The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals

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Overview

A New York Times bestseller that has changed the way readers view the ecology of eating, this revolutionary book by award winner Michael Pollan asks the seemingly simple question: What should we have for dinner? Tracing from source to table each of the food chains that sustain us - whether industrial or organic, alternative or processed - he develops a portrait of the American way of eating. The result is a sweeping, surprising exploration of the hungers that have shaped our evolution, and of the profound ...
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The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals

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Overview

A New York Times bestseller that has changed the way readers view the ecology of eating, this revolutionary book by award winner Michael Pollan asks the seemingly simple question: What should we have for dinner? Tracing from source to table each of the food chains that sustain us - whether industrial or organic, alternative or processed - he develops a portrait of the American way of eating. The result is a sweeping, surprising exploration of the hungers that have shaped our evolution, and of the profound implications our food choices have for the health of our species and the future of our planet.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

In the ancient days of hunter-gatherers, a wrong food choice could spell demise; a tasty poison mushroom or toxic root could kill the most discriminating omnivore. Today, according to Botany of Desire author Michael Pollan, we face comparable dangers in the midst of plenitude. Pollan notes that Fast-Food America is experiencing what can only be described as a national eating disorder. With compelling precision, he describes how parallel food chains (industrialized food; alternative or "organic" food; and home-gathered food) reflect differences and similarities in our ecology of eating. A fascinating look behind the labels. Now in trade paperback and NOOK Book.

The Seattle Times
If you ever thought 'what's for dinner' was a simple question, you'll change your mind after reading Pollan's searing indictment of today's food industry—and his glimpse of some inspiring alternatives.... I just loved this book so much I didn't want it to end.
The Washington Post
An eater's manifesto ... [Pollan's] cause is just, his thinking is clear, and his writing is compelling. Be careful of your dinner!
The New York Times Book Review
Thoughtful, engrossing ... You're not likely to get a better explanation of exactly where your food comes from.
Los Angeles Times
Michael Pollan has perfected a tone—one of gleeful irony and barely suppressed outrage—and a way of inserting himself into a narrative so that a subject comes alive through what he's feeling and thinking. He is a master at drawing back to reveal the greater issues.
Ruth Reichl
"Every time you go into a grocery store you are voting with your dollars, and what goes into your cart has real repercussions on the future of the earth. But although we have choices, few of us are aware of exactly what they are. Michael Pollan's beautifully written book could change that. He tears down the walls that separate us from what we eat, and forces us to be more responsible eaters. Reading this book is a wonderful, life-changing experience."
Editor in Chief of Gourmet magazine and author of Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise
Mark Danner
"Michael Pollan is such a thoroughly delightful writer - his luscious sentences deliver so much pleasure and humor and surprise as they carry one from dinner table to corn field to feed lot to forest floor, and then back again - that the happy reader could almost miss the profound truth half hidden at the heart of this beautiful book: that the reality of our politics is to be found not in what Americans do in the voting booth every four years but in what we do in the supermarket every day. Embodied in this irresistible, picaresque journey through America's food world is a profound treatise on the hidden politics of our everyday life."
author of Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib and the War on Terror
Alice Waters
"Michael Pollan is a voice of reason, a journalist/ philosopher who forages in the overgrowth of our schizophrenic food culture. He's the kind of teacher we probably all wish we had: one who triggers the little explosions of insight that change the way we eat and the way we live."
owner of Chez Panisse restaurant
Eric Schlosser
"What should you eat? Michael Pollan addresses that fundamental question with great wit and intelligence, looking at the social, ethical, and environmental impact of four different meals. Eating well, he finds, can be a pleasurable way to change the world."
author of Fast Food Nation and Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market
Bunny Crumpacker
His book is an eater's manifesto, and he touches on a vast array of subjects, from food fads and taboos to our avoidance of not only our food's animality, but also our own. Along the way, he is alert to his own emotions and thoughts, to see how they affect what he does and what he eats, to learn more and to explain what he knows. His approach is steeped in honesty and self-awareness. His cause is just, his thinking is clear, and his writing is compelling.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Pollan (The Botany of Desire) examines what he calls "our national eating disorder" (the Atkins craze, the precipitous rise in obesity) in this remarkably clearheaded book. It's a fascinating journey up and down the food chain, one that might change the way you read the label on a frozen dinner, dig into a steak or decide whether to buy organic eggs. You'll certainly never look at a Chicken McNugget the same way again. Pollan approaches his mission not as an activist but as a naturalist: "The way we eat represents our most profound engagement with the natural world." All food, he points out, originates with plants, animals and fungi. "[E]ven the deathless Twinkie is constructed out of... well, precisely what I don't know offhand, but ultimately some sort of formerly living creature, i.e., a species. We haven't yet begun to synthesize our foods from petroleum, at least not directly." Pollan's narrative strategy is simple: he traces four meals back to their ur-species. He starts with a McDonald's lunch, which he and his family gobble up in their car. Surprise: the origin of this meal is a cornfield in Iowa. Corn feeds the steer that turns into the burgers, becomes the oil that cooks the fries and the syrup that sweetens the shakes and the sodas, and makes up 13 of the 38 ingredients (yikes) in the Chicken McNuggets. Indeed, one of the many eye-openers in the book is the prevalence of corn in the American diet; of the 45,000 items in a supermarket, more than a quarter contain corn. Pollan meditates on the freakishly protean nature of the corn plant and looks at how the food industry has exploited it, to the detriment of everyone from farmers to fat-and-getting-fatter Americans. Besides Stephen King, few other writers have made a corn field seem so sinister. Later, Pollan prepares a dinner with items from Whole Foods, investigating the flaws in the world of "big organic"; cooks a meal with ingredients from a small, utopian Virginia farm; and assembles a feast from things he's foraged and hunted. This may sound earnest, but Pollan isn't preachy: he's too thoughtful a writer, and too dogged a researcher, to let ideology take over. He's also funny and adventurous. He bounces around on an old International Harvester tractor, gets down on his belly to examine a pasture from a cow's-eye view, shoots a wild pig and otherwise throws himself into the making of his meals. I'm not convinced I'd want to go hunting with Pollan, but I'm sure I'd enjoy having dinner with him. Just as long as we could eat at a table, not in a Toyota. (Apr.) Pamela Kaufman is executive editor at Food & Wine magazine. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Pollan (journalism, Univ. of California, Berkeley; The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World) defines the Omnivore's Dilemma as the confusing maze of choices facing Americans trying to eat healthfully in a society that he calls "notably unhealthy." He seeks answers to this dilemma by taking readers through the industrial, organic, and hunter-gatherer stages of the food chain. Focusing on corn as the keystone plant in the industrial stage, Pollan describes its role in feeding cattle and in food processing as well as its ultimate destination in the products we consume at fast-food restaurants. The organic, or pastoral, stage offers a pure and chemical-free eating environment for animals and humans. In the hunter-gatherer stage, omnivores hunt animals and gather the plant foods that comprise all or part of their diets. Pollan explains how a framework of environmental, biological, and cultural factors determines what and how we eat. Although a bit long and sometimes redundant, this folksy narrative provides a wealth of information about agriculture, the natural world, and human desires. Recommended for all omnivores. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 12/05.]-Irwin Weintraub, Brooklyn Coll. Lib., New York Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The dilemma-what to have for dinner when you are a creature with an open-ended appetite-leads Pollan (Journalism/Berkeley; The Botany of Desire, 2001, etc.) to a fascinating examination of the myriad connections along the principal food chains that lead from earth to dinner table. The author identifies three: the one controlled by agribusiness; the pastoral, organic industry that has sprung up as an alternative to it; and the very short food chain Pollan calls "neo-Paleolithic," in which he assumes the role of modern-day hunter-gatherer. He demonstrates the dependence of the agribusiness system on a single grain, corn, as it passes from farm to feedlot and processing plant. The meal that concludes this section is takeout from McDonald's and includes among other foods a serving of Chicken McNuggets. Of the 38 ingredients that make up McNuggets, 13, he notes, are derived from corn. This fact bolsters an earlier, startling statistic: Each of us is personally responsible for consuming a ton of corn each year. Pollan's exploration of the pastoral food chain takes two roads. Investigating "industrial organic," he assembles a meal composed entirely of ingredients from a Whole Foods supermarket. But he also visits a single, relatively small farm in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, where grass, not corn, is the basis of production, and cattle, chickens and pigs are raised through management of the natural ecosystem. Pollan joins in the farm work and is clearly impressed by what he learns, observes and eats here. In the final section, he learns how to shoot a wild pig and how to scavenge for forest mushrooms. The author's extraordinarily labor-intensive final meal provides a perfect contrast to thefast-food takeout of Part I. Pollan combines ecology, biology, history and anthropology with personal experience to present fascinating multiple perspectives. Revelations about how the way we eat affects the world we live in, presented with wit and elegance.
From the Publisher
"'When you can eat just about anything nature has to offer, deciding what you should eat will inevitably stir anxiety,' Pollan writes in this supple and probing book. He gracefully navigates within these anxieties as he traces the origins of four meals—from a fast-food dinner to a "hunter-gatherer" feast—and makes us see, with remarkable clarity, exactly how what we eat affects both our bodies and the planet. Pollan is the perfect tour guide: his prose is incisive and alive, and pointed without being tendentious. In an uncommonly good year for American food writing, this is a book that stands out." —from The New York Times Book Review's “10 Best Books of 2006”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143038580
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/28/2007
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 464
  • Sales rank: 26,054
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan is the author of five books: Second Nature, A Place of My Own, The Botany of Desire, which received the Borders Original Voices Award for the best nonfiction work of 2001 and was recognized as a best book of the year by the American Booksellers Association and Amazon, and the national bestellers, The Omnivore's Dilemma, and In Defense of Food.

A longtime contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine, Pollan is also the Knight Professor of Journalism at UC Berkeley. His writing on food and agriculture has won numerous awards, including the Reuters/World Conservation Union Global Award in Environmental Journalism, the James Beard Award, and the Genesis Award from the American Humane Association.

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    1. Hometown:
      San Francisco Bay Area, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 6, 1955
    2. Place of Birth:
      Long Island, New York
    1. Education:
      Bennington College, Oxford University, and Columbia University
    2. Website:

Table of Contents

Introduction : our national eating disorder 1
1 The plant : corn's conquest 15
2 The farm 32
3 The elevator 57
4 The feedlot : making meat 65
5 The processing plant : making complex foods 85
6 The consumer : a republic of fat 100
7 The meal : fast food 109
8 All flesh is grass 123
9 Big organic 134
10 Grass : thirteen ways of looking at a pasture 185
11 The animals : practicing complexity 208
12 Slaughter : in a glass abattoir 226
13 The market : "greetings from the non-barcode people" 239
14 The meal : grass-fed 262
15 The forager 277
16 The omnivore's dilemma 287
17 The ethics of eating animals 304
18 Hunting : the meat 334
19 Gathering : the fungi 364
20 The perfect meal 391
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Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION

One does not necessarily expect books about food also to be about bigger ideas like oppression, spirituality, and freedom. Yet Michael Pollan has always defied expectations. To be sure, his two most recent books, The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food, celebrate the pleasure of eating. However, Pollan also serves up something far more potent: a pointed and thorough critique of how the food industry, the government, advertisers, and, yes, even Pollan’s fellow journalists have turned the process of putting food on our tables into an increasingly dysfunctional enterprise. With insight, gentle firmness, and even some well-placed humor, Pollan observes how modern farming is at war with the needs and dictates of nature, how the nutritional policies of the government have rebelled against sound scientific practice, how even the consumer has been divided against himself and that eating has ceased to be for many of us a source of enjoyment and has become instead an occasion for uncertainty, anxiety, and guilt. Within Pollan’s jeremiads there is also a persistent core of hope. While never flinching in his critique of the way things are, Pollan constantly encourages us to think of how things might be.

In The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Pollan guides the reader through an extensive tour of food production in America, tracing a series of food chains from the seed to the table. In the harrowing first part of his story, he takes us to a massive farm in Iowa, where the formerly diverse yield of hay, apples, hogs, and cherries has given way to a vast monocultural enterprise, in which, thanks to government subsidies and a seemingly perverse set of economic principles, corn is king. With a sparkling analysis that adroitly weaves history, science, and sociology, Pollan shows how America has bent its priorities in the service of this single crop, converting it into ethanol, the now-ubiquitous high fructose corn syrup, and even disposable diapers. We discover how the monoculture of corn has impoverished the soil and the people who work it, how it has imperiled the health of the cattle industry (steers are naturally ill-suited to digest grain, but we feed it to them anyway), and how it has led unsuspecting consumers to trade nutrition for cheap calories. Pollan next transports us to a small, ecologically balanced farm in Virginia, where the chickens and cattle roam more freely, and animals and humans alike reap the benefits of a natural food chain based on grass. Finally, in perhaps his most radical encounter with the world of food, Pollan resolves to prepare a meal that he has hunted and gathered by himself. As he stalks a feral pig, dives for abalone, and wonders whether that mushroom he has picked just might kill him, we rediscover food not merely as a physical source of life but as a medium for holy communion with nature and one another.

In In Defense of Food, Pollan transitions boldly from narrative to polemic. Taking on a scientific, governmental, and commercial establishment that has focused on individual nutrients rather than the unique benefits of whole foods, Pollan offers three gentle commandments: Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants. Tautly written and eloquently argued, In Defense of Food shows us how simple—and how strangely complicated—those three little rules can be.

ABOUT MICHAEL POLLAN

Born in 1955, Michael Pollan grew up in Long Island, New York. He was educated at Bennington College, Oxford University, and Columbia University, from which he received a master’s degree in English. A former executive editor of Harper’s Magazine, he is currently the John S. and James L. Knight Professor of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley. His essays have been widely anthologized, and he is a regular contributor to The New York Times Magazine. He is the author of five books, including A Place of My Own, Second Nature, and The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World. The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals was named one of the ten best books of 2006 by The New York Times and The Washington Post. Michael Pollan lives in the Bay Area with his wife, the painter Judith Belzer, and their son, Isaac.

A CONVERSATION WITH MICHAEL POLLAN

Q. First off, what is the omnivore’s dilemma?

When a creature can eat a great variety of things—as we humans can—the question of what you should eat becomes tricky, and is often fraught with anxiety. This is not a problem for specialist eaters—cows eat only grass and have no worries when it comes to determining what they should and should not eat; their culinary preferences are hardwired in their genes. The same is true for the koala bear: if it looks and smells like a eucalyptus leaf, it is lunch, and everything else in nature is not lunch. But if you’re an omnivore things get complicated, especially when nature—not to mention the supermarket—offers so many possibilities, some of them nourishing but some of them apt to shorten your life.

Humans have evolved a whole set of cognitive tools to help navigate the omnivore’s dilemma—big brains with fine powers of recognition as well as memory to help keep all the potential foods and poisons straight. But perhaps the most important tool we have for dealing with the challenges of being omnivores is culture: we have traditions around food and eating that guide us in our food selection and preparation—such as the knowledge it’s okay to eat morels, but only after they’re cooked, and that it’s not okay to eat that other mushroom over there, the one people call, rather helpfully, the “death cap.” Where the koala bear has genes to tell him what and what not to eat, we have (or I should say, had) taboos, mothers, and national cuisines.

Q. Are you saying that we no longer have cultural guides to help us make the best food choices?

This is what inspired me to write this book—the fact that, as a culture and as individuals, we no longer seem to know what we should and should not eat. When the old guides of culture and national cuisine and our mothers’ advice no longer seem to operate, the omnivore’s dilemma returns and you find yourself where we do today—utterly bewildered and conflicted about one of the most basic questions of human life: What should I eat? We’re buffeted by contradictory dietary advice: cut down on fats one decade, cut down on carbs the next. Every day’s newspaper brings news of another ideal diet, wonder-nutrient, or poison in the food chain. Hydrogenated vegetable oils go from being the modern alternatives to butter to a public health threat, just like that. Food marketers pummel us with messages that this or that food is “heart healthy” or contributes to good “mental function” (whatever that means). But what clinched it for me was watching how, in 2002, a great spasm of Carbophobia seized the American diet and the most wholesome and wonderful food of all—bread!—a food which had been revered as a staple of human life for tens of thousands of years came to be regarded as a virtual poison. Almost overnight, it disappeared from dinner tables across America. Bakeries went out of business! This, it seemed to me, was the sign of a nation in the grip of a collective eating disorder.

Without a stable culture of food to guide us, the omnivore’s dilemma has returned with a vengeance. We listen to scientists, to government guidelines, to package labels—to anything but our common sense and traditions. And so the most pleasurable of activities—eating—has become fraught with anxiety. The irony is, the more we worry about what we eat, the less healthy and fatter we seem to become. Think of it: a notably unhealthy population obsessed with eating healthily—it’s the American Paradox.

Q. You look at the three food chains which sustain us: industrial food, organic or alternative food, and food we hunt and gather. In industrial food, corn is king. Why is corn so important to the modern food industry?

To try to understand how we got into this predicament, and how we might get out of it, I decided to do some detective work, tracing a handful of the most common foods in our diet back to their source in nature. I quickly realized there are several different food chains in America, but the biggest and most important food chain—the one that feeds most of us most of the time—is based on a remarkably small number of plants, most notably corn. This was a revelation to me: if you follow a Big Mac or a Coca-Cola or a Twinkie or a box of breakfast cereal or virtually any snack food or soft drink back to its ultimate source you will find yourself, as I did, in a cornfield somewhere in Iowa. Corn is what feeds the steer that becomes the beef; is refined into the high fructose syrup that sweetens the soda; is shaped into the Fruity Pebbles or distilled into any one of the hundreds of food additives in our processed foods. Of the thirty-eight ingredients in the chicken nugget, no fewer than eighteen of them come from corn. The Mexicans have always called themselves “the people of corn” but in fact, now, it is we Americans who deserve that label—without even realizing it we have become the corniest people on earth.

That’s not just a conceit, either. If you take a snip of hair or a nail clipping from an American and run it through a mass spectrometer, as I have done, you will discover that most of the carbon in his or her body (and we consist mostly of atoms of carbon) originally came from corn. We’re even cornier than the Mexicans, who still sweeten their sodas with cane sugar and feed their cows on grass. As the biologist who did some of these experiments for me put it, “to the machine, we look like corn chips on legs.” This plant has not only colonized our land—80 million acres of it—and our food supply, but it has literally colonized our bodies.

Q. What are the implications of eating so much corn?

There are several reasons it’s not a good idea to base your whole diet around a single species. First, we are omnivores, designed by evolution to consume a wide variety of nutrients and micronutrients. The need for a diverse diet is built into our biology, and there are all sorts of important nutrients we simply can’t get from corn. To turn a bushel of corn into so many different foods involves a lot of processing, and processing diminishes the nutritional value of any food. We’re finding that people who eat an exclusively fast food diet (highly processed corn-based food) not only get fat but are actually malnourished, because they’re not getting the essential micronutrients present in fruits and vegetables. Overweight inner city kids are showing up in health clinics with rickets!

Second, growing all that corn is disastrous for the environment. Corn is, as farmers say, a greedy plant, requiring more nitrogen fertilizer than any other crop—nitrogen that runs off the fields into the water and has created a “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico that is now the size of New Jersey. It also requires more pesticides, so all that corn we’re growing is polluting the environment. Feeding livestock corn on feedlots produces huge amounts of pollution too, not to mention misery in animals which, like the cow, were never designed to eat a corn diet. It makes them so sick we have to feed them antibiotics.

Finally, it’s never a good idea to put all your eggs in one basket, as the Irish learned in 1845 when the Potato Famine hit. The Irish had a relationship with potatoes much like our relationship with corn—it was the mainstay of their agriculture and their diet. Monocultures are inherently precarious, which is why you don’t find them ordinarily in nature. When blight hit the Irish potato crop, it was decimated overnight, and a million Irishmen starved. We’re tempting fate by basing so much of our food supply on a single plant. A more diversified agriculture would be much more secure as well as healthier.

Q. You point out that there are now alternatives to industrial food, but they can be somewhat bewildering as well.

The corn-based industrial food chain does some things well—it has given us an abundance of cheap food. But an increasing number of Americans recognize the exorbitant costs of cheap food, both to their health and to the environment. In the shadow of our fast food nation, alternative food chains are springing up: organic food companies, Community Supported Agriculture (subscription farms where consumers pay an annual fee to get a weekly box of fresh produce), farmer’s markets, and metropolitan buying clubs.

Organic is the biggest and most visible of these alternatives: a food chain that uses no synthetic chemicals and takes much better care of the soil. It was built by farmers and consumers, with no help from the federal government whatsoever. And there’s a growing body of evidence suggesting that organic food is not only better for the environment, but may be better for our health too—not just because it is free of pesticide residues, but is also more nutritious.

However, as organic becomes big business, it risks repeating some of the mistakes of the industrial food chain. Not only is organic junk food creeping into the supermarket but a lot of the marketing is misleading. The consumer looking at the pastoral labels, with the happy cows in verdant pastures and free-ranging chickens, can be forgiven for not realizing that there are now organic feedlots and organic factory farms—oxymorons I wouldn’t have thought possible till I saw them for myself. These days we’re also shipping national brands of organic produce all over the country at a tremendous cost in terms of energy. For every calorie of pre-washed organic California lettuce eaten in New York, fifty-six calories of fossil fuel energy have been burned to process it and get it there. More and more organic food is coming all the way from China. So industrial organic is a mixed blessing: a definite gain for the land where it is grown, a likely gain for the eater’s health, but if you care about the waste of energy, and about saving local farms and farmers, you may want to think twice about buying organic from the supermarket, and consider going, as some farmers now say, “beyond organic.”

Q. Such as buying food from sustainable farms. Can you tell us a little about these?

The word sustainable is overused these days, but spend some time on a well-managed farm, as I did, and you see how different it can be. A sustainable farm is one that draws food from the earth without diminishing it—creating more energy, in the form of food calories, than it consumes, in the form of fossil fuel. Sad to say, many organic farms are far from sustainable, and the most sustainable farm I found—Polyface Farm in Virginia—is not officially organic. But here pigs get to live like pigs, chickens like chickens, and cows like cows—each according to their nature, and in a symbiotic relationship. When cows graze well-managed pastures, and are followed in those pastures by chickens (who eat the insect larvae from the cow manure and fertilize the grass), it’s good for the animals and good for us, too. For it turns out that not only are you what you eat, but you are what you eat eats too. A farm like Polyface demonstrates there is a free lunch in nature: a way to feed ourselves without either emiserating animals or diminishing the earth. Indeed, this is a farm where the topsoil actually increases every year.

Q. Is food more than a health issue?

As Wendell Berry once said, “eating is an agricultural act.” I would add that it’s an environmental and a political act as well, for how we choose to eat represents our most profound engagement with the natural world. Nothing else we do has as profound an effect on the health of the earth, not to mention that of our bodies. I would also say food is a national security issue. One-fifth of the fossil fuel we consume goes to growing, processing and shipping our food—more than we consume driving our cars. We won’t get a handle on energy and global warming until we change the way we feed ourselves. Another reason food is a national security issue is that a highly centralized food system, in which 90 percent of our food chain passes through a half dozen corporate hands, is dangerously vulnerable to contamination, whether by terrorists or microbes. But what is so striking about food as a political issue is that this is one issue where all of us can make a difference—even more than our votes, our food choices can make a tremendous difference on critical questions about energy, the environment and the economic health of our communities. How we choose to eat represents one of the most powerful, and hopeful, votes we have to cast.

Q. How can the typical consumer navigate the marketplace to find the healthiest food?

People often ask me what they should eat, but I usually answer their question with another question. What matters to you? What values do you want to support with your eating decisions?

If you’re worried about pesticides, then buy the certified organic, by all means. If you care about preserving farms where you live, then buy local. Farms don’t just give us food; they give us a certain kind of landscape, and the only way to preserve that landscape is by supporting those farms. If you care most about your nutrition and health, then fresh locally grown food is more important, so shop at the farmer’s market or join a CSA. When it comes to meat, you can do a lot better than organic—look for grass-finished beef at the farmer’s market, or pastured chicken and eggs, or milk from cows that get to go outside and eat grass. How can you know? Talk to farmers, visit their farms, or get on the Web—you’ll be surprised how many interesting possibilities there are today within a short drive of your home. Yes, buying food this way takes more time and effort than buying everything at the supermarket—but I would disagree this is “work.” Going to the farmer’s market, meeting farmers and learning what to do with an unfamiliar vegetable, is one of the most pleasurable things I do every week—infinitely more stimulating than going to the supermarket. The industrial food chain has convinced us that shopping for and preparing food and eating together at a table is an unbearable burden and inconvenience; that message might be a good way to sell convenience food, but it’s simply not true. These are some of the greatest pleasures in life!

Q. But isn’t eating this way terribly expensive?

The deeper I delved into the industrial food chain, the more I realized how expensive cheap food is, if you do a true accounting. That 99 cent fast food burger is cheap at the register, but its true cost—to the environment, to your health, to the taxpayer—is unimaginably steep. First, there’s the corn it took to feed the steer, corn grown with vast quantities of fossil fuel and pesticide and chemical fertilizer. There’s the subsidies paid to the farmer to grow the corn—$5 billion a year. Then there’s the military spending to keep the oil flowing to grow the corn to feed the steer to make the burger. And then there’s the cost to your health of eating that high-fat corn-fed beef, which must also be given antibiotics so the animals can tolerate its corn diet—yet another cost to public health, in the form of antibiotic resistance. So cheap food is actually astonishingly expensive.

I prefer to buy honestly priced food, food that isn’t being subsidized by the taxpayer, public health, or the environment. It’s true that not everyone in this country can afford to buy honestly priced food—and we need to find a way to put healthy food in reach of those people. It’s a crime that the cheapest calories in the supermarket are the least healthy ones: added sugar (from corn) and added fat (from corn and soybeans). But that’s because we subsidize those calories—by paying farmers to grow more corn and soybeans than we need. Why don’t we subsidize the healthier calories over in the produce section?

The majority of us, though, can afford to spend more for honestly price food. Americans spend less than 10 percent of their disposable income on food—less than any people on earth (the French spend 20 percent; the Chinese 50 percent), less in fact than any people in history. Why is it we understand “quality” when it comes to a car or television set but not when it comes to something as important as what we eat? Why do we assume that a five-cent egg, from a factory farm where the chickens lived in battery cages, had their beaks clipped off to prevent them from cannibalizing one another, and were fed pig meal, is the same product as a thirty cent egg from a chicken that lived outdoors and got to eat grass and insects as it was designed to do? For all the difference in taste and nutritional quality, these might as well be two completely different foods.

Q. At the end of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, you cook a meal that you personally hunt, gather, and grow. What was the most challenging moment for you?

Shooting a wild boar and then eating it. I’d never hunted before, and wasn’t sure I could enjoy eating an animal I had killed and butchered myself.

Q. And the most surprising moment?

Just how much I enjoyed it. My adventures in hunting and gathering were challenging, but deeply gratifying. You realize that we still possess this marvelous set of tools allowing us to track and hunt an animal, or to spot a mushroom and then determine whether it’s nourishing or deadly. To prepare a meal literally from scratch, even just once in your life, to follow a food chain all the way from the earth to the table, is to be reminded of something fundamental and beautiful but easily forgotten in our fast food world: that, whatever we choose to eat, we eat by the grace not of industry or the supermarket, but of nature.

Q. In Defense of Food is a very evocative title. Why do we need to defend food?

We need to defend food-by which I mean real food as opposed to processed foodlike products-because it is under attack from nutrition scientists on one side and the food industry on the other. Both encourage us to think in terms of nutrients, rather than foods, and both benefit from widespread confusion about something that should be quite simple: deciding what to eat.

Nutrition scientists are invested in the nutrient-by-nutrient approach because it’s easier to study simple nutrients rather than complex whole food. The food industry has a problem with traditional foods because it’s much more profitable design novel food products. So the manufacturers add complexity and convenience and do just about everything to our food except leave well enough alone. In fact, the scientists and the manufacturers are often allies. Both promote this idea that nutrients matter more than foods. Typically, the nutrition scientists highlight some amazingly important new nutrient, and then the manufacturers rush to reformulate food products to have more of that nutrient so they can slap a health claim on it.

Q. The Omnivore’s Dilemma was published in 2006. When did you start writing In Defense of Food and what was the impetus behind it?

I started researching In Defense of Food immediately after publishing The Omnivore’s Dilemma. As I traveled across the country talking about that book, I found that readers were, first, astounded to learn what they were eating, and second, eager to know how they might change the way they eat. I was surprised to discover how confused so many of us are about this most elemental of creaturely activities: figuring out a healthy diet. So I began researching the whole question of food and health to see if I could come up with a few simple rules of eating. To my surprise, I discovered that the scientists had less to teach us about eating healthfully than I expected—that the science of nutrition is still a very primitive science—and that there is a much more reliable source of wisdom on the subject. That wisdom is in the form of traditional foods, cuisines, and food cultures, which are the product of hundreds, if not thousands, of years of trial and error figuring out how to keep people healthy using whatever grows in a specific place. Culture has more to teach us about how to eat well than science. That was a big surprise to me.

Q. The Omnivore’s Dilemma clearly struck a nerve with readers. It not only was a national bestseller and named a best book of the year by five publications including The New York Times, but it also galvanized a new national conversation on food, as evidenced by regular news articles and food pieces that cite your book. Did the response surprise you?

I was flabbergasted by the response. It told me that the culture was ready to have a new conversation about food and that people were deeply troubled by the American way of eating. You never know when you start a book just where the culture will be when you finish it. But between the obesity epidemic, food safety issues (like E. coli and mad cow disease), concern about animal welfare, and a growing recognition that the American way of eating is making us sick, people seem ready to take a good hard look, both at the system as a whole and, even more important, at their own approach to food. The Omnivore’s Dilemma was very much about the food system; this book is about the individual eater—and we don’t have to wait for the system to change to change the way we eat. As a matter of fact, by changing the way we eat, we’ll not only be healthier, but our food dollars will bring about change in the larger system. This is one of those cases where the personal is political, and to do the right thing for yourself is to do the right thing for the land, the farmers, the animals. We don’t get too many opportunities like that.

Q. You call In Defense of Food a manifesto and indeed it is much more opinionated and programmatic than your other books. Was it difficult for you to write this way?

It was actually surprising easy to write this way. Since The Omnivore’s Dilemma, I’ve been engaged in a kind of conversation with my readers, both in person and online, and this book flowed naturally out of that give-and-take. It’s a conversational book, both in tone and in conception. Researching The Omnivore’s Dilemma gave me a thoroughgoing education in how the American food system works, so the question naturally arises: what are the practical implications of that knowledge for how one should eat? What I learned fundamentally changed the way I eat; this book is my attempt to share that with readers.

Q. What is “Nutritionism” and why is it good for the food industry but bad for our health?

Nutritionism is the predominant ideology about food in America. It’s not a science but a set of unexamined assumptions about food that shape our thinking about it without our even being aware. The first assumption is that a food is a collection of nutrients, and that it’s the nutrients that matter. Since nutrients are invisible—or visible only to scientists—it follows that we need expert help in order to eat properly. So nutritionism underwrites the power of nutrition scientists and food scientists and government—the implication is, it’s so complicated we can’t eat without their help and advice. Another equally destructive assumption of nutritionism is that the whole point of eating is to advance our physical health. This is a very narrow and novel idea that, ironically, has done nothing to improve our health. To the contrary, our obsession with eating healthy—with nutritionism—has coincided with a decline in dietary health—with the explosion of obesity and diabetes over the past twenty-five years. Nutritionism is ruining our health, not to mention our meals.

One of my goals in In Defense of Food is to offer the perspective of the visitor from Mars, the outsider who can step back and recognize the absurdities of nutritionist thinking, and remind people it wasn’t always this way, that eating is also about pleasure and community and engaging with nature, and that we can escape from the straitjacket of nutritionism. This is why I believe it’s much to my advantage I have no professional training in nutrition. That training is an indoctrination in nutritionism.

Q. How is the “Western Diet” making us sick?

We don’t know, exactly. What we do know is this: the Western Diet is responsible for the fact that people who eat as we do—lots of refined carbohydrates, lots of processed foods and meat, lots of everything except fruits, vegetables, and whole grains—suffer much higher rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other diet-related diseases than people who eat any number of more traditional diets.

We don’t know the exact mechanism by which our diet is making us sick—whether it’s all the fat in the diet, the meat or the refined carbohydrates, or the sheer abundance of calories. Scientists disagree. But this uncertainty need not hang us up. We don’t need to know why this is happened to know that it is happening and, very simply, that if we’re concerned about our health we should and can stop eating this way. Because we also know that by escaping from the Western Diet we can reverse the health problems associated with it. This is stunningly hopeful news. Let the scientists argue about what in the Western diet is making us sick. Much more important is to simply stop eating that way.

Q. You boil down your advice for better eating to seven words: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” It sounds simple but how do you apply that advice in today’s culture of fast food and packaged food?

The challenge is to know what food is and isn’t, because if you’re eating food, you’re probably going to be okay. In Defense of Food offers several handy tests for distinguishing between food and food products. For example, if your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize something as food, it probably isn’t. If it contains more than five ingredients, or contains high fructose corn syrup, or has ingredients you can’t pronounce, it probably isn’t food.

Fortunately, there is still plenty of food in the supermarket if you know where to look for it. You find most of it on the perimeter of the store—the produce, meat, fish, and dairy sections. The processed and packaged food fills the middle aisles. So for starters, shop the periphery of the store and stay out of the middle. But, even better, get out of the supermarket entirely whenever you can. At the farmer’s market you’ll find nothing but real food—nothing processed, nothing hydrogenated, no high-fructose corn syrup. You can’t go wrong.

There are similar rules for how to eat “mostly plants” and “not too much”—for example, eat at a table; you’re much more likely to snack and binge when you eat alone in the car or in front of the TV.

Q. You recommend shopping at farmers’ markets or joining a CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture) where you get a share of a local farmer’s produce on a regular basis. But is this practical for most people in this country? What if you don’t live in an area that doesn’t have these opportunities?

It’s true that not all of us have the option of forsaking the supermarket for the farmer’s market or CSA. But farmer’s markets are the fasting growing segment of the food marketplace today, so if there isn’t one in your area, there will be soon. But as I mentioned, there’s still real food for sale in the supermarket—and increasingly, there’s organic and local food there too. There’s plenty of real food at Whole Foods, of course, and even Wal-Mart is now selling organic food. If it’s not available locally, you can order excellent grass-fed meat over the Internet. We have more choice than we’ve had in at least a generation.

As I was writing the book, it occurred to me that offering the same advice thirty or forty years ago would have been crazy. To eat the way I propose would have meant leaving civilization, going back to the land to grow your own food. In the 1960s there was virtually no way to get wholesome food that had been well grown in healthy soils without going to great lengths or growing it yourself. Back then, this book would have been the manifesto of a crackpot!

We’re blessed to be living in the middle—or perhaps near the beginning—of a revolution in the way our food is produced and sold. Consumers have demonstrated to producers that they’re willing to pay a premium for food that is grown and prepared with care. The good news is that finding real food is only going to get easier in America.

Real food is, it must be said, often more expensive and often takes more time to prepare than fake food. So eating well is not just a matter of shopping differently. It means living differently too. It means being willing to—gasp!—cook. There’s no question that eating well means putting more into food—more money and more time. But the half-century-long experiment in outsourcing food preparation to corporations has failed us. Also, I think we’ve been sold a bill of goods when food marketers suggest we’re too busy to do anything but buy their processed products—I don’t buy this idea we don’t have time to cook, or that cooking is so incredibly difficult it’s best treated as a spectator sport on television. Or that we don’t even have time to eat meals, so buy our car-friendly food products. This is such a crock! You can put an excellent meal on the table in twenty minutes. The fact is, people find the time—and the money—for the things they value. We have been devaluing food, with disastrous results for our health and our happiness. What we need to do is put food back where it once was: a little closer to the center of a well-lived life.

Q. You’re not a fan of the “low-fat” diet. What’s wrong with it?

For starters, it was based on faulty science. To demonize fats is to demonize an essential—not to mention very tasty—nutrient. The habit of demonizing one nutrient and elevating another is nutritionism at its worst, and leads to food fads and food phobias—to neurotic eating. Now we’re demonizing the carbohydrate and rehabilitating fat. These swings of the nutritional pendulum are destructive of both our health and happiness. Whatever nutrient we’ve decide is “good” we end up eating in excess. That’s why the food industry loves “low fat” or “low carb” equally well—they become an excuse for eating and selling more food.

Q. What’s your favorite weekday meal to cook for your family and how long does it take you to make it?

My favorite weekday meal in the summer would be local salmon grilled on the barbecue with vegetables from the garden—grilled summer squash or broccoli or eggplant. With that we might have soba noodles or rice. And of course wine! We can get a dinner like that on the table in twenty minutes, tops.

In the winter, we make a lot of soups and stews. These take a little longer: maybe an hour of cutting and chopping at lunchtime, and then a long, slow (unattended) simmer during the afternoon. This will give us at least one dinner plus a couple of lunches, so the minutes-per-meal is actually quite low.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • Michael Pollan approaches eating as an activity filled with ethical issues. Do you agree that the act of eating is as morally weighty as he says it is? What questions concern you most about the way you eat or the way your food is created?
  • Some readers might argue that Pollan’s ethics do not go far enough, perhaps because he does not urge us all to become vegetarians or possibly because of the zeal with which he pursues the feral pig that he kills toward the end ofThe Omnivore’s Dilemma. Did you find yourself quarreling with any of Pollan’s ethical positions, and why?
  • Pollan argues that capitalism is a poor economic model to apply to the problems of food production and consumption. Do you agree or disagree, and why?
  • Pollan also shows a number of instances in which government policies have apparently worsened the crisis in our food culture. What do you think should be the proper role of government in deciding how we grow, process, and eat our food?
  • How has Michael Pollan changed the way you think about food?
  • At the end of In Defense of Food, Pollan offers a series of recommendations for improved eating. Which, if any, do you intend to adopt in your own life?
  • Which of Pollan’s recommendations would you be least likely to accept, and why?
  • Do you think that the way Americans eat reveals anything about our national character and broader shared values? How is Pollan’s writing a statement not only about American eating, but about American culture and life?
  • In both The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food, Pollan quotes the words of Wendell Berry: “Eating is an agricultural act.” What does Berry mean by this, and why is his message so important to Pollan’s writing?
  • In each part of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan has a particular friend to help him understand the food chain he is investigating: George Naylor in Iowa, Joel Salatin at Polyface, and Angelo Garro in northern California. Which of these men would you most like to know personally, and why?
  • What, in the course of his writing, does Michael Pollan reveal about his own personality? What do you like about him? What, if anything, rubs you the wrong way?
  • If Michael Pollan were coming to your place for dinner, what would you serve him and why?
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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2011

    Readers Must Protest -- Price Too High, Lousy Sample

    Once again, eBook readers are being taken advantage of. An additional eBook costs publishers nothing to sell, and the marginal costs of the sale to B&N are negligible.

    Yet the eBook price for this book ($12.99) is 40% MORE than the paperback ($9.19).

    Too, as mentioned by others below, the "sample" is useless...only a page of actual writing...the rest of the 15 pages being TOC, reviews, and filler pages. No chance at all to see the author's writing style or examine his logic and depth of research.

    Still, the book does have some good reviews.

    The solution I've decided on, and hope other eBook readers will adopt. is to check out a copy from my local library--electronic or hardcopy.

    That way, I get all the information the author has to offer, and the publishers, author, and bookseller get no additional revenue.

    If enough eBook readers boycott publishers that take advantage of them, B&N might have enough leverage to negotiate more reasonable prices for their eBooks.

    64 out of 98 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 9, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    You are what you eat

    The phrase "you are what you eat" has recently brought on a completely new meaning for me-eating stressed animals is really stressing me out! I have become increasingly aware and preoccupied with animal stress lately--this due to the fact that I have just finished reading The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan. Ignorance was bliss for me, up until now.
    My entire life I have been surrounded by happy and unstressed animals. In addition to numerous childhood pets, I have spent many days on my grandparent's farm. The only animal stress that can be detected at this farm is from the occasional birthing heifer. I have been (maybe purposely) oblivious to animal stress and misery. Michael Pollan has enlightened me to a world of animal stress, including my own. This intriguing book exposes how Americans eat, what they really eat and why eating has become so complicated and stressful.
    He begins with a surprisingly interesting, but lengthy (109 pages) section titled "Industrial CORN." I now know everything that I ever wanted to know about corn and its purposes. Pollan points out that corn is in almost everything we eat (from frozen yogurt to salad dressings), but more importantly he points out that corn is in animals that were never designed to eat it. He writes, "Corn is what feeds the steer that becomes the steak. Corn feeds the chicken and the pig, the turkey and the lamb, the catfish.even the salmon, a carnivore by nature that the fish farmers are reengineering to tolerate corn" (18).
    Pollan views corn as the root of all evil. It is amazing to learn from his intensive research about how corn has come to rule the industrial world. However, he is not preachy or pushy in anyway-he just lays out the facts. These facts speak for themselves; it is very difficult to like corn after reading this book.
    One point that he keeps bringing to our attention is that cows have not evolved to digest corn. He writes, "cows (like sheep, bison, and other ruminants) have evolved the special ability to convert grass-which single-stomached creatures like us can't digest-into high quality protein" (70). He then goes on to explain how the government subsidized feedlots and promoted a grading system based on the fat marbling system that favored corn-fed over grass-fed beef. This is why in feedlots cows are fed huge amounts of corn, even though cows can live better and healthier without any corn.
    I have grown up with a family who raises beef cows in East Tennessee; therefore, it was hard for me to understand the claim that Pollan makes about "force feeding" cows and other animals corn. All cows LOVE corn. However, like humans, cows do not always make the right food choices. If I were given a choice between plain salad and fried corn bread, I probably would not make the healthier choice either. This is why our intellectual farmers and government need to step up and make the choices for the cows. Cows like how corn taste, but the cows aren't smart enough to know that eating corn is making them sick (which is why they are in turn fed antibiotics and hormones-that eventually become part of the hamburger you get at McDonalds). The cows aren't smart enough to know this, but we now are.

    26 out of 29 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2011

    I just have a gripe...

    I haven't read the book yet, I just wanted a sample to read first to see if I would like it before I purchased it. 14 pages of quotes from critics and 1 page of actual writing does not a sample make. I'm sure I'll read it at some point and like it, but that just bugged me.

    23 out of 45 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    SECOND HELPINGS, ANYONE?

    As we are reminded, humans are the only beings that have such a vast plethora of choices when it comes to food. After all, squirrels chatter happily upon finding a nut and a robin tugs determinedly on a worm. But, just think of our menu - vegetarian, fast food, frozen dinners, blender whirled energy drinks, everything from Tootsie Roll Pops to tofu. And therein, according to author Michael Pollan lies our dilemma. He posits that deciding what we will eat is an inevitable cause for anxiety. And, nowhere he continues are there more anxious people than in our country. We suffer from what he refers to as 'our national eating disorder,' citing such roller coaster effects as diet crazes, the avoidance of a specific food because it has been deemed bad for us, and the fact that obesity is on the rise from shore to shore. Pollan is both intrepid and amusing as he details why the question of what we should put in front of us has become so complex. Dividing his narrative into three parts, he escorts listeners on a walk through each of the food chains that keep us going - industrialized food, organic or alternative food, and food we forage for ourselves. We go to an Iowa cornfield, to a farm in Virginia and, yes, to those golden arches, MacDonalds. Along the way we follow the trail of what we eat from its source to our tables. With intensive research and entertaining prose Pollan (The Botany of Desire) has created a fascinating look at the truth found in we are what we eat. Scott Brick delivers an animated easy-to-listen-to voice performance. As always, he's one of the best audio book readers to be found today. Listen to this and then tuck into your supper! - Gail Cooke

    22 out of 27 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2011

    Ebook costs more than the paperback.

    Ebook costs more than the paperback.

    17 out of 47 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 11, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    Excellent Book Resulting In Change...

    Never in my wildest imagination did I think that a book, of which a fourth is dedicated to the history and current usage of corn, would be so enjoyable. Pollan makes a seemingly dry subject exciting and interesting. He presents the argument for conscientious eating without beating the reader over the head with morality. This book really will change the way you view food.

    13 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 15, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Highly recommended for everyone who eats.

    This is a wonderful book. I have already purchased four additional copies and given them to family and friends. The first few chapters are a little disturbing, but stick with it because each chapter is different from the one before. Sometimes we might feel more comfortable in blissful ignorance, but it is important for everyone to understand the current state of our food supply. The way meat, grains, and vegetables are produced right now in America is decidedly unsustainable.
    I found Mr. Pollan's writing style to be engaging. I also was pleased with the way he dealt with the issue of vegetarianism. It is a very personal decision, and I felt the book was honest and straightforward, but in no way coercive. He does not endorse a particular lifestyle in this book, but gives the reader a lot of information to help each of us make our own choices.

    10 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 7, 2011

    ebook costs more?!

    Why does the ebook cost more than the print? This doesn't make sense.

    9 out of 26 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 11, 2011

    really bad sample

    The way the sample was done prompted me to go directly to the library and save my money on this purchase. If I were Michael Pollan, I would demand a real sample or none at all.

    9 out of 30 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 2, 2009

    Thoughtful and thought-provoking read for anyone who eats.

    This affected my eating and food shopping choices more fundamentally than any fitness or diet book or article that I can remember.

    6 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2007

    Thought provoking unfortunately vague on numbers

    Mr. Pollan does a great job of looking at our food production system in the United States and asks some very pertinent questions about it. Unfortunately, he mixes entirely too much philosophy and opinion with science. For example, he states that no adverse effects have been noted with the use of growth hormone in milk production. He then goes on to say that this may be because we do not have sophisticated enough instruments to measure those adverse effects and therefore it should not be used. Thankfully he is not in charge of the FDA. 'We are sorry we cannot approve your new drug because even though we found no adverse effects in our test subjects, when we invent more sophisticated testing equipment we may find adverse effects.' Secondly, Mr. Pollan has some major issues when it comes to economic analysis. He at one time states that an economic curve he has discovered is 'true.' Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of economics knows that truth and economic analysis are not exactly related. He also contends at one point that when corn became inexpensive prior to prohibition it led to massive drunkeness. This being caused by corn whiskey being quite inexpensive. He correlates this to food being cheap today and causing obesity. Yet he doesn't address the fact that the wealthiest in our country have the lowest levels of obesity. If price is a factor shouldn't these numbers be reversed? Finally, Mr. Pollan never really gives any concrete numbers on food production and human population. He gives this warm, fuzzy feeling about organics but never states what global production could be in this mode and how this relates to human population.

    6 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2006

    Okay and interesting, but drags in some places

    I try to eat healthy, so I thought this book would be a great choicefor some summer reading. I like Pollan's approach, tracing three different meals back to their origins, but I thought the book really dragged in some places. The part where the author goes over the ethics of meat eating was very dry and seemed to take fifty pages when it probably could have been said in four. However, the information about industrial corn and the conflict between organic and 'big organic', and the trials of trying to create a totally sustainable meal are very enlightening. This is a book everyone could benefit from reading, and while it didn't manage to make me a vegetarian or a vegan, I definitely will have some reservations about frequenting fast food places and supermarkets (even good ol' Whole Foods) after finishing this. I would recommend this to people interested in food and industry, and the scary American obesity trend. However, as I said, there are some places where this book really drags, and the ending is a little too utopian. Hopefully though, people will be willing to give this book a go and learn a bit among the way.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2013

    Baf

    A total load of horse hockey. Its just the cause du jour to trash everything. Wouldnt believe anything this author writes as he is just pushing his opinion.

    3 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 3, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Another great read by Michael Pollan!

    I read Pollan's "In Defense of Food" first and was absolutely blown away by his approach to the culture, philosophy, economics, and science of food and the Western Diet.

    Pollan's research is impeccable, and he presents the facts in a way that is both accessible and interesting, without laying blame on the reader/consumer of the omnivore's diet for doing what we do. "The Omnivore's Dilemma" is a much longer, and in some ways, more challenging read than "In Defense of Food", but it's well-worth the investment. If nothing else, you'll learn a heck of a lot about the science, biology, and agriculture of corn and corn products.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 22, 2010

    "Food" will never be the same.

    EGE, 6th McIntyre.

    As I trailed Michael Pollan's book, disgust for America's food network was established. I knew there had to be something wrong with McDonalds and every fast-food restaurant out there, but of course hardly anyone "truly understands it". "We get what we pay for" has become something that America has not yet realized. Pollan however, proved this fact over and over again, which became somewhat of a wake-up call to me.

    It's been a ritual for me to always check out the calorie and fat content on the labels, but this book has changed my entire outlook on food. I require myself to be aware of every ingredient, and to pick and choose wisely. And by reading this book, I hope to never again experience the "Omnivore's Dilemma" as I discover more about what I should be eating.

    The quality of Pollan's research and experiences are not easily summarized, but I'm sure that most people will agree that it was well worth the time to read this book. This is a "MUST read" for every American, and there is no excuse not to be aware of the threat of our American food.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 22, 2009

    Very enlightening

    Having recently moved to a once fruitful farm area of Washington State, I have become inspired to learn more our food supply. Pollan's book is an excellent place to start and to really inspire me to think about the food choices I make for me and my family.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2008

    opened up my eyes

    This book is incredible. I don't usually like non-fiction but this is too interesting. I will never eat corn fed beef again! It has really made me think of how important it is to be conscious of where your food comes from.Everyone should read this book.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2008

    if you eat, you need to read this!!

    This is the book I can't stop thinking about or talking about lately. I've been thinking differently about food for a long time, but this takes it to another level. I can't wait for winter to be over so I can mostly abandon supermarket shopping (even Whole Foods is suspect these days with its industrial food shipped thousands of miles) to join one of the CSAs near me. I recommend (I'm tempted to beg, but won't) the reading of this book by anyone who eats. We've all been desensitized to the crap that comes out of a grocery store for $1/lb. Our bodies and communities are yearning for a fellowship with food that isn't fast.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2007

    Good but to wordy!

    The book has a lot of great information. I just think it is way to wordy. Get to the 'FN' point and quit wasting my time

    2 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2012

    The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan is really an exceptiona

    The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan is really an exceptional book! After the first chapter I was sold. If you are a lover of food and you want to know the secrets behind the food we eat I recommend this book. My 9th garde class is reading this book at Archbishop Carroll Highscool. Although after reading this book you might not want to eat your favorite foods again. Pollan shares a lot of secrets and research behind the foods we eat. He shares amazing facts that I found surprising but also expected. He gives you inside tips on where to find your food and what to look for. This book has expanded my knowledge on food. Now, I am constantly reading the back of labels on cereal boxes!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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