The Omnivore's dilemma is this: When you can eat just about anything nature has to offer, deciding what you should eat will inevitably stir anxiety. The Koala doesn't worry about food- he just chews eucalyptus leaves. Rats and humans have bigger issues. Pollan says that the way we eat represents our most profound engagement with the natural world. He is no vegan, but is a cook and appalled by modern industrial food production, and how it separates us from the sources of our food. Pollan looks at the three principal food chains : Industrial, Organic and Hunter/Gatherer and has a meal from each.
If you eat industrially, you are made of corn. It holds together your McNuggets, it sweetens your soda pop, it fattens your meat, it is everywhere. You are also partially fossil fuel- the corn needs a lot of nitrogen and gets it from fertilizer instead of the soil, which used to get it from rotating crops. The corn is fed to cows who are designed to eat grass and get sick from it, so they are pumped with antibiotics. It is fed to us in many forms, because it is cheap- a dollar buys you 875 calories in soda pop but only 170 in fruit juice. The meal was a McDonalds, and was analyzed as almost entirely corn. He does not seem to have enjoyed it very much. For this reader, this section was by far the most shocking- industrial agriculture exposed as nothing but a giant yellow matrix.
Section Two covers the Organic industry, and is far more bucolic. Here, all is grass. Much of the chapter is spent on Joe Salatin's very doctrinaire and remarkable farm. However you will not find his foods in your Whole Foods- he only sells locally. The larger organic industry covers many different interpretations of organic, some of which are pretty borderline but all are better than anything from the corn economy. However the organic food industry is huge; transportation is a major cost. Pollan thinks that industrial organic is a contradiction in terms and is unsustainable, “floating on a stinking sea of petroleum”. We may all be eating the 100 mile diet soon, whether we want to or not. The meal sounded good, but a little heavy on the diesel fuel.