We Need a Food Revolution: Oprah with Michael Pollan (VIDEO) | Civil Eats

We Need a Food Revolution: Oprah with Michael Pollan (VIDEO)

On Wednesday, Michael Pollan appeared on Oprah to discuss the food system and the film Food, Inc. At the beginning of the program, entitled “Before You Grocery Shop Again: Food 101,” Oprah said that she saw Food, Inc., and it inspired her to host this discussion. “We all have to start paying more attention to what we’re putting in our bodies,” she said. “Do you know where you food really comes from? What’s been added, what’s been taken out? What goes down before they put a label on it?” Interspersed throughout the show were clips of the film, including the film’s introduction on the disconnect between our idea of food production and its reality; chicken production, featuring a farmer speaking out against the industry; and a family that can’t afford to eat real food and is forced to choose fast food.

Pollan explained how “the less we spend on food, the more we spend on healthcare,” siting statistics that show that in 1960, we spent 18% of our income on food and 5% on healthcare nationally, while we now spend 9% of our income on food and 17% on healthcare nationally. They got into the nitty gritty about the western diet and its pitfalls, and Oprah got a laugh when she exclaimed, “the low-fat kick made everybody fatter!”

When Oprah asks Pollan what he eats, and he speaks in favor of cooking: “I think cooking is really key because it’s the only way you’re going to take back control of your diet from the corporations who want to cook for us,” he said. “The fact is, so far corporations don’t cook that well. They tend to use too much salt, fat and sugar—much more than you would ever use at home.” The best line in the program came from Oprah: “We need a food revolution, because people want the corporations to cook for them because it all boils down to convenience.” Pollan agreed, saying that when you understand what it takes to make the food we are currently eating, “you lose your appetite.”

Oprah later asked Pollan if he eats meat, and he talks about being “picky” about the meat he eats and making sustainable choices, saying “I don’t eat feedlot meat.” Oprah then provoked a laugh by asking “you’re not worried about saying bad things about beef?” referring to the lawsuit filed against her by the beef industry 1996. (That episode focused on mad cow disease, and one of her guests described the industry’s practice of feeding processed livestock back to the cows, to which she responded to by saying that it “just stopped me cold from eating another burger.”)

The full episode is worth watching, and we’ve posted the available videos from around the web below:

Part 2:

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…which gets cut off, and the ending is very worth watching:

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Paula Crossfield is a founder and the Editor-at-large of Civil Eats. She is also a co-founder of the Food & Environment Reporting Network. Her reporting has been featured in The Nation, Gastronomica, Index Magazine, The New York Times and more, and she has been a contributing producer at The Leonard Lopate Show on New York Public Radio. An avid cook and gardener, she currently lives in Oakland. Read more >

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  1. Paula,
    That was a great show! I spend a lot of energy on vehemently resisting watching Oprah. But my wife convinced me to sit and watch this episode...it helped that Michael Pollan was the guest.

    I am a small grass based Texas cattle producer,a boisterous advocate of the local "ag" producer, and a "preacher" on buying locally grown food.

    I would like the general public to understand that there many like myself, and growing, who have a huge respect for the land, our crops, and especially our animals. I truly love "my girls"; providing them with nutritious forage, room to roam, and an "ear scratch" when they come up. As I said, there are many more like me.

    The "buy local" thing is not just about saving the small farmer. What people need to realize is the personal health benefits as well. We should all stay informed, especially when it comes to our food. Where did it come from, how was it grown, and when was it harvested(?) are questions we should all ask.

    Thanks for a great post...and, having just discovered this site, I am having fun reading all the good stuff here.
  2. Take a look at all the ads for unhealthy processed and fast food in Oprah's magazine. Billions of dollars each year get spent on advertising high caloric, low nutrient foods; these dollars could be spent on healthy school food programs or sustainable local food systems in urban areas. Why doesn't Oprah cut those ads, ask consumers to divert their at least 1/4 of their food dollars to locally produced, whole foods and THEN start talking about a food revolution?
  3. Thanks as always for posting about Oprah's show. As someone who has been writing about, advocating, and volunteering on behalf of sustainable ag. for the past decade, to see this on her show and the "power of Oprah" making Food Inc. #1 on Amazon.com, is almost surreal. For so many years people looked at me like I was from another planet, now they are finally getting it!

    Thanks for all the hard work you do to support a more sustainable food system!

    Judi aka LA Farm Girl
  4. It was so exciting to see the sustainable food movement get this kind of mainstream attention--and to see the Oprah effect on Amazon. I've been having conversations with people about whether we're getting closer to a tipping point. Some say no, especially since Oprah did not seem 100% on board: "Pollan has his opinions, I have mine..." Is she really still skeptical or is she afraid of alienating her sponsors? But just knowing that she influenced that many people to get Pollan's books in their hands is encouraging.
  5. Sorry I missed the Oprah show with Michael Pollan. Great show and great subject. But we all now how Oprah works. Every time she does an intelligent show about healthcare (with Michael Moore) or autism (with Jenna McCarthy) or about the horrific food industrial complex, the people who own Oprah (capitalist corporate media) punish her by making her do dozens of show on how to find the perfect pair of jeans or the most wonderful pocketbook. Ugghh!
    Stay tuned for The Pocketbook Shows.
    For a great insight into our animal torture food system, read Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. And The Ethics of What We Eat by Peter Singer. Both very valuable in their own way. They don't step on each other's toes but add significant insight.
    By the way, for the grass-fed cattle farmer who commented above,can you stop the insanity at the slaughterhouses? Cows going thru the line ALIVE?
  6. Thanks for posting the video. Great to see Michael Pollan on Oprah talking about the qualities of grass fed meat and sustainable agriculture. We're an Idaho based producer of grass fed sustainable lamb and hope the episode encourages more people to think before voting with their fork!

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