When anyone mentions Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma, my response is usually: "Don't get me started!" There are many arguments to be made for why he shouldn't be allowed the last word on sustainable eating, but it's pretty much a fool's game to argue with a professor of journalism at Berkeley. After all, who better to understand how the media works, even if he doesn't exactly understand the efficiencies involved in a plant-based diet. (I think the word "vegan" pretty much terrifies people like Pollan, who can't conceive of never again eating butter-slathered toast and runny eggs.)
Fortunately, someone much smarter and persistent than me has tackled the project, with a wonderful blog called Say What, Michael Pollan?
On it, Adam Merberg has addressed a letter to Pollan, which raises some very credible arguments pertaining to Pollan's recent New York Review of Books article, "The Food Movement, Rising".
And what was Pollan's response? Sixty-six words from his assistant, thanking Merberg for the letter.
That's too bad, because I'd really like to know how a farm can be completely self-sufficient—in other words, producing "a free lunch"—when the chickens who fertilize its crops are fed grain from off the farm. Maybe it's because the phrase "chicken feed" has come to mean negligible, or insubstantial, that Pollan dismisses the sustainability issues of feeding livestock, including the lowly chicken, with grain that contains "forty percent more calories than the farm's output".
You can read Merberg's review of The Omnivore's Dilemma here. It really kills, something a vegan is loathe to do. But contrary to Pollan's assertion, we vegans aren't actually all that naive and unrealistic. Arguments like Pollan's deserve what they get: a few good twists with a sharp-edged knife. Right through the jugular.
Sort of like how Merberg expertly skewers Pollan's "transaction" between himself and a pig:
In Pollan’s case, though, any arguments about good intentions ring hollow in light of the obvious fact that the pig’s interests were extinguished two weeks ago.
From now on, if anyone mentions Michael Pollan, I'll just point to Say What, Michael Pollan? Because you really don't want to get me started.