Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark

Don’t let the title of this post fool you.  I’m not talking about these scary stories…

I’m talking about the scary stories found in this book…

My commute to and from work these last few weeks has been reminiscent of childhood camping trips or sleepover parties thanks to the horrors described in Michael Pollan’s 2006 NY Times Bestseller The Omnivore’s Dilemma. [Cue scary music...]

Based on Pollan’s first-hand investigative reporting, I’ve deduced:

  1. Almost everything I eat is derived from corn.
  2. Buying organic meats and produce at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s shouldn’t make me feel quite so noble.

Companies who peddle organic food through those chains use clever marketing–Pastoral Marketing–and suggestive labels that influence shoppers.  A friend of mine, Christy from The Daily Dish, recently illustrated the stark contrast between packaging imagery and the reality in a post about Stonyfield Farm yogurt.

I’m guilty of buying into the organic mystique and based on industry sales, I’m not alone.  I didn’t really understand the nuances of organic until I read this book, Fast Food Nation, several websites, and a few articles on the topic.  I now have a working knowledge, but not much beyond that.

In a nutshell, organic is becoming more industrialized every day and isn’t quite as healthful to our planet or to us as marketers would have us believe.

Let’s take chicken for example.  According to voluntary regulations, organic free-range chicken should have access to the outdoors.  Since these chickens aren’t mainlining antibiotics, a trip outside could be the death knell for them and the rest of the coop’s inhabitants.

Pollan describes one industrial organic farm as giving “outdoor access” to the chickens at 5 weeks but by this time they are so used to their routine that they never venture out the little door to the 15×15 patch of grass.  At 7 weeks, the chickens are slaughtered, processed, and shipped off to your neighborhood Whole Foods.

I’m not really sure that Pollan will find an answer to the dilemma presented in his book–I have a few CDs left to listen to–but just about everything we eat has been adulterated in some way or fashion.  Though I won’t go vegan as a result of reading this book, I will be more mindful of what I’m eating.  Want to read more?

  • For links to farms that raise meats, dairy, and produce the old-fashioned way, check out EatWild.com.
  • Help support local farmers and have fresh veggies (and a host of other farm-fresh goodies) brought right to your door with a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)–pay up front to help the farmer raise capital and then reap the benefits all season long!

Look for a review of Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma later this month here on Book, Line, and Sinker.

23 Comments

  • At 2010.04.14 03:33, Lenore said:

    I’m reading the young reader’s version of that and it is truly SCARY, I agree.
    .-= Lenore´s last blog ..Tuesday (101) = Picture of Emmy + Happy Birthday Daniel! =-.

    • At 2010.04.14 10:24, Natalie said:

      i borrowed the YA version from the library because i want to use excerpts in my classroom. it’s much more managable than the some of the technical aspects of the unabridged audioversion i’m listening to.

    • At 2010.04.14 07:59, Chrisbookarama said:

      I keep meaning to pick this up but now I’m scared!
      .-= Chrisbookarama´s last blog ..Read, Remember, Recommend: Review =-.

      • At 2010.04.14 10:25, Natalie said:

        it’s really an eye-opener! i would highly recommend it, if only to learn a few things about what we eat.

      • At 2010.04.14 09:22, Dishy said:

        Very interesting post, Nat. Last night while watching TV I saw another example of this marketing tactic. The makers of Tide detergent are now painting themselves as “Green” – if you can believe that. And unfortunately, people will buy into this, thinking they’re doing themselves and the environment a service by continuing to purchase Tide.

        PS: I also saw the commercial for KFC’s new chicken sandwich – the one where chicken replaces the bread. Would love to hear what Pollan could saw about THAT>!

        PPS: I want to try that sandwich. The vertigo it will likely induce should be punishment enough.
        .-= Dishy´s last blog ..The Kitchen Project. =-.

        • At 2010.04.14 10:23, Natalie said:

          my other blogging friend, katie (unapologetically mundane) tasted and reviewed this sandwich on her food blog–donuts 4 dinner. it’s a horror! what’s next? mcdonald’s selling eggs, bacon, and cheese sandwiched between two hash browns?!!?!?

      • At 2010.04.14 09:42, bermudaonion (Kathy) said:

        A good friend of mine’s son is allergic to corn, so I was aware that corn is in EVERYTHING. Can you imagine the nightmare she goes through trying to find food he can eat? Does the author have suggestions on how we can find better things to eat?

        • At 2010.04.14 10:21, nat @book, line, and sinker said:

          kathy,
          the author does offer some suggestions–he stayed for a week on a farm in virginia (maybe near vance’s college?) and this farm–polyface farm–feeds its animals grass and NO corn. check out some of the links i inculded. it’s really unbelievable how much corn or corn byproducts we ingest. i’m not sure if there will be a definitive answer to the question by the book’s end, but i’ll report about what i learn in my review.

          • At 2010.04.14 15:10, Kathleen said:

            I definitely want to read this one and just put it on hold at my library (hopefully I will get it soon). As someone who spends quite a lot on “organic” stuff, I really need to understand what I am buying and eating. Thanks for a great review.
            .-= Kathleen´s last blog ..The More I Love a Book, the Harder it is to Post About it! =-.

            • At 2010.04.14 18:39, Constance Reader said:

              The Scary Stories book! Gave me many a sleepless night, huddled in my BFF’s rec room, shaking in my sleeping bag, waiting for morning.

              I’ve started TOD several times but I always get a little freaked out and have to stop. I’m a wimp–I’ll get through it some day.

              Great review! (Corn is delicious)

              • At 2010.04.14 20:36, Natalie said:

                lol…it’s even worse to listen to it. i am forced to absorb every word of the book. i actually had to turn it off yesterday–pollan was taking part in the slaughter and processing of chickens at the farm. my constitution isn’t quite that strong.

              • At 2010.04.14 19:37, pannonic said:

                Audiovisual supplements*: see also the 2007 documentary King Corn for the pervasive perniciousness of maize. And if you want to get a little more existential, check out Our Daily Bread (2005).

                (*supplements not organic)
                .-= pannonic´s last blog ..Watch this space. =-.

                • At 2010.04.14 19:39, pannonica said:

                  Audiovisual supplements*: see also the 2007 documentary King Corn for the pervasive perniciousness of maize. And if you want to get a little more existential, check out Our Daily Bread (2005).

                  (*supplements not organic)
                  .-= pannonica´s last blog ..Watch this space. =-.

                  • At 2010.04.14 20:36, Natalie said:

                    did i actually bring you out of (comment) retirement with this post?!?! be still my beating heart.

                • At 2010.04.14 20:55, Jenners said:

                  Sometimes I think that I don’t want to know that much about this kind of stuff.
                  .-= Jenners´s last blog ..Show Me 5 Saturday: "Whacked" by Jules Asner =-.

                  • At 2010.04.15 20:51, Lisa said:

                    That is scary! I think I’ll stick with the top book!
                    .-= Lisa´s last blog ..And The Winner of "South of Broad" Is… =-.

                    • At 2010.04.16 12:43, Ti said:

                      I am sorta forced into becoming vegan since I am allergic to many of the animal protein sources. I like to think that vegan is healthier but there are a lot of vegan foods that are highly processed to make up for the lack of other things. If you want nachos, you have to manufacture the “cheese” sauce out of soy and other stuff which may end up looking like the real thing but tastes far from it and still ends up being a processed nightmare.

                      I want to read this book and also a few others… I am still waiting to read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.
                      .-= Ti´s last blog ..Wuthering Heights Wednesday: April 14, 2010 – Week 2 =-.

                      • At 2010.04.18 23:24, nat @book, line, and sinker said:

                        oh, ti…there’s a whole fun-filled chapter on vegans. for those who opt for veganism to save animals, it’s a moot point. thousands of mice, voles, and other small animals are killed by the combines and farm equipment that harvest the grains that vegans eat. i’m telling you, this book has made a hunger strike look appetizing…

                      • At 2010.04.20 13:31, Kerry said:

                        I’ve been wanting to read this for some time – you’ve convinced me!

                        • At 2010.04.27 12:52, Kari said:

                          I was really hoping you actually reviewed Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Do you remember the one about the girl and the yellow ribbon???

                          I had to read excerpts from Omnivore in a media class once. I don’t think I actually read it, because it bored me to death. I know food production is a huge issue which I do care a little bit about, but to be honest, I’m probably not going to do anything about it. To me, food is food. I eat it. I don’t excessively eat fast food, but I’m not going to pay for “organic” on the label, either. I think it’s great that people are looking at the big-picture problems, but forcing the issue out as a (often) pretentious sounding rant against processed foods turns a lot of people off. Start with getting people to WANT to eat healthier foods in general, and then maybe they’ll start to pay attention to WHERE the food actually comes from.
                          .-= Kari´s last blog ..It’s a Party, I’ll read about the world if I want to! =-.