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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The omnivore's dilemma is the problem of having access to wide varieties of food accompanied by the lack of guidance on how to make wise consumption choices.

In the chapter "The Omnivore's Dilemma," Pollan contends that eating is made more difficult by our tendency to rely on "expert opinion, advertising, government food pyramids, and diet books." Instead of relying on our senses to guide our consumption choices, we resort to fashionable theories and ideologies. These in turn lead to what Pollan calls "the anxiety of eating." Omnivores are, on the whole, natural food enthusiasts; they let neophilia (the pleasure of variety) and neophobia (the comfort of the familiar) guide their gastronomic choices. 

However, in the presence of unmitigated variety, problems may arise. If humans can eat anything, what is to prevent them from becoming cannibals? Experts contend that there must be rules that govern appetite (in order to keep human nature in check, of course). However, these rules often contribute to the "anxiety of eating." Suddenly, omnivores find that they must count calories and try out the latest food fads (from the Atkins diet to the Paleo diet). 

Taste and culinary traditions take a back seat to debates about the pros and cons of carbohydrates, the vegetarian diet, or organic food. Such a scenario contributes to deep anxieties about our diets and bodies. Today, eating disorders afflict vast swaths of American society, and consumers find themselves inundated by marketing campaigns that further exacerbate the omnivore's dilemma.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Basically, the omnivore's dilemma is "what should we have for dinner."  Since human beings are omnivores, they can eat whatever they want.  However, all the things that people might eat have implications both for the human beings themselves and for the planet on which we live.  Having to take into account all these implications of what we eat creates the omnivore's dilemma.

The point of this book is to explore some of the implications of our food choices.  Pollan uses the book to look at what we eat (for example, the fact that we eat so many things that are dependent on corn) and to discuss the ramifications of those choices.  He looks at ways in which these choices affect our own health and he looks at the way they affect global trends such dependence on oil.

In short, then, the omnivore's dilemma is that omnivores must face that their food choices have major consequences.

hjacob | Student

The omnivore's dilemma is the conundrum of being able to eat anything from a multitude of choices yet recognizing the implications of those choices. Ethical questions abound regarding the treatment of livestock and plant foods, yet it all comes down to the priorities and knowledge of the eater. 

Wiggin42 | Student

The omnivore's dilemma is choosing what to eat since an omnivore can eat anything. This dilemma involves knowing what is safe to eat and what is safe to think. Omnivores need a variety of nutrients from a variety of sources. Therefore, humans don't have an innate ability to determine what is safe to eat. For instance, a koala eats only eucalyptus leaves so it has no dilemma; no doubt in what is safe to eat. Humans are born with tools, instead, to determine what is safe and what isn't. 

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