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The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals

4.17  ·  Rating Details  ·  132,939 Ratings  ·  11,369 Reviews
What should we have for dinner?" To one degree or another this simple question assails any creature faced with a wide choice of things to eat. Anthropologists call it the omnivore's dilemma. Choosing from among the countless potential foods nature offers, humans have had to learn what is safe, and what isn't—which mushrooms should be avoided, for example, and which berries ...more
Hardcover, 451 pages
Published 2006 by The Penguin Press
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Feb 18, 2008 Anita rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who care about their health, animals, farmers, the environment, and humanity
Recommended to Anita by: Book review on
Michael Pollan is a journalist, and an omnivore, curious about where the food he puts in his mouth comes from. In the book he follows four meals from the very beginning of the food chain to his plate. What he finds is that the food we put in our mouths turns out to be a big decision- a moral, political, and environmental one.

Part One- CORN
The discussion begins with CORN. Part one of this book is shocking. I knew corn was the main crop grown in America and that farmers growing it are in big troub
Lisa Vegan
Dec 09, 2007 Lisa Vegan rated it liked it
Recommends it for: omnivores & anyone interested in the state of agriculture in the U.S.
I was resistant to reading this book because I’m not an omnivore, and also I thought that Pollan’s book The Botany of Desire was brilliant and I suspected I would not feel as fond of this one, which is certainly true. He does write well, but I didn’t find that this book had the eloquence or elegance of the other.

The sub-title of this book could read: It’s Really Ok To Eat Dead Animals, Really It Is. Which I realize for most people it is. But eating flesh foods and other foods made from animals s
Jan 09, 2011 Ryan rated it it was amazing
I liked Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma so much that I searched goodreads reviews for reasons not to like it.

Let me explain.

Whenever a really influential book like this comes out, there's a pretty reliable pattern that follows. There's the newspaper "toast of the town" effect, followed by bland and ubiquitous morning TV interviews, and, if you're lucky, an innocuous appearance on Oprah, probably followed by a massive boost in sales. However, there is usually a fairly large group of peopl
Nov 05, 2007 Tien rated it it was ok
This is a really good book that gets only two stars because it gets annoying. He starts by taking a fascinating look at corn and our very odd decision to be continually dependent on it. And then he walks through Whole Foods and dissects its philosophy and discovers that, surprise, the foods there aren't as organic and local as they advertise. (But he still shops there, of course. It's still Whole Foods.). And then it goes a bit downhill from there. Will a foodie please, please write about how to ...more
Aug 08, 2010 Imogen rated it it was ok
Wow, it seems like a lot of people didn't notice that this kinda sucked! Weird. It read to me like he wrote The Botany of Desire, decided that that framework- a loose structure in which he can just talk alternately interesting and totally self-serving shit for a whole book- and figured he'd give it another go, but this time as his MAGNUM OPUS. And I was pretty into it, for the most part, but in a lot of the parts where he thinks he's being super even-handed, he's actually often being a boring mi ...more
Patrick Gabridge
Mar 30, 2007 Patrick Gabridge rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
I thoroughly enjoyed The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. He's been one of my favorite writers, ever since I read A Place of My Own, some years ago. And I stumble across stories by him in the New York Times Sunday Magazine, often quite by accident, and then look at the byline to see who this talented writer is, and there's Pollan again.

The book has the distinct danger of making you annoying to your spouse/partner/children, because you'll be reading along and feel compelled to share a fact a
Apr 22, 2015 Sara rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone I know
Shelves: lifestyle
Man, this book is great. The best book I read last year, easily. Mushrooms, chicken slaughter, sustainability, french fries, soul-searching questions, it's all here. Just read it already.

Okay, if that didn't sell you, here's more info, from the review I wrote for my farm community (Stearns Farm, Framingham, MA):

The Omnivore’s Dilemma created a lot buzz since its publication in 2006, so you may have read it already. If you haven’t picked it up yet, consider checking it out. At 464 pages, it is
Dec 13, 2007 Laura rated it it was ok
He makes some good points but in the end, it smacks of well-off white man over simplifying an incredibly complex issue. What the book has going for it is that it's a best seller, especially to the faux-liberal, over educated set and it's at least making them THINK about where their food is coming from. What I don't like though, is that it lets them off the hook as far as accountability if they just go about buying the RIGHT kind of meat. Well, all of that free range "humane" meat goes to the sam ...more
Nov 07, 2008 Trevor rated it really liked it
I love food. I really love food. I believe it is one of the most fascinating cultural facts in our lives. I particularly love food that is taken as meals and then the words that gather about meals – not least that most beautiful word ‘sharing’. Because food is never better than when it is shared as ours.

Recently I was delighted to learn the etymology of the word ‘companion’. That has become my favourite way to describe the people I’m fond of. The word comes from Latin and means ‘with bread’ – t
May 23, 2010 Eric_W rated it really liked it
Update 5/23/2010 Terrific piece by Michael Pollan in the NYRB June 10, 2010, "The Food Movement, Rising" in which he reviews five books: Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal, Terra Madre: Forging a New Global Network of Sustainable Food Communities, All You Can Eat: How Hungry is America?, The Taste for Civilization: Food, Politics, and Civil Society, Eating Animals

I am beginning to wallow and bask in the mire of food politics, subject of Pollan's piece. It's interesting to read the comments secti
Update: The Wilson Quarterly provides a very nice slideshow of Polyface Farm, in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, which plays a key role in Pollan's examination of sustainable agriculture.

• • • • •

I thought when I started this book that a review would be superfluous—after all, it was published many years ago and has been reviewed thousands of times. But the material is provocative, and some reviews on this and similar books induce yet more thinking.

Jul 14, 2011 Stacie rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: People who eat food
Shelves: borrowed, non-fiction
From the very beginning, Omnivore’s Dilemma, it had me thinking a lot about my childhood. I grew up on my grandparents’ farm in MN, where we had draft horses, cows, chickens, a garden filled with vegetables, apple trees and rows upon rows of corn. I learned how to take an ear off the stalk at a very young age – probably around the same time that I learned how to bale hay – because across the farm from the rows of corn, we also had a field of alfalfa and wheat. While my grandpa grew corn to sell ...more
A wise man recently told me, "Capitalism is here to stay." With that in mind, Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma is a feel good guide to consumerism at its most sustainable, organic, locally grown, and ultimately high-end. Yes, this is an eye-opening read that will, at first, make you want to stop eating all together then compel you to grab a sturdy pair of boots you can kick around in, throw on some clothes that will certainly get dirty, if not bloody, and step into the splendors of the na ...more
Tracy Rhodes
Jun 26, 2007 Tracy Rhodes rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who eats
Shelves: nonfiction
I'll never look at corn the same way again.

This book provokes a lot of thought about the origins of our food and the biological, political, social and economic implications of those origins. I liked that Pollan approached the topic journalistically, with admirably little in the way of political agenda. To structure his book, he uses the format of following the path of four finished meals from origin to plate - one McDonald's meal, one comprised of supermarket organic products, one from a "beyond
Apr 01, 2010 dara rated it it was ok
I had an idea of where this book was headed before I even read it--eat organic, local produce, and choose grass-fed meat over factory farm meat. I knew from a quote in Eating Animals that Pollan eventually dismisses vegetarianism as a decision not grounded in reality. What I didn't expect was for him to reach that conclusion so quickly and without so much as visiting a slaughterhouse.

Instead he visits Polyface farms, slaughters a few chickens in a manner far more humane than the fate met by the
Sep 06, 2007 Tim rated it it was ok
Has served to overcome my general revulsion of journalists mascarading expose as scientific truth (e.g. Malcolm Gladwell or Thomas Friedman). Well worth reading, though a second, scientific perspective (read "not Schlosser") would be a good companion to fill out what this book offers.

---Finished: I take back what I said, what I thought was gearing up to be analytical and thought provoking really unwound over the course of the book. Pollan comes off a lot more like a homespun wisdom-spewing gran
Jan 22, 2015 Gendou rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
Michael Pollan is anti-science.

He blames scientists for the misappropriation of scientific language in advertising. He touts folk wisdom.

I saw him at a book reading and asked him why he is critical of science. He said the science is too easy to abuse, so it should just be ignored.

This is horrible advice. Ignorance doesn't solve anything.
It leaves people vulnerable to those who would mislead and deceive them.
Mandy Nelson
May 26, 2008 Mandy Nelson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ok friends, I LOVED this book. It was a little long and it kind of meandered and changed tone in the last 1/3 but it was good all the way through. This book is about the industrial food chain and the author's adventures in trying to trace where his food comes from. He researches the 3 different processes that go into 3 types of meals: an industrially produced meal (McDonald's), an organic meal (Whole Foods) and a hunter/gatherer meal (he kills/collects everything he eats for this meal). If you d ...more
Twice a week, there is a farmer's market at my local park. It is half a block away from my house. For the last several years, I've brought food there. I can no longer eat, for instance, apples from the supermarket. They taste waxy. Considering how much I like my local farmer's market, it's surprising that it took me so long to read this book.

Seeing marked down to a dollar helped motivate me.

It's a good book. It's a scary book. It makes me want to buy everything from the farmer's market (which is
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
This guy deserves an extra star just for the sheer depth of his coverage! I don't necessarily agree with some of his conclusions, but I admire the way he went out there and immersed himself in the topics he was studying.
Books like this always make me feel good about the changes I've made in my eating habits over the last few years as well as motivating me to remain vigilant when I start to get lazy.
I look forward to trying more of this author's books.
Oct 27, 2008 Kristin rated it really liked it
Shelves: foodie
This was an amazing book. Pollen takes the reader on a food adventure that is thought provoking, disturbing and quietly challenges they way we all look at the meal in front of us - all without being obnoxious or righteous.

The book begins simply enough in an Iowa cornfield as Pollen breaks down the history of corn and the future of this simple grain. He deftly weaves this into how we eat this product and what it’s doing to us and agriculture. From Iowa we travel with him as he visits his steer (#
Sep 04, 2007 Jake rated it really liked it
1)Corn is Bad, Grass is Good
2)Eat Seasonally, Eat Locally, Eat Humanely, & Eat Organically
3)Eat Sh*t and Die. Well, Actually, Eat Sh*t and Flourish.

Each of these would have been a more classy title for the book "Omnivore's Dilemma". To paraphrase another reviewer 'The dude structures this book by following the path of four finished meals from origin to plate - one McDonald's meal, one comprised of supermarket organic products, one from a "beyond-organic" self-sustaining farm in Virginia,
Ginny Messina
Sep 25, 2007 Ginny Messina rated it liked it
Shelves: food
A truly important book by gifted writer and journalist Michael Pollan. It's not without its flaws, however, and for all the promise of the first two-thirds of the book, it kind of leaves the reader hanging at the end.

In the first part, Pollan exposes the damaging effects of industrial agriculture, and—-importantly—-this includes large-scale organic production which is not nearly as benign as most people would like to believe. Later in the book he addresses the inhumane aspect of industrial agri
Lubinka Dimitrova
Utterly engaging and the perfect follow up to Gary Taubes' Good Calories, Bad Calories. Food indeed makes a very engrossing reading.
Feb 19, 2009 Stephanie rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Nerds like me
Recommended to Stephanie by: Idahospud's Book Club
It’s not every day you read a book that threatens to change your life. I use the word “threaten” very deliberately, because they are changes that I know I'm going to find challenging.

Michael Pollan challenges his readers to examine their food a little closer, to consider where it comes from. And it's a logical request I think. We can spend days searching for the perfect doctor or mechanic, but how much time do we take to really think about our food? Do you know where your steak came from? Is you
Crystal Starr Light
Bullet Review:

In this day and age, there are hundreds of ways to answer the question "What am I eating for dinner tonight?" These range from the nearby McDonald's and Burger Kind to the supermarket to the local farmer's stand. Michael Pollan takes a look at four ways to have a meal - one industrial meal at McDonald's, one organic meal from Whole Foods, one local meal from a farmer's field, and one completely "homemade" meal made from hunting and foraging.

I must say, the first 300 pages are rivet
M.L. Rudolph
May 05, 2012 M.L. Rudolph rated it it was amazing
2006. NY Times Book Review One of the 10 Best Books of the Year.

We eat every day of our lives but we don't often give much thought to what we put in our bodies. If we are what we eat, then when it comes to meat, we are what the animal eats; and when it comes to produce, we are what the plant's grown in.

There's a food chain that extends around the world and throughout evolutionary history from the beginning of man. Michael Pollan takes us on a tour of that chain and in the process gives any thi
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Apr 24, 2007 Jenny (Reading Envy) rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read07, foodie, favorites
I can't remember the last time I read a book I learned so much from. This is highly recommended for anyone who wonders about food, obesity, organic, local, vegetarian, etc. Quotes if you're interested (but I could have quoted the entire book!). I know I will never look at corn the same way, nor will I ever buy the "cheap eggs."

(On obesity)"Very simply, we subsidize high-fructose corn syrup in this country, but not carrots. While the surgeon general is raising alarms over the epidemic of obesity,
Nov 22, 2007 Chris rated it it was amazing
Pollan's book is not just a fascinating look at the modern state and evolution of our industrial food complex; it's not merely an anthropological investigation of the history of eating and cultural rituals; it's more than a scientific discourse of the biological nature of corn, small farm ecosystems, and fungi -- it's also, surprisingly, a page turner. When I was finished, I wanted the book to be twice as long.

The book is also not (as many people seem to think) a political screed or manifesto --
I am not enjoying this book and it is not what I thought. For me, the author needs to get to the point and stop rambling. I'm having to use all my brain cells to process THE POINT. Not a light read. Author's writing style doesn't mesh with my brain wiring. No go for me. Disappointing. Moving on.
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Michael Pollan is an American author, journalist, activist, and professor of journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, where he is also the director of the Knight Program in Science and Environmental Journalism.

Excerpted from Wikipedia.
More about Michael Pollan...

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“The single greatest lesson the garden teaches is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can, if we bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world. ” 145 likes
“So that's us: processed corn, walking.” 67 likes
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