Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Omnivore's Dilemma book discussion - Section II (chapters 11 - 14)

Omnivore's DilemmaHere are the rest of the discussion questions for the second section, Pastoral - Grass (chapters 11 through 14). The following includes a question that touches on at least one point in each of the chapters.

Chapter 11: The Animals - Practicing Complexity I found the concept of "stacking", growing or producing more than one crop or animal at a time, to be quite an interesting one. For example, raising rabbits and chickens in the same living space - the chickens peck through the rabbit droppings, turning over the mess and greatly reducing the urine smell. This type of growing creates a balance, providing no need for antibiotics, chemicals or medications. It allows the grower to watch the animals for signs of illness instead of suppressing disease prophylactically.

I thought that trying to find a grower who practices rotational grazing would be difficult enough, but trying to find out which growers practice "stacking" has got to be next to impossible. Do you think that consumers should have more information about how their food is grown in addition to the standard "organic" labelling? Or do you think people even care about these extra tidbits of information regarding how their food is grown?

Chapter 12: Slaughter - In a Glass Abattoir I love the Emerson quote: "You have just dined and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity." I've always been amazed at how the average consumer expect their meats to be unidentifiable, shrink-wrapped, pristine-looking cuts of meat. I think that truly exposing people to what goes on in order to deliver those shimmering chicken breasts to your grocer would make people think a little more about how their food is raised and processed. Did reading the explicit description of chicken dispatching and processing have an influence on you? Was this at all a shock to the system?

Chapter 13: The Market - Greetings from the Non-Barcode People One argument people keep making against organics is that it is "elitist" and that the average American can't afford organic produce and other products. I think the fact that Americans spend 1/10 of their income on food versus 1/5 during the 1950s is truly enlightening (of course, Pollan doesn't bring up the increased cost of housing, but I'll let that slide). It seems that people have the money to scrape together for their cell phones, high speed Internet, giant TVs and DirecTV/cable, but not on food raised sustainably. People are making a choice and they are choosing other pleasures over organics. How does looking at the matter in this light affect your thinking of the "organics is for the elite"?

Chapter 14: The Meal - Grass-Fed I love the whole idea of not only eating local, organic and sustainable but also eating seasonally. Because if you are eating local, organic and sustainable, it really comes down to seasonality. Am I the only one clueless to the fact that meats are seasonal? That one should really be eating beef and pork in the fall or winter and that chickens are a summer delicacy? It makes sense that foods grown according to the seasons and true to their nature (e.g. pasture-raised) will have a higher nutritional value. This shows up in the quality and taste in the food. What experience do you have in the difference in taste, enjoyment and quality when eating something produced seasonally?

As per the usual, correct me if I'm wrong on anything here...


Crunchy Chicken said...

I'm not starting the comments on this post as I've already pretty well included my input in the questions themselves.

Unknown said...

This is my first discussion post- I'm working backwards. :o)

Chapter 11- I do believe there should be more information about the food we eat. But I think I'm in the minority when it comes to wanting to know what happens to my food before it gets to me. Knowing is hard- not knowing means you can grab a bag of chips and keep right on going without thinking about GMOs or processed fats. We (society) don't want to have to think about our food after having to make decisions all day at work and home. It is just easier that way. :o\

Chapter 12- Oh my! I didn't think I would even be able to read that section. If I had to kill a chicken, I'd never eat one. The shock came from how humane they are at that farm. I had a friend going through the agriculture program at a local college. He said they start out teaching the students to see the animals as products and dollars. Reading about at least one farmer who sees differently gives me hope that there are others out there. This also made me think of a comment I read on the Dirty Jobs FAQ page (and yes, I am a Mike Rowe groupie (0;)- The network doesn't like the idea of animals dying on screen. I know I wouldn't watch. Not because I don't want to know, but because I know that emotionally I couldn't take seeing it.

Chapter 13- I work at a high school. Every kid there has a cell phone. Most of them have cell phones that I can't afford. Some of these kids don't have a bed to sleep in, but they have that cell phone. Until sustainable/green/organic products and food become popular, only those people who can afford to make the choice _because_ it isn't common, will.

Chapter 14- My husband and I went to the farmer's market earlier this summer to pick up a few things. Tomatoes for me, onions for him. He had never had a tomato fresh from a garden before and almost cried with how good they tasted. :o) I've just about got him talked into a fresh garden for next year. There is just something about fresh fruit and veggies that is more satisfying.

I thought this would be easy to discuss! If I wasn't clear, or if it seems like I went off in some crazy direction, let me know! Thanks.

Christy said...

I'll address the rest later but I did want to talk about organic being elitist. When I started buying organic whole foods and stopped buying all the processed stuff we had been eating, our grocery bills went DOWN. When I started buying local organic, they went down even more. Organic chicken from my local farmer is much cheaper than from the grocery store.

While my food bill went down, my time spent in the kitchen went up. It takes longer to make dinner from whole foods. It is time I'm enjoying spending but I know some people won't choose to spend that time so they will complain that organic is too expensive. It is if you are trying to buy organic frozen meals for convenience.

I think this is where people get the idea organic is elitist. If you are trying to buy the same processed food in an organic version it will be very expensive. However, organic produce, rice, grains etc aren't that expensive and do end up being cheaper than traditional processed foods.

And even if it did cost more, I'd be willing to cut down on eating out or cable to provide my family with healthy foods. What good is cable or a cell phone if I'm dying of cancer?

Kim said...

Chapter 11: This is how we raise our animals. In layers. We have the movable cages that allow the animals to be on fresh grass, while at the same time receiving some protection from predators and the elements. There is a renewed interest in how animals are raised. We get lots of questions because people see us doing things a different way.

Chapter 12-14: Since we only eat meat that we have raised this chapter was no surprise to me. We realized long ago the horror that is the modern slaughter house. Our critters are healthy and happy. They have no idea what is about to "hit them." We don't eat many of our animals. They are mostly here for the by-products: manure, milk and eggs. Grass fed animals definitely produce a better tasting egg and milk.


Christy said...

I never did comment on the other chapters.

Chapter 11 - I would like more information about how the food we eat is raised, and this is why I've found a few small farms to buy from. I've visited the farms and know how the food is raised. However, I don't think most people want to know, they just want what is cheap. Of course, I also have a low opinion of society in general. I know my parents have no desire to know the truth about what they are eating.

Chapter 12 - Some of this was a surprise, but most of it I had read in other books. I did stop eating any meat from the grocery store after reading this. I haven't killed my own chickens yet but do plan to when we get our farm. I have a few friends that have processed chickens.

Chapter 14 - I found out in December that chicken is seasonal when I tried to get some chicken from out local meat source. I had no idea. Now I know to stock up before winter comes.

Lee said...

Re: Chapter 13 (and I know I'm coming in on this one late). I'd have to say that there *is* no difference in taste between organics and conventional, in my experience. There is a BIG difference between LOCAL and distance-travelled/stored, but regular organics fails dismally, unfortunately.

I'd like to say otherwise, as I'm one of those who does buy organics, but it simply doesn't taste any different, in blindfolded tests my husband and I have given each other. In fact, in some tests the conventional stuff scored better.

I should note here that we're talking greenstuff, and not animal foods, as we're vegoes.

I think the organics industry has failed in many ways, the least is that they copy conventional methods including cold storage ad long-distance transportation, and as a result get conventional tastes and quality.

I'd take locally grown conventional over distance-travelled certified organic any day.