It All Starts With Some Grass

Pollan, M. (2006). The omnivore’s dilemma : a natural history of four meals. New York : Penguin Press, 2006. 186-273

Grass gets a bad wrap, we step on it, ignore it and under appreciate it; but what better than the grounding feeling of walking barefoot through the grass in the summer. This wasn’t my favorite passage we have read this semester, but I still learned a lot and enjoyed reading some parts. Pollan is great at doing hands on research, as we learn about all aspects of a diversified farm from ‘grass farmer’ Joel Salatin. Pollan takes on a position as a worker on Salatin’s farm, each chapter corresponds to a different day and different tasks in his week at the farm.

I never realized how important grass is to the function of an entire farm, “But getting it just right-grazing the optimal number of cattle at the optimal moment to exploit the blaze of growth- yields tremendous amounts of grass, all the while improving the quality of the land.” (Pg 191) This way of looking at animal farming is so much more sustainable and humane than over grazing land and leaving it barren, or as Pollan compares it to the factory farm he visited in Iowa. To be honest, I skimmed through the pages when he talks about factory farms and the slaughtering, my spirit couldn’t handle the despair. But as hard as it is to learn about this treatment of animals, it is important to not be ignorant about the facts.

Pollan explores the inter-relatedness of all the components of Salatin’s farm, like how the chickens eat grubs from the cows manure. Salatin says “I’m just the orchestra conductor, making sure everybody’s in the right place at the right time.” (Pg 212) Everything is perfectly timed to utilize nature in the raising of animals for food. Even the forests surrounding the woods provide for the farm by holding moisture, preventing erosion and cooling the air. “We’re growing carbon in the woods for the rest of the farm- not just the firewood to keep us warm in the winter, but also the wood chips that go into making our compost.” (Pg 224) If only all farm’s were like this one, is sustainability and humane treatment too much to ask?

I agree with Pollan when he says, “It seemed to me not too much o ask of a meat eater, which i was then and still am, that at least once in his life he take some direct responsibility for the killing on which his meat eating depends.”(Pg 231) I think a lot of people who eat meat turn a blind eye to the uglier side of meat production, I don’t think people think about the animal that gave its life to sustain another. Maybe if people were involved in the uglier sides, they would give thought to the animal and hopefully thank it for its sacrifice. Pollan goes into vigorous detail at times that lost me a bit, like when he’s talking about the economics behind meat production. But it made me happy when he talks about how Salatin’s meat and eggs only make it to local consumers, this is the way things should be in my opinion, and in this case people were willing to come from all over for better quality food.

Something Pollan writes that really stuck to me, “But for local food chains to succeed, people will have to relearn what it means to eat according to the seasons.” (Pg 253) I’m guilty of buying off season or exotic produce, that is definitely not local. But if I am going to support local food chains, I have to practice what I preach. This summer I plan on trying my hand at drying fruit, making preserves and pickling as many local fruits and veggies that I can. Pollan ends this section with another meal almost from all locally sourced food, chicken, corn and a souffle. Overall this section was difficult for me to read at times although I am glad I learned more on these subjects.



One thought on “It All Starts With Some Grass

  1. DeAndre, I thought your blog post about Pollan’s experience with grass farming was really thoughtful. I agree with you in that the chapters were hard to read through at times where Pollan got really technical, but I also did not know that farming could as sustainable as it is at Joel Salatin’s farm. It was kind of reassuring to me that there are actually other ways to farm that take a whole ecosystem-wide perspective and that really consider the effect on the future environment. Hopefully in the future there will be more farms like the Salatin farm!

    I wholeheartedly agree with you about some meat-eaters turning a blind eye on the meat coming from an actual animal. I work at Costco, and I regularly scan people’s meat which sometimes ends up being hundreds of dollars for only a week or two. My family eats a meat dish about once or twice a month, with the exception of eggs. Its really hard for me to see people eating so much meat all the time, and not considering how much effort went into obtaining that meat, and I really don’t understand the need for so much meat (you can be healthier eating lentils and save way more money). I think its also partially due to more people living in urbanized areas where we are not in contact with these animals very often (just like plant crops). This past summer I was in Bali, and I stayed at a local man’s house/hostel where there were chickens casually roaming around in the house all the time. It really made me think twice about meat, and how we take another animal’s life for granted so often.

    Good luck with exploring new foods this summer and learning to preserve food!


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