Pollan, Michael. The Omnivores Dilemma.

Although Pollan condemns conventional agriculture, he also notes that even organically-labeled food is often grown in a manner that is not much better for the environment in terms of its carbon footprint — the regulations upon what constitutes organic food can be quite lax, and some foods that use some pesticides that are grown locally and sold in farmers markets might not be technically organic, but leave less of a carbon footprint. As part of the research for his book, Pollan visits a commercial organic farm, which is just as mechanized as a standard commercial farm, and just as large and labor-intensive. Commercial agriculture, Pollan implies, grew to satisfy a marketing demand, not out of ideology. Consumers are gradually growing uncomfortable with the evident environmental implications of their choices and wish to do something, even though they are unsure as to what that something should be, and many buy commercial organic food to assuage their guilt.

Pollan is most approving of a farmer in Virginia who runs an entirely sustainable farm, using no pesticides — even the chickens pecking at the manure break down the animal feces to fertilize the soil. This farmer, Joel Salatin, describes himself as a fundamentalist Christian who is spearheading a back to the land movement, and hopes to raise a farm how he believes God intended livestock and produce to be raised. Because of the quality of the food Salatin produces, based upon traditional agricultural methods, people of all ideologies from the surrounding area come to the farm to buy meat and produce.

Along with the meal that Pollan kills and cooks like a hunter-gatherer, he regards this truly natural farm as the ideal standard for human all consumption. The food tastes better as well as makes him feel better about being an omnivore. (Pollan briefly entertains the idea of becoming a vegetarian, but rejects it because of his affection for meat and because he feels it shuts him out of mainstream culture to such a great degree).

Although industrialization has affected all parts of the world food economy, Pollan believes that it has been especially damaging for Americans, because of Americas lack of an indigenous food tradition. Without a unified tradition, Americans have been even more willing than other nations to look to commercials to define what is good to eat, leading to a starve-and-binge cycle of deprivation and gluttony. Pollans analysis is compelling, but as trenchant as his analysis may be of the industrial (and industrial-organic) food chain, his solutions are rather vague. Shifting consumption habits is an important start, but as everyday consumers are confronted with daily, economic realities and a food system where government-subsidized, corn-derived chips are cheaper than locally-grown broccoli, change on the individual level will come slow. Sweeping, macro social and political change is necessary for this cost imbalance.

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