Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Response to Pollan

The passage that I read from a book by Michael Pollan might not have been about war or a failing economy, but it was just as emotionally stimulating and ethically challenging as if it had been. The passage that I read from The Omnivore’s Dilemma, a book about the present state of the “organic” food industry, brought about just as many questions as it offered answers. It became clear early on that farmer Joel Salatin, representing the “utterly organic” methods of food production and distribution, would not rest until the author, and ultimately, the reader, accepted the fact that the term “industrial organic” is contradictory. The author’s point that the ideal situation would be for all food to be produced following the “organic” methods of farmers, such as the ones that Salatin uses, is certainly made evident through the use of comparisons, logic, and a healthy dose of emotional appeal.
Pollan comments on the “Whole Foods” method of providing consumers with “an imperfect substitute of direct observation of how food is produced (pg. 137)” and points out the blatant plans of the organic industries to appeal to health crazed shoppers. The plethora of elaborate labels and pictures of “family-owned farms” in Whole Foods are proven to be untrue and misleading when the “standard regional distribution system (pg. 138)”, which includes warehouses and industrial farms, is factored in.
Pollan uses logic to point out the tricks of the “industrial organic industry”. He reveals the real reason that certain companies flaunt their milk as being ultra-pasteurized: only when it is ultra-pasteurized can milk be shipped across the country to thousands of supermarkets. In comparison, Joel Salatin flat out refused to send Pollan any meat in the mail. Which situation sounds like it would be practiced by a truly org anic producer?When Whole Foods Market is contrasted with genuine organic markets such as People’s Park, one might rapidly begin to think about and regret all the times he went to Whole Foods, or a similar market. Whole Foods did itself an injustice by naming its chicken “Rosie”, because once the reader finds out the unjust treatment that Rosie was subjected to and the embellishments on the subject written by the market, emotional appeal sets in.
At times while reading, I felt overwhelmed by the subject of the food industry. The author obviously had many criticisms that were made perfectly clear, and it was hard to accept the fact that what I am eating might not be as healthy as I thought it was. The factual evidence helped me to understand that although taste or healthiness might not always be gained by purely organic food, other benefits such as environmental care and the health of the animals need to be considered.
Finally, the point that came across most clearly is that the organic industry is, after all, an industry. It is motivated by economic factors instead of moral ones. “The organic label is a marketing tool, not a statement about food safety (pg. 179)” The “all carrots are created equal” mentality sacrifices the health and safety of humans for the profits of nationwide farmers. Pollan does an excellent job of expressing the unreliability of the organic food industry. The reading came across as very logical and organized, once I was able to plow through the jargon of the food industry. I thought the introduction in the form of an anecdote was very effective and kept me interested in the subject. I enjoyed hearing about Joel Salatin and his farm throughout the passage. Although I was unsure of where that was headed at first, due to the seemingly irrelevant glimpse of life on the Salatin Farm, I can look back at that now and realize that the idyllic representation gives the food industry a sense, even if it is a small one, of safety and reliability.
With all reading on dense subject matters, it is important to try to stay objective. In this case, I had to try to think about the positive facts that I learned, instead of the ones that made me question the food I eat every day. Nevertheless, I would not change the amount of emotionally stimulating content in the passage, because that is essentially what caused me to really think about the food industry and how much control it has over our lives. What needs to be taken away from this reading is that we need to regain control over what we eat and how we treat our environment. After all, all flesh is grass, and we are all connected to the earth in more ways than we think.

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