Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Omnivore’s Dilemma Book Review

Hard to believe that I just read one of the most basic foodie books around: The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan. (The Penguin Press NY, 2006)

Pollan presents in-depth research on four very different meals.

Meal One: Fast Food Dinner
More than 25% of foods in the average American supermarket contain corn. Pollan explains the processes that corn goes through to become these products. Somewhere along the way, corn also became the main food source for beef. It is not a food that cows typically eat and that can cause bovine health problems. According to Pollan’s research, it takes more than a calorie of fossil fuel energy to produce a calorie of food based on industrial corn.

Meal Two: Organic products from Whole Foods
This meal is called an industrial organic meal – two words that I hadn’t considered putting together in a sentence before. But, his research is interesting. I always pictured my organic eggs coming from blissful chickens hanging around a beautiful and spacious field. But as it turns out organic eggs often come from factory chickens. If you purchase a lot of commercial organic foods – take a look at this book to find out more. While using less chemicals is certainly better for the planet and its occupants, I was surprised to find that the organic label does not guarantee a light footprint on the earth nor the animal welfare that I’d hoped. And, when it is shipped across the country, it uses just as much oil and caused just as much transportation pollution as anything else.

Meal Three: Naturally Farm Raised
This meal impressed me the most. And, the related chapters explained the process of Joel Salatin at Polyface Farm in Virginia. This section of the book describes the synergistic relationships between farm animals.

Meal Four: Hunted, Foraged, Home-Grown
It would be nice to have the time and skills to hunt, forage, and grow my own food. But, that is not an option for me nor many people. I have a small City garden and enjoy foraging when I have the opportunity. This way of eating has the lightest footprint and is most likely the healthiest for all concerned.

I recommend this book to anyone who eats. I think that we need to be educated about the food that we eat. We are what we eat, after all.

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