Friday, October 30, 2009

The Omnivore's Dilemma, Part I

I wrote about Joel Salatin and the "clean food" movement in late September and mentioned that I would like to read Michael Pollan's book The Omnivore's Dilemma. I have now read it and found it worthy of further discussion. Due to the great breadth of the topic, I will discuss the book and its ideas over multiple posts.

Joel Salatin has written numerous books and is one of the primary characters in The Omnivore's Dilemma. Since reading Holy Cows and Hog Heaven, I have read Salatin's You Can Farm and am about to complete Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal. So this topic is clearly one that interests me and is one I am trying to learn more about.

For those unfamiliar with the manner in which our meat is raised and processed, I urge you to consider it. For years, I accepted the USDA's approval and oversight of the meat processing industry to be satisfactory, and never really gave it much thought. I assumed that the industry was based on free market principles and that the whole thing was working as it should and there was nothing to worry about, and that "Mad Cow" scares and the like were mostly hype and the result of PETA and the environmental lobby having influence in the media. So, in short, I was like you--I didn't think about it, nor did I care to think about it. BAD IDEA.

When one begins to understand how government and big business actually operate--not with free market principles, but with lobbyists, favoritism, money, and influence. This is corporatism. Pollan begins his narrative in The Omnivore's Dilemma by revealing the way in which our government began distorting the grain market in the 1970s by encouraging the overproduction of corn. This resulted in an overabundance of corn, leaving industrial agricultural companies like Archer-Daniels Midland and Cargill with literally tons of corn with no demand. Obviously the prices fell even more, and incentivized creative methods of using the grain.

More to come...

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