Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael PollanAfter seeing the book recommended by many a people, I decided to check out Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. In the past couple years, I’ve read several titles on both food and food production (including Fast Food Nation, Diet For A New America, and others), but I’d heard from many people that although Pollan touched on a couple of the same sorts of themes, that his book was also very eye-opening in other areas as well.

As I mentioned in a previous post on this site, I have to say that I feel like I learned more from this book than I have in most books I’ve read in the past couple years. Obviously the historical books I’ve read have filled in my knowledge gaps significantly, but The Omnivore’s Dilemma is the sort of book that not only gives some great new information but shatters some of the things you might think you know about food production in the United States.

Obviously this sort of a book isn’t always an easy read, but unlike Fast Food Nation, which focuses in on food that most people already at least mostly know is bad for them, Pollan sets his sites on food that people like myself thought was being held to a higher standard.

I’m speaking of course, of organic food, and the problems with industrial food of this nature seem like they’d be pretty obvious, yet they were ones that I hadn’t thought of before. Despite USDA regulations (and perhaps because their regulations are so lax, and largely because they have to be), organic food is really not that much different than its non-organic counterparts at the store. Sure, they don’t use pesticides, but all large-scale organic operations still use the same types of labor practices, crop techniques, and of course consume the same (and sometimes more) amount of fuel in their production and transport.

An even more eye-opening section of the book focused in on organic milk, eggs, and chicken, and despite not having eaten meat (other than occasional fish) since 1998, this is the section that made me feel the most guilty. Like organic crops, there is actually very little difference in the actual production techniques of these items, with animal overcrowding and other similar problems haunting the production facilities.

The implied solution behind the book seems to be that when possible, buy local (and organic). Living in the midwest, it’s hard to do this due to long, hard winters that pretty much chop growing seasons in half of what they’d be in more moderate places, but his central idea also makes me appreciate our garden and the local farmer’s market that much more.

With melamine contamination and other food scares cropping up in the United States all the time, it sometimes seems like it’s not even worth the struggle to eat healthy, but this is the sort of book that gives you just a bit more knowledge to help keep up the good fight. Although the final section is a bit tangential, I can still say I recommend this book highly to anyone who’s interested where their food comes from and what it means for our environment.