The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

The Omnivore's Dilemma: The Secrets Behind What You Eat (Young Readers Edition) by Michael Pollan

Published by Dial Books, August 4, 2015

Genre: Nonfiction

Format: I audiobooked this one via Sora.

I'm realizing now that I listened to the young readers version of this book. Ha. 

Young readers or not, this book blew my mind. I don't know if everyone who is not yet currently a practicing vegetarian should read it . . . or if they shouldn't. My key takeaways below include "spoilers." You should really read it for yourself.

Cows have four stomachs, so they can digest grass. Yes, make cud. 

They are biologically designed to process grass. Thanks to the U of M for the diagram: rumen/paunch to reticulum to omasum to abomasum. In much of the American cattle industry, instead of letting cows munch on grass as they're built to do, ranchers feed cattle corn. Because the cow isn't built to process corn, this diet causes health problems, which necessitates medicine and vet visits as these cows, as they're fast fattening, get sick. Not only do I not want to eat a cow that lived a miserable life, but would anyone agree that it's a responsible way to treat an animal to feed it whatever is convenient for us--regardless of the impact on the animal? Should I raise a dog on Cocoa Puffs? 

Meat and produce offer varying nutritional impact. Meat used to be seasonal.
An egg is an egg, or is it? Chickens are omnivores, so those who can roam and eat bugs as well as other grains have a healthier life and so produce a healthier egg. 


Most of the harsh words about this book come from middle school and high school students who were forced to read and annotate the book for school. Some criticize Pollan for simplifying a complicated system. Are we really going to make a difference in an agricultural machine that has been rolling for decades? They also criticize Pollan as condescending, given his background as a kid who took vacations to Martha's Vineyard and lived next to James Taylor. Eh? Not everyone has time to devote to growing, harvesting, and cooking their own food or locating a local farmers market, attending for the four hours it's open on a Saturday, buying, and cooking a meal. 


"What you put on your plate changes nature more than anything else you do."

Of Pollan . . . 

“We have done an amazing job in this society of complicating what for every other animal is a pretty straightforward process: finding a suitable diet, enjoying it, and moving on,” Pollan told Taking Charge during a visit to the University of Minnesota Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing.  “When I tried to figure out if I could offer any really simple guidance for eating, it came down to seven words: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”


Most high schoolers will tell you the purpose of public education is to prepare them for a job. Some dig deeper and understand the philosophy behind our modern liberal arts education practices. Having cut programs like home ec, personal finance, and auto shop completely out of course options, high schools certainly don't aim to prepare students for practical, day-to-day tasks---like understanding where our food comes from and how it lands on supermarket shelves. When, as Pollan notes in the book, four of 10 of the most fatal diseases come from what we eat . . . maybe we should consider the necessity of knowing where our food comes from. After all, it doesn't matter what job you planned to work if you aren't around to show up to work.

No comments

Post a Comment

Copyright © Betwain. Blog Design by