Friday, June 12, 2009

Book Review: The Omnivore's Dilemma

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals is a fascinating book about the origins, science, marketing and nutrition of the food we eat. The author, an investigative journalist, followed four different types of meals down to their smallest component parts in our food system to find out the truth about what's in our supermarkets, on our tables, and in our backyards.  His conclusions advocate for sustainable farming, natural living, and the Eat Local movement.

First, he discusses the economics, government policies, and marketing that drive the conventional food system as well as an analysis of the content of that food, it's actual price, and the science that enables us to make about 90% of our diets out of corn. While readers with some interest in natural living will likely be familiar with a lot of the material in this section, you will probably still find it eye-opening.

Next, the narrative turns to conventional organic foods (such as you find at the grocery store, or the health food store) and if you're really getting what you think you are (you probably aren't). Many consumers misunderstand the compromises that conventional organic foods incorporate because of governmental regulations and the economic bottom line. This section of the book is particularly illuminating.

Third, the book covers the Eat Local movement and sustainable farming along the original organic model. This section expands on the nutritional and long-term benefits of natural living and eating a whole food diet, but also digresses to an examination of the animal rights movement.

Finally, Pollan hunted and gathered a meal from around his home in northern California and from his experience readers will learn about the ins and outs of foraging for mushrooms, hunting wild boar, and an ill-fated attempt to collect salt from the San Francisco Bay.  It's always interesting to read about other people's experiments in natural living!

The book is witty, highly engaging, and written in a conversational tone that is informative but never boring or too preachy. Whatever your current level of understanding and conviction about sustainable farming, natural living, whole food, or the Eat Local movement might be, The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals is a worthwhile read.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.


  1. I'm really looking forward to reading this book!

  2. this sounds very interesting. thanks for the recommend.

  3. Windy Acres Farm has opened my eyes in a BIG way --- love the Michael Pollan books and CD's. So glad you all are purveyors of knowledge to help make better choices.