Thursday, August 14, 2014

Book review - Omnivore Dilemma

This year I included a few books in our children's read alouds that aren't quite classics for homeschoolers, but I felt were important to be read by them. While my children are not as passionate as I am about organic living, they do understand through what I have shared with them and because of their business about why it is important to eat organically.

I began to feel that they needed a deeper knowledge of food and its origins  amongst other things, so that they can stand on their own convictions about what is morally right or wrong to eat and because of that, this book by Michael Pollan, ended up on our reading list: Omnivore's Dilemma

Divided into 4 sections based on meals that he would follow from source to plate, the book shares his adventure in eating the typical fast food meal (McDonalds) in his car with his family was a first stop. This is what he terms the industrial meal and we are introduced to Steer 457 who he buys as a small animal and watches it's progress through the feedlot to a MacDonald patty. 

He covers the broiler chickens, chemical food and all the horrendous food like substances that marketing passes off as something that is good for you. 

The overarching theme of this first section is how this world of food is driven by corn and soy and the decline of family based farms with mega industrial farms with their hazardous fertilizers, chemicals and pesticides taking over the majority of farm land in the USA.

Next he visits the industrial organic meal which is based on a simple illustration of a salad pack and "free range" hens. The salad farm started out with a. Couple who had a vision about prewashed salads which w are so familiar with. Their business expanded to meet demand and soon they were mechanizing and using organic pesticides to supply the customers needs. Pollan clearly outlines why this is still not the best option for people, plants, animals and the earth.

Then comes my favorite. We are introduced to Joel Salatin at Polyface farms. I have known about Joel for about two years and have watched his videos on YouTube when I find them. I have also had his books on my wish list for quite a while. I eventually swallowed the price and ordered his one on family farms which I am expecting any day now. After Michael has spent a week working on the farm in its different sections he ends up in the slaughter shed on the Friday to help with the weekly slaughtering of the chickens for client orders. This is handled honestly and openly and will leave anyone who is an meat eater understanding why city abattoirs as so incredibly wrong!

Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms
Doing it the Polyface way means that an animal has a happy healthy life as it is meant to it's natural environment and then it is dead. There is not transporting, stress, pain or misses. It is clean, quick and part of the life cycle.

While this was the chapter that was the best for me, it was also the worst as Pollan also shares exactly what happens in a slaughter house, which is completely inhumane and should be known to everyone who eats meat. As long as industrial animal farms are supported by the public this cruelty will not end.

The farmer who grows our animals for us does not make use of a abattoir, but has a license and the correct paperwork and checks to slaughter on her farm. These animals are raised in a very close manner to Polyface and we eat and enjoy them with a  clear conscience.

Then we get to his hunter, gatherer, forager meal as the last section of Pollan's journey which is a delightful exploit of finding mushrooms he is convinced will kill him, getting cherries from his sisters neighbors tree and hunting for wild boar. This meal is served to the friends who were his guides and partners in finding the food for the table.

At the end of the book he gives his reasoning around why he did not become vegetarian even after his discoveries and how he and his family have transformed their eating habits. He also gives a brief overview of his "food rules" which have now been made into a full book. (The link above takes you to an entertaining and educating Youtube video of Michael Pollan talking about food rules.)

As this was not the only book we were reading it took us a few weeks to work through but was definitely worth it. What I learnt reinforced my passion for eating low human intervention foods, close to natural and beyond organic. For my children they now understand more of my motivation to never feed them or support their buying of what we call "empty calories" and "harmful" foodstuffs. 

Whether they will always make the right choices is not for me to enforce nor control, but we all know that we were set on the right path 12 yrs ago and will continue eating real food, learning how to do it in a sustainable way and encourage others to do likewise.

Go buy the book, read's worth it! It is also available in the young readers addition for under 15's


Cindy White said...

Hi Wendy,
Very thought provoking writing again. My husband would kill me if I say I want another book anytime soon. I just convinced him to buy me the SAVE WITH JAMIE Book after reading about it here....hahaha... but definitely going to look up this guy and see what he is all about.

Urban Homestead South Africa said...

Hi Cindy, glad that my writing leads you to making good changes! I love Save with Jamie and hope you do too.