Omnivore's Dilemma

 
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"What should we have for dinner?" To one degree or another this simple question assails any creature faced with a wide choice of things to eat. Anthropologists call it the omnivore's dilemma. Choosing from among the countless potential foods nature offers, humans have had to learn what is safe, and what isn't which mushrooms should be avoided, for example, and which berries we can enjoy. Today, as America confronts what can only be described as a national eating disorder, the omnivore's dilemma has returned with an atavistic vengeance. The cornucopia of the modern American supermarket and fast-food outlet has thrown us back on a bewildering landscape where we once again have to worry about which of those tasty-looking morsels might kill us. At the same time we're realizing that our food choices also have profound implications for the health of our environment. The Omnivore's Dilemma is bestselling author Michael Pollan's brilliant and eye-opening exploration of these little-known but vitally important dimensions of eating in America. Pollan has divided The Omnivore's Dilemma into three parts, one for each of the food chains that sustain us: industrialized food, alternative or "organic" food, and food people obtain by dint of their own hunting, gathering, or gardening. Pollan follows each food chain literally from the ground up to the table, emphasizing our dynamic coevolutionary relationship with the species we depend on. He concludes each section by sitting down to a meal at McDonald's, at home with his family sharing a dinner from Whole Foods, and in a revolutionary "beyond organic" farm in Virginia. For each meal he traces the provenance of everything consumed, revealing the hidden components we unwittingly ingest and explaining how our taste for particular foods reflects our environmental and biological inheritance.We are indeed what we eat-and what we eat remakes the world. A society of voracious and increasingly confused omnivores, we are just beginning to recognize the profound consequences of the simplest everyday food choices, both for ourselves and for the natural world. The Omnivore's Dilemma is a long-overdue book and one that will become known for bringing a completely fresh perspective to a question as ordinary and yet momentous as What shall we have for dinner? A few facts and figures from The Omnivore's Dilemma:Of the 38 ingredients it takes to make a McNugget, there are at least 13 that are derived from corn. 45 different menu items at Mcdonald's are made from corn. One in every three American children eats fast food every day.One in every five American meals today is eaten in the car. The food industry burns nearly a fifth of all the petroleum consumed in the United States - more than we burn with our cars and more than any other industry consumes. It takes ten calories of fossil fuel energy to deliver one calorie of food energy to an American plate. A single strawberry contains about five calories. To get that strawberry from a field in California to a plate on the east coast requires 435 calories of energy.Industrial fertilizer and industrial pesticides both owe their existence to the conversion of the World War II munitions industry to civilian uses nerve gases became pesticides, and ammonium nitrate explosives became nitrogen fertilizers. Because of the obesity epidemic, today's generation of children will be the first generation of Americans whose life expectancy will actually be shorter than their parents' life expectancy. In 2000 the UN reported that the number of people in the world suffering from overnutrition "a billion" exceeded for the first time in history the number suffering from undernutrition 800 million. The great food problem of our time is that there is too much of it, not too little.

Customer Reviews:

  • Pollan-ated my knowledge base
    There is so much to recommend this audio book!

    We read this last year in my book club. I didn't have time to read the book, so I listened to the audio. Excellent job! If you eat, you should read this book.

    One of the areas covered was the contribution of Nobel Laureate Fritz Haber whose work contributed to or perhaps even resulted in, the fertilizer industry. Fertilizers changed food production. You'll get insight into the policies of the Department of Agriculture and how Earl Butz changed food production in the US. It's all fascinating. ...more info
  • where does our food come and how it is pocessed by a globalifobic
    Every doctor, nutritionist and food maker should read it. This is why big companies are killing us we better buy from small stores and farms, eat right and not from a box. Eat local. Sometimes the book has too much info but read it ithis guy made his job investigating wher does our food come from...more info
  • Pollan-ated my knowledge base
    There is so much to recommend this audio book!

    We read this last year in my book club. I didn't have time to read the book, so I listened to the audio. Excellent job! If you eat, you should read this book.

    One of the areas covered was the contribution of Nobel Laureate Fritz Haber whose work contributed to or perhaps even resulted in, the fertilizer industry. Fertilizers changed food production. You'll get insight into the policies of the Department of Agriculture and how Earl Butz changed food production in the US. It's all fascinating. ...more info
  • Quit your unconscious consumption - try some excellent food for thought.
    If you are what you eat, and you are, wouldn't you like to KNOW what you are made of and WHY? Spend a little time with Michael. You might want to know more; you might decide you don't want to know but I guarantee it'll be harder to blindly waddle into the sunset with the rest of America. ...more info
  • Fascinating
    Te book contains an excellent and detailed examination of what Pollan calls "our national eating disorder."

    After reading this fascinating book, I doubt I will ever eat another Chicken McNugget or Twinkie....more info
  • Reading this might change your life -- be careful
    The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
    I have to caution you that reading this book might make you never want to eat corn-fed beef again. I won't ruin it for you, but since I read this book I can't eat anything but free-range chicken and grass-fed beef. That stuff isn't easy to find and ain't cheap to buy. So beware. Once you know what Michael Pollan explains, you can't un-know it. Or you have to suppress it with a herculean denial effort. So you've been warned.
    Having said that, I'm glad I read this book and I'm grateful to have been taught the truth. Animals deserve our respect, especially if we're going to eat them. ...more info
  • Read the Book
    Best, most illuminating book I've read in 10 years. Will change forever the the lack of effort in deciding your eating habits. It has no agenda save to educate the public as to the effects of their heretofore unconscious food decisions. A book that creates a life changing inflection point.

    Tom Goggin...more info
  • A Great Book
    This is a fantastic book. It is a fascinating subject matter that is really eye-opening about the production of food in our modern society. I will change the way I select foods based on this book. This type of book would typically lend itself to a pretty heavy-handed approach, but Mr. Pollan is a deft writer with a wonderful sense of humor, and I found myself laughing out loud as often as I found myself reading bits aloud to my husband. WOW!...more info
  • Enjoyed this book from cover to cover!
    I have been reading a lot about food and nutrition and was really fastinated with the information in this book. It is a fun read but I was kind of worried that it might be sort of one-sided politically (many on the subject seem a bit one-sided and you wonder if you are getting the full story). The book seems refreshingly objective and dispassionate to me as far as the imformation about food, etc. It was made more interesting by Michael explaining his own person journey of discovery and his thoughts, feelings and self-examinations along the way. Get your older kids to read this book and they will never look at a McDonald's meal the same way again!...more info
  • Must Read
    This book is a life changer. A must read for every American, in my opinion....more info
  • Great!
    I had a great experience with this purchase, which was a bulk quantity of books. Timely, in great condition, and appropriate packaging....more info
  • An interesting book exploring a side of agriculture that you didn't know
    As the granddaughter of a farmer, I always thought that I truly understood the world of agriculture and FDA labeling. Turns out, I was incredibly wrong. This is a well-written and entertaining read while informative and thorough. It has opened up my eyes about the realm of 'posh eatery'. I'm an avid Whole Foods and Central Market shopper, but have since learned that not only isn't it always the best option, but may not truly be what we have come to think of as 'organic.'

    It won't ruin your appetite, the author isn't spreading a great message about the culture of food. Rather, it's an explorative and entertaining journey through the world of food and nutrition. ...more info
  • What we need to know, and don't
    I heard first about this book while viewing CSpan 2 several months ago. Read this book and then his follow-up In Defense of Food: An Eater's ManifestoBoth books were eye-openers as to what we should and don't know about the omnivore's true dilemma. I'm still puzzled about "organic" but did learn to look for real food rather than all those nonfood substitutes so prevalent in our grocery stores. I'm also convinced I'll spend more to get better tasting real food from now on. I like those eggs that stand up and taste so good. Also, I'm reading labels and avoiding products with more than five ingredients where I can find them.

    The book was suggested for my local book club and we were to review it today, December l6, 2008. The Club was cancelled due to inclement weather; however, several of the Club members said we really had to discuss it. It is now scheduled for January, 2009. Oh yes, the author was on Bill Moyers program last week.

    ...more info
  • Learn what you are eating
    Human's have it pretty good. Unlike, say, the koala, which only has to consider which
    eucalyptus tree to climb in order to have yet another meal of eucalyptus leaves, humans are omnivores, able to make a meal from a variety of plants, animals, and fungi. This has, in part, allowed humans to live in all parts of the world - from the humid tropics of the jungle, to the dry, sandy deserts of the middle east, to the cold, unforgiving quiet of the frozen tundra.

    But this ease of making a meal, no matter what the environment, has turned what was once a survival advantage for our species, when humans first struggled to spread across the globe tens of thousands of years ago, into a bit of a disadvantage in an industrialized world over-populated with people and, ironically, with too much of the wrong kind of food. Overpopulation and the need to feed so many mouths has led to the industrialization of food production, transforming small family farms into large monocultures of genetically-modified cornfields and acre-sized metal sheds of captive, steroid and antibiotic-injected cows. We might have once thought this scaling up of food production to be a good thing, but is it?

    But why stop asking questions there? Just where does that McDonald's meal come from, really? Why does the U.S. grow so much corn? Why do the factory farms plant thousands of acres of corn, and only corn? And with so much corn, why does the government subsidize the factory farms to grow more of it? Is "corn-fed beef" a delicacy, or a perorative? How is Whole Foods, at the same time, different from and just like the modern factory farm? Why might Joel Salatin's Polyface Farm, in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, represent the best farm in the U.S.?

    Why indeed. And you might be surprised at the answers to each of the above questions.

    So if you have ever wondered about the food you unpackage from its plastic shrink wrap and plop into the microwave, if you have ever considered the moral hazard of eating meat - or corn, and if you have ever wanted to gather wild mushrooms, then you might want to read The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan.

    With an admirable investigative tenacity and a gift for telling a good story, Michael details how our food is grown, produced, cooked, and eaten by examining the life story behind four meals - one bought from a fast food chain, one made from items bought in an organic store, one made from foods grown and raised on a sustainable farm, and one made from foods foraged from the wild. In reading about Michael's adventures, you will discover what it takes to get the food on your table to your table, and you will likely never think about corn the same again.

    Modern humans have lost the connection to the land and the food it provides. Overweight, overpopulated, and increasingly unhealthy, Michael's look into what we eat and how it was made is perhaps the just desserts.

    (review by Kendall Giles)...more info
  • Rethinking Food
    As omnivores, this book proposes, our lives are complicated by the question of what to eat in this landscape of plentiful food. The author starts with the most common options--processed supermarket foods and fast food. Tracing these meals backward, he finds an unbelievably tangled system that urges farmers to grow vast amounts of unneeded corn at low prices that are then subsidized by the government. Getting rid of this excess of corn then becomes the driving force behind factory farms, where animals are kept in deplorable conditions and pumped with antibiotics to keep their bodies from breaking down.

    Pollan's investigation of mainstream organic farms didn't paint a much better picture, despite the assumption that organic animals are better treated.

    Moving toward smaller farms, though, Pollan finds an entirely different attitude, a respect for animals and the rhythms of nature.

    Pollan finishes off his quest with a hunter-gatherer mission, and he experiences the difficulty and satisfaction of killing and scavenging a meal from his immediate environment.

    I liked the details of this narrative, and the way the facts of factory farming were presented in a way that made the situation clear without seeming to be overly sensationalized. I also liked that Pollan discussed in detail his thoughts about vegetarianism and the reasons why he chose not to go that way, even after seeing how animals were killed and prepared.

    Before reading this book, I had a vague idea of the meat industry, of course. Reading this book clarified the situation for me, though, and made me start thinking about the sacrifices I might be willing to make in my own life and my own budget in order to eat more fresh and local foods....more info
  • eye-opening
    This book is interesting and informative without being preachy. Pollan explains the reality of industrial food and the difficulty in returning to our roots. It definitely gives one a lot to think about. It's definitely influenced the way my family perceives and buys our food....more info
  • Well Blended Research & 1st Person Narrative
    "Omnivore's Dilemma" takes the title from the concept that eating can be risky -- is that a good mushroom or will it make me sick? You have to take chances to learn about food, or find some other way to test it. Pollan follows the most common food ingredients through the chain and, ultimately, I think that what he has uncovered is that the Standard American Diet is making us sick.

    This isn't exactly news -- Pollan's story and the way he illustrates the food chain, processing and consumption patterns is engaging and moves along at a great pace. It feels more like a description of a personal journey which I think would make this very appealing to a lot of people. It's not very didactic, and there are some funny parts in there. The chapters on hunting and mushroom hunting gave me some giggles.

    Bottom line - don't eat processed food, support local farmers, even if they aren't necessarily organic (ask about "pesticide free" produce) and stop eating things that aren't food....more info
  • Richly informative!
    I've recommended this book to my friends, meat-eaters, vegetarians and vegans, and those who are into the "organic" food craze. I'm a meat-eater myself, and the best thing I was able to relate to them was that, in most cases, "organic" still means processed and industrialized. Even "free-range" chickens aren't treated any better than other industrial chickens. And from what I've gathered, those who eat "meat/protein substitutes" are filling their bodies with more processed products than a good hearty steak....more info
  • A perfect book
    As a vegetarian of 10 years, I loved this book, and it is one of the few non-fiction books that I can heartily say is perfect. Among other things, it discusses: how corn is the ultimately a major component of the modern American meal and how this monoculture approach is hurting America in direct and indirect ways; that "organic" food at Whole Foods is grown in an industrialised manner not altogether different from the stuff in a grocery store; that actual organic food actually is available and still grown by farmers (but in a manner that cannot be scaled up to the size of industrialised farms); and what it means to eat animals who have suffered.

    The entire book is well-written and compelling, with the best chapter being the author's opinion piece in Chapter 17 on the ethics of eating animals. Although I am a vegetarian myself (and no, I don't eat fish), I could not help but applaud the author's line of reasoning on how eating animals that have led a full life is a natural, and in many ways, necessary event. The author makes many good points in this chapter: (1) it's not so much that animals feel pain, but it's that they *suffer*; (2) natural predation of animals is a fact of nature -- without it there would be animal overpopulation; (3) it's better to think about the species rather than an individual animal -- killing and eating an animal is hurtful for the animal, but in a natural ecosystem, the animal's species actually benefits and lives on; and (4) in a true organic farm like the Polyface Farm, animals are killed for food, but they've lived a full life, having done the things they are wont to do ("for any animal, happiness seems to consist in the opportunity to express its creaturely character," pp. 319-320).

    The author's writing style is engaging and entertaining. The only point where the writing felt a bit long-winded was in the chapters where he spent time on Polyface Farms.

    Overall, this is an excellent book. ...more info
  • Thought-provoking, factual read
    Pollan's observational skills and his writing prowess allow the reader to understand the problems we have created in our well-intentioned attempts to provide cheap, calorie-abundant and widely available food for everyone who visits a supermarket. This is a must read for all who are concerned about the future of agriculture in the US, and that should be everybody....more info
  • Chatty Cathy
    Pollan just seems to ramble away and string together his various musings. The message of this book could have been delivered in about a quarter of the space, but apparently this kind of conversational style is what some readers prefer. Personally I found it hard to stomach....more info
  • Omnivore's Dilemma is shocking and should be a wake up call for what we feed our families and put into our own bodies
    This book is a MUST READ for all thinking people who eat food.Period. read it and judge for yourself. ...more info
  • Eye-opener/mouth-closer
    A very engaging look at the food industry. Mainly answers the questions: "What it is we're eating? Where it came from? How it found its way to our table?" But: "What should you eat?" is in the end left to you and a zillion diet books. How about just fish and vegetables? That apparently is what some Japanese mountaineers in their seventies are eating in preparation for an attempt to become the oldest people to summit Mt. Everest.
    ...more info
  • Prerequisite reading for anyone who eats.
    Very informative, well written and objective. Being born and raised on a farm in central USA I also found some of his views quite entertaining. The book is loaded with good information for anyone who wants to start eating healthier meals....more info
  • Best book on food ever
    This is the third book by Pollan I've read, each one better than the other. If you're concerned about the food you and your family are eating, read this and start to improve your lives. ...more info
  • Informative and Entertaining!
    This is such an important topic nowadays when people are eating highly processed foods and have no clue where the ingredients come from. You would think Michael Pollan is another "radical" researcher preaching about things we need to stop eating right now, but he actually writes from a quite na?ve (yet intelligent) perspective. He is someone we can almost all identify with: just a curious guy in search for answers on where our food really comes from. It is clear from the very beginning that he did a great deal of research. That combined with his charisma and honesty while describing his adventures is what makes this book so special. I liked the historical and scientific background presented in the first few chapters, but truly enjoyed the more subjective parts describing Pollan's experiences at the organic farm and later on hunting and cooking in California. This book is informative and at the same time quite entertaining! ...more info
  • Zeitgeist for Food!
    Probably the most important book about the state of food in this country, and maybe the world. Michael Pollan's calm voice is the call to tune in, wake up and choose the food you consume rather than give in to corporate and government default as we have been conditioned to do for the last 5 decades. We don't have many ways to "vote" these days except with our money. Buy and eat locally. Its a more important choice than we know. Thanks, Mr. Pollan for your informative look at how we can regain our food autonomy....more info
  • Informative
    Although the pace of the narrative faltered at times, the book was informative without being boring. I even incorporated a few lifestyle changes after reading it. Definitely a worthy read but not necessarily something you rush out to the bookstore to get. ...more info
  • Great Book
    Very interesting. It is for the person who really wants to know where our food comes from....more info
  • long-drawn-out, rambling, interminable, wordy, verbose,
    Do not, repeat, do not believe the majority of reviews about this book. I should've known better as I first read "Botany of Desire", and gave a review. I thought that book was interminable, and this is even worse. Don't get me wrong there is some information within the pages, however, it goes on and on, almost without end. I persisted till I was almost, but not quite finished, and just could no longer bear the boredom. I persevered through "The Corn", barely got through "The Grasses", and almost made it through "The Forest", but the story on Fungi got the best of me, and "The Perfect Meal" did me in. I actually put the book down and stated aloud, "enough - I can't take it anymore". Life is too short, and time too valuable to waste it on this tripe. ...more info
  • Brilliant and never dull
    Pollan is an extraordinary writer: here he takes a subject that could easily be dry as dirt and turns it into a completely absorbing, thought-provoking tour de force. Though very occasionally overwritten, this book is never boring. It will teach every reader to think twice about both the source and the true cost of the food they eat. Recommended reading for absolutely everyone; even more particularly for anyone with a real interest in food or simply in developing their social conscience....more info
  • Literally Can't Put this Book Down
    This is an amazing book. It may sound extreme, but the information in this is mindblowing.

    Not only is it extremely well written, but it explores the different sides of the same topic, giving you multiple perspectives.

    I had started reading my friend's copy on a visit, and had to order the book immediately so that I could continue reading it...and have struggled to put the book down every day since....more info
  • Great, now everybody believes in Pollan's imaginary "corn test"
    This book was well written and the author obviously put his heart, soul, and lots of research into it. But it bears the inevitable mark of a book written by a person who is a novice in the subject he is writing about. It is journalism, not research - and far from science. There is way too much sensationalism and jumping to conclusions for my taste.

    One thing that significantly annoyed me was Pollan's "wild" meal, of which nearly all the calories, except for the pork, were from store-bought, cultivated foods. He wouldn't buy one or two organic veggies to embellish a Burger King value meal and then call it an "organic" meal, so why did he do something comparable with his foraged meal?

    I was also disgusted with the elitism that he expressed again and again throughout the book. I was surprised by his blatant condescension toward Joel Salatin, which reveals a deep-seated us-and-them worldview. He comes to no conclusion, no solution, in this book, because an obvious part of the solution to a sustainable food system is that more people need to be ivolved in growing food and feeding themselves. He doesn't want to do this himself; he feels that it is beneath him, so certainly he is not going to lead the discussion to this most appropriate end place.

    An example of Pollan's poor scholarship is his discussion of a test that supposedly can tell how much corn a person is composed of. I teach about food, and have been hearing people talk about this "corn test" ever since the book came out. But there is no such test. The test he mentions can only differentiate between plants using two types of photosynthetic process: C3 and C4. Corn is a C4 plant. The test tells you how much of an organism's tissue is derived from c4 versus c3 plants. This would be a "corn test" only if corn was the only c4 plant. But there are thousands of others, and many of them are common foods. Like sugar cane. The "corn test" cannot even differentiate cane sugar from corn syrup. It also cannot differentiate grass-fed from corn-fed beef, as the grasses and forbs on many range areas, particularly in the arid west, are primarily c4. It seems that Pollan got the idea from a specific study in which archeologists sampled bones from one specific area of Mexico. The archeologists presumed that when a shift in c3/c4 ratios (toward more c4) was seen in the bones, that this represented the shift from a diet of acorns and avocadoes as staples to one of corn and amaranth as staples. If the assumptions are correct, this may be true, but the way Pollan wrote of this test was egregiously misleading. As an author read by millions, one has a respionsibility not to spread this sort of misinformation; now, due solely to his lack of either diligence or intelligence (and I'm assuming the faormer), it will permeate our culture for a generation.

    But hey, it's an entertaining read, and it generates thought. I know this review sounds very negative, but I liked the book even if parts of it made me seethe. Definitely get it, read it, and contemplate.



    ...more info
  • not so much what we eat, but WHO WE ARE
    Like any really great natural history, The Omnivore's Dilemma is not so much about what we eat, but who we are. The book has three main sections - highly-processed (corn-driven) food, local/organic food and self-caught food.

    The first part on processed food is a thoughtful expose of how culturally removed we've become from the vast majority of the food we consume - removed from its irresponsible calorie content, desensitized to the lives of the animals we consume, and out of touch with its underlying often senseless economics. Like with Morgan Spurlock's "Supersize Me", your perspective on McDonald's will be forever changed.

    The second part of local/organic food is more uplifting. Pollan shows the difficult, but also bright future, for organic and local eating. The lesson seems to be if government got out of the way of small producers, they could blossom and grow more significantly.

    The third part - hunting and foraging for one's own food - is a wonderful look at the joys and moral conflict of catching one's own food, from the perspective of doing it for the first time. Pollan's reflections on the grace of nature's bounty are thoughtful and grateful.

    The author concludes with a short meditation on what's he's discovered researching how we eat. The ending seemed terse, with much left unsaid, but is still satisfying.

    I listened to The Omnivore's Dilemma unabridged on audio CD narrated by Scott Brick. Brick gives a fine performance, confident but questioning, appropriately humble for the author's ambitious search and thoughtful reflections.

    I especially recommend this book to anyone in the food and beverage industry....more info
  • An eye opener.
    I had no idea our food industry operated this way. I thought farms operated as they did when I was growing up. The farmer planted multiple crops and raised multiple animals, and it was a synergistic compatability. Now I see an industry that is contributing to the ill health of us all, and we walk the path blindly. Read this book!...more info
  • the omnivores dilemma
    this book was in excellent condition. i will always order my books this way. so far i've ordered about ten books and have had great experiences....more info
  • HOW NOT TO EAT OURSELVES AND THE PLANET TO DEATH
    THIS IS ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS I HAVE READ THIS YEAR, AND EVERYONE SHOULD READ IT BECAUSE EACH OF US CAN HAVE AN IMPACT ON WHAT IS BEING DONE TO THE HUMAN FOOD CHAIN AND THE PLANET BY THOSE SEEKING PROFIT ABOVE HEALTH AND A SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENT. ALTHOUGH THE BOOK IS PRIMARILY CONCERNED WITH THE USA AND ITS FOOD INDUSTRY, THE SPREAD OF AMERICAN CAPITALISM AND PRODUCTION METHODS MEAN THAT ALL OF US ARE IN DANGER OF GOING DOWN THE SAME ROAD - CURRENT SMALL ATTEMPTS TO REFORM THOSE SYSTEMS NOTWITHSTANDING. ALL OF US NEED TO UNDERSTAND WHAT AUTHOR MICHAEL POLLAN IS SAYING ABOUT INDUSTRIAL AND 'ORGANIC' FOODS AND TO SUPPORT A POLYFACE APPROACH TO FOOD PRODUCTION. POLLAN'S DISCUSSION OF VEGANISM AND VEGATERIANISM ARE COGENT AND THOUGHTFUL AND WERE MOST HELPFUL TO ME IN CLARIFYING MY OWN POSITION OF THIS ISSUE. FIVE STARS....more info
  • MUST READ
    I have never wanted to share a book more! it has helped me stay on track when it comes to my health. after reading this you will never take your health for granted again....more info
  • Purchased but not available
    I was disappointed that the book was offered for purchase, but several days later, I was informed that I would reeive a refund because it was not available from the vendor. No offer was made to suggest the book from an alternate source. I had always assumed that if a book was listed, it would be available, and that the listing would be removed when there were no more to be sold....more info
  • Life Altering Read
    What a life-altering book this is! When I was living in North Dakota from 1977 to 1991, the most inflammatory obscenity that could be uttered was "Agribusiness."
    Agriculture Secretary Earl Butz seemed intent on getting rid of the "inefficient" family farm, replacing it with large megafarms, all for the production of corn to feed the gaping maw of Monsanto and Cargill. Big businesses all. Under his government plans, the family farm almost disappeared. "Get big or die!" Those who used to call themselves farmers, began to call themselves, after the government programs that impoverished them, Corn-Growers.
    Why this was the case is spelled out clearly in this insightful and well reasearched book. Pollan manages to make this narrative as objective as an academic study and as personal as a memoir. Because of this book, my family is now in a foodshare and buy all our meat from a local farmer. All the meat is pastured and organic and we may eventually even be allowed to participate in the slaughter because I am beginning to think that if you can't look the animal in the eye and kill it, you have no right to eat it.
    Okay, that may be a little extreme, but gratitude for the life of the animal was once as much a part of the "hunter" culture in America as is the current disassociation from the food source.
    What Pollan has accomplished is getting people to think about where their food comes from and reconnect even urbanites, who only see the prepackaged products in the supermarket cooler, to the actual circle of life that has sustained us from time immemorial, right up to the time when it was all corrupted by Big Agriculture which, in the name of the balance sheet, started producing food that will make us sick and fat.
    (One might argue that the same ethos caused Wall Street Corporations to get "too big to fail," and we can see where that got us. But that's another subject.)
    This book will anger you. This book will inspire you. Hopefully, this book will make you join the millions who even now are moving us back to a sustainable agriculture that is local, seasonal and more in keeping with the way Nature intended and, not coincidentally, better for the family farmers's bottom line.
    ...more info
  • Brilliant
    This book was hard to put down. I will never look at food the same way and since reading this book, will take more care in my food choices. Loaded with interesting and easy to understand information on todays food market. People must read this book! It really opened my eyes. I couldn't put the book down. The author does a remarkable job on tracing our food back to the grower. You learn so much about the farmers and about the people you NEVER hear about. Those middle men are the ones to keep an eye on...
    A definite must read....more info
  • Books I wish students would read
    As a teacher and omnivorous reader, I evaluate books in terms of "is this something I wish students would read?" (or- is the time invested worth the knowledge gained?) This one earns a qualified "yes". The qualifier is simply that many of them wouldn't read a non-fiction book of this length without a weapon pointed to their heads. But the combination of easy to understand science and personal example is exactly what can encourage students to begin learning outside of the standards-based curriculum that has come to rule education today.


    Aside from all that, why do I like this book? My mom was the original "eat your vegetables" mom. Every dinner, she said, should have at least two vegetables; one green. We lived far from the urban centers, so local produce was easy to find. I early on noticed the difference between my grandfather's tomatoes and those from the supermarket.Then I lived in New Orleans where the Whole Foods Coop was walking distance from my apartment. When I became a mom, I used a little grinder to prepare my own baby food.
    Time marches on. Now I work full time outside of the house, and am happy with myself if I manage one fruit and two veggies in a whole day to offer to the kids. But I still care about what we eat, and wish we had more viable options to our perfectly beautiful supermarket food, which I suspect to be less than "wholesome".
    Maybe with education, we can create more demand, and give more people the option to choose healthier food, and support small scale sustainable farming. I think this book a valuable contribution to that goal. ...more info
  • Omnivore's drudgery
    While this book is chocked full of information, it is a slog to read. And frankly I can't ferret out if the information is true or hype to make a point--hit over the head over and over and over again....more info
  • Thoughtful, Comprehensive Coverage of Food
    "The Omnivore's Dilemma" is an important and thoughtful book. The author, Michael Pollan [...], addresses the topics of food and eating in a unique, unobtrusive and non-judgemental manner.

    While the topics of food and eating may seem somewhat mundane, Pollan gives life and meaning to these topics such that their influence on life becomes clear in ways that I did not consider before reading this book.

    [...] I recommend this book to all readers. The engaging story which sits on top of Pollan's extensive research and historical coverage flows well.

    This book has changed the manner in which I view the politics, science, marketing and consumption of food....more info
  • Omnivore's Dilema-Moral Confusion
    I found Michael Pollan's book to be quite informative and interesting. The strength of the book was the detailing of much of the modern food chain and our dependence on but a very few staple items, namely corn and soy, to supply a very high percentage of our caloric needs. The percentage of our total caloric needs ultimately supplied by corn is quite amazing. There are many interesting facts that should make readers much more interested in a more varied diet, and making sure the food they eat is as nutritional as it should be. The weakness of the book was in Pollan's assertion that "humans invented morality", but he was in moral turmoil over the morality of killing/eating meat. If you honestly believe that matter plus time pus chance = you, it's hard to see how this turmoil emerges. Only if morality is not invented, but objective, does the issue of how we treat animals have any moral force. The author appears to reject this underlying true objective morality all the while wringing his hands over what he ought to eat, and how we treat the animals we raise conforms to a true objective morality. He obviously doesn't believe that "humans invented morality". I guess that's just the moral ambiguity you need to get on the New York Times Books of the year list. We should obviously be as kind as possible to the animals under our care, and we should, as Pollan asserts, make our food chain as transparent as possible, which would affect a positive change in that direction. The first step in trying to figure out what we should do is trying to figure out if there is anything we should do. There obviously is-but the author cannot get you there....more info
  • It Is A Dilemma
    I enjoyed another book by Pollan and also enjoyed this book, inasmuch that the subject matter can be "enjoyed." It is a distrubing look at the food industry and what is happening to us and our food sources.

    Of course some of the examples are not all encompassing and many places may not operate as described, yet there is enough information contained in this book (and news reports that we see and hear about otherwise) that yes these issues exist - the abuse of farmland and the animals that we eat.

    I am not sure if the government will ever take the proper action to regulate the food industry and try to improve our food sources nor do I expect people to become vegatarians because of reading this. But if there can be overall improvements based on thinking about these issues, then the dilemma is a worthwhile presentation....more info
  • Highly Recommended Book
    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I bought it not knowing what to expect and I was blown away. I already knew about living conditions for mass-produced animals, but this really made me think about it. He can be a bit wordy a times, and a bit flowery for me, but everything else was great. I recommend this book to people all the time. Changes need to be made to our food system and this book could open many people's eyes to that. Definitely give "The Omnivore's Dilemma" a try....more info
  • a delight to be educated through wit and prose
    What struck me most while reading this book was discovering along with the writer how little I know about where my food comes from, how it reaches me and what has been done to it along the way. Very rewarding were Pollan's sense of curiosity, courage, determination and integrity in looking at the truth of industrialized food, to pulling the trigger in the forest, hauling hay, standing knee-deep in excrement with "534", and firing up the grill for the sake of having an authentic knowledge, not just a label with a barcode. And it started to bother me that I really had no idea where my (extremely important and life-sustaining) food had come from or how much coordinated effort it took to get it to me.

    I know I will never see through the same lens when I step foot in a supermarket, grocery store, convenience store or restaurant. I will think twice about eating corn-fed meat, not for a moral repulsion to eating meat, but for a moral repulsion to the way our country obtains our meat and what they stuff our animals with before we ingest. If our industrial abattoirs cannot be humane, then perhaps we can't call our civilization civilized.

    Yes, every eater - herbivore, carnivore, omnivore - should read this book! Pollan has an honest voice and an engaging way with words....more info
  • Interesting but should have been cut by 1/3 to 1/2
    Pollan is too impressed with himself, has too much money, and too much time to indulge himself. The info is useful if there weren't so much about him and his views in it. His rambling and self-satisfied tone grew tiresome and irritating. Journalism? Not....more info
  • The highest achievement
    "The Omnivore's Dilemma," by Michael Pollan, is a thought-provoking look at the way we eat, unlike any other book out there. Pollan's devotion to producing top notch literature truly comes through in this book. He takes us all over the country--and all through our history--in search of the answer to a seemingly simple question: What's for dinner?

    Among other places, Pollan travels to a large cornfield in Iowa and a small organic farm, and to industrial feedlots and the woods of California for a hunting trip. Pollan examines every aspect of our food system, from beginning to the end, from the top to the bottom, and the inside and the out. He explores the ethics of hunting and the ethics of vegetarianism, the ethics of buying local and the ethics of buying global, and even the ethics of gathering your own foods. He examines the impact our food system is having on our health and the health of future generations, and the environmental impacts of it, both immediate and long term. He examines how our food system has became what it has, what it used to be and where it is going. But Pollan doesn't stop there. He manages to turn every stone in his mission to explain what is for dinner.

    As a highly skilled writer, Pollan has managed to produce a five-star book on every level--one that you know he worked very hard on because of the wealth of information, the places he traveled, and the amount of books that he had to read in his research. He has the devotion and skill of a top-notch journalist (which he is), the depth and reasoning of a philosopher, and the passion for the outdoor world that only a naturalist and outdoorsman could have. And his writing doesn't lack either. Pollan's style of writing is flowing and coherent and meant to be enjoyed--which is something you don't see much of in non-fiction. His writing is part narrative, part explanatory, and always easy on the eyes. You can tell that Pollan is as concerned with the quality of writing as he is with the information he gives.

    Overall, this is a five-star book in every way: journalism, science and nature writing; literature and prose; narrative and argumentative, exploratory writing and in-depth research. In the end, Pollan comes off completely non-partisan and he explores every way at looking at every issue. If anything, Pollan comes off as sympathetic and forgiving to every viewpoint--he finds the logic in industrial and small organic farming, hunting and not hunting, and vegetarianism and meat eating. This is truly a book meant for every one of us, as it applies to every one of us.
    ...more info
  • The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
    It will change the way you think about food. I will never look at a can of corn the same way....more info
  • Modern Feedlot
    This is a great book to see where your food comes from, and just how it got there.

    I would recommend for all ages from Middle School to Alzheimer's...more info
  • Wow. Just read it already.
    Everybody else here has written rapturous reviews of this book, so I'll make mine short. Read it. I usually read trashy romance novels, so it's not like I'm the normal reader for this kind of book. Wow it just sucked me in. And I think... oh God... it's turning me into one of those people. Sigh. I should just buy the Birkenstocks, white socks, and hippie skirt now. Oh well, at least my insides will be healthier.

    By the way, Polyface Farms does deliver, not to individuals but to local pickup stops, every 5 weeks. Boo-yah! And their egg yolks really are creamier :)

    That's it - get this book. Worth every second....more info
  • Pollan is a man who knows his nutrition
    Just finished reading this book and it is quite possibly the best overview of America's eating disorder, start to finish...more info
  • Eye opening!!
    What an eye-opening book! This should be required reading for every American. We don't even realize the junk we're putting in our bodies everyday and the destruction we're causing to the earth. It's amazing how greed has destroyed what once was a sustainable and waste-free farming system. I was already making casual changes to eat more organic and locally grown food, but after reading this book I've completely altered my diet. No more fast food (ever!) and no meat or chicken unless it's grass-fed and sustainably raised (which thus far means I'm a vegetarian - until I find a local farm to buy from). I recommend this book to everyone. It will change the way you look at food....more info
  • The price of modern agriculture: devastating to the environment and our health
    Healing the Rift: Merging Science and Spirituality

    As a scientist and biotechnology executive I was intimately involved in the food industry for over a decade and visited agricultural sites in over a dozen countries on four continents. I applaud Pollan's expose' of of modern agriculture's cost.

    Michael Pollan exposes the high price we pay for industrialization of food production. The fact that the majority of deaths are caused by the Western diet and many of the major diseases are a result of how and what we eat is incalculable in economic terms. The damage to the environment from industrialized farming is staggering. The sacrifice to food quality and nutritional benefits are explained by Pollan.

    A must read! Then get Pollan's In Defense of Food. ...more info
  • Incredible Information on Why We Are Sick Today
    I loved how the author took you step by step through the problems in today's food industry and spelled out why you can't just go to the store, buy food, and think that your decisions not only impact your health, but the environment as well. If we want America to be healthy, we must be more conscious of our eating habits and decisions....more info

 

 
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