THE OMNIVORE’S DILEMMA by Michael Pollan

by JF

Impeccably written and researched, this is one man’s investigation of the average omniverous American’s diet. Pollan begins by conducting several thorough and quite impressive investigations, and he combines a lot of actual firsthand footwork with a lot of scientific book knowledge: the first of these investigations looks at the commercial corn industry. Once a person reads this–even an average dumbed-down American–that person will think twice about ingesting the myriad industrial items into which industrialized corn has been transformed.

In short, that person will, after reading this, suddenly begin actually reading the ingredients on the packaged, processed groceries he is buying. Pollan also shows how ludicrously inefficient is our civilization’s unnatural dependency upon corn, rather than a more diverse diet including other grains. But other grains would not ensure the massive amounts of profit and control for the great agribusiness companies, hence the exploitation of corn at the expense of the health of both the land and consumers’ bodies.

Pollan then embarks upon a rigorous investigation of the beef industry. What he reveals about feedlot cattle–the source of nearly all available beef in any modern American grocery store–should and will sicken the reader.

From there, Pollan transitions to a close examination of the budding organic farming industry, and what he finds regarding the standards of “organic” farming is alarming: He finds that, as the move towards organic gains in popularity, the same mercenary controlling factors that set up the standards that polluted industrialized food is also doing the same for organic, bringing down the health and nutritional standards in a constant pursuit of more commercial profit.

The last chapters in book feature the author endeavoring to hunt and forage for his own food. Pollan conducts fascinating foraging outings for different types of edible wild mushrooms and provides much mycological scientific knowledge along the way. These outings are conducted mainly in northerncalifornia, which is also where Pollan hunts down and kills a wild pig. Pollan, a decidedly “citified” fellow, reveals his squeamishness in shooting, and especially in dressing the pig. He reminds us that meat, if we are to consume it, requires that something die. He then engages in a few philosophical discussions with the written work of some animal rights activists.

Ultimately, Pollan comes up empty in his rationale for consuming meat, falling back mainly on the fact that he likes it, and since man is at the top of the food chain, it ought to be acceptable for man to eat animals. Unfortunately, Pollan, who is obviously not a reader or believer of Scripture, is not able to understand the real reason for death and the justification for being a carnivore that the Bible offers.

The book concludes, fittingly enough, with Pollan cooking up a grand meal made up almost entirely of menu items which he has either hunted down or foraged for, which he then shares with the friends he has met along the way during his hunting and foraging excursions. Ultimately, Pollan calls for a more localized food production system in our society. Again, as he is coming from a spiritually bereft, materialistically minded position, he doesn’t realize that what he is calling for is exactly the form of responsible local agriculture and husbandry that is called for in God’s Word.

This book is mostly of interest to those who want to learn more about where most food comes from nowadays inAmerica, and what kind of quality and sanitary controls (or lack thereof) are maintained along the way. It serves as a fine excoriation of our modern American agribusiness and agrihusbandry industries.

Rating: Δ Δ Δ Δ
4/2009

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