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

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

4.0 332
by Michael Pollan

ISBN-10: 078628952X

ISBN-13: 9780786289523

Pub. Date: 10/04/2006

Publisher: Gale Group

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…  See more details below


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.

Product Details

Gale Group
Publication date:
Thorndike Nonfiction Series
Edition description:
Large Print Edition
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.50(d)

Table of Contents

Introduction : our national eating disorder1
1The plant : corn's conquest15
2The farm32
3The elevator57
4The feedlot : making meat65
5The processing plant : making complex foods85
6The consumer : a republic of fat100
7The meal : fast food109
8All flesh is grass123
9Big organic134
10Grass : thirteen ways of looking at a pasture185
11The animals : practicing complexity208
12Slaughter : in a glass abattoir226
13The market : "greetings from the non-barcode people"239
14The meal : grass-fed262
15The forager277
16The omnivore's dilemma287
17The ethics of eating animals304
18Hunting : the meat334
19Gathering : the fungi364
20The perfect meal391

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The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 332 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
MsMillion More than 1 year ago
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.
GailCooke More than 1 year ago
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
TulaneGirl More than 1 year ago
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.
CelloLady More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Silvyrrayn More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Bendrew More than 1 year ago
This affected my eating and food shopping choices more fundamentally than any fitness or diet book or article that I can remember.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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!
STREBLIG More than 1 year ago
Michael Pollen continues to educate us on the journey of our food till we purchase it. The information helps us be better consumers but also enlightens us on just how important it is for us to be aware of the foods we are eating. It forces us to make decisions on how connected we want to be with the environment and what we consume. I have found that this book is motivating me to learn more about the role of government in our foods and about what I can do to help us get back to healthy food and how to help our environment. The Future of Food and Food, Inc. are two movies that reinforce what the author is trying to explain.
EGE More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
PhoebeEH More than 1 year ago
The omnivores dilemma by Michael Pollan, explains the predicament humans have, especially in the first world, with so many options and diets to choose from.  Through cultural progressions and technological advances, we have had the ability to preserve, manufacture, and mass produce our food in ways we could not before present day. We no longer have “seasons” because produce is distributed on a global scale. The relationship between, food, culture, and the environment has been completely altered due to human activity. Pollan critiques the standard American diet by mentioning how each way of eating can sustain us, which is industrial food, organic food, as well as that can be foraged for our own selves.  He examines the process of food before it gets to your plate and how that can affect your health, and the environment.  Pollan analyzes industrialization of goods, organic farming and agriculture, and foraging. I enjoyed reading about his personal attitudes towards each. He explains the negatives and positives of each way of sustaining yourself. Towards the end of the book Pollan describes his own experiences with sustaining himself with each type of diet. He comes to the conclusion that foraging is the best way to feed yourself and protect the environment and your health in the process. Without prepackaging, transporting, hormones, pesticides, and genetically modified organisms being touched by your food in the actions and efforts of foraging for your own food you have put your health and the environment out of harm’s way in this lifestyle. Through this though it is not practical, but he also comes to the conclusion that a industrialized food is not either. We have to understand the background of our food and that is where Pollan kind of takes this book. He writes, "we need to eat by the grace of nature, not industry." I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand where their food comes from, what they’re eating, and their impacts on their health and the environment. 
GeorgiMA More than 1 year ago
Pollan's writing is top notch. Highly skilled writer, descriptive, informative, well researched, personal experience. Very thorough exploration of the omnivore's dilemma.
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