The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals Chapter 18 Summary

Michael Pollan

Chapter 18 Summary

In “Hunting: The Meat,” Pollan engages in what might be the most difficult part of his investigation into the American food chains. While working at Polyface Farm, Pollan was reluctant to slaughter a chicken. After a while, Pollan was shocked to find that he became ambivalent to the process because it became routine work. Now Pollan is faced with the fact that he is about to enter the wilderness to shoot a wild animal to feed himself. Although he weighed the ethical considerations of eating meat in the previous chapter, Pollan is surprised by his reaction to hunting.

Pollan employs a great deal of humor at his own expense while recounting his hunting adventure. Perhaps the first example is when he catches himself writing “hunter porn.” Pollan confesses that he has always viewed the works of bearded American hunters like Ernest Hemingway with disdain. However, once he enters the bush to hunt for boars, he is surprised by the effect the process has on him. He finds that his senses are enhanced and he experiences “hunter’s eye,” a condition in which he finds that he can suddenly see much farther than usual.

During his first morning of hunting, Pollan and his guide, Angelo Garro, find nothing. In the afternoon, he and Garro spot a group of boars. Pollan elects not to fire first because his gun is not loaded. Garro shoots a boar, but at the end of the day Pollan has still not shot a boar. He considers ending his project but finds that every time he tells the story of his hunt, his audience is disappointed that he did not actually kill a boar. So he returns to the woods with Garro.

In his second hunt, Pollan successfully kills a boar, and he is amazed by the adrenaline rush he feels. However, as time passes, he comes to feel conflicted. Many hunting stories end with the killing of the animal as climax. Pollan goes on to explain the processes of skinning the boar and removing the organs. It is gruesome, and Pollan finds himself amazed that Garro continues to talk about food while preparing the boar. After he has returned home, Garro sends Pollan a photo of him with the carcass. Pollan looks at himself, the grinning hunter standing over his kill, and is appalled at himself. Over time, though, he comes to view his hunt as one part of a larger ecological cycle that connects humans to the sun.