The Omnivore’s Dilemma

Topics: Organic food, Michael Pollan, The Omnivore's Dilemma Pages: 5 (1728 words) Published: June 22, 2013
9/15/11
A Well Argued and Impractical Idea
In the book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan, Pollan introduces some very interesting ideas and positions relating to the how and what we eat. Pollan poses the questions: Is America eating the right kind of food? Is what we are eating healthy? And, where is our food coming from, how is it treated, and what is in the food we eat? Throughout the book Pollan places his own argument alongside the answers to these questions. He moves the reader to reflect on the evidence presented about eating organic foods rather than processed foods. Pollan also puts forth a compelling, and strong argument that contains ideas, like food is of higher quality and has better taste when it is not industrially processed. He also gives evidence with irrefutable facts about the difference in food quality between home grown and mass produced industrial products. To address his concerns, Pollan suggests a farfetched impractical solution to the industrial food epidemic in America that fails to take into account specific year-round American demand for out-of-season produce and the scale needed to supply food for the whole nation. The Omnivore’s Dilemma is Pollan’s journey to find what Americans are eating, and what they should be eating. Pollan goes on an adventure that takes him all over the countryside to different farms, and industrial processing plants that supply consumers with their “fresh” meat. During this expedition, Pollan, having visited many different processing locations, asks the question, “What exactly is organic and what is not?” What is the fine line between regular food, organic food that is processed, and true organic food? Up until the early 1990’s, Pollan says, the word organic has “always meant different things to different people” and then in 1990 the federal government began “to establish uniform national standards for organic food and farming” (Pollan 154). This helped lay the foundation for organic foods by prohibiting “synthetic food additives and manufacturing agents outright” (155). Prohibiting these substances out right was a huge game changer in the battle for organic food. During this same time period another major battle was being waged within the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) about “Big or Little Organic,” meaning the USDA was debating if there could be industrial scale organic production facilities or did all organic food have to come from smaller family owned farms(155). Should the USDA allow big industries to get in on the organic movement? And would this movement taint the name of all other food that did not carry the label organic? Gene Kahn, who served on the USDA National Organic Standards Board from 1992-1997 is quoted in Pollan’s book as saying, “You couldn’t have organic processed food without synthetics which are necessary to both the manufacture and preservation of such supermarket products” (155). This helps draw the fine line between organic and processed organic. Kahn, an expert on this subject, says you can’t have long-lasting organic food without preservatives and additives. This is the only way the supermarkets can stock so called organic food on their shelves. Pollan writes about this point at the beginning of the organic movement to give some background and show how much this movement has changed in the last twenty years. Pollan’s point is proven to be valid when he explores how to find true organic. Pollan contacts a man living on 550 acres in Swoope, Virginia (130). His name is Joel Salatin, owner of Polyface Farms. Salatin is a polyculture organic farmer, meaning he does it all: he grows many different crops along with his own hay and grass to feed his cattle, pigs, turkeys, rabbits and chickens. He even slaughters the livestock and packages the meat, all in his back yard. Pollan spends some time at Polyface Farms helping and learning from Joel Salatin. During Pollan’s time on the farm, he listens to...

Cited: Pollan, Michael. The Omnivore 's Dilemma. New York: Penguin Books, 2006.
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