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The Omnivore's Dilemma

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This acclaimed bestseller and modern classic has changed America’s relationship with food. It’s essential reading for kids who care about the environment and climate change.

“What’s for dinner?” seemed like a simple question—until journalist and supermarket detective Michael Pollan delved behind the scenes. From fast food and big organic to small farms and old-fashioned hunting and gathering, this young readers’ adaptation of Pollan’s famous food-chain exploration encourages kids to consider the personal and global implications of their food choices. 

With plenty of photos, graphs, and visuals, The Omnivore’s Dilemma serves up a bold message to the generation most impacted by climate It’s time to take charge of our national eating habits—and it starts with you.

377 pages, Paperback

Published August 4, 2015

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About the author

Richie Chevat

35 books3 followers
I've been a writer since the age of nine, around the same time I became a compulsive reader. Some ideas appear in the shape of prose, others as plays, musicals, screenplays, songs or even blog posts. But most of the time I'm just trying to write something I'd like to read or see.

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5 stars
321 (34%)
4 stars
353 (37%)
3 stars
188 (20%)
2 stars
45 (4%)
1 star
32 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 153 reviews
April 19, 2018
First of all, corn. This is all the writer talks about, how corn is in everything and how we're all consuming corn and using corn for anything and everything we do. This would be fine (to an extent), if he had given any meaning to it. For 20 pages thats all he talks about: corn, corn, corn, corn, we're all eating corn. I kept expecting this to be building up to something, like he was going to tell us that our health was detiriotating because of corn or there was some sort of pollution happening because of the massive amounts of corn produced. I kept thinking he was going to give meaning to all this blabbering on about corn. After all, you can't just talk about something and then not give meaning to it, right? Apparently, wrong. The author just goes on and on and on about corn for 20 pages, and then just stops, without stating his purpose in telling us about the corn. Sure, he mentions corn a few more times throughout the book, but ultimately never says why. This is a trend throughout the book too. He throws random information at the reader without explaining it. At some point he mentions that there are bacteria in our food, then continues without explaining why we should care. He just lets us assume that bacteria are bad, without telling us why they are bad. He uses classic scare tactics without any real evidence or explenation to back it up. This continues throughout the book, and its wildly infuriating. Furthermore, the author has clear biases, and while he pretends to address points of view different than his own, he really doesn't. So, if you want an intelligent book that doesn't treat you like you're stupid and rant about corn the whole time, I would not reccomend this one.
21 reviews
March 28, 2018
The Omnivore's Dilemma, an incredible non-fiction book, tells the reader about the "history" behind our plates. What food cycles exist nowadays, what happens at the start of making or finding our food to eating the food on our plates, and some bits that provoke anger, sadness, and joyfulness. The Omnivore's Dilemma goes back to this theme of self-advocation and how the choices each individual portrays impacts not only the food that we eat, our health, but also the world. I would recommend this book to anyone. Anyone who wants to learn about food, but mostly how food impacts the society that we live in today.
Profile Image for Stacie.
805 reviews33 followers
November 9, 2019
I strongly believe that everyone should know where their food comes from. I also believe that everyone should know what it took for that food to get onto their plate. The Omnivore's Dilemma does a fantastic job of highlighting those subjects, and in an incredibly approachable way. The overall message of this book is fantastic.

Full disclosure: I've been plant-based for a few years now, and I still highly appreciated the passages about hunting and small, local farming. The simple act of getting people to pay attention to their food is a herculean task, and this book does a wonderful job of doing that in a gentle but concrete manner. The Omnivore's Dilemma seems like a great stepping stone for folks to finally wake up and see what's going on in factory farming. All the information present is a solid introduction to the food industry and the corruption that is at play.

I also loved that this isn't preachy. It's just lays down the information and the reader can chose what to do with that information as they see fit. My big thing is knowledge. I care that people know what their plates can mean. Once they know, they might eat healthier & more sustainably, or they might not. All I want is for folks to be educated on what they're eating. So no matter what you decide to consume, having some background information can only help broaden your worldview. It never hurts to be "in the know" on a topic, knowledge is power after all.

It's also worth mentioning that I have seen a plethora of documentaries focused on this industry, as well as various food science/nutrition documentaries, that have more in depth information on the topics covered in this book. I'm going to attribute that to the fact that this was published a few years ago, and more information has come out since that point. Even though I've heard a lot of this stuff before, I still think that it's a great idea to have a refresher on this information from time to time.

If you find non-fiction intimidating, the audiobook was a wonderful experience as well. It made everything seem accessible and the whole thing went by quickly. I think if you are at all interested in the food industry, or are a foodie in general, this would be a great book to pick up!
Profile Image for Lindsay .
946 reviews37 followers
April 5, 2021
Everyone should read this book. I don't know what the difference is between this edition and the original but I'm guessing they are pretty much the same.
I have an unhealthy relationship with food. I pretty much live off microwaveable meals, fast food, and going out to eat at Old Chicago and Applebees. I'm not healthy. Its not that I don't like fruits and veggies, I buy them, but then I don't eat them fast enough and they go bad. So unhealthy processed junk it is for me and all the extra pounds that come with it. I would like to be one of those people that I see at the grocery store whos carts are filled with fruit and veggies. But I just don't know how to take them and turn them into a meal.
Anyway, the first section of the book is about corn. Corn makes me want to barf. At least the corn that comes on the cob or in a can. But apparently EVERYTHING has corn in it. Your meat, your sodas, everything. Because the government (maybe it was the agribusinesses) realized that corn was cheap, it fattens up cows and chickens fast and can be turned into sugar (high fructose corn syrup). So they want farms to grow nothing but corn.
Of course it wasn't always like this. Way back forever ago, there were farms like you see on TV and movies, where the cows and chickens and all the other farm animals are outside eat grass and enjoying life. While there are still some farms like that (thank goodness), for the most part, it sounds like most of the farms just grow corn. The cows and chickens come from the scary farms where animal cruelty happens. And he does talk about places like where the cows go to get pumped full of unhealthy corn (instead of eat grass like they are supposed to) and live in unsanitary spaces covered in their poop. Its inhumane. And of course we all know about the chickens, where they stick a bunch of chickens in a tiny space and then cut off their beaks when they try to fight with one another. And don't be fooled, just because a package says the chicken is free range, that's not always true. Chicken factories will leave a little door open for chickens to get out, but they are so fat from all the corn, that they don't move. It's very sad. And very real. And this corn they feed these poor animals can have bacteria in it, which gets into our food and then we eat it and get sick.
Another sad thing is that even though all these farmers are growing corn, they are making next to nothing on it. He explained it, but I had a hard time following it. But it sounds like all the agribusinesses take most of the money and then the farmer get very little. We need to treat our famers right. Because they are the ones giving us our food. If we keep going the way we are, we'll all be eating fake food. No fresh fruits and veggies and uncontaminated meats. Just a bunch of artificially colored and flavored foods to look like real food.
So then he goes to some 'organic' places, that really didn't seem all that organic to me. Yes, they are better than places making fake food or pumping chemicals into the food, but I don't know, I didn't really feel like they are being completely true and healthy to the earth or us. I don't buy organic now, because it is a bit more pricey, but after reading this, I think maybe I'll try to do that more often now.
Actually, I would like to start going to farmers markets and buy locally. We all need to do that. Give the money directly to the farmer. Your food (and you) will be healthier because your food will only have to travel a short distance to get to you instead of from a different country. Think of how gross you feel after being trapped in a car or airplane all day. Now imagine that that's your dinner, stuck on a plane or truck for days just wilting away. Ick.
He goes to this place in Virginia called Polyface Farm. This is the kind of farm that you see on TV and how every farm should be. Big and green and the animals are outside and living how animals should live. And the owners of this farm don't ship their products, because they don't believe in shipping food all over the country. I love these people. There needs to be a few farms like this in every state. Instead of buying a hormone filled chicken, you get it fresh. Like people did forever ago. And you only eat what's in season. We've been spoiled with the invention of quick and convenient. You want it, you can get it. Anywhere, anytime. I was thinking that we'd be more healthy if we ate this way. And we'd probably enjoy food more. He mentioned how people used to have meat only on special occasions. Maybe we should go back to that.
But would lowering our meat intake really change the way people treat animals? Could we ever run out of fruit and vegetables if that's all we ate?
The last section of the book is just him trying to catch his own food like people used to have to do. He went wild bore hunting and mushroom hunting. I don't like mushrooms but that sounded kind of fun. I'd do it.
So we know that eating locally is the best thing to do, but will that stop what's going on at the slaughterhouse? How can we stop animal cruelty? Just because we are superior to the cow and chicken doesn't mean we shouldn't treat them with respect. They have feelings to. The author explains how we need these animals. They help fertilize the grass and eat the bugs.
I need to find someone who knows about farmer markets and start going. And maybe I'll go to my local Whole Foods and get some organic food.
We do have a dilemma and if we don't do something about it we are going to be in trouble.
Profile Image for christina.
185 reviews21 followers
July 22, 2019
Well. This book.

Full disclosure: I hated the adult version of the book but this review will be focused on its attention to young readers and the responses I got from my own students, verbatim.

Nearly all of my students found the blatant hypocrisy in Pollan's writing as soon as he shifted to trying to explain why vegetarianism was impossible (so you wouldn't put out your friends for going that extra mile to not include meat on the menu).

"What's the big deal? There's lots of food that doesn't have meat in it. I'm eating something without meat now." - student, flabbergasted, pointing to her fried rice and pickled cabbage.

To his inherent flawed reasoning with farms like Polyface.

"So... he's saying it's okay to eat meat, so long as it comes from a farm like Polyface. But if everyone changed to farms like Polyface, where are we going to get the space to have animals walk around and stuff? Plus all the food they need to eat so we can eat them?"

To his, frankly weird turn as 'hunter'.

"So he's okay with eating meat, so long as he does it, even if the animals would still be in pain and he wouldn't use all the animal parts? So he's still wasting food isn't he? I don't get this guy."

"Sounds like he just wants to eat meat but he doesn't want to admit it."
Profile Image for Ben Fulmer.
11 reviews
April 15, 2017
I thought the whole book was very interesting. At first it seemed ludicrous to suggest that corn was such a prominent material in our everyday lives. However, Pollan was able to provide adequate evidence to show that his claim was correct. He then goes on to show the stark differences between the different types of meals, which, in my opinion, he does quite well. He is able to experience or at least describe the entire process of different meals, such as one from a large agribusiness company and one from a beyond organic farm. The adaptation was simple and not overly complex, making it a fairly simple read. While being simple it was still interesting and provided useful details, and made good use of graphics and charts. Overall, I would recommend this to most people, although some people will of course benefit more from reading the original version, not the young adult version.
Profile Image for Sanket.
84 reviews2 followers
June 24, 2019
Omnivore’s Dilemma is a fantastic book. I would say it is by far the best book I’ve read about food. There is so much to learn and Pollan’s outstanding writing keeps you turning pages. I highly recommend this book to readers of non-fiction genre. Omnivore’s Dilemma has left a profound impact on me and I have become more mindful of the food I eat. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I have.
Profile Image for Kim.
142 reviews
August 15, 2023
I accidently listened to the young reader's edition (I already waited weeks for it so why not). After listening to this book it looks like I'm changing my eating habits again. I've already started looking into CSAs & local farms close to home. This is a good book for anyone trying to put good food in their body.
Profile Image for Allison Soulier.
9 reviews3 followers
March 13, 2017
"The Omnivore's Dilemma: Young Readers Edition" is an edited version of Michael Pollan's original "The Omnivore's Dilemma" text so younger readers can grasp the concepts of today's food industry. The young reader's edition was published by Penguin in 2009. It has 352 pages. I gave this book a 4 out of 5 stars because for me not being a young reader, it was an easy read, yet I loved the information that Pollan provided and how much I learned from the text. I would like to read the full version in the future, so I have added that to my "someday" list. "The Omnivore's Dilemma: Young Readers Edition" is considered a "juvenile" nonfiction text. The text was written to inform and persuade Americans to think about what they are eating and putting into their bodies every single day. Pollan challenges the American diet and the food industry that provides what is typically in that diet. From fast food and big organic to small farms and old-fashioned hunting and gathering, this young readers’ adaptation of Pollan’s famous food-chain exploration encourages kids to consider the personal and global health implications of their food choices. It allows kids to also make their own choices about the food they eat while having the knowledge of what is going into their food. There are lots of graphs, statistics, and other visuals to capture the different parts of what Pollan calls the "industrial food chain". The Lexile level is 930L, the Guided Reading Level is W/X, and the grade level is 8th grade. I have taught this book before in student teaching and previously for one of Dr. Albert's classes. In her course, I taught about author's purpose and why that is important to determine what Pollan's intent is for young readers (I can determine an author’s point of view or purpose in informational text. (RI.8.6) I can identify the argument and specific claims in a text. (RI.8.8)).
Profile Image for Alice.
19 reviews
May 29, 2017
“The Omnivore's Dilemma” by Michael Pollan is a book that has made me think of food like never before. This book, telling you the modern day food culture, and where it is coming from has made me think twice when I make food choices. Michael Pollan makes the book interesting by adding images and references, but is very informative. By reading this book, I can clearly see the Pollan is a critical thinker, and puts a lot of thought into what he says in this book. Since he speaks about something he feels passionate about, and you can hear that in the text, I am very grabbed to reading it. The most interesting chapters to me, was the chapters, where i got to know how our modern day food is being made, and what ingredients it contains. Since I have never been taught food has been made this way, this was a shock for me, and I found it very interesting to read about.

I have managed to relate “The Omnivore's Dilemma” to just about everything in my life. I question almost everything eat. “Does this contain corn”, “Is the milk from this cow happy?”, “Is this being sprayed with pesticides”. Luckily, before reading this book, I had settled in being a vegetarian, so when I hear about the inhumane treatment of out animal, I know I have had little to do with that for the past months. I am now planning on staying in this situation for some time, unless the animal is being treated humanely of course, since I can in that case support these types of farms. This book gives reference to many other things. Pollan also visits an industrial-organic farm, as well as the Polyface farm (a real organic farm). He also talks about the do-it-yourself-meal, where the food is hunted, gathered and gardened. I can now forward this information to others, such as my family, and “vote with my fork” as Michael pollan said.
Profile Image for Irene McHugh.
598 reviews36 followers
March 25, 2017
Review to come.

Merged review:

This book was my second by Michael Pollan.

While many themes are similar to In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, this book delves much more into the specifics of the food industry in the United States. If you enjoy hearing about various political power plays and how they affect our food, then this book is informative and engaging.

The narrator was easy to listen to. There were times when I really thought I was listening to Michael Pollan explain his journey through researching where our food comes from.

One thing I like about Pollan is that he suggests numerous solid and accessible solutions for eating healthier. And he does that here, but most of this book did seemed geared for an average reader, an adult.

I did snag this young reader's edition last summer from AudioSync, but I'm not entirely certain how this version was tailored for young people. The vocabulary seemed on par with what I recall from listening to In Defense of Foods. Perhaps they condensed some sections. At the end, Pollan leaves young readers with a list of specific actions and ideas they can put into practice. Besides that list, though, I didn't hear anything that was specifically targeting a younger audience to engage them.
Profile Image for Victoria.
85 reviews1 follower
April 17, 2018
Michael Pollan explores different food chains, informs his readers, and delivers a powerful message in the Omnivore's Dilemma through fascinating personal anecdotes of visiting farms to learn more about food. He compares and contrasts the industrial, industrial-organic, beyond organic, and hunting and gathering food chains and their environmental, societal, and economic impacts. Pollan also raises awareness of the benefits of eating local, organic foods and the ethics involved in the production of food. The Omnivore's Dilemma emphasizes the importance of a close connection with food and how we can "vote with our forks"– make intentional choices about our food and where it comes from. I'd recommend this book to those with an interest in learning more about food and how we can be more involved with it.
March 13, 2018
I used this as a mentor text with my students while teaching persuasive writing. Pollan did a great job of making them aware of where their food comes from. Many students expressed the desire to make changes to their food choice but also asserted that they had little control over what they eat since they must eat what their parents and the school feeds them. Some voices were left out - lower income families, for instance - as well as anything positive about GMOs. My students recognized this and wished Pollan had included more about these issues.
Profile Image for JohnH_E1.
31 reviews3 followers
April 9, 2018
The omnivore's dilemma depicts the relationshipS between the food that we consume and the whole food chain overall. It shows us where our food comes from, the difference between beyond organic, organic, and industrial food chains, and gives us suggestions on how to be most connected with where our food comes from. I like this book because it solves the obscure mysteries of where our food comes from and also helps us adjust our diet to make it healthy for us.
Profile Image for Linda.
1,983 reviews2 followers
August 16, 2018
Michael Pollan takes the reader through a tour of the food chain. During the tour, he hunts for a wild boar, learns which mushrooms are acceptable (he, like me, was cautioned that getting the wrong mushroom could kill you), purchases a steer that he refuses to name, visits facilities where food is produced.
Much fascinating information - including the fact that more corn is consumed in the U.S. than in Mexico.
I recommend.
Profile Image for ❤Marie Gentilcore.
878 reviews38 followers
March 20, 2017
An excellent book that gives important information about how we get our food. It covered farming, organics, livestock, hunting, etc. and I really liked how it was told in an entertaining and unbiased manner. I learned a lot and plan to make some changes. A few of the key points that will stay with me are "Eat Real Food," "Buy Real Food," and "Eat Real Meals." Highly recommend.
10 reviews1 follower
May 15, 2018
The Omnivore's Dilemma by Micheal Pollan is truly an eye-opening book. This book talks about all the process that goes on behind the food we eat. What it does to the food we call organic. You would like this book if you want some real facts about food.
Profile Image for Bick.
312 reviews16 followers
March 8, 2017
As good as I remembered, and I think my age (ironically) helped me enjoy it more. Hopefully I do better at being a "food detective."
Profile Image for Sarah.
5 reviews
March 13, 2017
Just... don't read it. I'm not going to waste my time talking about this horror.
14 reviews
April 1, 2017
This is more like3.5 stars. It was very intuitive but the first chapters were ALL ABOUT CORN. Very informative though.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Jake Buchanan.
4 reviews1 follower
November 3, 2017
Michael did a very great job of describing what is in the food we eat. This book has changed how I look at animals and certain foods. Recommended for non fiction readers.
190 reviews
April 3, 2019
for school. it was pretty interesting and stuff.
Profile Image for Kris.
57 reviews13 followers
December 31, 2022
Great YA version. I taught it this semester with my 8th graders and loved the conversations it started. Good use of infographics to relay important information.
Profile Image for Bean.
21 reviews
April 23, 2023
I absolutely LOVED THIS BOOK! I have never read anything that has changed the way I see the world so much through research and factual information. I originally read this book for my honors reading class as an assignment and ended up absolutely living by the information I learned from this book. It was an amazing inside look into our world’s food industry and what really goes on behind the scenes, good and bad. The author of this book, Michal Pollan, traveled all over the U.S. in order to find out the truth behind America’s food industries and through his expedition he changed the lives of many. After reading his book many readers have become vegetarians, eco friendly farmers, or even just started making healthier dietary decisions. I think this book is a powerful insight into food in our world and I highly recommend. I understand that it may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but I feel that this is an important book for people to read. I think that it is important for people to know where there food is coming from, and I think this book is one of few that can tell them that.
Profile Image for Kimball.
1,225 reviews20 followers
August 13, 2017
Fortunately, I listened to this book instead of his other similarly titled book, The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. The other was narrated by that jack a-word Scott Brick who did In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto that I barely made it through. I didn't realize this one was geared towards young readers, at least, that's what the title makes it seem it is for. This edition was great! The section about what happens to the poor caged animals was pretty mild and wasn't designed to guilt trip you to pity them but rather just objectively inform you which I thought was a good move from the author. His goal of writing wasn't to persuade you to be a vegetarian or to not buy from those big industrial farms like that meat factory in Liberal, Kansas but mainly to inform and help you to be more mindful of what you eat. But he does state that eating corn-fed beef isn't the best meat you can eat.

The author discussed the topic of the animals suffering vs feeling pain. Haters cry out that they are suffering. But they aren't. They are experiencing pain, which is different. Suffering has emotion involved; worry, regret, fear, shame. Animals can't fear death because they can't think into the future and therefore aren't suffering. I like the point that he brought up about letting the animals go free. They'd die worse deaths and would be extinct because they can't survive in the wild. They've been sustained by humans. Killing animals isn't wrong in principle. But what matters is how we treat them when they are alive. So those polyface farms treat their animals very, very well. Although the author did state that no other country treats their animals as cruelly as the slaughterhouses in the USA. That's not true. I lived next to a slaughterhouse for chickens in Paraguay.

This book should be read with The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. I want to go to that polyface farm in Virginia. That'd be neat to stay there for a week and earn your food and work with those farmers. I loved all the natural efficiency they had like recycling all the poop, animal parts, etc. Just animals and plants working with each other. You can even see on Google Maps how they rotate the chicken pens so they don't over graze the ground. I love how even the nearby forest contributes to and feeds the farm.

Pests and disease are nature's way of telling the farmer he's doing something wrong.

The first part of the book should be called Cornhole because corn is apparently in everything. Speaking of corn, cereal costs four cents worth of corn to produce but can cost of up four dollars to buy. Guess who isn't getting those profits? The farmers. Every dollar spent on food in this country has 92 cents going towards non-farmers. That's not right. Cereal is the most profitable product for those industries.

There are four different food chains:
*Industrial - Most of our food comes from here.
*Industrial Organic - Same as above but "organic" (it's not really organic though).
*Local Sustainable - Variety of crops and animals; Food travels a short distance.
*Hunter/Gatherer - A person hunts or grows his own food start to finish.

The most morally troubling thing about killing chickens is that after a while it stops being morally troubling. That's the tricky part. People get desensitized to killing as we learned in A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier.

I liked how the author talked about even the meat being consumed in it's own season. I'm a big fan of Trader Joe's because they have limited selection of produce. When people complain about their lack of produce it makes me want to shop their even more because fruit and vegetables do not grow year round. And they should not be shipped halfway around the world either. Not only that but you appreciate food when you limit how and when you can eat it. Christmas wouldn't be special if it was year round. Red meat is for fall and winter and chicken is for spring and summer.

Fungi aren't plants? Sounds like that same dumb argument that fish isn't meat. What else is it then?

I didn't know that pigs aren't native to the US. The Spaniards and Columbus brought them over. Now I finally know what Feral means.

His hunting friend, Angelo, seems like a neat guy. Wish I knew someone like that. I want to eat a morel (sp?) sleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeepy mushroom now.

Fast food needs to be a special occasion not eaten every dang day.
Profile Image for Celestemcolon.
404 reviews
April 24, 2023
I guess 3.5.
I am not sure that reading this post Covid can help people flip to more natural diet as inflation has made cost increase to uncomfortable levels with eggs 🥚 and gas ⛽️ now much higher.
Sold to younger readers with possibly little control over the family budget it also might hurt when their voices can’t lead to change in their families. Many of us can’t afford to only eat at places like Whole Foods and we have to find foods in multiple places to create meals.
August 3, 2023
I thought this book was an excellent introduction to the behind the scenes look of where food comes from in the USA. There was a heavy emphasis on corn in the beginning that can be a tad bit off putting. There was a lot of really fascinating information and I loved learning about how all the different farms worked. Overall I really enjoyed this book and I think it really focused on how we should consciously eat our food.
Profile Image for calie   .
3 reviews
August 19, 2023
I’ll come clean- I had to read this for school. Going in, I didn’t think I would like the non-fiction aspect of it (I’m more of a fantasy girl), but it wasn’t too bad. I’ve lost my appetite indefinitely, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, seeing as I struggle through most real-world content. All in all, it was okay. 2.5/5.
21 reviews
April 23, 2023
This book was so great because it taught me a lot and I am super interested in adapting some of the ideas that came from it.
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