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Literary Analysis: The Omnivore’s Dilemma Essay

In Michael Pollan’s, The Omnivores Dilemma everything we eat is somehow derived from corn. Dating back to the day of the Mayans when they were sometimes referred to as “the corn people” (Pollan 19). Pollan takes us back to the “beginning” of the industrial food chain. In The Omnivores Dilemma historical context, ideology, and setting do not do the reader justice in opening their eyes to the harsh reality that without the corn industry eating as we know it today would cease to exist.

The use of historical context in The Omnivores Dilemma insufficiently details the actual origin of corn. Per Pollan’s writing he explains that “Squanto taught the Pilgrims to plant maize in 1621….. ” (Pollan 25), but the existence of corn dates way back much further than 1621. In a 1948 excavation of Bat Cave, New Mexico by then student of anthropology at Harvard University, Herbert W. Dick found small cobs of corn at the bottom of Bat Caves floor which were estimated to contain maize that had their beginning no later than 2000 B. C. (Mangelsdorf 148).

Many different types of test have been used to determine how old the corn plant is, but only with solid evidence provided by archeologists has there been any real way to argue the actual evolution of corn. It is more than evident having conducted my own research about the origin and historical context of corn that Pollan merely “touched” on the subject matter of, where corn came from. In this day and age with many households having both the husband and wife, or single parent households, or just because of mere laziness, society as a whole doesn’t put as much thought into what we consume as they use to.

For the most part what we consume is what is most convenient at the time we are hungry, but little do most of us know what it really is that we are eating….. corn. As Pollan so bluntly states, “…. At the end of the food chain (which is to say at the beginning), I invariably found myself in almost exactly the same place: a farm field in the American corn belt” (Pollan 18) Practically everything we eat has corn in it or has been fed corn, and has been chemically altered before it reaches us. Everything from yogurt, chicken mcnuggets, and even beef contain corn of some form.

Per one article, “Pollan wants us to know what it is we’re eating, where it came from, and how it got to our table…” (The Wall Street Journal), only that even after having read The Omnivores Dilemma I still had questions, questions Pollan failed to address in his book. The only remotely interesting part of Pollan’s book is the setting; various corn farms. Though interesting it still insufficiently addressed many facts. In my opinion it would have been appropriate to add that in the U. S. alone there are over 400,000 corn farms and that the U. S. s the largest corn producer in the world, producing 32 percent of the world’s corn in the year 2010 ( www. ncga. com www. epa. gov).

According to the National Corn Growers Association a good 80 percent of corn grown is eaten by both domestic and overseas livestock, poultry, and even fish. Also according to the NCGA Americans eat 25 pounds of corn a year. (www. ncga. com). Pollan details how corn travels “About a fifth of the corn river flowing out from the elevators at the Iowa Farmer’s Cooperative travels to a milling plant…” (Pollan 86), but epically fails of informing us of the “bigger picture”.

In conclusion, I found that by simply doing a little research on my own in the library or by searching online, not only could I find a wide range of actually interesting information on the ever so popular corn industry, but I wouldn’t fall asleep doing so as I did on more than one occasion trying to read The Omnivores Dilemma. The Omnivores Dilemma is not a book I personally would ever read again. Nor would I recommend it.


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