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Customer Review

1,243 of 1,334 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Facing the dilemma I have been avoiding for years., May 12, 2006
This review is from: The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (Hardcover)
Since I read Eric Schlosser's "Fast Food Nation" over five years ago, I have refused to eat any fast food of any kind. Both morally and nutritionally, my position is that if I were to eat that food again, I would be tacitly accepting an industry that is abhorrent on so many levels. Knowing what I now know, that degree of cognitive dissonance is simply too great for me to overcome.

When my son was born two years ago, my thinking about food choices returned and has become an important part of my day-to-day consciousness.

When I first read about "Omnivore" online, I found the premise compelling. What exactly am I eating? Where does it come from? Why should I care? Exactly the kind of book that I'd been looking for, especially as I try to improve my own health and try to give my little guy the best start in life.

I bought the book as soon as it came out and found it to be highly enjoyable, yet almost mind-numbingly disenchanting. We all know about corn and cows and chickens and how the government subsidizes their production (mainly through corn subsidies). But Pollan has given me a completely new view of corn, its processed derivatives, and secondarily, has made me rethink my view of the farmers growing this stuff and the industries who buying it. There is so much wrong with this picture.

Corn, in the wrong hands, can be used for some terrible things, among them high fructose corn syrup (a major player in the obesity epidemic) and as feed for cows (who get sick when they eat it, requiring anti-biotics!). I can't compartmentalize anymore, just because meat tastes good. As Pollan clearly outlines, there is a very selfish reason why the beef industry doesn't want us to see inside a slaughter house. Many of us would never eat it again if we saw how disgusting and cruel the process typically is.

In the section on the ethics of eating animals, Pollan compellingly summarizes animal ethicist Peter Singer's case against eating animals, making a strong argument for vegetarianism. Then he tries to argue for a more moderate (read: carnivorous) world view, and I have to admit, I wasn't convinced. I am a lifelong meat eater, but am seriously thinking about switching to a vegetarian diet. I can no longer reconcile the slaughter of animals with my own appreciation of them. And beyond slaughter, there are plenty of health benefits to eating a plant-based diet.

Here's my bottom line: If you aren't prepared to question your views on food, or are afraid of what you might learn, then you really need to avoid this book. This has all made my head spin and my heart ache over the past month. Faced with the facts, I actually feel as though I am mourning the loss of my old diet. But I am terribly ambivalent about becoming a vegetarian, not at all happy to be making such a drastic (yet healthy) change. I am embarrassed about it, and worried about how I will deal with a meatless lifestyle in the years ahead. I am glad Pollan opened my eyes to this, but secretly wish I weren't so curious about these issues. The truth hurts.
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Showing 1-10 of 118 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 16, 2007, 7:46:27 AM PDT
Anonymous says:
give up eating cows, but keep enjoying fish, they don't eat corn do they? i feel your pain, anyway

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 2, 2008, 3:05:39 PM PDT
B Doyle says:
Stunningly, fish do get fed corn.

Posted on Nov 5, 2008, 8:08:18 AM PST
S. Guy says:
You can always join one of the clubs that deliver beef and chicken raised the natural way to your door... you pay a premium but in my opinion it's worth it.

Posted on Nov 13, 2008, 2:01:16 PM PST
I agree with annonymous. Grass fed, humanly killed beef, pork, lamb, chicken is the way to go. I gladly pay more for food that will nourish me.

Posted on Dec 13, 2008, 9:38:40 AM PST
David says:
I disagree with the previous posters. There's no such thing as "humanely killed" animals in this culture. Even if you want to shell out all the extra money for the organic / grass fed animals, it's still not as healthy as a plant based diet. If you feel vegetarianism is right for you, then go for it. There's a lot of great vegetarian forums on the web that can give you tips for recipes and eating a healthy, delicious, and well balanced diet.

Posted on Dec 28, 2008, 9:55:37 PM PST
How is a vegetarian diet healthier... the premise of the book, the omnivore's diet, is that we are omnivores and that our bodies are made to pretty much eat anything and everything. A vegetarian diet is simply unnatural.

Posted on Jan 3, 2009, 11:54:01 AM PST
Becky says:
Nobody's perfect, so how about just cutting back on meat? Then you'd feel a little better but could sneak a steak in once in a while.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 8, 2009, 7:57:39 AM PST
To quote antrhopologist Paul Shepard- Vegetarianism is modifying your natural human biology for an ideology. The natural world requires that things die so that other things can live- its the circle of life. We are omnivores. We need to quit being lazy- take responsibility for the deaths that sustain your life. Hunt, fish and gather- or seek out natural grass fed protein. Shun the commercial meat industry for sure- but be a human. The Paleo Diet book and even Paul Sheprds works should be on your reading list. We are genetically identical to our paleolithic ancestors. There have been 383 indigenous cultures discovered and studied in the past 150 years of "modern times". Of those ancient tribes and cultures around the world- NOT ONE culture had a diet of vegetarian nature. BE A HUMAN! Why are we so afraid to be human and to understand that death is a part of life.

Posted on Apr 12, 2009, 6:25:57 AM PDT
slain says:
great review... if i had written one myself, it would be almost exactly like this one. i think you have nicely summarized the eating experience that many of us have lived.

Posted on Apr 13, 2009, 11:46:59 PM PDT
HK says:
I wouldn't say that a vegetarian diet is healthier. Humans evolved eating meats of all kinds. Vegetables lack the essential proteins that our body needs. These essential proteins are found wholesome only in animal products. Vegetarians have to watch out what they are eating and make sure they eat the right combination of vegetables to get all the different proteins that their body needs. Also, a completely vegetarian diet usually means large amounts of carbohydrates, and polyunsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats are known in improve blood cholesterol levels but have also been associated with higher cancer rates. Carbohydrates, in excess, induces higher levels of insulin in your blood which over time can lead to diabetes, obesity, and a host of other chronic diseases. You can give up the meat for the ethical reasons but make sure you compensate by eating fish, cage free eggs, and diary products from cows fed on green pasture which include milk, cheese and butter.
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