The Omnivore’s Dilemma


Michael Pollan

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Steer number 534 Character Analysis

Michael Pollan purchases this steer (a neutered male cow) to track through his life cycle in the industrial agricultural system, from South Dakota to Kansas. Pollan chooses him for his distinctive markings, and follows him from his birth on a ranch to the feedlot where he is fattened for slaughter. Pollan is not permitted to follow steer number 534 to his death in the slaughterhouse.

Steer number 534 Quotes in The Omnivore’s Dilemma

The The Omnivore’s Dilemma quotes below are all either spoken by Steer number 534 or refer to Steer number 534 . 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 4 Quotes

Through natural selection animals have developed a set of hygiene rules, functioning much like taboos. One of the most troubling things about factory farms is how cavalierly they flout these evolutionary rules, forcing animals to overcome deeply ingrained aversions. We make them trade their instincts for antibiotics.

Related Characters: Michael Pollan (speaker), Steer number 534
Page Number: 76
Explanation and Analysis:

For one thing, the health of these animals is inextricably linked to our own by that web of relationships. The unnaturally rich diet of corn that undermines a steer’s health fattens his flesh in a way that undermines the health of the humans who will eat it. The antibiotics these animals consume with their corn at this very moment are selecting…for new strains of resistant bacteria that will someday infect us.

Related Characters: Michael Pollan (speaker), Steer number 534
Page Number: 81
Explanation and Analysis:
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Steer number 534 Character Timeline in The Omnivore’s Dilemma

The timeline below shows where the character Steer number 534 appears in The Omnivore’s Dilemma. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 4: The Feedlot: Making Meat
Nature vs. Human Intervention Theme Icon
...Blair Ranch, which is owned by Ed and Rich Blair. At Blair Ranch in 2001, steer number 534 was born. This calf spent the first six months of his life with his mother,... (full context)
Nature vs. Human Intervention Theme Icon
When Pollan made the acquaintance of steer number 534 , the calf had just recently been weaned from his mother. At this point in... (full context)
Nature vs. Human Intervention Theme Icon
Compromise Theme Icon
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Pollan visits pen 63, the new home of steer number 534. The pen overlooks a “manure lagoon” of animal waste; local famers won’t use the manure... (full context)
Compromise Theme Icon
Pollan reflects that steer number 534 is not just connected to the production of cheap corn—he’s also the result of a... (full context)
Chapter 10: Grass: Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Pasture
Compromise Theme Icon
...the grass, which has photosynthesized energy from the sun. It couldn’t seem more different from steer number 534 ’s dinner at Poky Feeders, with its impossibly complex industrial food chain. (full context)
Chapter 17: The Ethics of Eating Animals
Compromise Theme Icon
6. A Clean Kill. As Pollan flies over Kansas, where steer number 534 is being slaughtered, he wonders what sort of death this steer will experience. He relies... (full context)