Monday, December 04, 2006

The Omnivore's Dilemma

I have been reading this book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan for the past couple of months (it has been slow going!) but I’m LOVING it.

I have learned so much about the significance of corn in our daily lives, the political implications and reasons behind how agriculture has developed over the past 70 years, and also the shocking effects this has had on what we used to understand as the food chain.

In the chapter “The Processing Plant: Making Complex Foods,” I felt so betrayed by the one industry that is supposed to be supporting our intrinsic needs (food)…. NOT changing them and USING us as a way to merely dispose of product and make money!

And we all know fast food is bad for us…… but I never realized how unnatural it is and how what we have been doing with the food industry is changing the circle of life!! There was an amazing breakdown done in the book about the carbon composition in a fast food meal and exactly what percentage of each item came from CORN.

I shop at Whole Foods/Wild Oats and used to buy Horizon milk (until I found a local dairy) and I thought it was a good (albeit expensive) way of eating well and supporting small farmers without having to think about it. However, Pollan discusses the quandary of buying organic from places like these (big organic) in a chapter which is a bit devastating. Organic does not necessarily mean natural at all. Cows being fed corn instead of grass which makes them uncomfortable and ILL is not natural. (Even grass fed sometimes only means for the first part of life). Food being flown 3,000 miles to be consumed is not always good for the planet. I mean, I'm glad that antibiotics and pesticides aren't being pumped into the soil, but the issue of cows being fed corn instead of grass seems to be such a bigger issue ...... messing with the food chain like that..... that the fact that what makes Horizon milk organic is that the cows are fed organic corn seems ridiculous.

In an incredible chapter, Pollan discusses how raising cows, chickens, larvae, grasses and bacteria all together the way one farmer he spent some time with does, and how it prevents the need for antibiotics, wormers, paraciticides, and fertilizers. This farmer sounded so promising about the future of healthy and natural eating. If everyone would read this book, or pay attention to their effects on the world around them, that may be possible. But there are so many other important issues that people fail to notice. I just don't see this being one that tops the list of radical changes.

This is definitely NOT a modern day version of The Jungle though there is a chapter titled The Slaughter. But from chapters on corn, to beef, to chicken, to mushrooms…… this book is insightful, poignant, and informative. I have learned so much about the food industry and how it relates to us through economics, politics, health and even sense of well being.


your mom said...

I'll never stop drinking Nature's Valley organic whole milk. It frickin' rocks. "I have seen the top of the mountain. And it is good."

DougieB said...

I'm next in line to get this little (ok, large) guy for our holiday travels, as we got it back from our cousin this week. Can't wait!

Bone-a-fide said...

I'll have to read this book! I'm so distraught to learn Horizon isn't great--I too thought I was doing right by buying Horizon. How frustrating the food world is! Grr.

Aubrey said...

bone-a-fide..... if you read this, check out RoyalCrest Dairies. ( I think they might deliver to your area too!