Monday, August 28, 2006

The Omnivore's Dilemma

This is a great book! I'm not quite finished (I have about 1/5 left to read), but already know this is a book I'll be recommending to everyone I talk to... The book is a highly readible, interesting and thought-provoking look at food and why we eat what we do.

I heard the author interviewed on KUOW's Weekday a few months ago and got my interest piqued then. (You can listen to the audio here). That was followed by a Steph's positive comments (and decision to seek out grass-fed and grass-finished meat instead of eating regular feedlot meat). I thought "Anything that could convince Steph change her meat eating habits must be good".

Do take a look at the review on Amazon by Erik Marcus - he raises some good points and criticisms of Pollan's book. The main thing I wondered about while reading the chapters on Polyface Farms was "Where's the accounting for how much water it takes to run this place?" Pollans makes it sound as if the farm is a completely self-sufficient system: grass grows and converts sunlight to food, is eaten by cows, chickens move in to the pasture a few days later, break open the cowpats and eats bugs and parasites, fertilize the grass with their droppings, lay great eggs which get sold, finally get slaughtered, and their byproducts re-fertilize the soil. Pigs break up other waste and make manure from woodchips, etc... This idyllic composting circle-of-life sounds great, but I don't see it working as a role-model for farming throughout the country or the world.

The philosphy of Polyface is something to at least think about and maybe strive for, taking local conditions and limitations into account. Other ideas from Polyface make sense to me, such as opening up abbatoirs and slaughter houses to the public so they can see what goes on and how well the animals are treated as they are killed and processed. (Apparently there is one slaughter-house in the US with glass walls precisely to facilitate this...) How many people would bother to go look though?

I've already queued up a related book: "The way we eat: why our food choices matter"

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