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The Omnivore's delimma: Too much choice too little information - Research Paper Example

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Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma (2005) goes far into researching every facet of the food industry. He argues that the rise of industrial farming has meant a decline in the quality of food, and in turn, the emergence and growth of a variety of health problems facing Americans, such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease…
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The Omnivores delimma: Too much choice too little information
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"The Omnivore's delimma: Too much choice too little information"

Download file to see previous pages What Pollan means by the omnivore's dilemma, is an important preliminary concept to define. An omnivore, is essentially an animal that will eat anything. That is, anything as opposed to a herbivore or a carnivore where only non-meat or meat is eaten respectively. The term 'omnivore's dilemma' is not one that was invented by Pollan [p. 4] and the dilemma, however, lies with the very notion of a choice. Pollan maintains that because humans will eat anything, the food market or available foods to the average consumer, is wide and varied. With greater choice, comes a greater need to understand what it is we are consuming. However, what we are consuming is complex. Appearances, are different than reality, and the entire book contains numerous instances where a particular food is marketed in ways that are misleading – that is, misleading both in regard to what is contained in the food, but also in terms of what the actual nutritional value of it: “our bewilderment in the supermarket is no accident; the return of the omnivore's dilemma, has deep roots in the modern food industry” [p. 4]. The dilemma in question for omnivore's concerns choice. What should we choose to eat, should be vegetarians or not, does the food we are choosing possess nutritional value, and if not, what is it that we will choose in its place? The book begins with a comprehensive overview of the corn industry, and Pollan uses this particular food as a good example of how the industrialized food business is transforming the way we eat. Corn has very deep roots historically, as it was one of the first foods introduced to settlers in North America and taught them to “plant maize” in 1620 [p. 19]. Corn is easy to grow, and has a very diverse range of uses. It is used for making oil, used for feeding livestock and it is used pervasively as a source for a variety of different sugars. As he notes, “it does take some imagination to recognize the ear of corn in the Coke bottle or the Big Mac” [p. 15]. Further, it is a good example of a food that has been genetically modified for a wide range of improvements [p. 21]. Pollan utilizes the history of corn cultivation, as a good example of some general farming trends that typify almost all food production. First, one of the important points made by the author, is the impact made by the transformation from family farming to industrial farming [pp.28-9]. For a long time, and indeed, centuries, farming has been a relatively small-scale practice. In conventional terms, farming in North America has for a long time been a family business. In the last five years, there has been a rise in industrial farming. In brief, the industrial model is one where technologies are used in a maximal way, and where land is cultivated and owned on a massive scale. Conversely, most of the family farms that are still around, wind up employed or having to sell their products to the major food producers. And, like any organization that can produce on a large scale, the relative cost of the food is low. With volume, comes a lower cost or price for the given food item. This has the further effect of making the family farming model difficult because it has to compete with large-scale industrial farms. When industrial farms dominate, a number of consequences follow. First, it pushes the family farmer out of business, it uses ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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