Food Routes

Food Routes

Growing Bananas in Iceland and Other Tales from the Logistics of Eating

By Robyn Metcalfe

Finding opportunities for innovation on the path between farmer and table.





Finding opportunities for innovation on the path between farmer and table.

Even if we think we know a lot about good and healthy food—even if we buy organic, believe in slow food, and read Eater—we probably don't know much about how food gets to the table. What happens between the farm and the kitchen? Why are all avocados from Mexico? Why does a restaurant in Maine order lamb from New Zealand? In Food Routes, Robyn Metcalfe explores an often-overlooked aspect of the global food system: how food moves from producer to consumer. She finds that the food supply chain is adapting to our increasingly complex demands for both personalization and convenience—but, she says, it won't be an easy ride.

Networked, digital tools will improve the food system but will also challenge our relationship to food in anxiety-provoking ways. It might not be easy to transfer our affections from verdant fields of organic tomatoes to high-rise greenhouses tended by robots. And yet, argues Metcalfe—a cautious technology optimist—technological advances offer opportunities for innovations that can get better food to more people in an increasingly urbanized world.

Metcalfe follows a slice of New York pizza and a club sandwich through the food supply chain; considers local foods, global foods, and food deserts; investigates the processing, packaging, and storage of food; explores the transportation networks that connect farm to plate; and explains how food can be tracked using sensors and the Internet of Things. Future food may be engineered, networked, and nearly independent of crops grown in fields. New technologies can make the food system more efficient—but at what cost to our traditionally close relationship with food?


$24.95 T ISBN: 9780262039659 208 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


$16.95 T ISBN: 9780262539524 208 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


  • Many books have been written about food's ability to transform and transport in a metaphorical sense. Food historian and futurist Robyn Metcalfe tells a different kind of story. She focuses on the literal transformation and transportation of food and how that affects our lives. In her new book, Metcalfe takes a detailed look at behind-the-scenes issues of the food supply chain: how food is grown, processed, transported, and consumed. Metcalfe examines how these processes are being changed by technology and their impact on how we eat today and in the future

    the Boston Globe

  • This is a book about a hidden side of food, not exactly how it is produced, far less consumed, but about how it is managed “between farm and plate”. It's a neglected story, but a vital one with huge commercial and social implications.


  • Robyn Metcalfe's 'Food Routes' argues for total reinvention through technology: with big data's marriage to Big Food, technology companies and engineers will soon take over from farmers to produce what we eat.


  • After reading this book, it will be impossible to look at a slice of pizza, or a banana, the same way again.

    Civil Eats


  • Food Routes is an intriguing look at where our food does (and doesn't) come from, where it will and should, and why tech is not a panacea.

    Mark Bittman

    author of How to Cook Everything

  • A fresh, eye-opening analysis of the logistics of getting food from farm gates to consumers' plates. Metcalfe's on-the-ground research in Asia, Europe, and the Americas brings a welcome dose of reality to the often-sloganeering world of food politics.

    Rachel Laudan

    Senior Research Fellow in the Institute for Historical Studies, University of Texas at Austin; author of Cuisine and Empire: Cooking in World History