Book Review – The Omnivore’s Dilemma

‘You are what you eat’ is a truism hard to argue with, and yet it is, as a visit to a feedlot suggets, incomplete, for you are what you eat eats, too. And what we are, or have become, is not just meat but number 2 corn and oil.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan

This is one of those books that everyone who eats should read. Or rather, anyone who eats and actually gives a crap should read. I went into this book with a negative view from what I’d read about the book.

Well, I liked it. A lot. Pollan follows the course of four meals: conventional industrial, industrial organic, “beyond organic,” and foraged. The conventional industrial section might be tough and unbelievable to someone not already aware of the way the American food industry operates. It’s not a pretty picture. Pollan also takes a critical view of industrial organic, something I feel has been lacking in the green/organic movements. The section on “beyond organic,” from Pollan’s experience at Polyface Farms, was the section I found most intriguing.

While Pollan does criticize the industrial and industrial organic models, he does so while acknowledging the fact that while “big organic” is far from truly sustainable, it is (at least slightly) better than conventional industrial. Although it may make you think twice before you immediately grab for that “USDA Certified Organic” label.

I rather agree with Pollan’s decision to omit the “what to eat” subject. “Dilemma” is a book about the production of food. What you should be eating is a related subject, but I feel much better served by having that be another book (“In Defense of Food,” if you were wondering).

Overall, I found this to be a much more informative than “Fast Food Nation.” Probably because I don’t eat solely fast food. I am, after all, an omnivore, and I need a book for omnivores.


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