Posted by: Kate | April 7, 2009

Reviewing The Omnivore’s Dilemma

I’ve always been interested in where food comes from, food security, food to table, and farm issues. Living in urban settings but on the edge of rural areas, I’ve always understood that there are issues around food. Those issues are so big sometimes, that it can become too overwhelming to think about. Thus the proliferation of grocery stores in Walm*rts and food at dollar stores – we don’t want to think about these issues we just want cheap food. And therein lies our downfall.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan, does not pretend to provide answers. What it does is look at different ways of getting a meal to a family in the U.S.A. In doing so, Pollan will make you ask many many many questions, of yourself and of your country’s food systems.

Firstly, the writing in this book is excellent. Aside from the research and journalistic side of this book, the written words are engaging, interesting and make you want to continue reading. Michael Pollan is simply a good writer.

“Not that the sacrifice of our animality is necessarily regrettable; no one regrets our giving up raping and pillaging, also part of our inheritance. But we should at least acknowledge that the human desire to eat meat is not, as the animal rightists would have it, a trivial matter, a mere gastronomic preference. By the same token we might call sex – also now technically unnecessary for reproduction – a mere recreational preference.”

Secondly, this book is excellently researched. Many people have commented to me “Oh, but I already know about those food issues.” I would advise reading the book anyhow. I was surprised at how much I learned from reading the book, or perhaps how much the book made me acknowledge what on some level I already knew.

The information inside is so interesting and well written that it makes you want to read it out loud to anyone in the room, especially the first section on corn. 

” ‘When you look at the isotope ratios,’ Todd Dawson, a Berkeley biologist who’s done this sort of research, told me, ‘we North Americans look like corn chips with legs.’  ….. So that’s us: processed corn, walking.”

The section on big organic really got me thinking, and the section on pastoral farming thrilled me. So much of the food issues are also tied up in transportation issues, and land-use issues. Pollan leaves you to draw your own conclusions, and for me he is very honest about his own angst over these issues. Yet he is never disrespectful to the people who show him around each system, acknowledging their work and their commitment to their ways of producing food.

I don’t want to give away the details of this book, I think people need to read it and make their own conclusions and their own decisions. In the end, that’s all Pollan asks with this book — that you think about where your food comes from and make your buying decisions based on the facts and how they matter to you.

For me it solidified my beliefs that we need to be buying more local meat. Tomorrow I’ll show you how we are starting to do that.


  1. Yeah…G*nters!

  2. Interesting to read your thoughts. I’ll definitely let you know when I get around to reading it…good for discussion :)!

Welcome! I always like to hear what people think of a post, it often leads to a great discussion! I am now responding to comments and questions right in the comments themselves, so other people can follow the conversation.

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