Book Review for “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”


Pollan, M. (2009). The omnivore’s dilemma: The secrets behind what you eat. Young Readers ed.). New York: Dial Books.

     Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma is an intriguing and enjoyable informational text for young readers. As an adaptation of Pollan’s original bestseller, the young readers edition offers a depth of valuable information about America’s food industry in a way that young adolescents can easily read and enjoy. This book is not only a great piece of literature, but makes for great informational material as well.

      Throughout his novel Michael Pollan goes on an adventure to uncover the (sometimes disturbing) secrets of four different food chains in The United States. He inquires into the industrial food chain, the organic industrial food chain, local sustainable food chains, and hunter-gatherer food chains. After thoroughly explaining each type of food chain, the author gives the pros and cons of each type; he also provides the reader with an example of a meal made from each food chain. As Pollan explains, the industrial food chain comprises of factory raised meat products, industrial single-crop farms, and processed food. The Industrial organic food chain consists of large-scale organic supermarkets, like Whole Foods. Local sustainable food chains are local farms that naturally produce a wide array of foods including chicken, beef, pork, grains, fruits, and vegetables. These farms are self-sustaining or nearly self-sustaining, meaning they have to buy as little raw materials as possible to keep their farm running; they produce these materials all on their own. Hunter-gathering is a type of food collection many school-age students might be familiar with. This is where people take everything they need to survive from their surrounding environment, rather than growing it for themselves.

     What is so great about all this information presented in The Omnivore’s Dilemma is that the author does all the research himself, and by research I don’t mean surfing the web or reading lengthy textbooks. Author Michael Pollan actually participates in each food chain to garner first-hand experience to be used in his book. He visits and tours industrial farms; he interviews owners of organic food labels; he works as a farm-hand on a local farm, and he hunts and gathers his own food from the forests of California. Along the way he finds out all the tips, tricks, and secrets about each food chain. No piece of valuable information is left out of this text, no matter how gross or disturbing. The author is trying to change the way people think about and eat their food. Michael Pollan can be seen as a modern-day muckraker by uncovering these secrets of America’s food chains. He wants people to question where their food came from, how fresh it is, and how good it is for them. This way people can learn to “vote with their forks” and help change the state of food consumption in America since it is no secret we are not the healthiest country on this planet.

     Not only is Pollan’s novel a great read, but it is also a valuable source of information. He educates his reader about issues that are very relevant to young adolescents. Middle school students are still largely under the watchful eye of their parents. What their parents buy and cook is usually what ends up on their plate, like it or not. Michael Pollan wants to change that. He wants to target unhealthful eating habits at a young age to teach teens and young adults the hidden dangers behind industrial foods and the effect they have on the human body. In the classroom, The Omnivore’s Dilemma can be used in multiple ways. Of course it is a great book for leisurely reading, but it also makes a great informational text in a health class or lesson. It also makes a great starting point to inspire students to practice their own individual inquiries or research projects into food consumption in this country. Even more, this can be used to teach students the importance of keeping a vegetable garden.

     Whatever The Omnivore’s Dilemma may inspire you to do, visit a farm, do some research, eat from local markets, or grow your own garden, Michael Pollan has one goal in mind: to inspire the young reader to think more deeply and thoughtfully about the food they eat. This novel is not only a great read, but it is also a great learning tool. Throughout the pages of this book the author shows the reader how exciting and eye-opening personal, first-hand research can be. After reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, you may never want to eat at your favorite fast-food restaurant again, but your eyes will be opened to the countless healthful and wholesome opportunities that await you, if you just learn to vote with your fork.

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Filed under Young Adult Novels

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