Sustainable Dish Podcast

Take a look at the list of ingredients on the back of almost any ultra-processed packaged food and you are likely to find palm oil or its derivatives as an ingredient. Its presence is just as ubiquitous in cosmetics and personal care products. 

The consequences of the excessive use of palm oil are far-reaching and impact more than just our health. In this episode, my co-host James Connolly is talking with Jocelyn Zuckerman, author of Planet Palm:  How Palm Oil Ended Up in Everything - and Endangered the World.

Jocelyn and James dive deep into the history of the palm oil industry and how it came to be in everything, exploring the devastation of natural habitats, corporate corruption, and how many of these practices continue today.

Join them in this enlightening conversation as they discuss:

-Jocelyn’s connection to Nina Teicholz and her inspiration for the book

-The effect of land grabs in Africa in the aftermath of the 2008 economic crisis

-How Liberia was founded and the palm oil industry there

-The brief summary of Unilever’s violent past from Sunlight Soap to enslaving native populations 

-How the palm oil trade replaced the slave trade after it was outlawed in 1807

-How growing palm oil trees started as a way to alleviate poverty

-The processing oil palm and stats on palm oil usage

-Major brands that use a lot of palm oil

-The perspective of poachers

-The connection between what’s happening in the palm oil industry with other commodity industries

-Tragic stories of modern-day slavery in the agriculture industry

-The current practice of using prisoners as farmworkers and the effect it has on prison sentences 

While topics like this can seem overwhelming and discouraging, I encourage my listeners to see the links below for ways you can find out more and take action.


Books & Articles:

The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat, and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet by Nina Teicholz

Selections of Jocelyn’s articles in Gourmet Magazine here, here, & here

Selections of Jocelyn’s articles in On Earth Magazine here, here, & here

Lord Leverhulme's Ghosts: Colonial Exploitation in the Congo by Jules Marchal

The World for Sale by Javier Blas & Jack Farchy

Merchants of Grain by Dan Morgan

The Secret Life of Groceries: The Darkside of the American Supermarket by Benjamin Lorr

The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together by Heather McGee

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

The Warmth of Other Suns and Caste by Isabel Wilkerson

How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue

Black Boy and The Man Who Lived Underground by Richard Wright

Articles on prisoners used as farm labor here and here

Websites for Info & Action:

National Resources Defence Council

Chain Reaction Research

Mighty Earth


Rainforest Action Network

No White Saviors


Other Resources:

Natural Habitats Palm Oil

James’s podcast with Benjamin Lorr: Sustainable Dish Episode 127

Behind the Bastards Podcast


Connect with [Guest]:

Website: Jocelyn Zuckerman

Instagram: @jocelynzuck

LinkedIn: Jocelyn Zuckerman

Twitter: @jocelynzuck


Episode Credits:

Thank you to all who’ve made this show possible. Our hosts are Diana Rodgers, Lauren Manning, and James Connelly. Our producer is Meg Chatham, and our editor is Emily Soape. And of course, we are grateful for our sponsors, Patreon supporters, and listeners.

Direct download: Episode_166_Jocelyn_Zuckerman.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:16pm EST