The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals Summary & Study Guide

Michael Pollan
This Study Guide consists of approximately 30 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Omnivore's Dilemma.
This section contains 461 words
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The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals Summary & Study Guide Description

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan.

The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan, is a book about American eating habits, and the food dilemma American's have today. Pollan tries to help readers decide the answer to the age-old question: "What's for dinner?" by examining the different food paths available to modern man and by analyzing those paths to determine the best for health, stability, and sustainability.

Pollan begins the book by discussing the dilemma of the omnivore, a creature with vast choices for eating. Pollan decides to help discover the roots of the dilemma by examining the three primary food chains within the omnivore plan, those of the industrial food chain, the organic food chain, and the hunter-gathering food chain. He begins by examining the industrialized food industry, by following both corn and beef through the industrial process. His work on the corn fields of George Naylor teach him that the industrial system has made corn the number one product in nearly all items in a supermarket. His purchase of a steer allows him to see parts of the industrialized monoculture of beef production, showing him that here too, mass production has introduced a slew of environmental, health, ethical, and moral dilemmas. Following his journey, Pollan and his family eat a McDonald's meal, and Pollan realizes he is one of the few who actually understand how such a meal is created.

In the second section, Pollan examines the organic food sector, by following it from its original roots to its current state at such farms as Polyface Farm. Polyface is owned and operated by Joel Salatin, a man who believes that a return to nature through organic farming is the only logical choice for sustainability. Polyface is nearly entirely self sustaining, and Pollan's meal, made from the organic chicken, eggs, and sweet corn of the farm combined with other locally grown foods, is a reminder to him about the bounty of nature's flavors and the richness of non-processed food. In The final section, Pollan sets off to hunt and forage. Relying on the help from local hunters, Pollan learns to hunt and eventually shoots a wild boar. In addition, Pollan learns to forage for mushrooms, local wild yeast, and local fruits. Pollan's final meal, produced nearly entirely from his own work and the bounty of nature, show him that while such meals are, by far, the most rewarding in terms of a relationship to food, they are not sustainable.

Pollan's book allows the common reader to walk along a journey of food that not only teaches some valuable lessons, but also helps explain how and why the American food industry is the way it is. Pollan's writing is light, often humorous, but also filled with deep philosophical questions about why we choose to eat what we do.

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