Michael Pollan’s book, The Omivore Dilemma is a witty read that critiques modern day unhealthy eating habits. Pollan attempts to explain the consumer’s dilemma in choosing between affordable non- organic food and inaccessible organic food. The former is a leading cause of obesity and predisposes the consumer to adverse health conditions (heart disease, cancer etc), but many citizens who are on a shoestring budget have no alternative (Pollan, 2006). Conversely, organic food and indigenous food is credited in promoting healthy living and longevity. Pollan attempts to evaluate the various common food chains i.e. indigenous food, industrial food and organic food in order to resolve this dilemma. In addition he lays emphasis on the environmental impact of our food choices. A review will be made on chapters 1, 2 and 3 where Pollan embarks on a study to discover the source of food before it reaches the supermarket. These chapters create good insight on the food production process, and the impact of large scale farming and industrialization.
Chapter one introduces the reader to food in the supermarket, the main source of food. Pollan exposes consumer ignorance as many people cannot trace the food back to the farm. In short, most consumers are unaware of the source of food. According to Pollan, consumers do not think beyond the supermarket’s surrounding that has fluorescent lighting and air conditioning. The food might be locally produced or imported. This introduction is well placed as it sets the pace of the environmental impact of food production processes in the subsequent chapters. Simply put, what we eat not only affects our health, but the food production process also has a profound effect on the environment. Until we understand the various food production processes, we cannot appreciate the effects on the environment. Chapter two traces the food roots back to the farm. He visits George Naylor’s corn farm in Iowa in an attempt to familiarize readers with the food source before processing. He exposes the exploitation of farmers by the corporate industry that comprises of grain exporters, and food processing corporations. However, government policy and technological advances have contributed to the modern day large-scale farming. Chapter 3 reveals that it is impossible to trace Grace Naylor’s corn throughout the food production process right to the supermarket (Pollan, 2006).
The visit to Naylor’s corn farm gives insight on unadulterated food that is in its natural form. In so doing, Pollan creates a clear contrast of natural food and processed food. The later is consumed at a higher rate by Americans. With processing, Naylor’s corn is mixed with the corn produce from other farmers. The corn’s nutritional value also diminishes with gradual processing. The final corn products comprise of corn syrup and various fast food corn derivatives.
These chapters form a good introduction for the book as the reader is familiarized on the various dynamics that influence food production. However, as the title suggests, the reader would expect an explanation of this current food dilemma. This explanation should precede the food production process. Pollan should capture the readers’ attention by introducing the various food types available in the supermarket, farm and other stations of food sale. This would well describe the concept of consumer food dilemma.
Pollan has made a good attempt in introducing the food dilemma faced by consumers. His overall aim is to familiarize readers with the various food forms (indigenous, organic and processed). He ties the underlying adverse effect by capitalist corporations on food production. This introduction urges the reader on to read about the various food forms before he evaluates the adverse health effects of processed food.