Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Book Review: The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan

Of course the buzz about The Omnivore's Dilemma is old news by now. It's been out for quite a while, but I never picked it up before now. Why now? Partially it was because In Defense of Food had caught my eye and I read it, finding it interesting. Partially is was because I'd heard about it again here and there. Whatever the reason, I got it from the library and have listened to it over the last week or so, sharing liberally with Anthony and Davan along the way.

The Omnivore's Dilemma follows the trail of food for four different meals. What are the origins? What processing does the food go through on it's way to being your meal? The four meals are from four unique food chains.

The first meal is an industrial meal, which could be a frozen dinner, packaged meal or, really, most anything you buy from the grocery store you prepare at home or pretty much any (but certainly not all) restaurant meal. Pollan chooses McDonald's for this meal and follows it all the way back to a field of corn, which is where the bulk of the calories in the meal originate, even though much of it is processed through a cow. We hear about the farming practices, the cattle raising practices and much else along the way.

The next two meals are both organic. One, though, is local organic using sustainable practices, which, it's explained, is what organic was meant to be when the movement originated. The other, though, is industrial organic. This organic food can and often is shipped a great distance and bears much resemblance to industrial food, while still being an improvement (in my opinion).

The last meal is one Pollan grows, gathers and hunts himself. We journey along as he learns to identify and gather mushrooms and hunt, neither activity having been known to him before.

Each meal is unique and, while Pollan has definite opinions, it's really left up to the reader to decide where he thinks it's best for food to come from. My opinions differed from Pollan's, particularly when he, I felt, basically said, "Yeah, okay, industrial meat processing is awful, but the very fact that places like (a sustainable, local, organic meat farm) exist means that it's okay." What?

I've been thinking lately about learning about some food gathering and this book is another prompt toward looking into that for me. Also, it's made me think again about organic. We've gone back and forth about organic over the course of many years, having most recently decided that eating as much produce as we want is worth the risks of not eating organic. However, I'm rethinking and will, perhaps, try to make organic work with our budget again.

Overall, I thought that The Omnivore's Dilemma was an interesting, educational and thought provoking book, while disagreeing with some of the opinions expressed. I give it a 9.

No comments:

Post a Comment