Omnivore's Dilemma Michael Pollan's Award-Winning Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Moreover, vegetarianism is theoretically possible at McDonalds by eating the token salads on the menu. The token salads might still be in keeping with the tenets of agro-business but they do not contain meat products. Still, Pollan hints at how those salads support the same industries that sustain large-scale animal slaughtering.

In Chapter Seven, Pollan focuses on the ethics and the feasibility of the fast food business model as well as its effects on dietary health and well being. Without droning didactically, Pollan points out the problems with fast food: such as high levels of fat and sodium. The nutritional content of fast food is directly and causally related to heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. Pollan needs not delve into great detail about that which most Americans should already be aware. What Pollan does point out are the hidden ingredients in McDonald's menu items, especially in the chicken McNuggets. By the time Pollan wraps up the chapter, readers will wonder why he allowed his son to eat the McNuggets in the first place. The McNuggets contain "several completely synthetic ingredients, quasi-edible substances that ultimately come not from a corn or soybean field but from a petroleum refinery or chemical plant," (Pollan 113). McDonald's food isn't' cooked in the sense that a home-cooked meal is; a McDonald's menu item is contrived in a corporate office and manufactured in a laboratory.

Pollan's ability to refrain from shrillness is one of the greatest strengths of The Omnivore's Dilemma. By eating McDonald's himself, Pollan does not speak from a pulpit and readers will not feel judged. They will think harder and more critically about what they eat and where their food came from, which is the primary objective of Pollan's writing The Omnivore's Dilemma. Pollan's self-experimentation serves two distinct but related rhetorical functions. First, the method lends credibility to The Omnivore's Dilemma just as a case study would. Pollan is not speaking theoretically but rather, from a perspective of qualitative research. Second, the method of self-experimentation connects Pollan with the reader on an emotional level. His pathos is enhanced further by Pollan's command of the written word and his use of poetic devices that do not include discrediting hyperbole. Not once does Pollan use alarmism; he simply allows the facts to speak for themselves.

Pollan approaches the sample fast food meal from three different perspectives. First, Pollan leads up to Chapter Seven by describing the conquest of corn as a cash crop and the effects corn production have had on local ecosystems, the farming industry, and the ability of fast food to proliferate. Second, Pollan concludes Chapter Seven by showing what lengths companies like McDonalds as well as their suppliers in the agro-business world must do to sustain themselves. Third, Pollan mentions the effects of industrial food on the end-user, the consumer. Pollan includes a global assessment as well, and does not ethnocentrically assume that American eaters are the only ones affected by the fast food industry or agro-business. Indeed, agro-business has literally changed the food landscape of the world. Agro-business has altered the nature of farming and changed the relationship between human beings and the food we eat.

In describing what goes into a typical McDonald's meal, Pollan reveals the way government policy has promoted industrial food. Earlier in Part One, Pollan mentions the series of farm bills that conscripted farmers to the mass-production model. For example, in the early 1970s during the Nixon administration, Earl Butz attacked rising food prices by forcing farms to become bigger than they had before, to produce a shocking surplus of corn. More importantly, Butz also instated subsidies. The subsidies on corn growing continue, to the point where corn is sold cheaper than it costs to produce (Pollan 53). A proliferation of cheap corn has in turn enabled products like high fructose corn syrup, which as Pollan points out is in a plethora of food products including most of the solids and liquids on the McDonald's menu.

To sustain the business model that allows fast food to exist, McDonald's also needs to incorporate chemicals into their food production model. Those chemicals may potentially be harmful, especially for young children who consume fast food in alarming proportions: Pollan claims that one out of every three American children eats fast food every single day (109). Ultimately, Pollan urges readers to take full responsibility for the choices they make when they are hungry. Whether from a health, ethics, or environmental sustainability standpoint, industrial…

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