Michael Pollan uses his book The Omnivore’s Dilemma to discuss the problematic eating habits of humans. The book has a central investigation on the three sects of food production: industrial, organic, and “hunter-gatherer”. Pollan describes Americans as a group facing mass confusion regarding what to eat. We have a seemingly endless array of edible choices in our first-world society; many of which are so processed that they become lightyears away from their origins. Pollan declares that humans have little to no information about where their food ultimately comes from. He seeks to answer the question of what Americans should be eating for the benefit of humans and the planet itself. He begins this journey by focusing on four meals that are representative of the three sects mentioned afore. He partakes in a fast food meal, a Whole Foods dinner, a farm raised organic meal, and a self-foraged meal. Pollan's main thesis in his book is that we as an American society benefit more by changing where we get our food from the industrialized over-processed to the 'pastoral' food chain.
Two chapter in Omnivore’s Dilemma stood out to me, one that strong supported Pollan’s view on America’s eating habits, and the other, which was ineffective on supporting his views. Chapter ten rises as his most effective chapter, as it perfectly encompasses why we should change our eating habits as well as the origins of a pastoral food chain. Although Pollan successfully portrays his thesis throughout the entirety of his book, chapter three emerged as his worst chapter, as it diverges from the thesis statement apparent in the other chapters. All the chapters in Pollan’s book involve America’s eating habits, but this chapter does not.
On the other hand, chapter ten becomes the highlight of the book. Specifically in chapter ten he focuses his attentions on grass. In part one, titled Monday, Pollan visits Joel Salatin’s grass farm, where the farmer stresses how crucial grass is for the quality of livestock and produce. Joel uses “management-intensive grazing,” which is extremely strategic and beneficial. Joel moves his animals to graze the grass when it is most productive, then moving them to a different pasture in order for the grass to recover. Monday Evening, part two, Joel explains to Pollan how he mimics ancient grazing patterns in order to have his grass thrive. Pollan uses Joel’s information to explain how this method of food acquisition becomes the most sustainable.
Pollan uses the appeals to his favor within this chapter, specifically appealing to logos most effectively. “By the end of the season, Joel’s grasses will have been transformed by his animals into some twenty-five thousand pounds of beef, fifty thousand pounds of pork, twelve thousand broilers, eight hundred turkeys, five hundred rabbits, and thirty thousand dozen eggs.” These figures persuade the reader to give a second thought to the way their food is being produced, as Joel is producing healthier alternatives to industrialized food at a large rate. In this chapter he gives so many diverse reasons as to why supporting a diverse farm is better. Pollan flawlessly connects this chapter to the rest of the organic section, and it becomes a basis for comparison between industrial farming, proving itself as a healthier alternative. Within this comparison, however, Pollan happens upon a problematic conclusion. Although more sustainable for nature, grass requires more work than it’s worth, as it does have nearly as many commercial uses as corn. This makes it a better alternative for humans.
Surprisingly enough, Pollan’s first chapter is also his least effective chapter; titled “The Plant: Corn’s Conquest.” This chapter is very different from the other chapters within the novel. Pollan begins the novel in chapter one: part one, how any author should. He explains the purpose and setting of the ideas behind his novel. However, the parts subsequent to that become less effective. Pollan begins discussing the history of corn, but instead of a brief oversight, Pollan painstakingly explains every bit of information imaginable on corn. He drones on about the chemical makeup of the human body, the protons and neutrons of corn, as well as the reproductive system of corn. Part two is the beginning of the end for Pollan, as he begins by telling us how corn is central to our diet and life, even though we fail to realize it. Corn’s presence in our society is implicit and industry is to blame for this. We have become brainwashed to believe that our diet consists of “genuine variety rather than so many clever rearrangements of molecules extracted from the same plant.” Pollan then moves on to explain how corn began to dominate agriculture due to its ability to grow in various soil types, yield a tremendous amount of food, and to be used in a multitude of fashions. In part four, Pollan shares the dependence corn has on humans by discussing how we aid in reproduction through interference. Finally, he ceases his droning with part five, Corn Sex. In this part, Pollan talks through the transformation of corn from a nature-produced godsend to a modernized genetically-engineered commodity in “the world of industrial consumer capitalism.”
I believe this chapter was the most ineffective because there is nothing stated within this chapter that persuades us to eat one way over another, which is apart of the central thesis. It is simply a historical rundown of the long harvested crop in America. It seems as if he’s beginning a corn-centered story with the amount of background information he inserts. This amount of detail within this chapter would make the reader think that Pollan’s thesis solely regarded the history of corn. Without the latter portion of this chapter, the book would’ve been developed effectively. Furthermore, if this chapter was intended to be indicative of the book’s entire message, I would be extremely lost, as it doesn’t correlate or flow with anything else in the book.
To conclude, Michael Pollan uses his book to contribute important lessons to the subject of food. Overall, this book changes the way we consider our choices of food based upon its journey to our plates. The evidence and personal anecdotes Pollan include in the book make it a must read. It breaks down the processes and origins of the 3 sections of food we predominantly eat from. Chapter ten is the most effective, as it explains the purpose of the book while giving ample evidence to support said purpose. In addition to being the most effective, chapter ten is also the most indicative because if the reader were to simply read the chapter, they would understand the plot.
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