Monday, March 21, 2011

The Omnivore's Dilemma

     In The Omnivore's Dilemma, Pollan goes to Polyface, a farm run by Joel Salatin and his family, after Joel denied to FedEx a steak to Pollan. When at Polyface, Pollan learns about the true difference between grass feeding and corn feeding. It is "management intensive" (190) and "depends almost entirely on a wealth of nuanced local knowledge at a time when most of the agriculture has come to rely on precisely the opposite: on the off-farm brain, and the one-size-fits-all universal intelligence represented by agrochemicals and machines" (191). The cattle must graze "at the very top of the blaze of growth" (189). However, the cows must not be allowed to continue to eat or they risk of violating the "law of the second bite" (189). If the cows eat the grass before it can regrow, it will begin to thin, "giving way to bald spots and to weedy and brushy species the cows won't touch" (190). It's interesting to note that this process allows for a greater amount of the sun's energy being used. If the grass produces sugar, then the animals, that we eat, eat the grass. This process avoids the waste of energy from transporting food and animals. By bringing the animals to the food, the link between the sun and us is more direct.
     During his stay, Pollan is told the figures of production in a season which are as follows: "30,000 eggs, 12,000 broilers, 800 stewing hens, 25,000 pounds of beef (50 beeves), 25,000 pounds of pork (250 hogs), 800 turkeys, and 500 rabbits" (222). This is all grown off of 100 acres of grass. The system of the animals from with each other and the grass is complex in comparison to how a CAFO works. Each animal plays their part in helping the chain. The cows cut the grass for the chickens, who in return, return nitrogen to the pasture and feed off of the larvae left behind by the cows.
     Pollan travels with the Salatins to the supermarket. While there, he notices that "farms produce more than food; they also produce a kind of landscape and a kind of community" (258). The farmers will adapt to meet the communities wants beyond the staple foods grow in mass quantities. "Their farmers will quickly learn to grow a few other things besides" (258). Pollan also states that Joel doesn't want to get rid of the current foosd system but "simply to step around it" (260) because "Joel say himself as more of a Luther than a Lenin" (260).

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