Jan 25, 2018 in Analysis

Omnivore’s Dilemma

This paper presents a review of the works done by Michael Pollan regarding the dilemma facing the Omnivores

Professor Michael Pollan is a food writer and teaches at the UC-Berkeley. In his book The Omnivore’s Dilemma he looks into America’s three chains of food supply. First he examines the industrials which include the factory and supermarkets. Secondly, he examines the organic, which encompasses family farms and subsistence producers. Lastly, the supply chain has the hunters-gatherers.

Pollan examines into detail the history of food production in America. He points out that earlier food production was dependent on the sun that later turned out to be dependent upon fossil fuel. Rather than the use of the sun for growing grass that is food for cattle, fossil fuels are used to process feed from corn used by pigs, cows and also eaten by human beings. Corn syrup is found in many processed products like bread and ice cream. Corn products are also widely fed on as sweeteners and in canned food.

Chapter one mainly discusses the origin of the supermarkets and how corn contributed to their existence. Corn dominates the industrial food chain - is an aspect that Pollan attributes to a number of factors ranging from political factors, common society practices and biological effects.

In chapter two, he examines the factors, by going to a farm in Iowa belonging to George Naylor. He admits that farming of corn had benefited it and its survival would depend on the people. He makes a discussion on importance of petroleum in farming and transportation of food supply in America. The chapter also points out the role of the government in encouraging farmers to rely on corn. It also exposes the struggles encountered by the farmers in their efforts to farm plenty of corn. Regarding origin of corn, he relates that to interaction of the Mayans with the African people in slave trade just like gold.

Pollan being an experienced writer becomes very descriptive in his works

In the store fresh meat can be heard smelling and sprinklers being turned on. This takes the audience and the reader into the real world that they can easily recognize and relate to. The use of similes to show how farmers plough the fields adds value to his work. However, in this chapter the expectation of reliable sources was not available.

He also uses fast foods to illustrate the products of industrial food chain. He criticizes the model used by industries in agriculture. His argument observes that agriculture has been simplified a lot by development of technology especially when nitrogen is fixed during the Haber process. He critically compares modern farming methods with the cultural methods of the past. According to him, indigenous methods were a show of farmers’ brilliance and knowledge to better farming in the fields, however with modern techniques farming has been taken to the laboratory.

He believes that modern farming methods contribute to the present health problems and is a threat to the environment. This indeed is a negative development and cultural methods of agriculture should be encouraged to help solve health problems. Besides his visit to the farm in Iowa, Pollan also visited a feedlot where he took a careful observation of the environment and circumstances under which a steer is kept before it is slaughtered.

The steer is adapted to eating grass; however, in the feedlot Pollan observes that the steer is given diet rich in corn. This diet has negative effects on its health. Such a scientific diet results in the reduction of the quality of meet found in the steer. He argues that persistent injection of antibiotics in feedlots results in microbes that are drug resistant. This could have been avoided if the animals were allowed to stay in their natural conditions.


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