The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals

by Michael Pollan
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According to chapters 11 and 12 of The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan, what is Pollan's opinion about industrial organic farming?

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In The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, Michael Pollan criticizes industrial organic farming. His opinion of it is very low; he characterizes it as not only deceptive but also harmful: harmful to animals, to the environment, to people who run the farms, and to society.

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In The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, Michael Pollan criticizes industrial organic farming. His opinion of it is very low; he characterizes it as not only deceptive but also harmful: harmful to animals, to the environment, to people who run the farms, and to society.

It’s in chapter 9 that Pollan lays out his opinions of industrial organic farming.

“Organic farming has increasingly come to resemble the industrial system it originally set out to replace,” he says, pointing out the deceptive nature of organic industrial farming itself. That is, we’re supposed to think that organic farms are clean, socially conscious, and environmentally friendly—but they’re not:

When I think about organic farming, I think family farm, I think small scale, I think hedgerows and compost piles and battered pickups—the old agrarian idea. . . . I don't think migrant labor crews, combines the size of houses, mobile lettuce-packing factories marching across fields of romaine, twenty-thousand-broiler-chicken houses, or hundreds of acres of corn or broccoli or lettuce reaching clear to the horizon.

This kind of farming is harmful to society and the economy:

The industrialization of organic comes at a price. The most obvious is consolidation down on the farm: Today two giant growers sell most of the fresh organic produce from California.

In chapter 11, "The Animals: Practicing Complexity," Pollan reiterates how industrial organic farming is very regimented and orderly, following processes in a "clear, linear, hierarchical logic" while failing to follow the kind of natural, ecologically sound systems of efficiency that smaller-scale farms like Joel Salatin's do make use of. "The idea is not to slavishly imitate nature, but to model a natural ecosystem in all its diversity and interdependence," he explains.

Pollan notes in chapter 11 that organic industrialized farming is "inherently precarious," requiring an array of chemicals and pharmaceuticals, even demanding that visitors wear biohazard suits and avoid touching the animals. He explains:

The organic rules' prohibition on antibiotics puts it at a serious disadvantage. Maintaining a single-species animal farm on an industrial scale isn't easy without pharmaceuticals and pesticides. . . . Sometimes the large-scale organic farmer looks like someone trying to practice industrial agriculture with one hand tied behind his back.

In chapter 12, "Slaughter: In a Glass Abattoir," Pollan repeats that large-scale organic farmers rely on migrant workers to perform the difficult, even dehumanizing, slaughtering that others hesitate to do.

He quotes Joel, the small-scale farmer: "We'd have to do what the industrial folks do: bring in a bunch of migrant workers because no one around here would want to gut chickens every day. Scale makes all the difference."

By exploring the benefits of open-air farms full of "fresh air and sunshine" like Joel's, the kind that are run with integrity, in chapter 12 Pollan subtly reminds readers that even organic industrial farms tend to be dirty, cramped, and harmful to the well-being of the animals and the people who work there.

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