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One of the New York Times Book Review's Ten Best Books of the Year

Winner of the James Beard Award

Author of #1 New York Times Bestsellers In Defense of Food and Food Rules


Today, buffeted by one food fad after another, America is suffering from what can only be described as a national eating disorder. Will it be fast food tonight, or something organic? Or perhaps something we grew ourselves? The question of what to have for dinner has confronted us since man discovered fire. But as Michael Pollan explains in this revolutionary book, how we answer it now, as the dawn of the twenty-first century, may determine our survival as a species. Packed with profound surprises, The Omnivore's Dilemma is changing the way Americans thing about the politics, perils, and pleasures of eating.

"Thoughtful, engrossing ... You're not likely to get a better explanation of exactly where your food comes from."
-The New York Times Book Review

"An eater's manifesto ... [Pollan's] cause is just, his thinking is clear, and his writing is compelling. Be careful of your dinner!"
-The Washington Post

"Outstanding... a wide-ranging invitation to think through the moral ramifications of our eating habits."
--The New Yorker

"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 Seattle Times


Michael Pollan’s newest book Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation--the story of our most trusted food expert’s culinary education--was published by The Penguin Press in April 2013.
Published: Penguin Group on
ISBN: 9781101147177
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This book gave me a lot to think about, even though it took me a while to finish. At this point, I don't remember all the finer points, but I finished the book tonight thinking more about sources of food, and how food gets to my kitchen.more
recommended for: omnivores & anyone interested in the state of agriculture in the U.S.I was resistant to reading this book because I’m not an omnivore, and also I thought that Pollan’s book The Botany of Desire was brilliant and I suspected I would not feel as fond of this one, which is certainly true. He does write well, but I didn’t find that this book had the eloquence or elegance of the other.The sub-title of this book could read: It’s Really Ok To Eat Dead Animals, Really It Is. Which I realize for most people it is. But eating flesh foods and other foods made from animals such as dairy and eggs is simply what the vast majority of this book’s readers and the population as a whole do; it’s not an unique argument. But, I loved the fungi chapter and the corn section. The chapter on mushrooms I’m sure I enjoyed so much because a close friend of mine has told stories of her rural Indiana upbringing and of the very small morel patch they have on their property. So it was really fun for me to read about the foraging/hunting of the mushrooms, including local morels. (The author lives about 30 minutes drive from me and I recognized many of the locations in the book.) The corn section (about the deliberate infusion of corn products into just about every processed food) made me determined to cut way down on the processed foods that I often eat: the one real way this book changed me, not an insignificant one.A good part of this (apparently beloved) book seemed to me to be the author’s belabored argument that it’s perfectly fine to eat animals. His treatise looked like his attempt to avoid cognitive dissonance (his term although I was already thinking of it like that) so that he could continue to eat in peace as an omnivore, along with about 97% of the U.S. population; being omnivorous is the dominant paradigm. Anyway, his waxing poetic over the glories of killing and eating animals did not sway me. It’s interesting that Pollan continually rebuts his own arguments, but I wasn’t convinced his questioning was as honest as he wanted it to appear, as it seemed to me he already knew the answers he wanted to arrive at about being omnivorous. And I wouldn’t be surprised if he would agree with me about that.Some of his facts and figures were off. When he talks about tens of millions of animals killed for food in the U.S. for instance; actually, the latest figures I’ve read are 11 billion every year, not including fish. Even the call to eat locally, which I usually subscribe to, is not to be so simplified. One contradictory example I can think of (this issue is not addressed in the book) is the consuming of products (chocolate, coffee, dried fruit, nuts) from the distant rainforest, which, in my opinion, is much preferable to continuing to cut down rainforest trees, and which the natives will allow if they can’t make their living from the rainforest in other ways.I know my philosophy is shared by a relative few, but the fast food meals, the description which was intended to highlight the large amounts of corn products in all the foods, while I found that surprising and unfortunate, it was the cow and chicken parts of the meal that disturbed me the most. And, as far as the “idyllic” Polyface Farm, I truly wonder what they could do 100% plant products grown.more
Nothing will ever be the same again. That's what I thought to myself about 6 pages into this incredible book. Pollan is a fabulous writer who keeps getting better. He brings to his quest for the origins of his dinner a journalistic sensibility that has no particular agenda yet pulls no punches, either. There is so much information about how we eat, and why, in this book I'm sure I've not absorbed it all. But I've grokked enough of it to have changed the way I acquire food. It's funny in parts, heartbreakingly sad in others, and ultimately, for me, transformative. My favorite line from the book is this: "We are corn's koala." Highly recommended.more
I will definitely read this again! Great book, very eye-opening!more
Although Pollan can be annoying, he brings up many important points. The chapter on corn and the raising of most beef in this country was enlightening, and I really enjoyed the chapter on organic farming. The last chapter, where he tries to produce a completely foraged meal, was both instructive and amusing. Everyone should read this book (although if you are already a locavore, and especially if you are a vegetarian, it isn't quite as necessary).more
Dry in some parts, but that is to be expected. Overall, in the same vein as Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Mineral and Foer's Eating Animals. Very interesting, some redundant information (as in the other books) but overall a good read. Makes you think before you put something in your mouth!more
I was worried it would be a shrill jeremiad but instead it was an extremely interesting tour of the industrial food chain and alternatives. The tone is vintage New Yorker as in those extremely long but fascinating articles about 'wheat' or 'rollable steel'; the kind where after 40 pages of dense print between the cartoons, 'the end' appears next to italics that say, 'part I of III'. Thank you Mr. Pollan for the memories. I'm back to bread, raw milk cheese, whole milk and who knew that beef could taste so good. And I have stopped laughing at those people who comb the market with those wicker baskets.more
The Ominvore's Dilemma is part science, part politics and part personal memoir. Michael Pollen's book is told in three parts: the first part is the history of corn industry in the America, from the rise of monoculture agriculture, to the implementation of farm subsidies and the ways that corn is processed into its component parts (like high-fructose corn syrup). The second part is about the organic movement in America and the difference between grass-fed organic and industrial organic (i.e. earthbound farms). In the last section, Pollen goes on his own personal food journey in an effort to make a meal out of all the things that he grew, gathered or killed himself. In this portion, he also discusses the merits of vegetarianism and the mushroom gathering subculture in Northern California.

The first 200 pages of this book were fascinating, particularly the section on corn. The sheer number of additives that are synthesized from corn is amazing and has had me reading the labels of everything in the grocery store since I read the book. The section on the rise of industrial organic was equally enlightening and I appreciate how Pollen disabuses us of the notions that organic somehow equals humane.

The second half of the book was less interesting. His section on the Polyface Farm in Virginia, as smell entirely grass fed farm, was long and repetitive. I thought that section could have used a lot of streamlining, and was really more of a personal memoir of Pollen's experience on the farm rather than especially informative. The last section was almost entirely personal memoir, and took a turn towards self-indulgence.

Regardless, I liked the book overall and give it an average of 4 stars - 5 for the first half and 3 for the second half.more
Having already read Joel Salatin's book and Pollan's own [book:Second Nature: A Gardener's Education57536] and [book:Food Rules: An Eater's Manual7015635], I didn't feel I learnt a lot from this one. It was interesting, but nothing startling, whereas if I'd read this one first I might have found it more arresting.more
Omnivore's Dilemma stemmed from Pollan's quest to learn where a meal from each of three food systems (industrial, organic, and hunter/gatherer) originated. His journey is one about which all socially and/or environmentally conscious omnivores should read.

Beginning with a critical and dire look at industrial corn, Pollan then moves through the somewhat oxymoronic industrial organic, to a more pastoral "original" organic system, and finally to a meal gathered and prepared (almost) exclusively on his own. The overall message is an optimistic call to move forward into a food system in which eaters are conscious of where their food originates and in which people make eating decisions (work through the omnivore's dilemma) based on that information.

Omnivore's Dilemma is an engaging and informative read that I would recommend to anyone.more
Could be good information, but I'll never know because none of it's cited. (Bibliography in the back, but individual assertions aren't cited in any way.) Mixed with mediocre writing. Overall, I'm glad I didn't push too hard to finish this one in advance of the book discussion (no one showed; hooray?) for our town-wide read.more
The Omnivore's Dilemma should rightfully deserve credit for bring issues of food into popular discussion. However, there are some errors and omissions which bear repeating. It is the role of a book about scientific analysis to be as objectively true as possible, and let rhetorical flourish come later.

Now, the book itself.

Pollan compares three systems of food gathering.

The first 'system' of food production is the industrial. Is it still perhaps the least understood and the most demonized. It has its roots in the 1970s, under Nixon's Secretary of Agriculture, Earl 'Rusty' Butz. After an embarrassing agricultural crisis involving price fixing from the Soviet Union in the 1970s, Butz announced a new policy of expanding government subsides to a new system - the more one farmed, the more subsides they would receive to cover increase costs. It made farmers consolidate and expand, in the hope of driving up production.

It worked well. Too well. There was so much surplus corn that few knew what to do with it all. In the 1980s, however, there was a new means of implementation, a sweetener which was cheaper than cane sugar, and thus added into nearly every food - High-Fructose Corn Syrup. Sweeteners and sugars became a staple of nearly every food product sold, from HFCS to 'Xanthan gum'.

Furthermore, there is the story of industrialized animal farming, which has drawn much ire. That has become so popular that I will not draw upon too much detail unless prodded.

The second system is that of 'organic' farming, which sounds tempting because it eschews some of the more mechanistic tendencies of regular factory farming, and has become popular, especially among the coastal 'yuppie' crowd within the past few years. It conjures up pleasant images of American Gothic. Some farms actually are like this - small, family-owned, with local interest in mind. Some even have integrated peacefully with large discount retailers like Walmart and Tesco, and have made a positive change that way.

Some, however, are more unscrupulous with organic food's popularity, and instead perform the bare minimum of necessary tasks, and slap the 'organic' label on and charge higher prices. Another caveat.

The third system is the 'hunter-gatherer', or pre-agricultural system of food. Pollan's description here alternates between charming and bumbling, as he putzes around chopping up his prize, steals berries from likely his neighbor's trees, and picks up mushrooms. As a raised Midwesterner, where hunting and fishing is more common - and a source of food, I appreciate this effort on his part, while acknowledging that this futzing around is very silly.

The big discussion I've personally heard is on the industrial harvesting of meat, is whether or not to go vegetarian.

Another proposal - the economic analysis of the cost of food, of every ingredient, is implausible at best. The modern systems of production are already far too complex for something like that. Although it would not be unfair to at least make broad estimates.

And I must take issue with his near-total dismissal of nutritional science, and he takes an overly reductionist view of a rather complex topic.

However, I must give Pollan credit for showing us how deep the rabbit hole of industrial food goes, and how little we know about what we eat.more
Everyone should read this book. No matter what your eating habits or diet is like, this book challenges your way of eating and really makes you think about the moral, environmental, nutritional, social, and economical impacts of what you eat. The author really challenges you on multiple issues without pushing any one ideology or diet. Is eating a moral choice? I believe that it is and and I do not believe that ignorance is bliss. Anyone who eats anything these days should be aware of what really goes on in an industrial food economy...what it is you are actually eating...it isn't pretty, but the only way to change it is to look...and perhaps make some changes, no matter how small, yourself.more
I read Omnivore's Dilemma at a time at which I was reevaluating my relationship with food: to eat meat or not to eat meat, "local" versus "organic," and a desire to get back to basics with cooking for my family but not really knowing what that meant. I have a tendency to glaze over when I read nonfiction, but I found Pollan's style engaging; I couldn't wait to curl up with this book every night.

This book taught me about the various ways that energy can make its way from the sun to my body and gave voice the issues with which I am grappling in my personal Omnivore's Dilemma. I find myself bringing up this book in conversation on a daily basis. I find myself seeking out farms and researching more carefully the origins of the food I eat, especially the meat. Omnivore's Dilemma has helped me acquire the language and basic understanding I need to feel comfortable seeking such information, from retailers, chefs, and the farmers themselves. I quite enjoyed Fast Food Nation, but it never spurred me to action the way this book has already. I saw myself reflected in the pages of this book, and the image helped me see a path towards a more fulfilling and authentic relationship to my food.

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This is an insipid, insufferable, disappointing book.Perhaps I knew more about corn and agribusiness than the average consumer (of books and produce), but I found very little in this book which made me want to smack the flat of my hand to my forehead in amazement or revelation. In my reading, the image most often brought to mind was a rather naïve young college freshman going on and on about a topic which she has just discovered and assumes that the rest of the world needs to be unhesitatingly informed of. Too often, the breathless retelling of personal revelation and the frequent use of purplish prose distracted from the import of some topics and camouflaged the banality of others.So many others have served the topics so much better.more
I was looking forward to this book for two reasons; the first, of course, being that it seems to have made it way into American culture, meaning that people reference and namedrop it quite frequently (at least in the places I live). The second reason is that my mother absolutely loved the book when she read is last summer and is constantly attempting to discuss it with me.I cannot say the same of the third section in which Pollan goes foraging for his own food. Maybe because I know returning to hunting-and-gathering is not in the cards for Americans (although I do wish more would start gardens in their backyard) so the whole thing felt superfluous and distracting. However, I’m still glad I finally read this book because at least this way I can discuss with people. It certainly provided food for a great discussion during breakfast this morning.more
I enjoyed this book, for many of the reasons that others have written in depth about, but I found it terribly slow and long for some reason. Pollan didn't engage me in the same way that Jonathan Safran Foer (I'd consider Omnivore's Dilemma and Eating Animals to be easily comparable) did. However it was fantastic and plenty of "food for thought" (I know, but the pun was just too easy).more
Books that make you take a look at what society is truly doing behind the scenes always make me nervous. I'm not proud to admit it, but, even though I read a lot of sociology, politics, and history, there are some things which inherently make me nervous. Food culture is one of them. This book is truly important. It might not change your view about what you are eating, but it will inform you of the consequences of each decision. I didn't find the book preachy or overdone; I found it stimulating. However, the section on industrial agriculture made me wonder how things got so bad politically. I mean, I guess I know how they did. I just hope that Michael Pollan is right...maybe we are moving in a more transparent direction, in which we start understanding our relationship with nature is extremely complex. Maybe we will admit our ignorance and move towards an more sustainable and healthy future.more
Everyone should know where their food comes from so that they can make informed decisions on what is best for them to eat. In this nonfiction book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: The Secrets Behind What You Eat Young Readers Edition, author Michael Pollan gives readers the opportunity to experience four different food chains (Industrial, Industrial Organic, Local Sustainable and Hunter-Gather) by tracking down a meal from its conception to our stomach. Pollan descriptively writes about his personal experiences in each of the food chains, posing legal and ethical questions regarding the information he has learned. Although he is clear in his stance on how we should get and treat our food, Pollan manages to convey his research in a non-preachy way with some humor. Also included in this book are images from his experiences, sources for further information, listing by chapter of the resources he used to write this book and an index. Another strength is that this book covers a universal topic… the food we eat and will leave readers thinking about their food. Omnivore’s Dilemma: The Secrets Behind What You Eat Young Readers Edition is a must have book for libraries that serve young adults! Age Appropriate: 13 years-old and up The Young Readers Edition is a modified version of Pollan’s original book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: The Secrets Behind What You Eat, making the content more appropriate, understandable and appealing to younger readers. Due to the graphic discussion of factory farms and treatment of animals, younger students should not read this book without exposure to such realities. Some facts shared are unpleasant and might make one lose their appetite.more
This review is based on the presentation not the content. Goes on for way too long. Reads like 5 different books jammed together (in the bad sense).more
This is my first review where my love of the book almost caused me to write "OMG." I suppose you can guess from there that yes, this book converted me to the organic movement, but it also taught me so much and was a catalyst for an organic farming adventure I will never forget. The writing is clear and straightforward, the ideas may seem revolutionary to some, but Pollan presents them as common sense, as they ought to be considered, in my opinion. If I had to write a two word review right after finishing this book, it would be this: MIND. BLOWN.more
Unexpectedly good, much less of a rant than I expected. Plus, he's local to the S.F. Bay Area and includes some local features.more
A great way to start getting a more nuanced understanding of the affects of our food choices on the planet.more
It has been awhile since I read a book regarding diet or food production and so I found this to be an informative and enjoyable read. I appreciated the format of four meals produced in different ways. It was interesting to see the intricacies of how each system of production played out on a larger scale. Much of the information was repeat for me from previous books like Fast Food Nation, The Food Revolution, and others, but Michael Pollan brings a personal touch to some of the more mundane procedures that go into organic chicken farming or chicken mcnugget manufacturing. As a former vegan and currently practicing pescetarian, I thought that Pollan did a good job of summarizing the philosophical arguments from Peter Singer for vegetarianism, but his apologetics for meat eating in the subsequent chapter seemed subpar. I just don't think he did enough to prove to the reader that Singer's argument was invalid. Pollan basically claims that vegetarians and vegans miss out on the culture of cuisine that includes meat and that they occasionally have to be rude to people, like the French, for turning down meat dishes when they come over to visit. This is basically an argument from tradition and it just doesn't hold up to Pollan's previous summary of Singer's argument based on morality. Pollan at least got Singer to admit that it was not morally apprehensive to eat meat locally from an animal that was treated and killed in a humane way, like on the Polyface Farm, but that hardly excuses the other 98% of meat production. The chapter on mushrooms was fascinating and I really enjoyed reading Pollan's chapter on hunting and foraging. His focus on slow food and sourcing locally s something I can get behind, but its a practice that's hard to follow in American culture, especially in Alaska. We just don't have the growing season. We can easily provide our own meat through fishing and hunting, but we are still paying for fruits and vegetables to be shipped up here. Perhaps with global warming we will have a longer growing season. In the meantime I will probably continue to feel guilty about eating bananas that was shipped 3000 miles to get to me.Based on this book, I will highly consider reading Pollan’s other books, despite the fact that I believe he is being dishonest with himself regarding the validity of the vegetarian/vegan argument.more
Where does your food come from? A balanced look at everything from organics to hunting. You'll never look at your food the same again.more
This book follows a kernel of corn through from soil to the dinner table. An expose on the American food chain. It reports on local farming practices, industrial farming practices, and organic farming practices. This books will change the way you and your students look at food and the politics behind food. Some terrifying facts about factory farms.more
Read all 156 reviews

Reviews

This book gave me a lot to think about, even though it took me a while to finish. At this point, I don't remember all the finer points, but I finished the book tonight thinking more about sources of food, and how food gets to my kitchen.more
recommended for: omnivores & anyone interested in the state of agriculture in the U.S.I was resistant to reading this book because I’m not an omnivore, and also I thought that Pollan’s book The Botany of Desire was brilliant and I suspected I would not feel as fond of this one, which is certainly true. He does write well, but I didn’t find that this book had the eloquence or elegance of the other.The sub-title of this book could read: It’s Really Ok To Eat Dead Animals, Really It Is. Which I realize for most people it is. But eating flesh foods and other foods made from animals such as dairy and eggs is simply what the vast majority of this book’s readers and the population as a whole do; it’s not an unique argument. But, I loved the fungi chapter and the corn section. The chapter on mushrooms I’m sure I enjoyed so much because a close friend of mine has told stories of her rural Indiana upbringing and of the very small morel patch they have on their property. So it was really fun for me to read about the foraging/hunting of the mushrooms, including local morels. (The author lives about 30 minutes drive from me and I recognized many of the locations in the book.) The corn section (about the deliberate infusion of corn products into just about every processed food) made me determined to cut way down on the processed foods that I often eat: the one real way this book changed me, not an insignificant one.A good part of this (apparently beloved) book seemed to me to be the author’s belabored argument that it’s perfectly fine to eat animals. His treatise looked like his attempt to avoid cognitive dissonance (his term although I was already thinking of it like that) so that he could continue to eat in peace as an omnivore, along with about 97% of the U.S. population; being omnivorous is the dominant paradigm. Anyway, his waxing poetic over the glories of killing and eating animals did not sway me. It’s interesting that Pollan continually rebuts his own arguments, but I wasn’t convinced his questioning was as honest as he wanted it to appear, as it seemed to me he already knew the answers he wanted to arrive at about being omnivorous. And I wouldn’t be surprised if he would agree with me about that.Some of his facts and figures were off. When he talks about tens of millions of animals killed for food in the U.S. for instance; actually, the latest figures I’ve read are 11 billion every year, not including fish. Even the call to eat locally, which I usually subscribe to, is not to be so simplified. One contradictory example I can think of (this issue is not addressed in the book) is the consuming of products (chocolate, coffee, dried fruit, nuts) from the distant rainforest, which, in my opinion, is much preferable to continuing to cut down rainforest trees, and which the natives will allow if they can’t make their living from the rainforest in other ways.I know my philosophy is shared by a relative few, but the fast food meals, the description which was intended to highlight the large amounts of corn products in all the foods, while I found that surprising and unfortunate, it was the cow and chicken parts of the meal that disturbed me the most. And, as far as the “idyllic” Polyface Farm, I truly wonder what they could do 100% plant products grown.more
Nothing will ever be the same again. That's what I thought to myself about 6 pages into this incredible book. Pollan is a fabulous writer who keeps getting better. He brings to his quest for the origins of his dinner a journalistic sensibility that has no particular agenda yet pulls no punches, either. There is so much information about how we eat, and why, in this book I'm sure I've not absorbed it all. But I've grokked enough of it to have changed the way I acquire food. It's funny in parts, heartbreakingly sad in others, and ultimately, for me, transformative. My favorite line from the book is this: "We are corn's koala." Highly recommended.more
I will definitely read this again! Great book, very eye-opening!more
Although Pollan can be annoying, he brings up many important points. The chapter on corn and the raising of most beef in this country was enlightening, and I really enjoyed the chapter on organic farming. The last chapter, where he tries to produce a completely foraged meal, was both instructive and amusing. Everyone should read this book (although if you are already a locavore, and especially if you are a vegetarian, it isn't quite as necessary).more
Dry in some parts, but that is to be expected. Overall, in the same vein as Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Mineral and Foer's Eating Animals. Very interesting, some redundant information (as in the other books) but overall a good read. Makes you think before you put something in your mouth!more
I was worried it would be a shrill jeremiad but instead it was an extremely interesting tour of the industrial food chain and alternatives. The tone is vintage New Yorker as in those extremely long but fascinating articles about 'wheat' or 'rollable steel'; the kind where after 40 pages of dense print between the cartoons, 'the end' appears next to italics that say, 'part I of III'. Thank you Mr. Pollan for the memories. I'm back to bread, raw milk cheese, whole milk and who knew that beef could taste so good. And I have stopped laughing at those people who comb the market with those wicker baskets.more
The Ominvore's Dilemma is part science, part politics and part personal memoir. Michael Pollen's book is told in three parts: the first part is the history of corn industry in the America, from the rise of monoculture agriculture, to the implementation of farm subsidies and the ways that corn is processed into its component parts (like high-fructose corn syrup). The second part is about the organic movement in America and the difference between grass-fed organic and industrial organic (i.e. earthbound farms). In the last section, Pollen goes on his own personal food journey in an effort to make a meal out of all the things that he grew, gathered or killed himself. In this portion, he also discusses the merits of vegetarianism and the mushroom gathering subculture in Northern California.

The first 200 pages of this book were fascinating, particularly the section on corn. The sheer number of additives that are synthesized from corn is amazing and has had me reading the labels of everything in the grocery store since I read the book. The section on the rise of industrial organic was equally enlightening and I appreciate how Pollen disabuses us of the notions that organic somehow equals humane.

The second half of the book was less interesting. His section on the Polyface Farm in Virginia, as smell entirely grass fed farm, was long and repetitive. I thought that section could have used a lot of streamlining, and was really more of a personal memoir of Pollen's experience on the farm rather than especially informative. The last section was almost entirely personal memoir, and took a turn towards self-indulgence.

Regardless, I liked the book overall and give it an average of 4 stars - 5 for the first half and 3 for the second half.more
Having already read Joel Salatin's book and Pollan's own [book:Second Nature: A Gardener's Education57536] and [book:Food Rules: An Eater's Manual7015635], I didn't feel I learnt a lot from this one. It was interesting, but nothing startling, whereas if I'd read this one first I might have found it more arresting.more
Omnivore's Dilemma stemmed from Pollan's quest to learn where a meal from each of three food systems (industrial, organic, and hunter/gatherer) originated. His journey is one about which all socially and/or environmentally conscious omnivores should read.

Beginning with a critical and dire look at industrial corn, Pollan then moves through the somewhat oxymoronic industrial organic, to a more pastoral "original" organic system, and finally to a meal gathered and prepared (almost) exclusively on his own. The overall message is an optimistic call to move forward into a food system in which eaters are conscious of where their food originates and in which people make eating decisions (work through the omnivore's dilemma) based on that information.

Omnivore's Dilemma is an engaging and informative read that I would recommend to anyone.more
Could be good information, but I'll never know because none of it's cited. (Bibliography in the back, but individual assertions aren't cited in any way.) Mixed with mediocre writing. Overall, I'm glad I didn't push too hard to finish this one in advance of the book discussion (no one showed; hooray?) for our town-wide read.more
The Omnivore's Dilemma should rightfully deserve credit for bring issues of food into popular discussion. However, there are some errors and omissions which bear repeating. It is the role of a book about scientific analysis to be as objectively true as possible, and let rhetorical flourish come later.

Now, the book itself.

Pollan compares three systems of food gathering.

The first 'system' of food production is the industrial. Is it still perhaps the least understood and the most demonized. It has its roots in the 1970s, under Nixon's Secretary of Agriculture, Earl 'Rusty' Butz. After an embarrassing agricultural crisis involving price fixing from the Soviet Union in the 1970s, Butz announced a new policy of expanding government subsides to a new system - the more one farmed, the more subsides they would receive to cover increase costs. It made farmers consolidate and expand, in the hope of driving up production.

It worked well. Too well. There was so much surplus corn that few knew what to do with it all. In the 1980s, however, there was a new means of implementation, a sweetener which was cheaper than cane sugar, and thus added into nearly every food - High-Fructose Corn Syrup. Sweeteners and sugars became a staple of nearly every food product sold, from HFCS to 'Xanthan gum'.

Furthermore, there is the story of industrialized animal farming, which has drawn much ire. That has become so popular that I will not draw upon too much detail unless prodded.

The second system is that of 'organic' farming, which sounds tempting because it eschews some of the more mechanistic tendencies of regular factory farming, and has become popular, especially among the coastal 'yuppie' crowd within the past few years. It conjures up pleasant images of American Gothic. Some farms actually are like this - small, family-owned, with local interest in mind. Some even have integrated peacefully with large discount retailers like Walmart and Tesco, and have made a positive change that way.

Some, however, are more unscrupulous with organic food's popularity, and instead perform the bare minimum of necessary tasks, and slap the 'organic' label on and charge higher prices. Another caveat.

The third system is the 'hunter-gatherer', or pre-agricultural system of food. Pollan's description here alternates between charming and bumbling, as he putzes around chopping up his prize, steals berries from likely his neighbor's trees, and picks up mushrooms. As a raised Midwesterner, where hunting and fishing is more common - and a source of food, I appreciate this effort on his part, while acknowledging that this futzing around is very silly.

The big discussion I've personally heard is on the industrial harvesting of meat, is whether or not to go vegetarian.

Another proposal - the economic analysis of the cost of food, of every ingredient, is implausible at best. The modern systems of production are already far too complex for something like that. Although it would not be unfair to at least make broad estimates.

And I must take issue with his near-total dismissal of nutritional science, and he takes an overly reductionist view of a rather complex topic.

However, I must give Pollan credit for showing us how deep the rabbit hole of industrial food goes, and how little we know about what we eat.more
Everyone should read this book. No matter what your eating habits or diet is like, this book challenges your way of eating and really makes you think about the moral, environmental, nutritional, social, and economical impacts of what you eat. The author really challenges you on multiple issues without pushing any one ideology or diet. Is eating a moral choice? I believe that it is and and I do not believe that ignorance is bliss. Anyone who eats anything these days should be aware of what really goes on in an industrial food economy...what it is you are actually eating...it isn't pretty, but the only way to change it is to look...and perhaps make some changes, no matter how small, yourself.more
I read Omnivore's Dilemma at a time at which I was reevaluating my relationship with food: to eat meat or not to eat meat, "local" versus "organic," and a desire to get back to basics with cooking for my family but not really knowing what that meant. I have a tendency to glaze over when I read nonfiction, but I found Pollan's style engaging; I couldn't wait to curl up with this book every night.

This book taught me about the various ways that energy can make its way from the sun to my body and gave voice the issues with which I am grappling in my personal Omnivore's Dilemma. I find myself bringing up this book in conversation on a daily basis. I find myself seeking out farms and researching more carefully the origins of the food I eat, especially the meat. Omnivore's Dilemma has helped me acquire the language and basic understanding I need to feel comfortable seeking such information, from retailers, chefs, and the farmers themselves. I quite enjoyed Fast Food Nation, but it never spurred me to action the way this book has already. I saw myself reflected in the pages of this book, and the image helped me see a path towards a more fulfilling and authentic relationship to my food.

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This is an insipid, insufferable, disappointing book.Perhaps I knew more about corn and agribusiness than the average consumer (of books and produce), but I found very little in this book which made me want to smack the flat of my hand to my forehead in amazement or revelation. In my reading, the image most often brought to mind was a rather naïve young college freshman going on and on about a topic which she has just discovered and assumes that the rest of the world needs to be unhesitatingly informed of. Too often, the breathless retelling of personal revelation and the frequent use of purplish prose distracted from the import of some topics and camouflaged the banality of others.So many others have served the topics so much better.more
I was looking forward to this book for two reasons; the first, of course, being that it seems to have made it way into American culture, meaning that people reference and namedrop it quite frequently (at least in the places I live). The second reason is that my mother absolutely loved the book when she read is last summer and is constantly attempting to discuss it with me.I cannot say the same of the third section in which Pollan goes foraging for his own food. Maybe because I know returning to hunting-and-gathering is not in the cards for Americans (although I do wish more would start gardens in their backyard) so the whole thing felt superfluous and distracting. However, I’m still glad I finally read this book because at least this way I can discuss with people. It certainly provided food for a great discussion during breakfast this morning.more
I enjoyed this book, for many of the reasons that others have written in depth about, but I found it terribly slow and long for some reason. Pollan didn't engage me in the same way that Jonathan Safran Foer (I'd consider Omnivore's Dilemma and Eating Animals to be easily comparable) did. However it was fantastic and plenty of "food for thought" (I know, but the pun was just too easy).more
Books that make you take a look at what society is truly doing behind the scenes always make me nervous. I'm not proud to admit it, but, even though I read a lot of sociology, politics, and history, there are some things which inherently make me nervous. Food culture is one of them. This book is truly important. It might not change your view about what you are eating, but it will inform you of the consequences of each decision. I didn't find the book preachy or overdone; I found it stimulating. However, the section on industrial agriculture made me wonder how things got so bad politically. I mean, I guess I know how they did. I just hope that Michael Pollan is right...maybe we are moving in a more transparent direction, in which we start understanding our relationship with nature is extremely complex. Maybe we will admit our ignorance and move towards an more sustainable and healthy future.more
Everyone should know where their food comes from so that they can make informed decisions on what is best for them to eat. In this nonfiction book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: The Secrets Behind What You Eat Young Readers Edition, author Michael Pollan gives readers the opportunity to experience four different food chains (Industrial, Industrial Organic, Local Sustainable and Hunter-Gather) by tracking down a meal from its conception to our stomach. Pollan descriptively writes about his personal experiences in each of the food chains, posing legal and ethical questions regarding the information he has learned. Although he is clear in his stance on how we should get and treat our food, Pollan manages to convey his research in a non-preachy way with some humor. Also included in this book are images from his experiences, sources for further information, listing by chapter of the resources he used to write this book and an index. Another strength is that this book covers a universal topic… the food we eat and will leave readers thinking about their food. Omnivore’s Dilemma: The Secrets Behind What You Eat Young Readers Edition is a must have book for libraries that serve young adults! Age Appropriate: 13 years-old and up The Young Readers Edition is a modified version of Pollan’s original book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: The Secrets Behind What You Eat, making the content more appropriate, understandable and appealing to younger readers. Due to the graphic discussion of factory farms and treatment of animals, younger students should not read this book without exposure to such realities. Some facts shared are unpleasant and might make one lose their appetite.more
This review is based on the presentation not the content. Goes on for way too long. Reads like 5 different books jammed together (in the bad sense).more
This is my first review where my love of the book almost caused me to write "OMG." I suppose you can guess from there that yes, this book converted me to the organic movement, but it also taught me so much and was a catalyst for an organic farming adventure I will never forget. The writing is clear and straightforward, the ideas may seem revolutionary to some, but Pollan presents them as common sense, as they ought to be considered, in my opinion. If I had to write a two word review right after finishing this book, it would be this: MIND. BLOWN.more
Unexpectedly good, much less of a rant than I expected. Plus, he's local to the S.F. Bay Area and includes some local features.more
A great way to start getting a more nuanced understanding of the affects of our food choices on the planet.more
It has been awhile since I read a book regarding diet or food production and so I found this to be an informative and enjoyable read. I appreciated the format of four meals produced in different ways. It was interesting to see the intricacies of how each system of production played out on a larger scale. Much of the information was repeat for me from previous books like Fast Food Nation, The Food Revolution, and others, but Michael Pollan brings a personal touch to some of the more mundane procedures that go into organic chicken farming or chicken mcnugget manufacturing. As a former vegan and currently practicing pescetarian, I thought that Pollan did a good job of summarizing the philosophical arguments from Peter Singer for vegetarianism, but his apologetics for meat eating in the subsequent chapter seemed subpar. I just don't think he did enough to prove to the reader that Singer's argument was invalid. Pollan basically claims that vegetarians and vegans miss out on the culture of cuisine that includes meat and that they occasionally have to be rude to people, like the French, for turning down meat dishes when they come over to visit. This is basically an argument from tradition and it just doesn't hold up to Pollan's previous summary of Singer's argument based on morality. Pollan at least got Singer to admit that it was not morally apprehensive to eat meat locally from an animal that was treated and killed in a humane way, like on the Polyface Farm, but that hardly excuses the other 98% of meat production. The chapter on mushrooms was fascinating and I really enjoyed reading Pollan's chapter on hunting and foraging. His focus on slow food and sourcing locally s something I can get behind, but its a practice that's hard to follow in American culture, especially in Alaska. We just don't have the growing season. We can easily provide our own meat through fishing and hunting, but we are still paying for fruits and vegetables to be shipped up here. Perhaps with global warming we will have a longer growing season. In the meantime I will probably continue to feel guilty about eating bananas that was shipped 3000 miles to get to me.Based on this book, I will highly consider reading Pollan’s other books, despite the fact that I believe he is being dishonest with himself regarding the validity of the vegetarian/vegan argument.more
Where does your food come from? A balanced look at everything from organics to hunting. You'll never look at your food the same again.more
This book follows a kernel of corn through from soil to the dinner table. An expose on the American food chain. It reports on local farming practices, industrial farming practices, and organic farming practices. This books will change the way you and your students look at food and the politics behind food. Some terrifying facts about factory farms.more
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