Omnivore’s Dilemma ;a natural history



Introduction. 1

Food Chain. 1

National Eating Disorder. 2

The Negative Aspects of eating Meat. 4

Killing Animals. 5

The Ethical Considerations of Eating Meat. 6

Conclusion. 7




Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals is a nonfiction book by Michael Pollan. This book was published in 2006, where Pollan is asking the question of what will be had for dinner. This is a problem faced by human beings on a daily basis, because of the large choice of food varieties available, which results in a dilemma. There exists a wide range of foods available within the food chains to sustain mankind such as industrial food, organic food, and those foods that man forages himself. The book illustrates the American way of living from the source to the final meal that is eaten.  From an economical viewpoint, there are many shortcomings of the book worth noting, such as in the Pollan’s self-financed meals, he only focuses on what is before his eyes and ignores the macroeconomic factors that influence the transparency of the cost of foods, which is not attainable within the interconnectedness of the markets.  Essentially, Omnivore’s Dilemma is a book about the state of America’s food production, consumption, regulation, and distribution (Tyler, 2006).

Food Chain

Food chains are usually applied in ecological modeling, which provides a continuous variable for measuring the passage of energy through various linear linkages from the lowest to the highest trophic feeding levels. Long food chain lengths are unstable with increasing length increases with the ecosystem size, and reduction of energy at every successive level. Food chain lengths vary from three to six or even more levels. For example, a four-level food chain will consist of a flower, a frog, a snake, and an owl. A five-level food chain may consist of the grass, a grasshopper, a rat, a snake, and an owl.

The organisms that use solar energy or heat energy to synthesize starch are the producers, such as plants. Consumers are those organisms that feed on other organisms, whereas, all food chains begin with the producer then progresses to the consumer. Therefore, all organisms within a food chain except the first one are all consumers. This fascinating journey through the food chain does not make Pollan a preacher, but he is engrossed in his thoughtfulness and so much dogged a researcher to let ideology take over him. He is surely not a writer who is afraid so soiling his hands in the quest for a better understanding on the manner in which modern food is produced. For example, he does everything from buying his cow to the slaughter house, then ultimately to the dinner table. Pollan really capture how Americans eat today from the fast food to the big organic to the locally sourced, ultimately to foraging for dinner armed with a rifle. This idea examines the human diet from capitalism to consumption (Pollan, 2006).

National Eating Disorder

Americans have changed the way they eat, and the usual question that arises daily is based on what will be taken for dinner. This is fairly a simple question that can evolve to very complex as one tries to figure it out. The evolution of human culture have a great influence on how peoples native wisdom is possessed about eating, such that the way people eat is riddled with confusion and anxiety. Most ancient and venerable staple foods have abruptly disappeared from the American dinner tables, and have made Americans to change the way they eat. This condition can be described as carbophobia. This was supplanted by lipophobia around 1977 when Americans were warned against loving the red meat during the Carter reign, which forced the senate committee to issue a set of dietary goals. Many dietary books, magazines, articles, and scientific studies were filled with news that Americans can eat more meat and lose weight provided they shied away from bread and pasta. These new epidemiological studies gave support to high protein and low carb diets that suggested that the previous nutritional orthodoxy was wrong. Many opinions had had it that fat made people fat. This gave rise to a tremendous swing of the dietary pendulum that saw supermarkets shelves restocked in one months’ time, and restaurant menus are rewritten to comply with the new nutrition paradigm. Bread and pasta were put in the back as they acquired some kind of a moral stain; this resulted in many bakeries and noodle companies to drive to bankruptcy (Pollan, 2006).

This change of culture in eating habits was the beginning of a national eating disorder. A nation with a stable food culture should not be held to sway abruptly with the coming out of a new dietary book, these particular swings could be food scares or fads, related to the apotheosis every year of newly discovered nutrient, only to demonize the other. It is not logical to confuse protein bars and food supplements for real meals such as breakfast cereals with medicine. Comparing the American paradox and the French paradox, The French decide their dinner questions on the basis of quaint and unscientific criteria of pleasure and tradition, which makes them, eat all manner of unhealthy foods, but still remain happier and healthier than Americans. In a sense, Americans are unhealthy people who are possessed with the notion of eating healthy foods (Tyler, 2006).

The question of what will be eaten for dinner captures the mind of every omnivore, by being able to eat everything nature has to offer, the decision on what to eat conjures anxiety, especially if these foods are likely to make you sick or prove to be fatal. This is the essence of the Omnivore’s Dilemma. The Omnivore’s Dilemma considers three main food chains that sustain American today; the industrial, the organic, and the hunter gatherer. These food chains link the humans through what they eat, from the earth’s fertility to the solar energy. From an ecological point of view, all life that exists on earth is considered as competition between the species for the energy from the sun which is captured by green plants, that is ultimately stored as complex carbon molecules. A food chain in this perspective is therefore, the passing of these calories on to species that do not have the green plant’s ability to to perform photosynthesis.

The Negative Aspects of Eating Meat

The eating disorders have brought about many complexities on what to take for dinner, these dilemmas follows neo Palaeolithic food chains that start from the forests to the dinner tables, where people eat food prepared from ingredients that are hunted. Americans living in the twenty first century still eat meat that is hunted and gathered as food such as fish. The dilemmas faced by the human omnivore have moral considerations of killing, cooking, and feeding on wild animal. This introduces another dilemma of how the alchemies of the kitchen change the raw stuffs from nature to the great delights of human culture. At the end of the day on the dinner table, people will delight at how the meal was great.

A large proportion of health and environmental problems brought about by the food system is owed to the peoples attempt to oversimplify the complexities of nature. Most health and nutrition problems arise from what people eat along the eating end of the food chain, and to some extend on the government’s nutrition policy. Human hunting have proved to be destructive, and earlier generations of hunters had eliminated the species that they depend on. Most of the perils are brought about by replacing solar energy with pollutant fossil fuels. Many animals are confined in small environments, and are fed foods that they never evolved to eat, then man eats these foods. In essence, people are taking risks with their health and the health of the natural environment in unprecedented ways. Eating puts people with all that they share with other animals, and industrial eating obscures all these relationships and connections. To move from the Gallus Gallus to the Chicken McNugget is to follow up on the journey that is costly, and inflicts pain on the animal to be eaten. The pleasures of eating industrially, is eating in ignorance, and many people feel comfortable eating from the end of the industrial food chain that ruins their appetites. The Koala does not worry about what to eat sine its culinary preferences are wired in its genes. But for omnivores like humans, have to worry alot by devoting a lot of time and brain power trying to figure out on what is safe to eat. The main problem with humans is ingesting foods that might cause infection such as rotten meat (Tyler, 2006)..

Killing Animals

Killings of animals people eat always take place behind high walls, out of the reach of many sights. The economical, ecological, political, ethical, and spiritual factors need to be taken into consideration when slaughtering animals for food. One of the reasons people cook meat is to civilize or sublimate, this it is a brutal transaction. Metaphorically, the killing of animals eviscerates, and the salting of meat tends to clean the meat. However, salting of the meat is not the culture’s way of coming to terms with the killing and eating of meat. Animals that graze outside on grass have a diet similar to wild animals people have been eating since the Palaeolithic era.

The nutritional profile of pastured meat resembles that of wild animals. It would make evolutionary sense to think that grass fed meat, milk, and eggs have less fat than same foods from grain fed animals. Pastured animals possesses conjugated linoleic acid that help reduce weight and prevent cancer, which is absent in feedlot animals. Meat, eggs, and milk from pastured animals have higher levels of omega 3 which is responsible for positive human health, growth and development of neurons, and help expectant women give birth to children with high IQ. Fish tends to contain more omega 3 than land animals. The animals diet that people eat shifted from green plants to grain based, which is the most deleterious dietary changes brought about by the industrialization of the food chain. The changes brought about by the composition of fats are related to the civilization diseases such as cardiac, diabetes, and obesity. These modern feeding habits are associated with learning and behavioural problems in children as well as depression in adults. The problems of eating red meat are linked to cardiovascular diseases. Hunting can be lethal and very prone to accidents (Pollan, 2006).

The Ethical Considerations of Eating Meat

The processes by which the omnivore transforms animals into food can be very daunting; the dilemma of eating meat is that most people are not aware of exactly what goes on in the slaughter houses, since slaughtering itself is inhuman. If people could have known what happens on the kill floors, then they would be eating less meat. Meat eating has problems which morally trouble the vegetarians, and animal rights groups (Pollan, 2006).

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have given the society reasons to doubt the benefits of eating meat, and they object the killing of animals. The culture of eating meat seems as barbaric as former practices of slavery, or treating women as inferior beings. Even cultural norms and rituals that allow people to eat meat without agonizing have fizzled out. There is a cultural confusion on the subject of animals. Factory farms have been known to inflict more pain and suffering on animals, giving rise to schizoid quality of people relationships with animals, that sentiment and brutality coexist.

Fatty foods like cheese burgers contain a hundred percent beef patty, and the relationship between cheeseburgers’ relationship to the beef is similar to the chicken’s relationship to the nugget. By eating it, it reminds one that a cow was involved or murdered. The daunting fact of the appeal of hamburgers and nuggets is there boneless abstractions that make people think that they are not eating animals (Blake, 2009).

The omnivore’s dilemma of choosing weather to eat meat or shift to be vegetarian, eating meat is associated with many health problems, especially the red meat. The industrial food chain that is existing today processes meat which has great ramifications on the human health. Meat is mainly associated with obesity, heart diseases such as hypertension, atherosclerosis, and high cholesterol in America. Thinking of the environment and health, meat is very high in fat, and fat makes people fat, especially the saturated fat. Saturated fat from animals directly affects the functioning of the cardiovascular system negatively. Animal meat contains highly dense calories that lead to unnecessary weight gain, and also produces carcinogenic compounds when cooked. Eating meat is associated with colon cancer, and increases the chances of autoimmune diseases. After the animal has been killed, the flesh is prone to bacterial infection. Meat is also known to contain synthetic hormones which affect the hormonal balance. If the animal is infected with a disease then it is most likely that the meat will be affected, just like people contract anthrax from eating meat from infected cows (Pollan, 2006).


Farming methods should develop a quest of creating a harmonious relationship in nature that sustains the health of all creatures and the natural world. The omnivore’s dilemma of having the delusion of what will be eaten for dinner captured in Pollan’s book shows the cultural shift of the way Americans eat today. Pollan explores all the stories and myths about food, more especially the way Americans value food and their culture.  Food gathering is an activity that encompasses the social, economic, political, and environmental attributes. The idea of food has complex connotations in production, health, community, consumption, evolution, environment, and philosophy. The industrial food chain is riddled with many environmental and health issues, and meat is not a healthy food to eat. This is the omnivore’s dilemma.


Pollan, M. (2006). The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. Penguin    Books.

Blake H. (2009). “The Omnivore’s Delusion” The American. Retrieved October 11,           2009.

Tyler C. (2006). “Can You Really Save the Planet at the Dinner Table?” Slate. The Washington     Post Company. Retrieved 18 May 2009.



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