Omnivore’s Dilemma Book Review

I am an omnivore. And I don’t have a dilemma. At least, I didn’t prior to starting this book. Now that I’ve finished, I fear that I’ve come away with a different perspective on food than I anticipated.

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

I found this book after finishing Real Food, Fake Food. It came up as a suggestion on my Amazon front page.

I had never heard of this book or Michael Pollan before. So, I was a bit skeptical of reading it. However, it had good reviews so thought I would give it a try.

Immediately after getting into the first few pages I knew I liked his style. The content was also interesting.

This book explores several key aspects of the food industry starting with corn.

Corn

Corn is the basis for all kinds of food and non-food products (food additives, chemicals, ethanol etc).

I knew there was a heavy reliance on corn, but didn’t understand the scope.

Did you know that corn is fed to all kinds of animals like chickens, cows and even fish ?

In addition to feeding this unnatural food to the animals, they are grown in very tight/unnatural conditions.

These facilities most cows/chickens/pigs are grown in are known as concentrated animal feeding operations. Also known as CAFOs.

These operations exist to maximize the yield of meat in a given space. But at the cost of safety and our health.

The animals live so close together that they require antibiotics. It’s the close quarters environment that leads to a high risk of infection (which in turn, makes antibiotics necessary).

I knew that antibiotics were common in raising livestock, but didn’t know why.

Because the animals diet is also unnatural, the meat they produced is not as healthy. For beef, the corn feed results in higher levels of unhealthy fats in the meat. Same thing for chicken eggs, but for the yolk.

After the in depth discussion corn and livestock, he briefly touches on the magic of fast food before going in depth on his farm experience with a “grass farmer”, Mr. Salatin.

The Grass Farmer

The grass farmer term indicates that the farmer is maintaining a sustainable ecosystem. And it all starts with grass

Everything is done without all the chemicals and artificial methods that are standard with conventional farming and livestock today.

The lifecycle he helps to maintain starts with the sun’s energy, which grows the grass. The grass feeds the cows. Which poop and feed the grass again.

The chickens eat insects in the cow poop. For every consumer there is the opposite producer to balance things out.

No antibiotics are needed since the cows aren’t standing in their poop all day and they have space. Because they have space they can walk around and help push around the dirt and fertilize it, for new grass to grow.

The chickens are also running around and get to eat part of their natural diet (insects found in the cow poop). (You can read more about his operation on his website.)

It was interesting to hear how this farm is run and I wish I had something close to where I live. I’ll have to do some research.

The next section goes into the heart of the “omnivore’s dilemma”

The Dilemma

Michael finishes off with a foray into why we have the attitudes that we do today.

He raises several questions for the reader to think about in terms of ethics and our attitudes towards eating animals. And of course, the “omnivore’s dilemma”.

Lastly, he finishes by telling us about his first-hand experiences hunting for boar and foraging for wild mushrooms. Which strangely enough, makes me want to go hunting and foraging for mushrooms.

Two things I never had an interest in before.

Summary

Looking back, I thought this book provided a lot of insight into the food industry.

It was very interesting to learn about our reliance on corn and all the political/financial reasons how this came to be.

Regardless of your eating preferences, this book might help to shed some light on the dark aspects of food industry you may not yet know about.

I don’t think ignorance is bliss, and so, I recommend reading this book. Especially if you care about your health and the food you eat.

I would also recommend reading Real Food, Fake Food by Larry Olmsted.

And if you don’t like reading you might want to watch Food, Inc. This is a movie which touches on some of the same topics covered in this book. Not as in depth, but nevertheless interesting.

It came out quite a while ago and I never watched it until yesterday. Yes, I’m late to the party. But better late than never.

 

 

Want to know what else I’ve been reading? Here is a link to some of my other book reviews!

 

 

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Yo! I'm Pat. I have the appetite of a shark. And with that, I strive daily to improve my skills and satisfy it with tasty food. My site is focused on Japanese cuisine, hydroponic gardening, and points travel. First time here? Learn more about me.

Note: My online Japanese cooking course will open for enrollment December 1-7, 2017. For details and video see what I have planned!!

   

18 thoughts on “Omnivore’s Dilemma Book Review

  • December 13, 2016 at 7:00 am
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    I will have to check these out. It’s so interesting learning about food, but I will say sometimes all of the information seems a bit overwhelming. Maybe these two books will help clear things up a bit! Thanks for the book review!!

    Reply
    • December 15, 2016 at 8:49 am
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      it is and i understand where you are coming from… even though it was informative, i still feel like there is a lot to learn!

      Reply
  • December 12, 2016 at 9:38 am
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    I read the book too & totally agree. Food, how even basic ingredients are made, is ever changing. Feels like I need a PhD for info, plus combat helmet to fight against tsunami force of advertising…

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    • December 13, 2016 at 8:37 am
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      i know right! at least we are lucky to have these books and reports to inform us about these issues, if only they wouldnt occur in the first place.

      Reply
  • December 12, 2016 at 6:10 am
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    Scientific diet are not as attractive as they used to be. Paying more to eliminate the work of scientists at the market is humorous. Was the green revolution necessary?

    Reply
    • December 13, 2016 at 8:59 am
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      thank you for the note Timothy, i havent heard of the green revolution before and will need to do some reading on it. thanks again for stopping by!

      Reply
  • December 12, 2016 at 5:36 am
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    Another good series has Michael Pollan learning about cooking in “Cooked” on Netflix if you get that.

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    • December 13, 2016 at 8:32 am
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      thank you Elizabeth, i’ve become a fan of Michael and will have to look into that series. I think i missed that one when i was looking at his work !

      Reply
  • December 12, 2016 at 4:53 am
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    Such a great book! I like your review because it’s short and clear. I’m not a fan of long winded reviews πŸ™‚

    Reply
    • December 13, 2016 at 8:30 am
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      Marian, thank you for stopping by and the comment! it was hard to try and summarize the content at a high level, there was so much good material in the book!

      Reply
  • December 12, 2016 at 2:54 am
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    Unfortunately there’s another element to the dilemma – grass fed beef produces more methane than intensively reared beef. So the beef that is better for us (and for the animals) is the beef that is worse for the environment. I would resolve the problem by turning vegetarian, but I like meat. Like you, I’m late tyo the party and trying to make sense of it all. Will look at the books you recommend as I need help with this!

    Reply
    • December 13, 2016 at 8:28 am
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      well said and thank you for stopping by! happy that this might have assisted in your search for knowledge πŸ˜€ i’ll continue to do the same

      Reply
  • December 11, 2016 at 9:22 pm
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    This is one of my favourite books. I think everyone should read it ☺️

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    • December 13, 2016 at 8:48 am
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      thank you for the note Kylie, couldn’t agree more and hope this helps some people find it πŸ™‚

      Reply
  • December 11, 2016 at 6:56 pm
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    Great review!
    My husband watched Food Inc and I have heard of Omnivore’s Dilemma. Thanks for sharing what you found.
    We go through periods of no meat and feel better for it.
    We limit beef and mainly eat chicken, ground turkey.

    Reply
    • December 13, 2016 at 8:52 am
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      thank you Sharon, I’m feeling the same way right now. reading this was a life changer for sure.

      Reply

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