Cover image for The omnivore's dilemma : the secrets behind what you eat
Title:
The omnivore's dilemma : the secrets behind what you eat
ISBN:
9780803735002
Edition:
Young readers ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Dial Books, c2009.
Physical Description:
298, [46] p. : ill. ; 23 cm.
Contents:
Our national eating disorder -- I. Industrial: corn. The plant: corn's conquest -- The farm -- The grain elevator -- The feedlot: making meat -- The processing plant : making complex foods -- The consumer: a republic of fat -- The meal: fast food -- II. Pastoral: grass. All flesh is grass -- Big organic -- Grass: 13 ways of looking at a pasture -- The animals: practicing complexity -- Slaughter: in a glass abattoir -- The market: Greetings from the non-barcode people -- The meal: grass-fed -- III. Personal: the forest. The forager -- The omnivore's dilemma -- The ethics of eating animals -- Hunting: the meat -- Gathering: the fungi -- The perfect meal.
Reading Level:
930 L Lexile
Summary:
What should we have for dinner? When you can eat just about anything nature (or the supermarket) has to offer, deciding what you should eat will inevitably stir anxiety, especially when some of the foods might shorten your life. Today, buffeted by one food fad after another, America is suffering from a national eating disorder. As the cornucopia of the modern American supermarket and fast food outlet confronts us with a bewildering and treacherous landscape, what's at stake becomes not only our own and our children's health, but the health of the environment that sustains life on earth. Pollan follows each of the food chains--industrial food, organic or alternative food, and food we forage ourselves--from the source to the final meal, always emphasizing our coevolutionary relationship with the handful of plant and animal species we depend on. The surprising answers Pollan offers have profound political, economic, psychological, and even moral implications for all of us.--From publisher description.
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Summary

Summary

It's time to become a food detective!

'What's for dinner?' seems like a simple question. But do you really know . . .

'What happens to a field of potatoes destined to become french fries . . . or

In how many disguises corn sneaks into your food? (Hint- It's in your soda, your burger, and that Twinkie!)

Do you know what that 'organic' sticker on your banana actually means . . . or

Where the chicken in your nugget grew up?

Do you know the secrets behind what you eat?

In this book, you'll go undercover at the supermarket. You'll delve behind the scenes of your dinner, and by the time you've digested the last page you'll have put together the fascinating (and sometimes disturbing) puzzle of what's on your plate and how it got there.

This young readers edition of Michael Pollan's bestseller The Omnivore's Dilemma includes a brand-new introduction and afterword, an exclusive author Q & A, and a variety of fresh visual 'evidence.'


Author Notes

Michael Pollan is a contributing writer for "The New York Times Magazine" as well as a contributing editor at "Harper's" magazine. He is the author of two prize-winning books: "Second Nature: A Gardener's Education" and "A Place of My Own: The Education of an Amateur Builder."

Pollan lives in Connecticut with his wife and son. (Publisher Provided) Michael Pollan was born in 1955 and raised on Long Island, NY. He received his B.A. in English from Bennington College in 1977 and his Masters, also in English, from Columbia University, in 1981. He is the author of Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, as well as 5 New York Times bestselling books: Food Rules: An Eater's Manual, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World and Ho wto Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us about Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 7

Publisher's Weekly Review

This youth-friendly version of Pollan's bestseller, with updated facts, assorted visuals and a new introduction and afterword, is as enlightening as it is accessible. The adaptation uses the same "four meal" format of the original book, as Pollan describes the impact of humans' heavy corn consumption, explores the organic food industry, takes part in the system of farming practiced at Polyface Farm and hunts mushrooms and wild pigs. Much of the appeal lies in Pollan's hands-on methods and sensitive articulations as he assists readers in navigating the complexities of the production and consumption of food. Conscientious readers will grasp the important lessons. Ages 10-up. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Horn Book Review

(Middle School) Twinkies and McNuggets will never look the same after readers finish this accessible edition of the adult bestseller The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. Much of Pollan's extensive scientific and historical research from the original is abridged and/or simplified, making humans' dietary conundrum palatable to a new age group: "We can eat anything, but how do we know what to eat?" Pollan strives to solve the "omnivore's dilemma" by following four different food chains from source to plate: industrial, industrial-scale organic, local and sustainable, and hunter-gatherer. Though at times difficult to read because of disturbing details and photos -- the descriptions of cattle feedlots are enough to convert even devoted meat eaters to vegetarianism -- this book uses a recipe of science, history, and humor to create an edifying yet entertaining story. Pollan charges his audience to read more ingredient labels and to think about the food on their plates: "Ignorance is not bliss, at least not if you're a person who cares about the health of your body and your world." Helpful sidebars, tips for eating, an author question-and-answer section, and a resources list make the book as much about action as it is about information. Also appended are sources and an index. From HORN BOOK, (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Pollan's adult edition of The Omnivore's Dilemma (2006) was a watershed book. A New York Times bestseller, a James Beard Award winner, and a Booklist Editors' Choice selection, its personal, informed, adventurous exploration of the American food chain inspired thousands of readers to learn and care about what they eat. This exemplary young readers' edition offers much more than just a simplified, condensed version of the original. Adapted by Richie Chevat, it follows, in Pollan's accessible, funny, first-person voice, the same progression as the adult original. Four meals create the framework for Pollan's investigation into how food arrives on the table: an industrial dinner (from McDonald's), an industrial organic meal, a dinner made from local sustainable ingredients, and a dinner made mostly from foods that Pollan hunted and gathered. Expertly edited, the book retains the original's provocative anecdotes and questions, while presenting the background information in even more expanded and accessible terms. The open, attractive format includes visuals that are all new here, including diagrams, sidebars, and personal photos of the book's characters. Also new is an appended interview with Pollan, as well as a welcome closing chapter, The Omnivore's Solution, with tips for conscious eating. Just as powerful as the adult edition but perfectly tuned to a young audience, this title is essential food for thought.--Engberg, Gillian Copyright 2009 Booklist


New York Review of Books Review

I STILL REMEMBER reading books to my own kids, teenagers now, but I don't remember the last time someone read me a book, or even a paragraph, other than my husband barking out a snippet of the day's outrageous news. Yet I've never forgotten how different the experience of listening to prose is from reading or watching it transformed into film. It requires time and a mental stillness, the kind one has these days mainly in cars or other modes of transit. And so I set out to listen to the audio of young readers' versions of best-selling nonfiction in the car on trips upstate, often with my 13-year-old along to test their Y.A. appeal. We began with Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma," read by the actor Macleod Andrews in a vaguely Midwestern, boyish cadence. I was one of those people who had avoided Pollan's book when it came out a decade back, certain that if I read it, I'd wake up not just rejecting high-fructose corn syrup but also unable to find sustenance anywhere in my country, or worse, morphed into an organic-baby-food-producing, vegan scold. Listening to the nightmarish story of American industrial farming - the tragedy of ghost towns in Iowa and the Midwest all given over to "America's 80-million-acre field of corn," a plant that Pollan compares to an alien invasion - was indeed disturbing. When he buys a steer to chart its journey to becoming meat, you know it won't end well, but what happens is even worse than you think. At one point, listening to the unfolding litany of disaster that is America's food system, the kid in the car opined that my generation "let this happen." I denied it, of course, but as a native Illinoisan who spent a few summers on chain gangs of teenage corn "de-tassellers" toiling in Cargill's cross-pollination fields, I suppose I am personally implicated in the fiasco. Tip: You might want to listen to this seven-and-a-half-hour book (the adult audio clocks in at nearly 16 hours) while on a long drive with your family, but you won't be able to stop and eat at the fast-food outlets serving the disgusting things Pollan calls "EFLS" - edible foodlike substances constructed with corn and sickly factory-farmed cow or chicken. So pack a picnic basket of organic goodies from the farmers market before setting off. After Pollan, we popped the marvelous work of Laura Hillenbrand into the CD player. The actor Edward Herrmann (who died in 2014) reads a shorter, Y.A.-friendly version of "Unbroken," the true story of the Olympic runner and P.O.W. Louis Zamperini. Hillenbrand begins with our hero, his plane having gone down in the Pacific, floating on a life raft encircled by sharks. She leaves him there and drifts back to the delinquent boy discovering he was the fastest runner in Torrance, Calif. Before long he is racing the 5,000-meter in the 1936 Olympics and meeting Hitler, then enlisting in the Army Air Corps, crashing, spending a record 47 days on that shark-encircled raft and entering a hellish Japanese P.O.W. camp. Hillenbrand is a true master of the English language (planes "etch" the sky, sharks "bristle" beneath the raft), and her writerly skill is delivered with a feel for the eras in which the book unfolds by Herrmann's orotund, World War II radio announcer voice, his accent just slightly out of time. I was so into this story that when I reached home as Zamperini was being shot at by the Japanese, I brought the CD out of the car and hurried it inside with me, to finish listening. Our third and fourth audiobooks didn't grip us like the first two. "The Boys in the Boat," by Daniel James Brown, is about the Depression-era Olympic gold-medal-winning United States rowing team. The five-and-a-half-hour audio of the version adapted for younger readers, read by the actor Mark Bramhall, is heavily veiled by fog and endlessly dripping cold rain as the author paints the Pacific Northwest setting. Marketed as a sort of natural companion to Hillenbrand's book, it lacks her sharp ear for language, and although it was a best seller, it's not clear why the world needed another book about how the Americans triumphed over Nazi Germany in the 1936 Olympics. The book is, however, evocative of the incredible hardship Americans endured during the Depression, and it strikes deep emotional chords: Before the first third of the story is over, the hero, Joe Rantz, has been abandoned by his family three times. We learn that he and the other rowers, working-class boys all, formed a "mystical bond" in the boat that they never forgot. Unfortunately, "Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts," by Susan Cain with Gregory Mone and Erica Moroz, didn't capture us either. We do have introverts in our household, and Cain explains that "a quiet temperament is a superpower," which is a nice way to look at it. But there's a gooey dose of psychobabble here, even presumably simplified for young people in this reworking of the adult book, along with a protest-too-much degree of reassurance that introverts are just as smart and worthy as extroverts. Perhaps there are people out there who don't already believe that, but we're not among them. There is a 24-question test by which the listener can determine what sort of "vert" he or she is, which might not be immediately obvious. I took it and found myself exactly in the middle - a so-called androvert, sort of surprising because I was a shy and bookish teenager. The book is full of tips for more introverted teenagers on how to navigate the noisy world, including finding a few close friends and accepting that "you might not get up in front of a stadium like Taylor Swift." The most interesting anecdote the self-described introvert Cain shares is that she came to realize that being quiet means people often listen more closely when she speaks. But the book, at least, isn't helped by its reader, the actress Kathe Mazur. My 13-year-old test-listener observed, "She has a voice that makes me want to go to sleep. You should write that." And so I have. NINA BURLEIGH is the national politics correspondent at Newsweek magazine and the author of five nonfiction books.


School Library Journal Review

Gr 7 Up-Based on Pollan's best-selling adult book of the same title, this (slightly) shortened version will appeal to thoughtful, socially responsible teens. The book is divided into four sections: "The Industrial Meal" (exemplified by the fact that only two companies, Cargill and ADM, buy nearly a third of all the corn grown in the U.S.); "The Industrial Organic Meal" (covering most of what's found in stores like Whole Foods); "Local Sustainable" (small farms typically based on grass, not corn); and what he calls the "Do-It-Yourself Meal" (where he hunts a wild pig and gathers wild mushrooms). Pollan has done an amazing amount of research, both of the typical kind (there are 16 pages of footnotes) and the more personal kind. His own research includes slaughtering a chicken himself and eating a fast-food meal in a moving car with his family. He explains complicated issues clearly, offers compelling evidence of the environmental damage done by what he calls the industrial meal, and urges readers not to look away from animal-welfare issues: "We can only decide if we know the truth." An afterword, "Vote with Your Fork," recommends simple actions that will improve the health of our bodies, our society, and our planet.-Lauralyn Persson, Wilmette Public Library, IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Kirkus Review

Not every volume will change a reader's life, but this one just might. The dilemma is this: Human beings are omnivores; we can eat just about anything, but how do we know what's best to eat? Adopting the role of food detective, the author "peers behind the curtain" of the modern food industry and finds that the industrial approach to the food chain imperils our health and planet. The four sections of the volume describe differing types of meals: industrial; industrial organic; local sustainable; and hunted, gathered and found. Clear organization and lively writing rooted in fascinating examples make this accessible and interesting. The source notes and bibliography are thorough. Though some readers may find more about certain topics than they care to knowcorn, for examplemotivated kids will learn much about where their food comes from and what to do about it, and they may want to seek out the follow-up volume for adults, In Defense of Food (2008). (index, not seen) (Nonfiction. 11 up) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Library Journal Review

As the title suggests, Pollan takes the reader on a journey into the origins of four different meals. He evaluates the McDonald's burger and fries, a chicken dinner prepared from ingredients bought at Whole Foods, a similar one from a sustainable farm, and, finally, a feast of mushrooms and pork from wild foraging. (Young Readers Edition, ISBN 9780803734159). (LJ 4/15/06) (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

INTRODUCTION Before I began working on this book, I never gave much thought to where my food came from. I didn't spend much time worrying about what I should and shouldn't eat. Food came from the supermarket and as long as it tasted good, I ate it. Until, that is, I had the chance to peer behind the curtain of the modern American food chain. This came in 1998. I was working on an article about genetically modified food--food created by changing plant DNA in the laboratory. My reporting took me to the Magic Valley in Idaho, where most of the french fries you've ever eaten begin their life as Russet Burbank potatoes. There I visited a farm like no farm I'd ever seen or imagined. It was fifteen thousand acres, divided into 135-acre crop circles. Each circle resembled the green face of a tremendous clock with a slowly rotating second hand. That sweeping second hand was the irrigation machine, a pipe more than a thousand feet long that delivered a steady rain of water, fertilizer, and pesticide to the potato plants. The whole farm was managed from a bank of computer monitors in a control room. Sitting in that room, the farmer could, at the flick of a switch, douse his crops with water or whatever chemical he thought they needed. One of these chemicals was a pesticide called Monitor, used to control bugs. The chemical is so toxic to the nervous system that no one is allowed in the field for five days after it is sprayed. Even if the irrigation machine breaks during that time, farmers won't send a worker out to fix it because the chemical is so dangerous. They'd rather let that whole 135-acres crop of potatoes dry up and die. That wasn't all. During the growing season, some pesticides get inside the potato plant so that they will kill any bug that takes a bite. But these pesticides mean people can't eat the potatoes while they're growing, either. After the harvest, the potatoes are stored for six months in a gigantic shed. Here the chemicals gradually fade until the potatoes are safe to eat. Only then can they be turned into french fries. That's how we grow potatoes? I had no idea. A BURGER WITH YOUR FRIES? A few years later, while working on another story, I found myself driving down Interstate 5, the big highway that runs between San Francisco and Los Angeles. I was on my way to visit a farmer in California's Central Valley. It was one of those gorgeous autumn days when the hills of California are gold. Out of nowhere, a really nasty smell assaulted my nostrils--the stench of a gas station restroom sorely in need of attention. But I could see nothing that might explain the smell--all around me were the same blue skies and golden hills. And then, very suddenly, the golden hills turned jet-black on both sides of the highway: black with tens of thousands of cattle crowded onto a carpet of manure that stretched as far as the eye could see. I was driving through a feedlot, with tens of thousands of animals bellying up to a concrete trough that ran along the side of the highway for what seemed like miles. Behind them rose two vast pyramids, one yellow, the other black: a pile of corn and a pile of manure. The cattle, I realized, were spending their days transforming the stuff of one pile into the stuff of the other. This is where our meat comes from? I had no idea. Suddenly that "happy meal" of hamburger and fries looked a lot less happy. Between the feedlot and the potato farm, I realized just how little I knew about the way our food is produced. The picture in my head, of small family farms with white picket fences and red barns and happy animals on green pastures, was seriously out of date. THE OMNIVORE'S DILEMMA Now I had a big problem. I went from never thinking about where my food came from to thinking about it all the time. I started worrying about what I should and shouldn't eat. Just because food was in the supermarket, did that mean it was good to eat? The more I studied and read about food the more I realized I was suffering from a form of the omnivore's dilemma. This is a big name for a very old problem. Human beings are omnivores. That means we eat plants, meat, mushrooms--just about anything. But because we are omnivores we have very little built-in instinct that tells us which foods are good for us and which aren't. That's the dilemma--we can eat anything, but how do we know what to eat? The omnivore's dilemma has been around a long time. But today we have a very modern form of this dilemma. We have a thousand choices of food in our supermarkets, but we don't really know where our food comes from. As I discovered, just finding out how our potatoes are grown might scare you off french fries for the rest of your life. In the past, people knew about food because they grew it or hunted it themselves. They learned about food from their parents and grandparents. They cooked and ate the same foods people in their part of the world had always eaten. Modern Americans don't have strong food traditions. Instead we have dozens of different "experts" who give us lots of different advice about what to eat and what not to eat. It's one thing to be crazy about food because you like to eat. But I found I was going crazy from worrying about food. So I set out to try to solve the modern omnivore's dilemma. I decided to become a food detective, to find out where our food comes from and what exactly it is we are eating. My detective work became the book you now hold in your hands. FOUR MEALS As a food detective, I had to go back to the beginning, to the farms and fields where our food is grown. Then I followed it each step of the way, and watched what happened to our food on its way to our stomachs. Each step was another link in a chain--a food chain. A food chain is a system for growing, making, and delivering food. In this book, I follow four different food chains. Each one has its own section. They are: Industrial This is where most of our food comes from today. This chain starts in a giant field, usually in the Midwest, where a single crop is grown--corn, or perhaps soybeans--and ends up in a supermarket or fast-food restaurant. Industrial Organic This food is grown on large industrial farms, but with only natural fertilizers, and natural bug and weed control. It is sold in the same way as industrial food. Local Sustainable This is food grown on small farms that raise lots of different kinds of crops and animals. The food from the farm doesn't need to be processed, and it travels a short distance--to a farmer's market, for example--before it reaches your table. Hunter-Gatherer This is the oldest type of food chain there is. It's hardly a chain at all, really. It is made up simply of you, hunting, growing, or finding your food. All these food chains end the same way--with a meal. And so I thought it important to end each section of the book with a meal, whether it was a fast-food hamburger eaten in a speeding car, or a meal I made myself from start to finish. THE PLEASURES OF EATING When I was ten years old, I started my own "farm" in a patch of our backyard. From that age until now, I have always had a vegetable garden, even if only a small one. The feeling of being connected to food is very important to me. It's an experience that I think most of us are missing today. We're so confused about food that we've forgotten what food really is--the bounty of the earth and the power of the sun captured by plants and animals. There were parts of this book that were difficult to write, because the facts were so unpleasant. Some of those facts might make you lose your appetite. But the point of this book is not to scare you or make you afraid of food. I think we enjoy food much more if we take a little time to know what it is we're putting in our mouths. Then we can really appreciate the truly wonderful gifts that plants and animals have given us. To me, that's the point of this book, to help you rediscover the pleasures of food and learn to enjoy your meals in a new way. The Omnivore's Solution: Some Tips for Eating I'll bet I know your last burning question: "What now?" Now that you know all that you know about the food chains we depend on, how exactly should you fill up your plate? Most of my readers have the same question, so I've developed a handful of everyday rules to guide you through the newfound challenges (and possibilities!) of mealtime. (You can find more of them in the book I wrote after The Omnivore's Dilemma , called In Defense of Food .) My advice comes in three parts: EAT REAL FOOD. That sounds pretty simple, but you now know it's not so easy to do. There are many things disguised as food in our supermarkets and fast-food restaurants; I call them "edible food-like substances" (EFLS for short) and suggest you avoid them. But how do you tell the difference between real food and EFLS? Here are a few rules of thumb: Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food. Imagine she's by your side when you're picking up something to eat. Does she have any idea what that Go-GURT portable yogurt tube is or how you're supposed to eat it? (She might think it's toothpaste.) The same goes for that Honey-Nut Cheerios, cereal bar, the one with the layer of fake milk running through the middle, or the (even weirder) cereal "straw." Don't eat anything with more than five ingredients, or with ingredients you don't recognize or can't pronounce. As with the Twinkie, that long ingredient list means you're looking at a highly processed product--an edible food-like substance likely to contain more sugar, salt, and fat than your body needs, and very few real nutrients. Don't eat anything containing high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Think about it: only corporations ever "cook" with the stuff. Avoid it and you will automatically avoid many of the worst kinds of EFLS, including soda. BUY REAL FOOD. To make sure you're buying real food: Get your food from the outside perimeter of the supermarket and try to avoid the middle aisles. In the cafeteria, go for the salad bar or the fruit basket. These places are where you still find fresh plant and animal foods that have only been been minimally processed. In the middle aisles of the store--and in the school vending machines--are where most of the EFLS lurk. Don't buy, or eat, anything that doesn't eventually rot. A food engineered to live forever is usually full of chemicals. Food should be alive, and that means it should eventually die. Shop at the farmers market, through a CSA, or at a farmstand whenever you can. Get out of the supermarket, the corner deli, and the gas station, and you won't find those flashy fake foods. Be your own food detective. Pay attention to where your food comes from (were those berries picked in your state or halfway around the world?) and how it is grown (Organic? Grass-fed? Humanely raised?). Read labels and ask questions. What's the story behind your food? And how do you feel about that story? EAT REAL MEALS. How you prepare and eat food is often just as important as what you eat. So: Cook. The best way to take control of your meals is to cook whenever you can. As soon as you start cooking, you begin to learn about ingredients, to care about their quality, and to develop your sense of taste. You'll find over time that, when you prepare and eat real food, fast food gets boring--more of the same old taste of salt, fat, and sugar in every Chips Ahoy! or microwave pizza. There are so many more interesting tastes to experiment with in the kitchen and to experience at the table. Garden. The freshest, best-tasting food you can eat is freshly picked food from the garden. Nothing is more satisfying than to cook and eat food you grew yourself. Try not to eat alone. When we eat alone we eat without thinking, and we usually eat too much: Just think about how thoughtlessly you can put away a bag of chips or cookies in front of the television or computer, or while doing your homework. Eating should be social; food is more fun when you share it. Eat slowly and stop when you're full. The food industry makes money by getting you to eat more than you need or even want to. Just because they offer a supersized 64-ounce Big Gulp and 1,250-calorie, 5-cup restaurant plate of spaghetti and meatballs doesn't mean that's the amount you should eat. Take back control of your portions (a normal-size serving of spaghetti is about a cup and a half). Eat at the table. I know, it sounds obvious. But we snack more than we dine these days; 19 percent of the meals consumed in America today are eaten in the car. The deepest joys of eating come when we slow down to savor our food and share it with people we love. The real meal--family and friends gathered around a table--is in danger of extinction. For the sake of your family's health and happiness, and for your own, do what you can to save it. You might be surprised how much enjoyment it can bring. Excerpted from The Omnivore's Dilemma for Kids: The Secrets Behind What You Eat by Michael Pollan All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.