Examining our food through an ethical lens
There are plenty of wellness influencers, authors, and activists with strong opinions about the ethics behind what’s on our plate. However few possess the level of humility and storytelling ability that Michael Pollan reaches in his writing. He achieves the goal of educating his readers through a very personal and introspective approach that is entertaining and even funny at times. And the ‘nugget’ of truth that he uncovers (no pun intended – you’ll have to read the book to get the joke) is that the healthiest food systems includes a wide variety of plants and animals.
With that, welcome to the fourth edition of The Brodo Book Club. This is a content series that will uncover our favorite books that share our values and back them up. You already know that we’re firm believers in real, whole, delicious foods. But we’re not just making this up – we have a collection of books to back our beliefs! We hope you learn as much as we did from our latest selection.
Here are our takes:
READ THE LABELS, AND TAKE IT A STEP FURTHER
At least 75% of the time, you’ll see corn or corned-based ingredients on food labels. While corn isn’t an unhealthy food per se (it sustained many of the indigenous American culture for thousands of years, to its credit), the conventional version has been genetically altered, processed, sprayed with chemicals, and commodified beyond recognition. But even if you learn how to read all those unpronounceable words on your food labels, you may still be consuming a lot of corn in the form of the animals that were raised in feed lots. This is why “grass-fed” is actually even more important than “organic” when it comes to beef and dairy products.
To that point, one of the farms Pollan visits in the book is a “Big Organic” farm. Sure, the fertilizers and pesticides used aren’t petroleum-based, but is a giant organic monocrop the way to save the environment? It may be one step above conventional farming, but still mostly conventional at its core.
Eating a delicious taco wrapped in an heirloom corn tortilla or enjoying a summer’s night ear of sweetcorn is part of a healthy diet, but the point is to choose a wide variety of foods!
EATING MEAT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE AT THE EXPENSE OF THE ENVIRONMENT
This statement may be controversial in this day and age, but eating meat doesn’t have to be detrimental to the Earth! In fact, when done properly, it can be healthy and regenerative for our exhausted soil. If agricultural animals didn’t exist, we would have to rely on mostly petroleum-based fertilizers for our farms. Conventional large-scale agriculture already depend on petroleum fertilizers and pesticides. That’s why we’re in dire need of small-scale, self-sustaining farms as well as food systems that are dedicated to land stewardship and the health of the community that consumes their food. To take it a step further, it’s essential that we utilize every part of the animal that we harvest in order to make meat sustainable. At Brodo, we do our part by making use of bones which would normally be discarded. By the way, is it a coincidence that there’s a bone right on the front cover of the book?
The takeaway is to eat a balanced diet of plants and animals raised on sustainable farms (this book was written before the mushroom boom, but in Pollan’s latest book, How to Change Your Mind, you’ll find out that he’s a fan of fungi as well). It seems like the biggest fad diets of today try to make you deny yourself of a large portion of the spectrum of food – whether it be plants or animals. However Pollan’s refreshing take is to expand what you eat rather than restrict. As a chef-founded business, this is great news for us because we love food especially when it’s local!
You can find The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals on Bookshop.org. You can also find our very own Brodo cookbook here, with bone broth musings and recipes from our head chef and founder Marco Canora.