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Main Points About American Diet

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‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals’ chapter 7

The book ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals’ was written in 2006 by American writer Michael Pollan. The book itself tries to convey us the knowledge about the American diet. The author assures that Americans never had any cultural dishes, and as people can eat anything they want, they stuck to the problem: “What to eat for the dinner?” In this way they became vulnerable to food marketing, others tell them what to eat. So, in order to solve the problem and understand what people want to eat they should look at what they are actually eating, and to explore where did different food came from. For this it is important to trace the food chains, so the author decided to took a close look at three food chains: the industrial, the organic, and the hunter-gatherer.

In the chapter 7 he traced the industrial food chain, particularly he took McDonald’s lunch: from the primary producers to meal. In order to find the source of the meal, he looked at the ingredients of the cheeseburger and chicken nuggets, calculated the amount of ingredient made of corn and also analyzed the isotopes Carbon of in the food using the mass spectrometer, and it turned out that corn made up the majority proportion of the food. So he argues that the Americans became ‘a race of corn eaters’. However, Pollan showed that people are consuming the corn’s energy inefficiently: “when you feed that corn to a steer or a chicken, 90 percent of its energy is lost – to bones or feather or fur”, hence he convinces that people should more consume plants (2006, 118). We could indeed get more energy by eating the ‘primary producers’ – plants. However, as a matter of fact by consuming animal meat we get proteins, that are not present in plants. Moreover, fast food meat should not be compared with the meat cooked in a conventional way.

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By reading this book I realized that we actually do not think about the source of the meal in front of us. We just consume the products to satisfy ourselves. Apart from this the most surprising and new thing for me in this book was the idea that cheap food is not actually cheap. “The eater pays a high price for these cheap calories: obesity, Type II diabetes, heart disease” (Pollan 2006, 117). So that means that people should spend more money on food and less money on healthcare. This is actually true, people usually do not think about the consequences at first.

To my point of view, the author did not use the space practically, because he was going deep into the details of unnecessary things. The main points of the chapter could be fit into five pages, but he instead used ten. Actually the last five pages, from 115 to 119 gave us the more important points of the chapter. Therefore, he could strengthen his work by eliminating unnecessary details and giving only the main points.


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