People might say that you are what you eat, but we always see that as a figure of speech. After reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, I no longer do. Shocking as it might seem, Pollan proves page by page that we literally are becoming what we eat. Well of course, I thought, if you eat a lot of French fries and hamburgers, you become fat. If you eat plenty of salads and fruits, you stay thin. It seems this simple but it appears that in reality, there’s more to ‘being what you eat’ than I could have ever imagined. Shockingly more than a quarter of the 45.000 items in a supermarket, predominantly contains corn. I’m talking fast foods, beef, whiskey, vegetables, syrup that sweetens the sodas, diapers, oil that’s used to cook, Tropicana juice…
We eat corn directly, it’s fed to all animals we eat, and it’s processed into chemicals that are used for many other products. Americans are constantly eating the same thing over and over again, but the food industry tricks them into believing that they aren’t. The worse thing is that corn, the main ingredient of about everything we eat and drink, contains cheap energy, which means many calories and – when eaten in the form of meat – sometimes even microbes like E-coli. We’re unknowingly stuffing ourselves with it and we’re slowly going into history as Generation Fat, the first generation so unhealthy that we might not even outlive our parents. Never in my life could I have thought that one ingredient would be able to alter the formation of one’s body (a human body as well as an animal’s body) the way corn does.
The last decade has seen a dramatic rise in spectacular forms of body modification, including the tattoo renaissance and the phenomena of body piercing, the emergence of neo-tribal practices like scarification and the invention of new, high-tech forms of body art like sub-dermal implants. Therefore, body modification practices have proven to be an interesting field of study for sociologists ...
In his book Pollan tackles the fact that we don’t select enough what we eat. We’re walking in the supermarket and we’re filling our baskets and stomachs with fish without grates, meat without bones, straight cucumbers, tomatoes that can’t even be described as real vegetables anymore, French fries that don’t change at all if you leave them lying around for a year… I agree with Pollan 100%: we don’t choose wisely what we eat. But then again, how could we? We’re being misled in every way we possibly can be. The variety we see is nothing but mere repetition. Reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma often frustrated me and at times even made me angry. I felt deceived in so many ways. I’ve been interested in food for as long as I can remember, constantly trying to lose weight. Before reading this book I was pro-organic food.
I preached to my friends that even though you might pay a little more money, organic food was way healthier and the animals were treated with more respect. Little did I know that even organic food isn’t organic anymore. What I’d been eating all my life was actually “industrialized organic food”. The packages make it seem as if the eggs come from a family farm where chickens and cows can freely graze, while actually methods of industrial agriculture (pesticides, fertilizer, small storages stuffed with chickens etc.) are being used. Worse still: 3 food corporations control the entire food production in America. As Polan states in The Omnivore’s Dilemma (2006), “Even if you’re not eating fast food, your food is being produced by fast food corporations.” The thought alone sickens me.
I’m a seeker for answers, and everywhere I go, questions pop up in my head. That’s not different when I’m walking around in a supermarket. I put products in my basket, wondering why a salad is equally expensive as and sometimes even more expensive than a burger. I walk around asking myself why we need 30 sorts of meat to choose from, 10 kinds of tomatoes, 50 kinds of yoghurts… It’s as if going to a restaurant, feeling extremely hungry, being served a plate of spaghetti that is so enormously big that you don’t even feel like eating anymore, because you wouldn’t know where to start. I understand why people don’t bother gathering information about the road those 450.000 products travelled to get to the shelves in that supermarket: it’s too much work and we’re not omniscient nor are we capable of doing the research Pollan did. So what happens? Customers choose their products randomly, having no idea where they came from, blindly trusting the information on packages, on billboards and in advertising.
The Problem Introduction In the rapid development of our present generation on how a certain raw material produces different food and herbal products that can be processed, satisfies the needs of every human being to fill their stomach. Time after time, many food and herbal products have been developed and commercially valuable to stop health risks. The existence of this processed products does ...
We don’t know the truth, because, if we would, we wouldn’t eat those products anymore. The information is being kept from us on purpose. Luckily Pollan bridges the gap between the unknowing buyer and the all-knowing food industry by tracking where exactly our food comes from. Pollan describes our ignorance as an invisible wall that the food industry has put between the consumer and the preparation of the food. And the food industry is trying really hard to keep that wall firm and high by using simple tricks: making sure that the meat we buy doesn’t remind us of animals anymore, offering large portions of fast food at low prices… I thank Michael Pollan for writing this book and thus making that wall more visible to humanity. This way we can start tearing it down. Pollan has offered us a ladder and, instead of filling our shopping chart with food we know nothing about, we have to climb that ladder and look over that wall. Only then we will see the truth. And I believe, just like Pollan does, that every human being has the right to be informed. Only if you get all information, you will be able to make a free decision as to what you will eat. And isn’t freedom of thought one of the ground rules of our society?
Industrialisation of food means brutalization of animals
What struck me is that politics play a major role in corn that’s become the king of the U.S. food kingdom and in the industrialization of food produce. So before you plan on suing McDonald’s because their products are unhealthy and are making you fat, consider that it all begins with government policy. Government policy arranged for corn to become a dominant ingredient in our food chain and thus also arranged for meat to become a luxury. Why? “In the name of the public interest”. How? By using about four billion dollars of taxpayers’ money a year. Food is cheaper now, but at what cost?
Vegetarianism: Why it is the Better Choice. The trend of abstaining from eating meat and other animal products is a rapidly growing one. According to David Bender in Animal Rights Opposing Viewpoints, "Today, nearly twenty million Americans are vegetarians, and many more have greatly reduced their meat consumption" (139). One meat-eating person may ponder why these non-meat eaters would deprive ...
Let me start by saying how much we’ve lost respect for farmers. Pollan’s book made this all the more clear to me. Most people totally underestimate farmers and take their work for granted. Meanwhile we’re eating their cheap food, while they are having difficulties surviving. Over the last 50 years a lot has changed for them. Since Nixon, farmers get subsidies for every bushel of corn they produce. They receive a dollar less per bushel than it costs them to grow it. This creates a never ending cycle: the only solution for farmers to make ends meet, is to produce more corn. Overproduction and a plague of cheap corn was born and – to all disgust – maintained by the U.S. government. I can understand that this seemed like a good solution back then: corn contains cheap calories, can be produced quite fast and in large quantities, it’s easy to transport and wind-pollinated, and you can make one thousand varieties out of it for humans, animals can be fed by it and even grow fatter faster.
The only thing the government didn’t take into account (aside from the way they made life for farmers practically unbearable), are the consequences on the long term: environmental destruction (degrading of the land and pollution of the water), the use of fertilizers and pesticides on our food, health issues (obesity, type II diabetes, heart disease…).
And I especially want to stress the fact that the conditions in which the animals live and die have decreased horribly. Decent farms like Salatan’s Polyface farm are being put out of business by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), while PolyFarms are the only farms still providing us with conscientious food products. Salatan puts corn off its throne and re-appoints grass as foundation of the food chain; as nature intended it. No chemical products are used and animals can graze and eat grass and insects. Waste products are being recycled back into the system: nothing has to be bought and nothing has to be thrown away. Salatan might say that “animals don’t have souls” (which I totally disagree with), but at least he provides good service.
Good Eats A pig isn't dumb. In the old Chicago slaughterhouses, pigs lifted by their hindquarters knew something bad was about to happen. With their throats slit they could unleash a hellish scream. Their lifeless bodies then passed along the rest of the disassembly line. America has moved on from that point in history. In America it could be said that the 20 th century was spent recognizing those ...
I can’t help but wonder how it can be that the USDA prevents Salatin from keeping and slaughtering anything but chickens on his farm for a stupid so-called ‘hygienic’ reason. How can it be that federal regulations are against Polyface methods? That seems unreal to me and totally hypocritical. The only thing U.S. government does is support CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations), where animals aren’t treated as breathing creatures, but as objects. They don’t eat grass, but corn, which makes them fat in a short period of time, causing them many painful side effects. They are stuffed in feedlots and ranches, not being able to move.. And what for? For efficiency, and to make food cheaper in a modern society that only seems to care about money. The state is upholding those bad conditions for animals and is meanwhile subsidizing our bad health. If food industry were the second world war, the animals would be the Germans and CAFOs would be concentration camps for animals. The U.S. government plays the role of Hitler.
As Pollan states in The Omnivore’s Dilemma (2006), “eating industrial meat takes a heroic act of not knowing.” Now that I know, I can honestly say that I’d prefer to pay more for meat or fish, knowing that the animals are being treated under correct moral conditions. Paying only 80 cents for a dozen of eggs, means supporting an industry in which the birds are being put with as many as possible in a small cage. That doesn’t make me feel good at all, and it shouldn’t make anyone who has read Pollan’s book feel right.
“So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do” – Benjamin Franklin
As Pollan states in The Omnivore’s Dilemma (2006), “It’s better to have lived and died than to have died without living at all.’ Ethics concerning the killing and eating of animals is a fragile subject that vegetarians can discuss intensely. I understand their frustration, not because killing animals in order to eat their meat is wrong, but because human beings are known create a justification of everything they’re doing wrong. CAFOs might treat animals horribly, but consumers who know about that look the other way. That’s equally bad. Meat eaters try to justify the abuse of animals in every way they possibly can (and I should know because I was one of them).
I’ve heard following arguments thousands of times: “the animals don’t know another life than the one they are living in those small spaces, so they don’t mind” and “it’s the survival of the fittest”. Last year I visited a friend of my mother who happens to be a farmer.
I witnessed the cows being taken out of their stalls for the first time in their life, being pushed into a car to go straight to the slaughter house. The first thing I thought was that these cows must be feeling so amazed right now. After spending their entire life in a small space, not being able to move more than 1 metre, they finally discovered the world. They could smell the grass and see birds and trees. They must have felt as though they were children sitting in a train, taking in the beauties of the world. Then a sad question crept over me: is this the happiest moment of their life or the saddest? I could imagine them feeling joy and hope for a better life; only to have that thought taken away from them the moment they arrive at the slaughter house and see what awaits them.
“They don’t know better, so they don’t mind” and “it’s the survival of the fittest”, are two arguments that Pollan disproves in his book. Firstly animals do feel that they are not living the life that they were born to live. Their instinct tells them that they want to move and walk around. Secondly the survival of the fittest is basically bullshit when it comes to human beings. We aren’t obliged to eat meat in order to survive. We have a choice. Animals have to eat smaller animals in order to survive. They don’t have the choice we have. Are we making the right choice? I think we are when it comes to killing animals to eat them. We aren’t when it comes to how we do it.
In contrary to what Salatan says, animals do have souls and they do experience some kind of pain. That kind of pain is called ‘suffering’. Even though we have another degree of self-consciousness, we have something in common with the animals we eat: we all try to avoid pain. I know we can’t avoid killing animals, but we can at least change the kind of abuse they suffer when growing up and the kind of pain they experience when being slaughtered. I don’t support people who say that we have to set all animals free. That simply wouldn’t be possible, because the animals wouldn’t know how to survive in the wild anymore. Putting all animals on Polyface farms would be a good solution. We’d eat less animals, but we’d eat them with the respect they deserve. We’d eat them “with consciousness”, as Pollan describes so beautifully in The Omnivore’s Dilemma (2006).
Animals play an extremely important part in the lives of humans. We may not realize how much impact animals have on our lives. They have played various roles; that of a friend, companion, protector, comforter, and more. Addressing people who are not animal lovers, I would say it is very difficult to explain what joy an animal can bring to one's life. Pets impact human lives on a face-to-face basis ...
What has to change is not only the circumstances in which animals are killed, but also our mentality. We eat meat with ignorance and we take everything that ends up on our plate for granted. While reading the chapter about ethics in Pollan’s book, I couldn’t help but wonder when was the last time I said ‘thanks’ before dinner. Not ‘thanks’ in praising the lord for our food, but ‘thanks’ in thanking the animal for the sacrifice and in thanking mother nature for this gift. That stating I would like to add that I have a lot of respect for vegetarians. However I am against veganism and especially against a ‘vegan utopia’ as described by Pollan in his book. As I said earlier, every creature on earth is here with a purpose. It’s in the nature of chickens to lay eggs and it’s in the nature of a cow to produce milk. Why not accept those gifts?
As Polan states in The Omnivore’s Dilemma (2006), “we need to eat by the grace of nature, and not industry.” The world would be much more enjoyable for everyone.