Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan Book Review

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Pollan, Michael. The Omnivore's Dilemma. New York: Penguin, 2006.

We have, according to Michael Pollan, a "national eating disorder" (Pollan 2). Americans have grown so disassociated from the ways in which food is produced that they have lost a sense of what food really is. The title of Pollan's 2006 manifesto the Omnivore's Dilemma underlines the paradox that all human beings must face: because they are human, they are confronted with a seemingly infinite array of choices of what they can consume. Theoretically, a McDonald's meal is edible because a human being's stomach acids are capable of breaking down a fries, burger, and milkshake. But Pollan asks: what does that meal do to our bodies -- and to our environment and the larger food chain? "When you can eat just about anything nature has to offer, deciding what you should eat will inevitably stir anxiety, especially when some of the potential foods on offer are liable to sicken or kill you" (Pollan 3).

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Many animals, such as the koala bear, only need one type of food to thrive. The koala bear only needs eucalyptus leaves to eat a balanced diet. In contrast, if human beings eat a very limited diet, they can grow extremely sick. One of the reasons for the explosion of obesity and over diet and lifestyle-related diseases, argues Pollan, is because we are unintentionally limiting ourselves to a nutrient-poor way of eating. Although food is packaged in many unique and attractive ways, the distinction is only on the surface, and due to clever packaging, rather than actual substance. Corn, one of the main commodity crops of subsidized agriculture, is everywhere. Sweet foods have high fructose corn syrup in them; corn sugar is even hidden in savory foods to enhance flavor in foods like burgers and tomato sauce. Corn is the "building block" of industrial food, particularly the ability of corn to be converted into high-fructose corn syrup, which is less expensive and sweeter than regular sugar (Pollan 88-89).

Book Review on Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan Assignment

Pollan divides his book into three sections, or three different aspects of the food production cycle: industrial, pastoral, and personal. Industrial food processing is based upon the use of corn, and Pollan notes how government policy has made it cheap and easy to fatten animals for slaughter in feed lots, although the animals cannot digest corn unless they are given antibiotics to do so. The availability of cheap corn enables highly processed and caloric foods, from chips to snack cakes, to be shelf-stable and sold for pocket change. Food, which used to take up a tremendous percentage of a family's budget, is now quite inexpensive, but at tremendous cost to human health. One of Pollan's most controversial arguments is that food is too cheap. The methods used to make food inexpensive also make food harmful to the body. "You can buy honestly priced-food or you can buy irresponsibility priced food" that is… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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