In The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, what is the thesis of chapter 12?

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durbanville | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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A thesis, whether it be in respect of an essay or a chapter of a book, always indicates the writer's intention and his main argument. In chapter 12 of The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, Michael Pollan returns to Polyface Farm, where Joel Salatin uses a "natural model" when it comes to slaughtering the chickens on his farm. Industrialized methods and "impermeable white walls" make it very difficult for small farmers to compete with the large slaughterhouses as the small farms are subject to the same regulations as the huge processing slaughterhouses and cannot therefore retain a process which remains unmistakably transparent.

Throughout the book, Pollan warns readers of contradictory practices and suggests that the public is not aware of the extent of "corporate attention" in the "industrial food chain" where quantity has trumped quality and where corn has "conquered the American body." In considering the thesis of chapter 12, the reader is forced to reflect on the comparison between large and small scale production, the centralization process, apparently in the interests of cost-saving but which is mainly putting money into the corporate coffers and how small-time farmers and traditional methods, not being efficient enough, are finding it increasingly difficult to retain their place in the supply chain. Pollan wants the reader to appreciate that this is in fact counter-productive:

"They aim to close down all but the biggest meat processors, and to do it in the name of bio-security. Every government study to date has shown that the reasons we’re having an epidemic of food-borne illness in this country is centralized production, centralized processing, and long-distance transportation of food. You would think therefore that they’d want to decentralize the food system..."

Pollan brings a personal element to his descriptions of the process as he gets involved in the actual slaughter, which he finds difficult to stomach. The fact that Salatin's farm has lower levels of bacteria and that the government "system" is flawed, only highlights the problem of over-commercializing everything. Salatin's methods also bring the process full-circle when he composts the remains after the slaughter. 

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