The Omnivore’s Dilemma

by

Michael Pollan

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Joel Salatin Character Analysis

The spunky, libertarian farmer who runs Polyface Farms in Virginia, Salatin hosts Michael Pollan on his farm and expounds an almost spiritual belief in the purity and righteousness of his methods. Calling his farm “beyond organic,” he has created a self-sustaining system with practically zero negative ecological consequences. Preaching a fiery anti-government stance and a strong skepticism of all industrial, large-scale farms—even organic ones—Salatin is dedicated to his animals, his farm, his methods, and his community, refusing to compromise on his principles. He helps Pollan see the hypocrisy of modern organic standards and regulations, and he urges Pollan to notice the value of working with the natural world instead of against it.

Joel Salatin Quotes in The Omnivore’s Dilemma

The The Omnivore’s Dilemma quotes below are all either spoken by Joel Salatin or refer to Joel Salatin. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Nature vs. Human Intervention Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Bloomsbury edition of The Omnivore’s Dilemma published in 2006.
Chapter 8 Quotes

This is an astounding cornucopia of food to draw from a hundred acres of pasture, yet what is perhaps still more astonishing is the fact that this pasture will be in no way diminished by the process…Salatin’s audacious bet is that feeding ourselves from nature need not be a zero-sum proposition, one in which if there is more for us at the end of the season then there must be less for nature—less topsoil, less fertility, less life.

Related Characters: Michael Pollan (speaker), Joel Salatin
Related Symbols: Grass
Page Number: 126-127
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11 Quotes

“Efficiency” is the term usually invoked to defend large-scale industrial farms, and it usually refers to the economies of scale that can be achieved by the application of technology and standardization. Yet Joel Salatin’s farm makes the case for a very different sort of efficiency—the one found in natural systems, with their coevolutionary relationships and reciprocal loops. For example, in nature there is no such thing as a waste problem, since one creature’s waste becomes another creature’s lunch.

Related Characters: Michael Pollan (speaker), Joel Salatin
Page Number: 214
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 12 Quotes

Polyface’s customers know to come after noon on a chicken day, but there’s nothing to prevent them from showing up earlier and watching their dinner being killed—indeed, customers are welcome to watch, and occasionally one does. More than any USDA rule or regulation, this transparency is their best assurance that the meat they’re buying has been humanely and cleanly processed.

Related Characters: Michael Pollan (speaker), Joel Salatin
Page Number: 235
Explanation and Analysis:
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Joel Salatin Character Timeline in The Omnivore’s Dilemma

The timeline below shows where the character Joel Salatin appears in The Omnivore’s Dilemma. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 8: All Flesh is Grass
Compromise Theme Icon
...He’s begun working on an organic farm in Virginia, Polyface Farm, which is owned by Joel Salatin. Joel is a self-described “Christian-conservative-libertarian-environmentalist-lunatic-farmer,” an independent businessman who grows his own food and... (full context)
Nature vs. Human Intervention Theme Icon
...of a nation of small, self-sufficient farms like this. Pollan’s time with the independent-minded farmer Salatin shows him that the pastoral ideal is alive and, “if not well exactly, still useful,... (full context)
Nature vs. Human Intervention Theme Icon
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Efficiency and Utility Theme Icon
2. The Genius of the Place. Salatin describes himself as a “grass farmer,” because grass is the foundation the complex ecosystem at... (full context)
Nature vs. Human Intervention Theme Icon
3. Industrial Organic. Pollan notes that Salatin’s farm is in many ways the opposite of Naylor’s: pastoral rather than industrial, biological rather... (full context)
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Salatin doesn’t label himself an organic farmer, and has no use for the government’s organic food... (full context)
Chapter 10: Grass: Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Pasture
Compromise Theme Icon
...thing, just a sea of green). But to a cow or a grass farmer like Joel Salatin, a pasture of grass is a “salad bar” filled with different varieties of grasses.... (full context)
Nature vs. Human Intervention Theme Icon
Efficiency and Utility Theme Icon
Joel raises his grass by “management-intensive grazing,” a technique that relies on the farmer’s strategic abilities.... (full context)
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2. Monday Evening. Joel uses a “mob and move” technique in which he moves groups of cattle to a... (full context)
Nature vs. Human Intervention Theme Icon
...grass. This is the “critical moment” when over-grazing would destroy the grass’s growth. But because Joel Salatin rotates his cattle, the pasture maintains biodiversity: favored grasses aren’t eliminated by overgrazing. (full context)
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...of carbon from the atmosphere each year. In fact, if more pastures were grazed like Joel Salatin’s instead of being used to grow animal grains, farmers could grow enough grass to... (full context)
Pleasure and Happiness Theme Icon
3. Monday Supper. Pollan sits down to supper with Joel Salatin, Joel’s wife Teresa, Joel’s daughter Rachel, and a few other family members and farmhands.... (full context)
Nature vs. Human Intervention Theme Icon
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Joel tells the story of his family’s history of alternative farming. His grandfather was one of... (full context)
Chapter 11: Animals: Practicing Complexity
Compromise Theme Icon
...chicken farm will become hard and barren, since the chickens over-fertilize the ground. But because Joel moves his chickens every day, they spread their manure evenly, returning fertility to the soil.... (full context)
Nature vs. Human Intervention Theme Icon
Compromise Theme Icon
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Efficiency and Utility Theme Icon
...chain. The relationship between cows and chickens is more of a “loop” than a hierarchy. Joel expresses the view that “everything is connected to everything else.” For example, one creature’s waste... (full context)
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In the Raken House, Joel raises chickens and rabbits together. Under normal circumstances the ammonia fumes in the rabbits’ urine... (full context)
Nature vs. Human Intervention Theme Icon
...the sort of intellectual and physical labor involved in running a farm like Polyface.  But Joel relishes the mental challenges of running a complex farm like this—an attitude that has often... (full context)
Compromise Theme Icon
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
...productivity of Polyface Farm, which produces thousands of pounds of eggs, chicken, and beef. But Joel notes that Pollan’s calculation of the farm’s productivity should also include the forest. These trees... (full context)
Chapter 12: Slaughter: In a Glass Abattoir
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1. Wednesday. Joel insists on slaughtering his chickens on the farm, making their deaths as much a part... (full context)
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...becoming comfortable enough with the technique that it starts to feel routine.  Still, he tells Joel that he wouldn’t want to slaughter a chicken every day, and Joel agrees that routine... (full context)
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...arrive to pick up their chickens. Pollan notes that this is the ethical power of Joel’s method: people are free to come see how their food is made, providing assurance that... (full context)
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...smell of death, since any eating of meat requires killing, bleeding, and evisceration. But for Joel, this pile of compost represents yet another part of the life cycle on his farm.... (full context)
Chapter 13: The Market: "Greetings from the Non-Barcode People"
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...Wednesday Afternoon. Pollan is reminded that he came to Polyface in the first place because Joel refused to FedEx him a steak. This was a matter of principle—Joel doesn’t ship food... (full context)
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Pollan asks Joel how he responds to the charge that artisanal food like his is inherently elitist, because... (full context)
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Efficiency and Utility Theme Icon
...their food. He thinks that the industrial food industry relies on this ignorance, whereas what Joel offers is a direct relationship between consumer, farmer, and product. At the same time, however,... (full context)
Efficiency and Utility Theme Icon
...works as a food seller, driving grass-fed beef and other food products from farmers like Joel all over the region. Bev sells to farmer’s markets and “metropolitan buyer’s clubs,” groups of... (full context)
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...systems are not designed to be efficient; they’re designed to produce a unique, desirable product. Joel and Bev have come to believe that artisanal and industrial can’t be mixed, since their... (full context)
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2. Tuesday Morning. In the morning, Pollan goes on a ride with Art Salatin, Joel’s brother. Art is responsible for managing the sale and delivery of Polyface products to... (full context)
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Pollan asks Joel how he thinks the local food movement can triumph over the industrial forces amassed against... (full context)
Chapter 17: The Ethics of Eating Animals
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...processing company didn’t allow him in the room. This is what is so powerful about Joel Salatin’s open-air processing system, he thinks; anyone is free to watch how their food is... (full context)