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595 of 625 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I could go on and on . . (look below), July 31, 2006
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This review is from: The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (Hardcover)
When I bought this book for my dad he simply said, "A book about food?" I laughed and tried to tell him it is probably more about what is wrong with the country (government, business, foreign policy) than it is about food.

I heard Michael Pollan speak on NPR about this book and that sparked my interest. He was railing against corn as he does in the first section of the book here: For instance, I had no idea we used so much fossil fuel to get corn to grow as much as it does. The book provides plenty of other interesting facts that most people don't know (or want to) about their food.

1) We feed cattle (the cattle we eat) corn. OK. Seems fine. But I never knew cows are not able to digest corn. We give them corn so the corn farmers -who are protected by subsidies and at the same time hurt by them - can get rid of all the excess corn we produce - (more of the excess goes into high fructose corn syrup which is used in coke and many other soft drinks). This sees company owned farms injecting their cattle with antibiotics so they can digest the corn. Not just to shed farmers' excess corn but to also:

a) Get the cow fatter in a shorter amount of time because . .

b) A cow on this diet could really only survive 150 days before the acidity of the corn eats away at the rumen (a special cow digestive organ FOR GRASS, not corn).

c) Also the pharmaceutical companies get big profits because they manufacture large amounts of antibiotics for these large mammals.

All this may lead to increase in fat content and other peculiarities in the meat we eat.

2) The amount of fossil fuel we use to grow food is ridiculous and helps keeps the Saudis happy. If you buy an apple from Washington and live in New Jersey, think of how much gas went into transporting that fruit to me! Better to buy from Iowa. Better than that: buy from a farmer's market and this is one of Pollan's main suggestions:

Buy your food local and maybe you can even find out what is exactly in your hot dog.

3) CAFOS - large corporate feeding pens - where pigs (who are very smart animals) and even chickens display signs of suicidal tendencies.

4) Pollan talks about Big Organic and spends a lot of time here. "Big Organic" is seemingly an oxymoron. He shows how Big Organic companies treat their animals and farms in many similar ways to other industrial farms. However, he makes you think by talking to one organic executive who says,

"Get over it . . . the real value of putting organic on an industrial scale, is the sheer amount of acreage it puts under organic management. Behind every organic TV dinner or chicken or carton of industrial organic milk stands a certain quantity of land that will no longer be doused with chemicals, an undeniable gain of the environment and public health." - pg. 158

True, but the similarities between big companies and how supermarkets only want to deal with them is what Pollan thinks is the problem with our food.

5) Pollan focuses the most of his book on Joel Salatin's Polyface Farms in rural Virginia. Salatin calls himself a "grass farmer" (no not THAT grass). You could call it "real organic" but for Pollan it is how we should be farming and what we should eat. Cows, chickens, pigs roaming freely eating grass, and tasting like they should in the end. The problem is that not every area of the USA is as fertile as southwestern Virginia . . .but I am sure Pollan would suggest that each region should specialize in its delicacies and get used to not eating things that aren't in season or animals we don't see. It would be hard for the average American to not be provided with bananas from January - December, but if we want to cut back on fossil fuels (though Pollan notes - trade is good), if we want our eggs to taste like eggs and chicken to taste like chickens and not McChickens, we need to do a better job of eating local. This sends Pollan on his final journey, to hunt for his own food and provide his helpers, with a meal totally foraged by him.

A lot of cool facts here that I never knew or took the time to care about (I never knew the mushroom was so mysterious). I would have liked him to talk more about trade, different areas' food specialties and also how preparing a meal such as his at the end seems a little too time consuming even for the outdoors enthusiast.

I think all Americans - conservatives, liberals, whatevers - can enjoy this book. Liberals for the "return to nature mentality," conservatives for the same reason: Pollan rails into Animal Rights' activists and shows how though they may have good intentions; they would rather upset the balance of nature before they kill anything.

Ominvore's Dilemma is a tremendous contribution, exposing how big corporations and old government practices continue to harm us and our country. The way we thought about food was changed with "Super Size Me" hopefully this book will change they way we want to go about obtaining our food.
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Showing 1-10 of 17 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 15, 2011 5:21:31 PM PDT
Gale W says:
We raise beef cattle that eat corn. They live a lot longer than 150 days on it and we never give antibiotics either.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 15, 2012 5:09:25 AM PDT
Monica says:
Why do you feed them corn, when it's not their natural food. And grass fed meat TASTES WAY better.

Posted on Jul 4, 2012 11:50:33 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 4, 2012 11:56:36 AM PDT
I can assure you as a farmer, that there is a lot of gross overgeneralizations and misinformation in the review stated here. Straw men are easy to set on fire.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 5, 2012 4:51:06 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 5, 2012 4:57:21 AM PDT
Monica says:
You may be right, but I can assure you our industrial food is destroying the health of many Americans. My grandfather lived to age 99. He had NO chronic diseases, took no medications save an aspirin every night, walked briskly at least an hour daily, was completely lucid, slept well, ate balanced healthy meals---today with the substandard American food, grandfather would likely not live to see eighty. I've read many books on it and they all agree. There is a problem PERIOD. Something must be done about it. Look at all the fat sick Americans. Generations earlier, one didn't see that.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 23, 2012 7:23:41 PM PDT
You are so right. I couldn't have said it better. Each generatiion is getting weaker. Mr. Pollan has hit on the major reason.

Posted on Aug 24, 2012 8:03:23 AM PDT
You made mention of "Supersize Me".. That movie was insane with lots of lies. Everyone should see "Fathead". It just might wake them up to our government lying to us, for 50 or more years, about the real cause of heart disease in America. It seems Monsanto has convinced (lobbied, $$) the powers-to-be, that corn is the answer to all of our problems. It is more likely the cause of our problems. Real dirt farmers know what they're doing is wrong, but when you are paid to plow it under, it makes it tough to take a stand.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 24, 2012 9:09:46 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 24, 2012 9:12:49 AM PDT
Monica says:
So right. Money is a god in the US. And sadly, as a result everything is going down the tubes. We are being "poisoned" for profit. Once we get a disease, big Pharma moves in to bleed us--along with the broken medical establishment. Even before I read about the food catastrophe in the US, I knew something was wrong. Massive fat laden chickens (amped on growth hormones)---that tasted horrible---all sorts of things were happening---we are fatter, sicker---than we've ever been. No nation can survive if most of its people are on life support. Sad.

Posted on May 9, 2013 9:10:28 AM PDT
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In reply to an earlier post on Dec 30, 2013 11:18:47 AM PST
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Posted on Nov 5, 2014 2:00:47 PM PST
A few factual errors in your post.

1. Traditional "pharmaceutical companies" that people rail against like they're boogeymen in the night do not mass produce animal (or even most human) antibiotics, which are generic, not patented, and put out with razor thin margins by generic manufacturers. I'm not going to say that putting antibiotics in our meat is good (moreso because of resistance problems not because it'll make you grow a third nipple) but blaming "big pharma" is a fallacy.

2. Grain fed cows do not go from birth to slaughter in 150 days. The typical grain fed cow takes about a year to finish, grass fed takes twice as long. Grass fed is much much much healthier for you, I buy all grass fed meat, so again, I'm not saying grain fed is healthy, but 150 days is completely false.

There is enough truth to the notion that grass fed is healthier than you don't need to make up stuff about grain fed. It undermines your point.
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