To start this Food For Thought series off I’d like to highlight one of the best, most compelling books I’ve read about the food we eat & its origins.
Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma is a fascinating exploration of the origins of modern food and the implications that our choices have for the health of us—and our planet. Pollan’s account of his stay at Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farms was especially fascinating.
This is a bit of a dense read, because it’s so packed with information, but it’s an incredibly eye-opening & thought-provoking book. A few takeaway points that stuck with me:
- If we are what we eat, then we are corn. Corn is in everything, from frozen vegetables to sandwich meat to yogurt to pasta sauce to bread to grape juice and even cough syrup, most often in the form of high fructose corn syrup or modified corn starch — or both.
- Corn fields have become little more than a very inefficient means of converting petroleum (in the form of fuel, fertilizer, & pesticides) into food. And corn seems "cheap" at the consumer end because we’ve already paid for it once via tax subsidies that support the Farm Bill.
- Industrial farms often use very sketchy loopholes to qualify for using the “organic” label on their produce. When buying produce, it’s far better to shop for locally-grown or regional items first, organic or otherwise.
- It’s worth understanding the distinctions between organic, free range, hormone-free, etc. Some of these terms are used more loosely than others. For instance, “free range” animals are often provided only the opportunity to roam in a small open area but not necessarily given any incentive to do so. They typically live no differently than non-free range animals.
- If farms were to switch from monoculture (only one crop grown) back to growing many different crops and raising a variety of animals as well, not only would the farmers benefit, but so would the livestock, environment, and community as a whole.
Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” is one of the two books I’ll be drawing a name for at the end of this Food For Thought week, so be sure to leave a comment so you’re entered to win! I’d love to hear from others who’ve read this book or if you’ve read another book that made a real impact upon how you view food, please share that!