Michael Pollan

A Quote by Michael Pollan on food, food supply, high fructose corn syrup, corn, health, subsidies, farming, farm subsidies, and george naylor

Corn is not the only source of cheap energy in the supermarket – much of the fat added to processed foods comes from soybeans – but it is by far the most important.  As George Naylor said, growing corn is the most efficient way to get energy – calories – from an acre of Iowa farmland.  That corn-made calorie can find its way into our bodies in the form of an animal fat, a sugar, or a starch, such is the protean nature of carbon in that big kernel.  But as productive and protean as the corn plant is, finally it is a set of human choices that have made these molecules quite as cheap as they have become: a quarter of a century of farm policies designed to encourage the overproduction of this crop and hardly any other.  Very simply, we subsidize high-fructose corn syrup in this country, but not carrots.  While the surgeon general is raising alarms over the epidemic of obesity, the president is signing farm bills designed to keep the river of cheap corn flowing, guaranteeing that the cheapest calories in the supermarket will continue to be the unhealthiest.

Michael Pollan

Source: The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (Large Print Press), Pages: 108

Contributed by: HeyOK

A Quote by Michael Pollan on value added, food, food supply, george naylor, farming, and agriculture

In fact, there are lots of good reasons to complicate your product – or, as the industry prefers to say, to “add value” to it.  Processing food can add months, even years, to its shelf life, allowing you to market globally.  Complicating your product also allows you to capture more of the money a consumer spends on food.  Of a dollar spent on a whole food such as eggs, $0.40 finds its way back to the farmer.  By comparison, George Naylor will see only $0.04 of every dollar spent on corn sweeteners; ADM and Coca-Cola and General Mills capture most of the rest.  (Every farmer I’d ever met eventually gets around to telling the story about the food industry executive who declared, “There’s money to be made in food, unless you’re trying to grow it.”)  When Tyson food scientists devised the chicken nugget in 1983, a cheap bulk commodity – chicken – overnight became a high-value-added product, and most of the money Americans spend on chicken moved from the farmer’s pocket to the processor’s.

Michael Pollan

Source: The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (Large Print Press), Pages: 95

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A Quote by Michael Pollan on food industry and growth rate

The growth of the American food industry will always bump up against this troublesome biological fact:  Try as we might, each of us can only eat about fifteen hundred pounds of food a year.  Unlike many other products – CDs, say, or shoes – there’s a natural limit to how much food we each can consume without exploding.  What this means for the food industry is that its natural rate of growth is somewhere around 1 percent per year – 1 percent being the annual growth rate of American population.  The problem is that [the industry] won’t tolerate such an anemic rate of growth.

Michael Pollan

Source: The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (Large Print Press), Pages: 94

Contributed by: HeyOK

A Quote by Michael Pollan on organic produce, organic, and health

... the greens were grown organically.  Since they’re not pumped up on synthetic nitrogen, the cells of these slower-growing leaves develop thicker walls and take up less water, making them more durable.

            And, I’m convinced, tastier, too.  When I visited Greenways Organic, which grows both conventional and organic tomatoes, I learned that the organic ones consistently earn higher Brix scores (a measure of sugars) than the same varieties grown conventionally.  More sugars mean less water and more flavor.  It stands to reason that the same would hold true for other organic vegetables: slower growth, thicker cell walls, and less water should produce more concentrated flavors.  That at least has always been my impression, though in the end freshness probably affects flavor more than growing method.

Michael Pollan

Source: The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (Large Print Press), Pages: 176

Contributed by: HeyOK

A Quote by Michael Pollan on supermarket pastoral, agribusiness, chicken, food, and food supply

... This is one of the larger ironies of growing organic food in an industrial system:  It is even more precarious than a conventional industrial system.  But the federal rules say an organic chicken should have “access to the outdoors,” and Supermarket Pastoral imagines it, so Petaluma Poultry provides the doors and the yard and everyone keeps their fingers crossed.

            It would appear Petaluma’s farm managers have nothing to worry about.  Since the food and water and flock remain inside the shed, and since the little doors remain shut until the birds are at least five weeks old and well settled in their habits, the chickens apparently see no reason to venture out into what must seem to them an unfamiliar and terrifying world.  Since the birds are slaughtered at seven weeks, free range turns out to be not so much a lifestyle for these chickens as a two-week vacation option.

Michael Pollan

Source: The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (Large Print Press), Pages: 172

Contributed by: HeyOK

A Quote by Michael Pollan on calories, food, food supply, organic, and commercial organic

...A one-pound box of prewashed lettuce contains 80 calories of food energy.  According to Cornell ecologist David Pimentel, growing, chilling, washing, packaging, and transporting that box of organic salad to a plate on the East Coast takes more than 4,600 calories of fossil fuel energy, or 57 calories of fossil fuel for every calorie of food.  (These figures would be about 4% higher if the salad were grown conventionally.)

Michael Pollan

Source: The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (Large Print Press), Pages: 167

Contributed by: HeyOK

A Quote by Michael Pollan on factory farms, corn, biodiversity, agriculture, food, and food supply

... Corn’s triumph is the direct result of its overproduction, and that has been a disaster for the people who grow it.  Growing corn and nothing but corn has also exacted a toll on the farmer’s soil, the quality of the local water and the overall health of his community, the biodiversity of his landscape, and the health of all those creatures living on or downstream from it.  And not only those creatures, for cheap corn has also changed, and much for the worse, the lives of several billion food animals, animals that would not be living on factory farms if not for the ocean of corn on which these animal cities float.

Michael Pollan

Source: The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (Large Print Press), Pages: 118

Contributed by: HeyOK

A Quote by Michael Pollan on capitalism, food, and food supply

A tension has always existed  between the capitalist imperative to maximize efficiency at any cost and the moral imperatives of culture, which historically have served as a counterweight to the moral blindness of the market.  This is another example of the cultural contradictions of capitalism – the tendency over time for the economic impulse to erode the moral underpinnings of society.  Mercy toward the animals in our care is one such casualty.

Michael Pollan

Source: The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (Large Print Press), Pages: 318

Contributed by: HeyOK

A Quote by Michael Pollan on food, food supply, local produce, polyface farm, and joel salatin

In Joel’s view, that reformation begins with people going o the trouble and expense of buying directly from farmers they know – “relationship marketing,” as he calls it.  He believes the only meaningful guarantee of integrity is when buyers and sellers can look one another in the eye, something few of us ever take the trouble to do.  “Don’t you find it odd that people will put more work into choosing their mechanic or house contractor than they will into choosing the person who grows their food?”

Michael Pollan

Source: The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (Large Print Press), Pages: 240

Contributed by: HeyOK

A Quote by Michael Pollan on food, food supply, local farming, polyface farms, organic, and joel salatin

It isn’t hard to see why there isn’t much institutional support for the sort of low-capital, thought-intensive farming Joel Salatin practices:  He buys next to nothing.  When a livestock farmer is willing to “practice complexity” – to choreograph the symbiosis of several different animals, each which has been allowed to behave and eat as it evolved to – he will find he has little need for machinery, fertilizer, and, most strikingly, chemicals.  He finds he has no sanitation problem or any of the diseases that result from raising a single animal in a crowded monoculture and then feeding it things it wasn’t designed to eat.  This is perhaps the greatest efficiency of a farm treated as a biological system:  health.

I was struck by the fact that for Joel abjuring agrochemicals and pharmaceuticals is not so mush a goal of his farming, as it so often is in organic agriculture, as it is an indication that his farm is functioning well.  “In nature health is the default,” he pointed out.  “Most of the time pests and disease are just nature’s way of telling the farmer he’s doing something wrong.”

Michael Pollan

Source: The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (Large Print Press), Pages: 221

Contributed by: HeyOK

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