"The Omnivore's Dilemma," Vocabulary from the Introduction-Part 1

April 2, 2014
"The Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan has quickly become a classic in food-obsessed circles for its emphasis on knowing where your good comes from, eating well, and eating locally.

Learn these word lists for this work of nonfiction: Introduction-Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4-Afterword
That sweeping second hand was the irrigation machine, a pipe more than a thousand feet long that delivered a steady rain of water, fertilizer, and pesticide to the potato plants.
The chemical is so toxic to the nervous system that no one is allowed in the field for five days after it is sprayed.
And then, very suddenly, the golden hills turned jet-black on both sides of the highway: black with tens of thousands of cattle crowded onto a carpet of manure that stretched as far as the eye could see.
But because we are omnivores we have very little built-in instinct that tells us which foods are good for us and which aren’t.
We’re so confused about food that we’ve forgotten what food really is—the bounty of the earth and the power of the sun captured by plants and animals.
The result is a hybrid—a disease- resistant plant that produces a lot of corn. Sounds good, right?
But with GMOs, a company can own a patent on a living organism.
This diversity, with many different types of crops, allowed the farmer to get by if prices fell for any one crop.
A new business emerged—cattle, pigs, and chickens started being stuffed full of corn in large factory-type operations called feedlots.
When George Naylor’s father spread his first load of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, the ecology of his farm underwent a quiet revolution.
The family only gets by because of the paycheck George’s wife, Peggy, brings home from her job—and because of a subsidy check from the U.S. government.
Some might be kernels grown with atrazine, a herbicide (weed killer) now banned in Europe but widely used in the U.S.
In October, two weeks before I made his acquaintance, steer number 534 was weaned from his mother.
The calves are prone to getting sick.
Compared to all the other things we feed cattle these days, corn seems positively wholesome.
Corn-fed beef contains more saturated fat than the meat of grass-fed animals. Too much saturated fat has been linked to heart disease and other health problems.
Every day until his slaughter 534 will convert thirty-two pounds of feed into four pounds of new weight—new muscle, fat, and bone, that's seven pounds of grain for one pound of cow.
So food companies have been very successful at getting us to pay more for the same food. What about their other moneymaking scheme, to get us to buy (and eat) more food than we need?
Three of every five Americans are overweight; one of every five is obese.
The disease formerly known as adult-onset diabetes has had to be renamed Type II diabetes since it now occurs so frequently in children, and the Centers for Disease Control estimates that one in three American children born in 2000 will develop it.
Behind our epidemic of obesity lies this simple fact: When food is abundant and cheap, people will eat more of it.
Rats presented with solutions of pure sugar or tubs of pure lard will gorge themselves sick.
Our digestive tract is also good at digesting different types of foods.
To help it make food decisions, our brain developed taste preferences.
If the rat doesn’t get sick, then it knows it can eat the whole thing—a knowledge it retains for the rest of its life.

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