Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Book Review: The Omnivore's Dilemma

A few days ago I finished reading The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. I was a little scared to read it at first, if anyone recalls. I love food, and the last thing that I wanted to read was something about how my food is treated. However, Michael Pollan does a wonderful job walking that fine line between informative and over doing it. I will be honest, it has totally changed the way I think about meat, produce, grocery stores, farmer's markets, and Whole Foods. I admit, at first I was a little fanatical about the information I was taking in. The constant phrases that came out of my mouth were the following:

  • "This whole meal came from corn... CORN, it was in the feed for the animals, its in the food, its in the butter, its in the packaging... corn corn corn corn corn."
  • "The whole meat industry is doing everything in reverse!"
  • "These are 'industrial' eggs, milk, meat, and cheese."

Like I said, I was a little fanatical. But, being able to have some distance from the book, a lot of the actualities about the grocery industry still hit home for me. I know that right now I do not have the means (means being money, skill, and stomach space) to drastically change the way I buy groceries, but I have started taking small steps to bring me to that place. Here are a few of the steps I have began to implement now.

Buy local milk.
Although, one day I plan on buying a share of a cow, and getting raw milk, right now I can walk down to The Produce Place and pick up a half gallon of milk that comes from a local dairy. The milk comes in a glass jug (so I feel better about not using plastic) and costs about the same as a half gallon of organic milk from Kroger (actually its cheaper). I know if I wanted to, I could drive up and see the dairy myself, and see how the cows are treated. I can see that the cows are fed grass and hay, not grain (cows have a difficult time digesting grain, because their stomachs are meant to thrive on grasses. Grain is also the reason why cows have to be injected with antibiotics... just read the book).

Buy local free range chicken eggs.
I could do this for the taste improvement alone! The yolks are rich, flavorful, and chock-full of nutrients. My reasoning on this is mostly due to the treatment of the animals. For as much suffering that occurs to a hen that is confined in a small space, those eggs should not be sold for $0.89. I know, they are chickens, but when you can taste the difference between an egg that came from an industrial hen house, and one that come from a free range chicken, you cannot help but think that there is a huge difference.

Buy local produce.
This one is hard. I have grown up in an era of convenience. No matter what the season, I want some sort of vegetable that is not in season. Year round apples, zucchinis, strawberries, corn, avocado, potatoes, etc. The vegetables at your supermarket are shipped from all around the world in order to bring us the convenience of eating what we want, when we want it. I believe that by keeping a watchful eye on what is seasonal and local, I am putting money back into the local economy. Plus, it makes me feel good knowing that my produce traveled on a truck from somewhere in Goodlettesville. But this is HARD, because most supermarkets do not carry produce from local farms. I'm trying, and I do what I can.

To anyone who reads this and wants to know more about what I am talking about, please do not hesitate to comment or ask questions. These are my own personal convictions about what I am putting into my body. Unless you are coming to eat at my house for dinner, then I promise to not force my food beliefs on you. I do think that as a culture we have been programmed to think that the food that we eat, is just food and that it was not at one time a living, breathing, organism/plant/animal.

I will say this, only read this book if you are ready to change the way you look at food. Some of this stuff really hit home for me, and I made immediate changes (I threw out a bag of frozen chicken nuggets because it grossed me out thinking about them). I definitely realize that to others some of the stuff will go in one ear and out the other, but this book will not be a waste of time. I greatly recommend this journey into the history of our eating habits.


  1. Anonymous3:11 PM

    i JUST found your blog and am in love with it :) thanks for representing . . .

    looks like you're doing more than well! im happy about that

    <3 nat

  2. Have you tried the Nashville Farmer's Market? I find I have to plan my meals about a week in advance in order to anticipate seasonal produce. We make a shopping list and go to the FM Sunday after church when we are in that part of the city.

    You can get good local preserves and super delicious local honey. I even found some goats-milk soap made on a local farm, and on Saturdays they sell milk and meats (antibiotic-free and grassfed). The produce is usually cheaper than the grocery store too. All this to say, it's worth the extra trip.

  3. Anonymous3:11 PM

    I'm in the middle of this book-it's hard to get through when I'm in the mood for summer reading but well worth it. Kind of a more intellectual Fast Food Nation. I always appreciate info like this as I'm concerned about what my daughter eats even more than myself.
    We have been growing some of our own food, composting, and buying as local as we can. One of my best friend's & I agree to disagree about HFCS. The amount of processing that goes into food is incredible - and avoiding can be very difficult.
    Did you read his recent article in the New York Times - there was a recent segment on NPR as well about the article - it's about people watching shows about food instead of actually cooking it!
    Been enjoying following you on twitter!



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