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The Omnivore’s Dilemma: Book Report!

August 04, 2009 | 3 Minute Read


I just finished reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. While it took some time for me to read through all 411 pages, it was a really enjoyable experience. From my library account page, I can see I renewed the book 5 times!

The Omnivore’s Dilemma basically states that there is something really wrong with the way that America is eating. This is probably already very apparent by the amount of obesity, diabetes and eating disorders that we all hear about on the news. But besides the insane portion sizes and amounts of sugar, there’s also something horribly strange about the way our food is produced. Pollan takes a journalistic approach to get to the bottom of the issue, following the trail of corn to his McDonald’s meal, the life of his CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) steer, a meal cooked on a “sustainable” farm and his own “perfect meal” that was created solely by himself via foraging and hunting.

As a vegetarian, I’ve always been pretty picky about my food. After living on my own and making my own decisions on grocery shopping, I tried to further educate myself on what to eat and what not to eat. Typically, I follow some general rules (sugar is better than corn syrup, organic is better than non-organic) but I couldn’t say I knew the reasoning behind them. That’s the way, Pollan argues, that most of America regards food. He finds it funny that people care more about the person fixing their car than the person producing their food. While an automobile’s upkeep is pretty important, isn’t our health just as important?

The book is pretty huge, and there’s really no point in me going through it, writing about the whole thing. There are a few things that I really appreciated about it. For one, it confirms my decision not to eat meat. CAFOs are pretty horrible in terms of causing suffering for animals. They’re also really bad for the environment. I also think it’s healthier to abstain from eating hormone-laced animals. From a great number of viewpoints, it makes sense to not eat mass-produced meat. I simply take it a step further and rule out all meat. Pollan argues that animals evolved with humans to be eaten by them. After all, many animals in nature are carnivorous. While I agree with that, I think that on a personal level, I’d rather not have that blood on my hands if I can help it. In that regard, I think I’m lucky to be living in a society where it’s possible to choose to not eat meat and still be healthy.

Another interesting idea is that in order to produce the huge amounts of corn needed to make all kinds of food items, farmers need to use synthetic fertilizers. These fertilizers are created using fossil fuels. So in order to grow corn, we’re using oil. It makes me wonder how efficient the ethanol from corn that fuels cars really is. So not only is the corn that we put into our food not necessarily natural and healthy, it’s also depleting our fossil fuels and polluting the environment. It seems so ironic, but I guess that’s what the government wants to spend money subsidizing.

I think I’ve already written a lot about this book. Really, it’s a good read and everyone who eats should take a look at it. But you don’t have to take my word for it! [audio:rr.mp3]