Ben gave me this book a few weeks ago and I just finished it (two kids = no reading). Put simply, the Omnivore’s Dilemma is this: When you can eat just about anything, what should you eat? To answer this question, Pollan traces four meals to their roots to find out what, exactly, we are eating. Along the way, he discovers some things that will make you think twice about not only what you eat, but how it is produced.
It’s probably no surprise to you that our food system has come to be dominated by enormous “factory farms”. But I bet it would surprise you to learn about some of the methods used by these farms to maximize production. In particular, the way that beef and poultry are produced is pretty appalling.
But the book isn’t all doom and gloom. The part I found most fascinating was Pollan’s chapter on Polyface Farm, a “beyond organic”, local-market farm in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Polyface follows the basic principle of working with nature rather than trying to control it. They rotate livestock and crops in a pretty elaborate process designed to keep the crops and livestock healthy without using “added ingredients” and without damaging the land. This not only results in better beef, pork, and poultry — it also restores honor to the profession of farming. As I read about Polyface, I found myself thinking that it would be a really fulfilling place to work.
This book strengthened my belief that what you eat isn’t just about your health (although that’s an important part of it). The choices you make at the supermarket are also about the environment and even our culture. And unfortunately it’s not as simple as just shopping at Whole Foods. These days, even organic food has gone industrial. The best way to go is with local farms like Polyface that produce food in a sustainable manner.
I plan to do some checking into this — but first I have to go to Sam’s Club to pick up a case of Cheez Whiz…