Michael Pollan, Omega-3s, and Fishy Hot Dogs

As I've mentioned previously, Michael Pollan will release this month another book on "the tangible material formerly known as food." In Defense of Food grew out of his brilliant essay on nutritionism. Read an excerpt from the first chapter, a review of the book, and check out his book tour. And here are some of his thoughts on omega-3s:

In the years since then, egg producers figured out a clever way to redeem even the disreputable egg: By feeding flaxseed to hens, they could elevate levels of omega- 3 fatty acids in the yolks. Aiming to do the same thing for pork and beef fat, the animal scientists are now at work genetically engineering omega-3 fatty acids into pigs and persuading cattle to lunch on flaxseed in the hope of introducing the blessed fish fat where it had never gone before: into hot dogs and hamburgers.

p.s. Kate is right! In Defense of Food is out near you (though I do not believe it's quite yet near me, here in Vancouver). Also, you might enjoy this list in today's New York Times (print version), Pollan's Omnivore's Solution, on a new way to eat in the New Year:

1) Don't eat anything your granmother wouldn't recognize as food.
2) Avoid foods containing ingredients you can't pronounce.
3) Dont eat anything that won't eventually rot. [Tootsie rolls! The shame...]
4) Avoid food products that carry health claims.
5) Shop the peripheries of the supermarket; stay out of the middle.
6) Better yet, buy food somewhere else: the farmer's market or CSA.
7) Pay more, eat less.
8) Eat food a wide diversity of species.
9) Eat food from animals that eat grass.
10) Cook and, if you can, grow some of your own food.
11) Eat meals and eat them only at tables.
12) Eat deliberately, with other people whenever possible, and always with pleasure.


More like this

Over at Retrospectacle, Shelley titled her blog post "Fish Oil Reduces Alzheimers Risk." Who can blame her? ScienceDaily did it, too. I haven't seen the title of the original article in the Journal of Neuroscience, but I suspect the researchers might have even included something about fish oil,…
A slightly different twist on the occasional guess-the-lyrics game. The following list gives pairs of rhyming words from a song that I think can be used to identify a specific song. So, for example, the pair: diplomat/ Siamese cat identifies "Like a Rolling Stone" by Bob Dylan, thanks to the lines…
Ed Brayton fills us in on the ridiculous Ten Commandments legislation in Louisiana, where they are actually editing the Ten Commandments. Whenever I hear about this kind of nuttiness, I always want to ask: which version of the Ten Commandments? In the Hebrew Bible (the 'Old Testament'), there are…
This is a story about making chicken soup completely from scratch, with local, organic ingredients, and starting with the carcass of a roasted chicken. The soup was very, very good, and looked like this: The chicken in question came from Pikeland Pastured Poultry. All the vegetables in the soup…

When it came out last year, the essay in the link ("Unhappy Meals") made a more immediate and longer-lasting impact on my food choices than anything I'd ever read, been told, or believed before. I really do check supermarket labels to find out whether the products inside the packaging are actually food.

Fish oils genetically engineered into beef and pork? Holy Zarquon, what's wrong with eating fish?

By Julie Stahlhut (not verified) on 03 Jan 2008 #permalink

Michael's book is already out and available at stores near you, or on Amazon.

I'm not necessarily opposed to giving cattle flaxseed, since the usual alternative is just corn + god-knows-what. Engineering it into their genes is another thing altogether, but why shouldn't bovines get the benefits of omega-3s too?

I am currently reading the Omnivore's Dilemma and am excited to read another Pollan book. I have become a pest to all of my friends and family as I imposingly read all their food labels to decide if I should stay for dinner or not! I've eliminated many foods with more than 5 or 6 ingredients - who needs crackers made out of 27 different things? Kind of sad to hear about tootsie rolls though...and 2 of my 3 meals are eaten in front of my computer...I guess we all have things to change this New Year!
Oh, and bovines evolved, and did perfectly fine, eating grass... By consuming a variety of grass species, they got all of the nutrients and vitamins they needed ... why do we insist on screwing everything up?

3) Dont eat anything that won't eventually rot. [Tootsie rolls! The shame...]

This one to me should be carved in stone somewhere! When I see pictures of Hostess Twinkees that have been sitting around for decades and the microbes won't even touch them, it makes me afriad, very afraid! LOL!
Dave Briggs :~)

Pollan shortened this into an easy-to-remember, seven words:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Aside from adding that as much of it should be local as possible, it's a good rule of thumb.

Why local? does that really make a difference? Small time organic farmers aren't any better for the environment and certainly don't benefit the economy.

By John Shmitty (not verified) on 03 Jan 2008 #permalink

Shmitty, have you not yet been indoctrinated into the local food, local farms pastoral dream? There are piles of reasons to eat locally (many of which were documented in the book The 100-mile Diet) but here's one based on energy use that doesn't require philosophical waxings (from my former minor advisor, cited by Pollan in The Omnivore's Dilemma):

According to Cornell ecologist David Pimentel, growing, chilling, washing, packaging and transporting that box of organic salad [most of which is grown in California] to a plate on the East Coast takes morethan 4,600 calories of fossil fuel energy, or 57 calories of fossil fuel energy for every calorie of food. (These figures would be about 4 percent higher if the salad were grown conventionally).