Michael Pollan on Oprah

pollanI’m not a huge Oprah fan, but when I heard she was having Michael Pollan on her show today, I immediately set my DVR.

I’ve seen Pollan making the rounds of various talk shows over the past couple of weeks with a short clip each time, but this is different. Oprah has dedicated an entire to show to discussing food and where it comes from, and when this discussion gets to Oprah, you know it’s finally becoming mainstream. And this is a conversation that very much needs to be mainstream.

I couldn’t resist pulling out my laptop and taking notes.  This is a bit disjointed because I’m not adding a lot of commentary.  I just thought I’d share as much of the show as I could with those of you who didn’t catch it.

FACT: On average, kids drink twice as much soda as milk.
FACT: 28 million pounds of antibiotics a year is fed to our meat sources.
FACT: Chickens are now raised and slaughtered in half the time they were 50 years ago, but now they’re twice as big.

In fact, they have actually redesigned chickens to have large breasts because people prefer white meat. Cause, you know, the way God designed them isn’t good enough.

Following are some random Pollan quotes from the show:

“Cheap food is great, and we have to acknowledge that achievement, but we also have to acknowledge the cost of it.”

“We spend less of our money (9.5%) on food than any other people at any other time on this earth.”

“Before the western diet comes in, populations did not have high levels of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, etc.”

“It’s not about fats. It’s not about carbs. It’s about whole foods.”

He has a new book called Food Rules.  I’ll add that one to my Amazon recommendations on the sidebar shortly.

Rule #1: Eat real food.

“Food is alive, and it should die.”  Snort.  His point is, if it doesn’t eventually go bad, it is not real food.  I saw a feature once on a woman who kept a McDonalds hamburger and fries for YEARS and it didn’t rot.  I think that pretty much illustrates his point.

The key, he says, is do you want to pay the price for good food, or do you want to spend the money at the doctor’s?

FACT: In 1960 18% of our income was spent on food, and 5% of the national income was spent on health care.  Today, 9% of our income is spent on food, and 17% of our national income is spent on health care.

As Pollan asks: “Who would you rather pay?”

I love Rule #39 – “Eat all the junk food you want as long as you make it yourself.”

He uses french fries as an example – if you make them yourself, it’s a process. You aren’t going to eat them every day because you aren’t going to MAKE them every day.

In other words, the convenience of food has contributed to the problem.

“If you understand what it takes to make food that cheap, you lose your appetite.”  I can attest to that.

Rule #27 — “Eat meat that has itself eaten well.”

“When you feed animals corn, they grow faster, but they get sick because cattle were evolved to eat grass. When they eat grass, they don’t need antibiotics, and their beef is healthier.”

“Get out of the supermarket,” Pollan says.  I know, it’s easier said than done, depending on where you live.  But it really is key to finding fresher, healthier food.

“If we are eating real food, we don’t need to worry about nutrients.” That really simplifies matters, doesn’t it?  So we can ignore the latest study about the latest fad nutrient.  Just eat a good variety of whole foods, and it will all even out in the wash.

After Pollan’s segment, Alicia Silverstone joins the show to discuss her book, The Kind Diet.  While I don’t agree with the vegan lifestyle, I like her point that eating better is not about giving things up; it’s about adding things in.

I definitely feel that I have not given up as much as I have added in, and there’s just not that much room for the junk anymore.  And it doesn’t even look good to me.   Seriously.  And I used to LOVE junk.

Next Oprah interviews the owner of Chipotle, Steve Ells.  I have heard about this restaurant chain, but I’ve never been to one.

His philosophy is: “Just because it’s fast doesn’t mean it has to be a fast food experience.”  Everything is fresh, never frozen.  They buy produce from local family farmers when it’s available, and they serve more naturally raised meat than any other restaurant chain in the country.

“How do you keep the standard?” Oprah asks.

“You do a few things, and you do them really well,” Ells replies.  Then he explains that he actually teaches his staff to cook.

He switched to all pastured pork in his restaurants after seeing free range pigs and feed lot pigs.

Oprah turns to Pollan and asks if it is possible to feed all the people in the world if all of the animals were raised outdoors. Good question; I often wonder this.

His answer went something like this: “If all of our animals were grown outdoors, we might not eat as much meat.  We eat a rather obscene amount of meat.  It’s a trade-off between quality and quantity.”

I loved it when he pointed out earlier in the show that if we figured out how to re-engineer the chicken, we can figure out a way to mass produce sustainable food.

I’ll close with two of the best quotes from the show:

“The consumer is the biggest voice behind whether there will be change or not.”

“We can all vote with our fork. We get three votes a day.”

Now here’s a deal for you.  Until midnight tonight, Amazon.com is offering Food Inc. for $9.99 with a free download.  So if you haven’t seen it, here’s your chance.  (And I will also tell you that you can get it on Netflix, which is how we saw it, and probably even at Blockbuster.)

Disclaimer: My quotes are as accurate as possible, but not all are word-for-word.  There are affiliate links in this post.