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The Omnivore’s Dilemma

What should we have for dinner? It may seem like an innocent question, but in today’s America, that single question can be answered in a multitude of ways. Should it be fast food? Organic? Local? Natural? If you have ever found yourself engaged in a personal battle about what and how to eat, I suggest you check out The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. In his book, Pollan does a fantastic job of researching and supplying (in sometimes grisly detail) the facts about the makeup of our food industry. From an Iowa corn farm to the completely self-sustained organic Polyface farm in Virgina, Pollan describes it all. He also brings to light several important issues about the environmental, health, and cultural effects of choosing one diet over another. Facts such as: one steer requires 35 gallons of oil to raise or 3 in every 5 Americans are considered ‘fat’ forces one to at least begin to think about the implications of what he or she eats. As Pollan states, “Imagine for a moment if we once again knew, strictly as a matter of course, these few unremarkable things: What it is we’re eating. Where it came from. How it found its way to our table. And what, in a true accounting, it really cost.”

Guiding Question: How much thought an intention do you put into what you eat, where it comes from, and its environmental impact?

Categories: Cottonwood Institute News

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2 Responses to “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”

  1. Eric

    On the same note, if you’re interested in the Polyface farm, check out Everything I Want to do is Illegal by Joel Salatin (the farmer himself). He gives a powerful and amusing critique of U.S. Ag. policy and the ways the gubment is preventing people like us from buying plain old, locally farmed, normal food.

    The experiences I have gained from school this year have been tremendous in terms of the ways I think about the food I eat. Since the school campus itself provides about 25% of its own food, and we all contribute to the farm, I really got to watch the process. Still, attention is only the first step. I really admire people like vegans or so-called localvores who strictly screen the food they eat. I find it very difficult to move beyond acknowledging impact to reducing impact, but it’s a work in progress, right?

  2. Mikal

    Eat whatever you want to eat, but all in moderation (that’s my motto).

    As to the notion that it takes 35 gallons of oil to raise and bring one steer to market, I have the strong sense that a similar case could made about nearly everything… the cost (in terms of gallons of oil) of producing a conference on sustainability; the cost (in terms of carbon footprint) to make the current Indiana Jones movie; the cost (in terms of whatever environmentally impactfull metric you want to muster up) of producing this blog post… everything we as humans do has an impact.

    The conversation needs to take a turn, I feel, toward offsets. You hear about impact all the time–as if to suggest all impact is bad (take the 35 gallons of oil argument in the case of the steer)–is this really a bad thing? Who is to say the farmer, slaughter house, transportation entity, and others involved are all doing something “bad” by consuming oil that is used in an effort to feed people. Additionally, who knows what is being done by these entities to offset the impact.

    For what it’s worth.


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