The Omnivore’s Dilemma: Discussion Questions

As my book club gets ready to discuss Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, I’ve re-read the discussion questions provided by Borders Book Stores and the Sierra Club and I’ve found a few more (courtesy of Penguin Group); they also seem to be relevant for discussions of In Defense of Food:

  1. Michael Pollan approaches eating as an activity filled with ethical issues. Do you agree that the act of eating is as morally weighty as he says it is? What questions concern you most about the way you eat or the way your food is created?
  2. Some readers might argue that Pollan’s ethics do not go far enough, perhaps because he does not urge us all to become vegetarians or possibly because of the zeal with which he pursues the feral pig that he kills toward the end of The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Did you find yourself quarreling with any of Pollan’s ethical positions, and why?
  3. Pollan argues that capitalism is a poor economic model to apply to the problems of food production and consumption. Do you agree or disagree, and why?
  4. Pollan also shows a number of instances in which government policies have apparently worsened the crisis in our food culture. What do you think should be the proper role of government in deciding how we grow, process, and eat our food?
  5. How has Michael Pollan changed the way you think about food?
  6. At the end of In Defense of Food, Pollan offers a series of recommendations for improved eating. Which, if any, do you intend to adopt in your own life?
  7. Which of Pollan’s recommendations would you be least likely to accept, and why?
  8. Do you think that the way Americans eat reveals anything about our national character and broader shared values? How is Pollan’s writing a statement not only about American eating, but about American culture and life?
  9. In both The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food, Pollan quotes the words of Wendell Berry: “Eating is an agricultural act.” What does Berry mean by this, and why is his message so important to Pollan’s writing?
  10. In each part of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan has a particular friend to help him understand the food chain he is investigating: George Naylor in Iowa, Joel Salatin at Polyface, and Angelo Garro in northern California. Which of these men would you most like to know personally, and why?
  11. What, in the course of his writing, does Michael Pollan reveal about his own personality? What do you like about him? What, if anything, rubs you the wrong way?
  12. If Michael Pollan were coming to your place for dinner, what would you serve him and why?
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