When reflecting on Pollan’s two meals, it is clear that the two can hardly be compared. Pollan’s McDonald’s meal and his local, fresh, grass-fed meal are on two completely different levels. In fact, Pollan does not even bother to compare the two, inherently noting their differences instead. The most obvious difference that Pollan notes is the extreme difference between corn-fed and grass-fed food. Pollan’s meal from McDonald’s was literally corn. Every single food item in the meal from McDonald’s had corn without really containing any corn (traditional sense). The meat – the little real meat that there was – was corn-fed. Thus, relating back the importance of the phrase “you are what you eat eats.” On top of that, processed corn products made up a large percentage of every other meal item (averaging more than 50% of all the food items). This is completely contrasted with the composition of the meal in chapter 14. All of the food was fresh, not containing large quantities of processed corn. In addition, the chicken was grass-fed; this means that the chicken was actually eating what chickens are biologically made to eat. As a result, the quality of the food was much higher than any fast food could even strive to be. Another difference to be noted is that both meals seem to be dependent on one thing: corn in the fast food meal and the chicken in the home cooked meal. Like it has been noted, the entirety of the fast food meal was dependent on and was centered around corn; it was the essential ingredient for the meal and not one item on the menu actually contained corn! Meanwhile, the home-grown and home-cooked meal was equally as dependent on the figure of the chicken. Like Pollan notes, the main dish he serves is a freshly killed and cooked, grass-fed chicken. The dessert was also dependent on those same chickens, as they were the ones who provided the farm fresh eggs for the soufflé. Pollan even notes that the corn (ironically) was the result of the chickens, “grown in a deep bed of composted chicken manure,” (265). Last, Pollan notes the difference in the nutritional quality of the meals. It is no secret that a fast food meal is extremely unhealthy and that a fresh meal is significantly healthier, but Pollan goes further into the chemical composition of both to explain why. It is said that in McDonald’s chicken nuggets alone there are 38 ingredients, including many “synthetic ingredients” that are not really even supposed to be edible like dimethylpolysiloxene and tertiary butylhydroquinone (113). Meanwhile, the grass-fed meat and eggs in Pollan’s other meal are much better for you than even the healthiest meals containing the corn-fed version due to the presence of things like conjugated linoleic acid that “may help reduce weight and prevent cancer” (267). Most importantly, grass-fed products contain much higher levels omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential to the body and significantly lacking in the modern corn-based diet.
It is obvious, then, that these meals are clearly different in Pollan’s eyes, or really anyone’s eyes for that matter. There is no way that these meals could be considered to be the same in any way. Yes, they both relied on one central item, but the McDonald’s meal that was centered around corn did not actually contain unprocessed corn in the meal itself. Thus, I find it would be difficult to equate these two meals for any reason.
When considering the differences between these two meals, though, I think that more than just the composition of these meals must be considered. What stood out the most to me was that the quality of the meals corresponded to the quality of the experience of the meal as well. For example, Pollan noted that the whole family finished their meal in the car in under 10 minutes and purposely did not take the time to enjoy or savor the meal. On the other hand, Pollan prepared by hand his grass-fed meal and enjoyed it in the company of good friends, taking the time to note every fresh flavor of the meal. Thus, it is without a doubt that the two meals Pollan has presented are different in almost every way possible, for better or for worse.
Pollan, Michael. The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. New York: Penguin, 2006. Print.