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The Omnivore's Dilemma

A Natural History of Four Meals

By Michael Pollan
16-minute read
Audio available
The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan

We face an overwhelming abundance of choices when it comes to what we eat. Should you opt for the local, grass-fed beef, or save time and money with cheap chicken nuggets? Organic asparagus shipped from Argentina, or kale picked from your neighbor’s garden? The Omnivore’s Dilemma examines how food in America is produced today and what alternatives to those production methods are available.

  • Anyone thinking about changing their eating habits – whether by becoming a vegetarian, switching to organic produce or trying their hand at hunting, gathering or growing their own food
  • Anyone interested in sustainability, food policy or food politics

Michael Pollan is a prominent American journalist and a professor at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. His other works include In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto (2008) and The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World (2001).

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The Omnivore's Dilemma

A Natural History of Four Meals

By Michael Pollan
  • Read in 16 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 10 key ideas
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The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan
Synopsis

We face an overwhelming abundance of choices when it comes to what we eat. Should you opt for the local, grass-fed beef, or save time and money with cheap chicken nuggets? Organic asparagus shipped from Argentina, or kale picked from your neighbor’s garden? The Omnivore’s Dilemma examines how food in America is produced today and what alternatives to those production methods are available.

Key idea 1 of 10

Industrial agriculture makes food cheap, but its environmental, public-health and ethical costs are sky-high.

Once upon a time, farmers grew crops and raised cattle using nothing but the sun and soil. However, such traditional farming methods only produce relatively small quantities of local, seasonal food and are no longer enough to feed the world’s population. Hence, farmers have developed industrial-farming techniques and machines to produce food faster and on a larger scale.

Some people would say this is a good thing. In the past, it was expensive to raise, feed and slaughter livestock for food. As a result, meat was expensive; people didn’t eat it every day. Now, however, industrial-farming methods have made raising livestock – and in effect meat itself – incredibly cheap.

Out-of-season produce has also become widely available. You live in Seattle but want fresh asparagus in January? No problem; it’s shipped from Argentina. Add to this the fact that the growth seasons of many plants have been extended to unnatural lengths through industrial-farming techniques, and you can pretty much buy any fruit or vegetable whatever the season.

Unfortunately, cheap meat and year-round asparagus come at a cost: in the name of efficiency and mass production, large-scale industrial agriculture pollutes the air and water, pumps chemicals and pesticides into our food, treats animals unethically and spreads diseases.

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