Pollan Makes Some Pertinent Points

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey


I recorded the Oprah show, Go Vegan For A Week,  that aired last week with Michael Pollan as a guest and the topic being veganism. I finally had a bit of time to watch and digest what had been said. Because society is no longer connected to the food that they eat, shows such as this tend to make me a bit nervous. Call me paranoid, but when a major celebrity, a popular documentarian and an author are giving advice to a million plus people on “healthy” eating, I get skeptical. On issues pertaining to health and diet, consult a doctor and for information on agriculture, talk to a farmer or rancher. There were three primary “nuggets” that I thought were of significant importance, one of which I found myself in partial agreement with Michael Pollan and another with Oprah Winfrey.

First, I was impressed by the inclusion of the video from Lisa Ling’s visit to Cargill. While it may have been “shocking” to those not familiar with the beef industry, it represented how agriculture has changed by blending efficiency, quality and animal welfare. Cargill, as shown in the video, has implemented modern technology, handling methodology and designs by Temple Grandin that reduce stress on animals. What I really appreciated about this video was the fact that a major company was willing to allow cameras to enter one of their facilities to share their part of the agricultural story.

Temple Grandin

Temple Grandin

Second, Michael Pollan stated a couple times “You shouldn’t eat [it] if you are not willing to see where it came from.” While the reference was to meat, this concept has merit, especially if applied to all consumables, including production processes involved with imports. Let’s expand this awareness all the way back to the farm and ranch. Due to multi-generational removal from the farm, society does not have the direct knowledge of what is involved to get the food to their table, the fiber on their body and the shelter above their head.  I am excited with the number of farmers and ranchers actively participating in re-connecting with the consumers through social media and other platforms. I think it would also be wonderful for the American consumer to have access to how imports are grown and processed in comparison to products grown in the United States. Consumers need to be able to see how much more heavily regulated and restrictive it is to grow American products.

Third, during an early segment, Oprah stated, “It’s because of modern practices that we have these choices.” Yes! While I do not think she realized the point that she made, it was spot on! The modern farmer is not only able to feed more people, but technology has made it possible to grow a greater variety of commodities. Just think about your local supermarket and what you can find on the isles today, compared to 40 years ago; you can’t help but be impressed.

Michael Pollan

Michale Pollan

Finally, Oprah, this show was on vegetarian diets, not living vegan. There is a big difference. Perhaps another show, explaining how much we rely on the byproducts of livestock for our everyday living, would be appropriate to distinguish the difference between being vegetarian and vegan. As my friend Mike Haley described last week, on his Haley-Farms blog,  let’s start on the farm and ranch; there are plenty with open invitations.

In conclusion, I agree that society has become disconnected with their food and where it comes from. However, let’s expand the reconnection all the way to the farm and ranch and include those from abroad who do not have the same limitations and regulations that American farmers and ranchers have. Society needs to be more aware of what they are eating and gain an appreciation for where it came from and what was involved to produce it. Michael Pollan was correct, we need to know where our food comes from and make a conscious effort to eat fresher and less processed food, and it’s a matter of personal priority; make the time. Meat is an important part of a balanced diet. If you have questions about your diet, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian. If you have questions about where your food, fiber or shelter comes from, ask a farmer, forester or rancher.

Mike Haley

Mike Haley

Ask questions on Farm2U or Truth About Agriculture on Facebook.

Check out the Agchat Foundation website and meet some farmers and ranchers.

Visit the Know A California Farmer website and discover California agriculture.

At a NASCAR track near you, look for the Farm American Project.

  1. Melissa
    February 7, 2011 at 10:52 AM

    Actually Doctors receive only 6 months of nutritional training, they will refer you to a nutritionist. Other than that, very well written and said.

    • commonsenseagriculture
      February 7, 2011 at 10:56 AM

      Thank you Melisa for mentioning that. That is the reason I also listed registered dietitian. People need to get best available information, from the best sources. 🙂

  2. February 7, 2011 at 11:48 AM

    Wonderful article and you are on the right track Consumers need to get back in touch with the farmers and ranchers that raise their food.I to extend an open invitation to Oprah or any other media source that would like to see things from the farmer/ranchers side of the fence. I have Haven Seed and Ranch records at my finger tips that date back to 1853 for their perusal. These records show that there are many points to be considered when looking at they way so many have come to believe food has to be raised. As for food on the shelves 40 plus years back, there may not have been as many choices for the consumer but what was there was far healthier then what is there today. Working together to bring awareness is what all farmers and ranchers must do and Social Media now gives us a real time voice to do just that.

    Thank you,

    Annie Haven

    • commonsenseagriculture
      February 7, 2011 at 11:51 AM

      Thank you very much Annie for sharing 🙂

  3. Sheryl Valentiner
    February 7, 2011 at 7:00 PM

    Great post as usual.

  4. February 8, 2011 at 6:50 AM

    I too was concerned about the tone of this broadcast but had more or less the same reactions you did, as did many of my friends. One of the important points always glossed over (and you mentioned) is that fewer farmers are producing more food than 40 years ago. Technology has driven this possibility, and without these advances much of the world would be suffering from staple food shortages. Farmers need to be given credit for feeding the world and allowing more choices for those who work in the cities. Great article, thanks!

    • commonsenseagriculture
      February 8, 2011 at 10:48 AM

      Always appreciate your input Norm. Thank you.

  5. February 8, 2011 at 6:54 AM

    Great blog. The key to remember is that Michael Pollan isn’t an enemy of good food well produced, he’s an enemy of processed food and the import food issue. I realize he says some startling things; and he needs to be corrected when wrong. But we have to listen to these voices to better frame ag’s response; and ag’s focus on the issues. Thanks for the info.

    • commonsenseagriculture
      February 8, 2011 at 10:52 AM

      We are in agreement with Michael Pollan being pro fresh food, anti processed. To that end I think we find much to agree on. I also agree with you that he has some information that he shares that is not accurate and needs to be called on. The more I think about his effort, I find myself appreciating his bringing many of these issues to light. Wrong or right, it has started discussions and dialogue that needs to occur.

      Thank you for your comments.

  6. patricia
    February 22, 2011 at 7:57 AM

    Thank You for your blog. Very needed in the constant stream of today’s info. Many great points in this post by you and the commentators. Side comment from the patricia peanut gallery – Industry and technology are both wonderful, though I feel we all need to ground in and recconnect to ourselves, each other and this earth. We live on the most amazing planet and I feel when we live in reciprocity life flows with health and abundance. That being said, how do we all wade through and discern through all the information and misinformation? It is a constant challenge. So thanks for a dose of common sense. It would be great if you could be a guest on Oprah as she has a far reaching audience. Thanks again for being a voice of sense and reason – a breath of fresh.

  1. April 29, 2011 at 3:57 PM

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