Monday, January 4, 2010
The Omnivores Dilemma = Required Reading
The most interesting part of the book is all about the corn (and soy) industry. An industry subsidized with tax payer's money, to the point that the actual farmers could not survive without the supplemented money. The mantra of more, more, more, drives the mentality of the farmer, letting concepts such as nutrition, quality, and sustainability, become neglected to the extent that they are not even part of the equation anymore.
You know that thing that happens when you learn a new word, and then no less than 2 weeks later, you hear that word again and think "If I hadn't learned that word two weeks ago, I would have never noticed it this time around. I would have just passed over it." That happened to me, in a way, with this book. Pollan talks about the quality of an egg at a farm called Polyface farms. He talks about the bright orange color of the yolk and how it would stand up straight and tall due to the nutritional diet and general happiness of the chicken that had laid it. I had two cartons of eggs. One of the "organic" Costco variety and one from a barn raised, cage free, family farm in Rippon CA. I never would have noticed prior to reading this book, but there was a world of difference between these two eggs. As I cracked the "organic" Costco egg onto my griddle, the yolk was a pale yellow color and fell flat with the egg white, while the family farm egg had the same qualities Pollan talked about with the Polyface egg, bright orange and strong.
Pollan not only calls into question the industrial food industry, but also the new big industrial organic food industry and how it may suffer from many of the same ailments as it's conventional counterpart.
Why shouldn't I know where the food I eat comes from. I get that some things you just can't get local. Some things you don't need too. Coffee, sugar, tea, other dry goods with naturally long shelf lives, but it is still important to know who the companies are, and be able to hold them accountable to a high standard of cleanliness and ensure they are using sustainable practices. Do we need more government intervention? New safety standards? Or how about a whole new rule book, that does not set the standard of success based on quantity, but instead on purity and sustainability.
But until then, I will begin to hunt for local food, from people I can talk to, from farms and ranches I can visit and evaluate myself. Of course I still have a LONG way to go with all of this. There is still a box of C&H refined sugar in my cupboard, there is still a couple pounds of Kirkland Beef in my freezer. I don't expect that I will suddenly be able to just shut down everything and switch over to an entirely local/seasonal diet. That would not be realistic at all. After all, I have been living at the whim of the industrial food market for 29 years now. No, this does not call for instant and extreme measures. This calls for a well thought transition to a more sustainable, local, seasonal diet.