Wednesday, February 06, 2008

AJAE review of Omnivore's Dilemma

My review of Michael Pollan's influential book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, appeared this month in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics.
Should a serious agricultural economist read this popular and entertaining book about food? The organizing frame—a "natural history" of four meals ranging from a McDonald's cheeseburger and fries in a moving car to a leisurely dinner of wild mushrooms and wild pork hunted by the author himself—could strike a reader as contrived. The supposed narrative climax, the forest hunting and gathering of the fourth meal, reads like a new-age testament: "For once, I was able to pay the full karmic price of a meal."

Food journalist Michael Pollan offers the modern efficiency-minded agricultural economist a sensible warning, right up front in the introduction, not to read this book: "Many people today seem perfectly content eating at the end of the industrial food chain, without a thought in the world; this book is probably not for them."

Does the warning just increase your interest? Then, read on. As it turns out, Omnivore's Dilemma provides a rewarding tour of the modern American food system from the perspective of a literate, observant, and curious consumer. For many agricultural economists, the book's most valuable contribution may be its insight into what thoughtful consumers want to know about food....
I read the book in the summer of 2006.


Anonymous said...

Ack! I would really like to see the whole review but the link to the AJAE is broken or the site's down.

usfoodpolicy said...

The link worked for me when I tried it just now, but the AJAE full text electronic access may be restricted to people with a subscription (such as through a university). Feel free to email me directly for a copy.