To be fair, I actually didn't read The Omnivore's Dilemma, but have been listening to the audiobook. (Hey, I've got to pass time in the studio some how.)
Its actually surprising that its taken me this long to tackle this book, given that I loved Michael Pollan's earlier book, The Botany of Desire, and that I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (a book with similar themes to TOD) not long after if came out.
Just like AVM, The Omnivore's Dilemma makes you serious question what you're eating and why you're eating it. My question is, why hasn't it led more of America to question and condemn the practices in most animal feeding and slaughter houses. Didn't we learn in American history that Upton Sinclair's The Jungle brought about major reforms in the Chicago meatpacking industry after it was published? Why didn't the same thing happen with TOD? Some of the stories Pollan tells are down right horrifying.
To be honest, I do eat meat, and will continue to do so after reading this book. Growing up, and currently living in, an agricultural area, I actually have no problems with eating animals raised at a place like Polyface Farms. In fact, one of the reasons I'll be able to continue eating meat is that Joe's family butchers their own beef and pork every year, and that is where the majority of meat that Joe and I eat comes from. Its reassuring to me to think that right now, this year's cow is out in a pasture a few miles from my house eating grass.
What I really like most about TOD is how its so applicable to other things in life that have nothing to do with food. There were two quotes in particular that struck me. Pollan is talking about hunting, gardening, and other activities and says, "An economy organized around a complex division of labor can usually get these jobs done for a fraction of the cost, in time or money, that it takes us to do them ourselves, yet something in us apparently seeks confirmation that we still have the skills needed to provide for ourselves." Isn't this why we craft artists make things ourselves? Isn't this a sufficient argument for why we should still teach people to make things by hand? In fact, I think its telling that the rise of the DIY craft movement coincides with the publication and interest in books like TOD and AVM. That same impulse, of wanting to know where your food comes from, seems to apply. People in a very disconnected world want to feel connected to where (and who) their stuff comes from as well.
The other quote that struck me, because it could be applied to something totally unrelated was, "Eating's not a bad way to get to know a place." Except when I heard it, I substituted running for eating. The more I run around my town, the more I think that I must know it better than many of the people who live there. I know the alleys, the back roads, what goes on at different times of day. I feel more connected to my town because I cover its streets more carefully. How else could I tell engineers at a county planning meeting with complete confidence that, "no the Market Street bridge only has a sidewalk on one side, not both, and its on the north side, not the south." I run it almost every day. That's my bridge.
Verdict: If you haven't yet read The Omnivore's Dilemma, its definitely worth it. (Unless you want to continue mindlessly eating, then you probably shouldn't read it.) I'd also recommend the audio book, which I downloaded from iTunes. Its great to listen to during repetitive production work.