‘The Omnivore’s Dilema’ is a detailed look at modern food production, and a massive eye-opener. If you have any interest in eating healthy, you should read this book!
Pollan, an American food writer, sets out to trace the origins of the foods on his plate, right back to the original source. In the investigation that follows he analyses and disects modern farming and animal-husbandry, crop growing, food processing, GM, and everything else that goes into the production of the food we eat.
There are some shocking discoveries here, for instance, Pollan kicks off with an explanation of Corn growing in the US – The US government subsidies growing corn, which is then fed to livestock (when it’s not their natural food) and turned into all manner of chemicals including high-fructose corn syrup, which is sugar’s evil twin – it’s a health nightmare, but the farmer’s subsidies make it cheaper than sugar, so it finds its way into all manner of processed foods. Plus the subsidy encourages monoculture farming and makes it hard for farmers to make as much money growing other crops.
From this base, he goes on to explore feedlots, the modern high-density animal feeding plants that produce a lot of our meat, the complexities of processing, the ethics of meat eating, foraging, the industrialization of the organic movement, and much more besides.
Along the way he also looks at alternatives and more traditional approaches. Particularly inspiring is his visit to Polyface Farm in Virginia, where the emphasis is on respect for the land and working with nature and natural processes. The understanding of natural cycles, and inter-relationship of the the different animals and plants on the farm, is truly inspirational.
In summary, this is an entertaining and informative book that exposes the hidden aspects of the food industry, and it will make you think twice about what and how you eat. Pollan is American, and the book is about the way they do things in the US – I know that the situation is different here in the UK, however, this remains a very informative and useful read for anyone regardless of where you live.
I often recommend one of Pollan’s other books ‘Food Rules’ (my review is here) which is a very slim, light read – The Omnivore’s Dilema, in contrast, is a serious piece of journalistic writing, with abundant detail and analysis. For anyone interested in where their food comes from, it is a must-read!