolutely spitting feathers at the government's failure to confront the realities of our food system"
"Sobering [...] forceful [...] with his experience as a food-system insider, Dimbleby is able to take us behind the scenes and show us how the mechanisms stretching across the vast supply chains of the food system act together to make us eat what we eat"
– Dan Saladino, Literary Review
"Food may well be one of the fundamental necessities of life, but our relationship with it is threatening not just our own lives but that of the planet. Fortunately, Henry Dimbleby knows how to get us back in shape"
– Men's Health
"If you think it's your fault you sometimes eat badly, think again. A powerful, engaging and urgent mandate for fixing our broken food system"
– Thomasina Miers
"A brilliant readable guide on how to reverse our food, obesity and climate crisis – a must-read"
– Tim Spector
"Ravenous is a revelation: a fast-paced, entertaining and often jaw-dropping guide to the modern food system, why it is putting us all in danger, and how we can escape its clutches"
– Andi Oliver, Chef and Broadcaster
"A brilliant, rigorous, masterful work, that opens our minds to some of the most important of all issues"
– George Monbiot, author of Regenesis
"Food should be a source of joy, but the way we eat is leading us into disaster. This is a delicious, highly digestible guide to building a better food system, for the sake of our bodies and our planet."
– Prue Leith
"We need a food revolution to ensure children don't go hungry, eat right, and reach their potential. Ravenous is a truly important book"
– Tom Kerridge
"An important read that will change the way we look at food – for the better!"
– Jamie Oliver
"A fascinating if sobering look at the modern food system and its many shortcomings"
– Irish Independent
"A critical investigation into the global food industry"
– Farmer's Guardian
"Henry Dimbleby's latest book must be one of the most exhaustively researched works of all time – certainly when it comes to the food industry."
– The Grocer
"The complex truth behind the global food system"
– Living North
"Henry Dimbleby calls for a rethink about how food is produced and consumed for the benefit of our health and the planet"
– Waitrose Weekend
"Emerging from Dimbleby's work on food supply chains during the pandemic, Ravenous explores the structures of the global food system and how environmental, health and nutritional concerns can harmoniously coexist"
– 'The Books to Read in 2023', Financial Times
"The author of the National Food Strategy and founder of Leon reveals the eye-opening truth about how our food systems shape the modern diet and the planet – and, crucially, what we can do about it"
– 'The Best New Books in March', i Paper
"What we eat is damaging not only our personal health, but societal and environmental health too – a triple whammy. This book provides not only a compelling diagnosis of the damage being done by our current food eco-system, but a brilliant prescription of how a different food strategy could transform our personal, societal and environmental health. Economists like me often say that, in public policy, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Henry Dimbleby's book provides not only a free lunch for the nation, but a healthy one"
– Andy Haldane, former chief economist of the Bank of England
"Our food system lies in the centre of huge 21st century challenges, including global heating, mass extinction and public health. If we are to navigate these monster threats to civilisation then we need to move beyond our obsession with cheap food and illusory concepts of food security to embrace a genuinely sustainable food system. Shifting such a complex system isn't easy, but it is vital. Through the pages of Ravenous, Henry Dimbleby sets out with great clarity the why and how of the transition we must make"
– Tony Juniper CBE, Chair of Natural England