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The Omnivore's Dilemma: The Search for the Perfect Meal in a Fast-food World [Paperback]

Michael Pollan
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 May 2006
We are indeed what we eat - and what we eat remakes the world. But we are only just beginning to recognise the profound consequences of the simplest everyday food choices, both for ourselves and for the natural world. "The Ominvore's Dilemma" is bestselling author Michael Pollan's eye-opening exploration of the American food industry. His astonishing findings will resonate enormously for people everywhere who care about what they put on their plate. "The Omnivore's Dilemma" brings a fresh perspective to the simple yet momentous question 'What shall we have for dinner?', which is overwhelming for any creature faced with a wide choice of things to eat. Anthropologists call it the 'omnivore's dilemma'. Today, as America confronts what can only be described as a national eating disorder, the omnivore's dilemma has returned with an atavistic vengeance. Dealing with each of the food chains that sustain us (industrialized food, alternative or 'organic' food, and food people obtain by dint of their own hunting, gathering or gardening) Pollan follows each food chain through from the ground to sitting down to a meal, tracing the provenance of everything consumed. "The Omnivore's Dilemma" is an uncompromisingly realised, eloquent, philosophical and absorbing book for anyone who thinks about where their food comes from.

Frequently Bought Together

The Omnivore's Dilemma: The Search for the Perfect Meal in a Fast-food World + In Defence of Food: The Myth of Nutrition and the Pleasures of Eating: An Eater's Manifesto + Food Rules: An Eater's Manual
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Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (1 May 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747586756
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747586753
  • Product Dimensions: 22.4 x 15.2 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,092,837 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

For the past twenty years, Michael Pollan has been writing about the places where the human and natural worlds intersect: food, agriculture, gardens, drugs, and architecture. His book The Omnivore's Dilemma, about the ethics and ecology of eating, was named one of the ten best books of 2006 by the New York Times and the Washington Post. He is also the author of In Defence of Food, The Botany of Desire, A Place of My Own and Second Nature, and the upcoming Food Rules: An Eater's Manual.

Product Description


‘What should you eat? Pollan addresses that fundamental question with great wit and intelligence' -- Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation

‘You’re not likely to get a better explanation of exactly where your food comes from….brimming with ideas’ -- New York Times

Book Description

The startling truth behind the food we consume in the twenty-first century --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
This is the most basic culinary detective book. In modern America, Michael Pollan wonders what to eat: "... 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 it's way to our table. And what, in a true accounting, it really cost."

Of course most North Americans can't answer these questions in any self-satisfying way, so Pollan sets off on the case. He journeys through the belly of the food industry beast -- to the massive government-subsidized corn plantations of Iowa, the huge cattle feed lots and the slaughterhouses. He visits the plants where trainload after trainload of corn is refined into the chemical components of processed food, and then he takes his family to McDonalds.

Searching for alternatives to totally explore, Pollan visits large-scale organic plantations. He works for a spell on an organic family farm in Virginia, helping to slaughter the chickens for his next gourmet meal. And last he goes whole hog back to the hunter-gatherer days, searching for mushrooms and shooting a wild pig in the forests of Northern California.

The whole experience yields tons of great stories, and the kind of good common sense I can't resist quoting:

"A tension has always existed between the capitalist imperative to maximise efficiency at any cost and the moral imperatives of culture, which have historically served as a counterweight to the moral blindness of the market. This is another example of the cultural contradictions of capitalism -- the tendency over time for the economic impulse to erode the moral underpinnings of society." (p.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
By Dennis Littrell TOP 1000 REVIEWER
The Omnivore's Dilemma is this: what to eat and what not to eat. Sounds easy, but as Michael Pollan shows this dilemma is at the heart of what both divides and joins people at the most visceral level. The dilemma is sharp because the question of what to eat and what not to eat is moral as well as nutritional. It is practical as well as esthetic. It is a question that engages all people in all cultures. It pits traditional values against modernity. There is the family that eats together a meal prepared by a family member or members, and the meal that is eaten on the run prepared by agribusiness and heated in a microwave. There is fast food and the Slow Food movement. There is the question of whether to eat meat or not, and if not, whether to be a vegetarian or a vegan or something in-between. And if we do eat meat, should a distinction be made between free range flesh and the factory kind? Should the suffering of animals spoil our appetite? We are omnivores, but in a world of so many of us, can we really continue to eat so high on the hog?

Pollan addresses these questions and many others in a courageous and uncompromising way that should gain the respect of all readers, whether they agree with his conclusions or not.

The book is in three parts, with four characteristic meals.

Pollan begins with "Industrial Corn" (Part I) and a fast food meal from McDonald's in the car. This part of the book, which could be an entire book itself--and a very good one--tells the story of corn and how it has come to dominate the American food industry.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A perfectly cut dish 4 May 2008
An elegantly and thoughtfully written book on the modern food industry that feeds us. Pollan demonstrates a refreshing openness, sharing how his journey through mass produced, organic, and hunter-gatherer food systems affects him without ever sinking into sentimentality - even when shooting a wild pig his insight into what it means to be a hunter is superb.

Without doubt one of the best books on food that I have ever read and one that will withstand the test of time, if for no other reason than the issues he covers of where our food comes from, how it is produced and what that might mean are as relevant today as they ever have been.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cogent, well-written, fascinating 28 Jun 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The Omnivore's Dilemma addresses the question: if you have the opportunity to eat anything, how do you know which things are best to eat? It delves into the food chains behind various meals, from the industrial to the pastoral.

The skills of Michael Pollan, the Knight Professor of Journalism at U.C. Berkeley, shine through in this book. It is remarkably clearly written, and addresses a broad range of perspectives and potential criticisms. It avoid preaching, which would be so easy to do with this subject, and instead presents information as information, and opinion as just that.

If you are remotely interested in what you put in your mouth, and where it comes from, I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good questions, but no solution 28 May 2009
The Omnivore's Dilemma borrows its title from a 1970s study that observed that prehistoric man, being an omnivore, could eat pretty much everything it found in nature, but that at the same time, many plants and fungi were actually toxic. So how did man know what to eat and what not? The modern omnivore faces a different dilemma: a decent sized supermarket has more food than you can imagine, but where does it come from? What is actually in a microwave dinner? How was the cow treated that gave you your steak?

In answering these questions, Pollan dives deep into the inner workings of industrialised farming, and what he finds there, makes for some grim reading. In addition, Pollan shows that organic farming too, is often more of a marketing trick than, well, organic farming.

But The Omnivore's Dilemma is more than an attack on the agro-industrial complex. Pollan teaches us about true organic farming, discusses the ethics of eating meat and explains the surprising appeal of hunting.

Most people will be drawn to this book because of what it says about industrial farming. Pollan, like other authors, spends a great deal of time telling us what's wrong about it, and he can't resist the temptation to blame a lot of it on capitalism. You know, the line about how people really don't want to buy microwave dinners, or vegetables from Argentina, but are forced to buy them by big multinationals. What Pollan does not do, however, is come up with an alternative to industrialised farming. Earth currently has over 6 bn people and they have to be fed somehow. How to do that in a sustainable way, is the next omnivore's dilemma. Perhaps one Pollan can tackle in his next book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Open's your eyes
I loved this book and all of his others too.
Published 16 days ago by Mrs Amanda J Carter
5.0 out of 5 stars Get it
Once you get into it, it's a real eye opener. Bought on the recommendation of a farmer friend in Canada. Certainly changed my way of looking at the shelves and my diet
Published 1 month ago by RC
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 2 months ago by Bob Bowie
5.0 out of 5 stars very educational book
every food lover should read this book to know what their products really consist of, gives a loop into food production.
Published 8 months ago by Annika
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading
very interesting in places. as someone who doesn't normally read non fiction I was surprised how readable this book was. more Americanised than I expected but still worth a read.
Published 9 months ago by John Scott Hardie
4.0 out of 5 stars Omnivore's dilemma
This book certainly takes the lid off the food production in USA. They are being fed with GM foods which they cannot digest and so they put on more and more fat. Read more
Published 9 months ago by D. F. Louis
5.0 out of 5 stars An Amazing Book Which Reveals More About Food Industry's Hidden...
"The Omnivore's Dilemma" is an amazing book which reveals more about food industry and the shortcuts they use. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Dan Ionescu
5.0 out of 5 stars Great insight into the food industry
Michael Pollan is my food guru! He has helped me change my view on food in general and the food industry
Published 12 months ago by Natasha Walter
5.0 out of 5 stars Sobering
If what goes on in the US eventually comes here, we had brace ourselves. It made me really think again about where our food comes from and what we are eating that is making us... Read more
Published 14 months ago by H. Macrae
5.0 out of 5 stars Life-changing
I can't even think of the last time I read something that completely changed my life. I recommend this to anyone who wants to open their eyes, and start looking around at how they... Read more
Published 14 months ago by la
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