The Omnivore’s Dilemma

by

Michael Pollan

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Omnivore’s Dilemma can help.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma Term Analysis

Paul Rozin, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, coined this term in a research paper about the psychology of food choices in humans and animals. In contrast to animals that eat only one kind of food, like koala bears who eat only eucalyptus leaves, humans and rats are able to eat a huge range of foods. Omnivores have therefore developed complex systems for choosing what to eat, from instinctive and biological reactions to social constructs about what is healthy or trendy. Humans also have intellectual frameworks by which we understand what is ethical and proper to eat. Michael Pollan seeks to unpack this dilemma by exploring all of the factors that go into human food choices in the context of the modern American food system.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma Quotes in The Omnivore’s Dilemma

The The Omnivore’s Dilemma quotes below are all either spoken by The Omnivore’s Dilemma or refer to The Omnivore’s Dilemma. For each quote, you can also see the other terms 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.
Introduction Quotes

So violent a change in a culture’s eating habits is surely the sign of a national eating disorder. Certainly it would never have happened in a culture in possession of deeply rooted traditions surrounding food and eating.

Related Characters: Michael Pollan (speaker)
Page Number: 2
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 16 Quotes

And while our senses can help us draw the first rough distinctions between good and bad foods, we humans have to rely on culture to remember and keep it all straight. So we codify the rules of wise eating in an elaborate structure of taboos, rituals, manners, and culinary traditions, covering everything from the proper size of portions to the order in which foods should be consumed to the kinds of animals it is and is not okay to eat.

Related Characters: Michael Pollan (speaker), Paul Rozin (speaker)
Page Number: 295-296
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 17 Quotes

This isn’t to say that we can’t or shouldn’t transcend our inheritance, only that it is our inheritance; whatever else might be gained by giving up meat, this much at least is lost. The notion of granting rights to animals may lift us up from the brutal, amoral world of eater and eaten—of predation—but along the way it will entail the sacrifice, our sublimation, of part of our identity—of our own animality.

Related Characters: Michael Pollan (speaker)
Page Number: 314-315
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Omnivore’s Dilemma LitChart as a printable PDF.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma Term Timeline in The Omnivore’s Dilemma

The timeline below shows where the term The Omnivore’s Dilemma appears in The Omnivore’s Dilemma. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Introduction: Our National Eating Disorder
Nature vs. Human Intervention Theme Icon
...offer are liable to sicken or kill you.” This, he explains, is what’s known as the omnivore’s dilemma , an idea outlined by a psychologist named Paul Rozin. Juxtaposing the koala’s highly specific... (full context)
Nature vs. Human Intervention Theme Icon
Continuing his explanation of the omnivore’s dilemma , Pollan points out that humans have to depend upon their “prodigious powers of recognition... (full context)
Nature vs. Human Intervention Theme Icon
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Thankfully, humans are better equipped to tackle the omnivore’s dilemma than other animals, like rats. Whereas rats are left to their own devices when it... (full context)
Nature vs. Human Intervention Theme Icon
...to as “the cornucopia of the American supermarket” has essentially reintroduced the average consumer to the omnivore’s dilemma. Faced with so many choices, shoppers must suddenly confront “the extraordinary abundance of food in... (full context)
Nature vs. Human Intervention Theme Icon
Compromise Theme Icon
Pollan notes that, faced with this resurgence of the omnivore’s dilemma , he decided to “go back to the very beginning” of the various “food chains... (full context)
Nature vs. Human Intervention Theme Icon
Compromise Theme Icon
...grow, which has enabled the human race to multiply in number while also further complicating the omnivore’s dilemma. (full context)
Chapter 15: The Forager
Nature vs. Human Intervention Theme Icon
...In the end, he throws it out. This, Pollan writes, is a prime example of the omnivore’s dilemma. (full context)
Chapter 16: The Omnivore's Dilemma
Efficiency and Utility Theme Icon
...those things are safe to eat,” humans are pretty much on their own. This problem— the omnivore’s dilemma —was first diagnosed by Paul Rozin in his study of the eating habits of rats.... (full context)
Nature vs. Human Intervention Theme Icon
...they decide between, say, boxes in the cereal aisle, or between organic and conventional strawberries. The omnivore’s dilemma explains the psychological as well as physiological dimensions of eating. As the philosopher Claude Levi-Strauss... (full context)
Chapter 18: Hunting: The Meat
Nature vs. Human Intervention Theme Icon
Pleasure and Happiness Theme Icon
...guts. He remembers Paul Rozin’s theory that disgust is one of the ways humans navigate the omnivore’s dilemma : people feel disgust at animal matter like feces, vomit, and decaying flesh, which can... (full context)
Chapter 19: Gathering: The Fungi
Nature vs. Human Intervention Theme Icon
...poisonous, and so allowed a friend to taste them first—one less than ethical solution to the omnivore’s dilemma , Pollan notes wryly. In the case of the chanterelle, Pollan decides to eat the... (full context)