Food For Thought: The Omnivore’s Dilemma

The Omnivore’s Dilemma book coverTo 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!

5 Comments

  1. You know I still haven't found a place where locally grown produce is sold, I've asked around since my farmer's market fiasco but it seems we're stuck, so far, with the "organic" label HEB has on things. Have you been able to track down any local places with eggs or produce from local farms?

  2. Isn't there a movie/documentory about this? (the corn thing, I mean). My cousin was telling me about it. It's called King Corn- I haven't seen it yet, but she said it ws very thought provoking and interesting. Maybe I'll add that one to my netflix list!

  3. Ok, so this has nothing to do with your post other than the title of the book sent me on this train of thought and I wanted to share:
    Omnivore made think of Herbivore which is what Hailey would like to be which led me to my point which is she is adorable. Why, you say?! Because she does not eat meat unless forced to do so and will never eat pork and every night her prayers sound like this "Dear Jesus, please bless Mommy and Daddy and Allyson and Christopher and Makayla…etc.. and please, PLEASE Jesus save the pigs so people will not eat them anymore! AMEN" Just had to share but the book sounds interesting also 😉

  4. Yari, I haven't had any luck at all finding locally-raised chicken, eggs or dairy, but I sure would like to. I've read lots of great things about the benefits of raw milk, especially for kids' immune systems. And I've read that the taste & texture of fresh farm eggs is light years beyond store-bought eggs.

    I want so badly to support the Midland Downtown Farmers' Market, but it just isn't worth the effort for us. It's close to an hours drive for us and if you don't get there before 10 A.M., what few vendors were there to begin with are already sold out, packed up, and gone. The last 2 times we've gone over, we left with a cantaloupe, some wildflower honey (which was fantastic!), a coupla cookies, and a cup of organic coffee that was, um, meh… Certainly not a haul worth the considerable effort & drive. (Even small trips are challenging with a 3-yr old!)

    So, like you, I'm just trying to make solid choices at HEB.

    By the way, we get some excellent quality organic beef at White House Meat Market, which is conveniently just up the street. (And they have incredible hamburgers to go also!)

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