Have you ever wondered what it is you’re eating? Where your food comes from? Have you ever wondered why the tomato sauce you bought has about 30 ingredients – most of which you can’t even pronounce? Have you ever guessed exactly how much corn is in, for instance, your hamburger? Or oil made from corn? Artificial flavours made from corn? Meat from cows fed on corn? The list goes on and on…

The Omnivore’s Dilemma explores exactly these questions, encouraging us to think more consciously about what we eat. Michael Pollan urges us to engage with where our ingredients come from and retrace their journey from their origins – be it massive cornfields in the US or the sterile surroundings of a chemical laboratory.

Through this thought-provoking review, Pollan became active himself. He retraced and produced his own meals. He had a look into the shocking and appalling machinery of industrial production, thereafter purchasing his own cattle and monitoring their way from birth on a farm to their last months in the horrifying conditions of the feeding lots. He engages with the question and problems of local and organic production – helping out on a grass farm – and goes deep into the forest, hunting and preparing his dinner from scratch.

The discoveries that Pollan reveals in his book are not always a nice read – yet they not only open our eyes to the appalling facts and repercussions of industrial production, but they also lead us to engage with more subtle questions: what are the implications of us wanting cheap prawns and fresh fruit throughout the year? And is organic always better? Even if the food has been shipped or flown in from far away?

In the wake of recent revelations, such as The Guardian uncovering the truth about slave labour producing the prawns we buy at Tesco for instance, we need to be more conscious about our food. It does not suffice to go through supermarkets and only buy what is cheap or what looks tasty. There is so much more implied – for ourselves, for our fellows and for our planet – that we cannot close our eyes to the implications of our consumption. The Omnivore’s Dilemma is a haunting book that can definitely can nudge us to engage with and think about our food, instead of grabbing the first thing that catches our eye. We as students, especially, can make an impact and change the way our food is produced, preventing it from becoming something even more inaccessible, industrialised and incomprehensible…

 

 

Charlotte Wirth