Michael Pollan’s, Omnivore’s Dilemma, a Natural History of Four Meals gives an investigative look into the problems of the American food system that have decreased the quality of our food in the past seventy years. From conventional farming methods to organic methods Pollan tells the story of his experiences with farmers big and small across the country. The first section titled ‘Industrial Corn’ exposes the mind-blowing truth of mass-produced food from the farmer to the supermarket shelf. The second section of Pollan’s book takes a look at the up and coming organic industry by spending time with large-scale organic operations. In this part of the book Pollan points out how disconnected our ‘industrial’ society is to their food. Also, he questions if large-scale organic operations- like a chicken farm that claims ‘Free Range’, but still most of the chicken’s life is spent in a facility- are any better than conventional farms. The third section of the book called ‘The Forest’ takes an interesting yet unrealistic turn when Pollan decides to cook an entire meal from catching and foraging food himself from the forest. This is very possible, but even Michael admits it is very unpractical in this day and age. The ‘Omnivore’s Dilemma’ was written quite well, the style of writing and boldness of the author’s tongue makes this book effective and noteworthy in all aspects. The introduction and first chapter really intrigue the reader and makes you want more:

“Read the ingredients on the label of any processed food and, provided you know the chemical names it travels under, corn is what you will find. For modified or unmodified starch, for glucose syrup and maltodextrin, for crystalline fructose and ascorbic acid, for lecithin and dextrose, lactic acid and lysine, for maltose and HFCS, for MSG and polyols, for the caramel color and xanthan gum, read: corn. Corn is in the coffee whitener and Cheez Whiz, the frozen yogurt and TV dinner, the canned fruit and ketchup and candies, the soups and snacks and cake mixes, the frosting and gravy and frozen waffles, the syrups and hot sauces, the mayonnaise and mustard, the hot dogs and bologna, the margarine and shortening, the salad dressings and the relishes and even the vitamins.”

No part of the book seems biased; as an investigative journalist, Pollan is welcomed into each farm he visits and he enters with a levelheaded. The book was both effective and persuasive. The effectiveness of the personal stories from farmers and facts provided by Pollan is persuasive enough to change the reader’s way he or she views our food system here in America. This book has enhanced my knowledge not of conventional farming, but of commercial organic farming. As an agricultural major I always thought no matter what scale organic is on it will always be better than conventional. After reading this book I am not so sure. In our society the word ‘organic’ has many definitions, but none of them are true at least by our society’s definition. For example, the whole point of being ‘organic’ is to be small-scale. An industrial organic farm is like an oxymoron to me, in order to be truly organic you cannot operate at a large-scale, because then you might as well switch over to conventional. This book opened my eyes wider to our food system and allowed me to see the bigger picture rather than just blaming the conventional side of things. For the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) book store this book is essential to the shelves of this store. The ‘Omnivore’s Dilemma’ would be much appreciated by any or all who the MOFGA bookstore.

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