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Clif's Book World

Adventures from reading books captured within short reviews.

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals - Michael Pollan I'm satisfied to buy my food from the supermarket and not worry about where it came from. So the prospect of tracing the American human food chain to its origins seemed akin to taking bitter medicine for me. But I wanted to be a well informed world citizen so I started this book with some apprehension. Fortunately, I found the author to be a entertaining story teller. I found the last quarter of the book especially entertaining where the author tells about his experiments with being a hunter-gatherer. However, the underlying message of the book is a serious one that everybody should hear. The book teaches the reader compelling lessons about what we are actually eating and what the costs of our choices are in terms of our dependence on oil, the toll on the environment, and the health of our bodies.

Here are some questions answered by this book:
1. Why does a typical US citizen have a higher percentage of carbon atoms in their body that originated in a corn plant than a typical Mexican? (Despite the fact that Mexican's eat a lot of corn tortillas and Anglo-American's eat a lot of wheat bread.)
2. What does "Free range chicken" mean? How free and how large was the range?
3. Is "industrial-organic" an oxymoron? Or what does "organic" mean?
4. Why would being a "grass farmer" be considered by some to be a revolutionary way of farming?

This book was published in 2006, so the prices for corn, wheat and soybeans have risen significantly since then due to the increase in demand caused by ethanol production. So some of the things said in the book about corn prices are a little dated. But fuel and fertilizer prices have risen also, so the overall discussion about the profitability of farming is still probably correct.