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Rhetorical Strategies: A Natural History of Four Meals Essay

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Updated: Jun 25th, 2022

Introduction

Michael Pollan, a famous author and journalist, wrote his book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, to comment on how and why people make food choices and what consequences they can have. The writer describes three food chains, including the industrial, organic, and hunter-gatherer ones. They are different based on where animals and plants are grown, how they are processed, and how they reach end customers. In other words, these three systems demonstrate what path potential food overcomes to become edible ingredients. Furthermore, Pollan attempts to clarify whether these chains are sustainable and how they can affect people’s health and wellbeing. Thus, Pollan uses rhetorical strategies such as ethos, logos, and pathos in order to persuade his readers that they should make more reasonable food choices to ensure that they wisely use natural resources.

Analyzing Pollan’s Rhetorical Strategies

Ethos

To begin with, one should explain that Pollan relies on ethos to claim that the industrial food chain implies essential disadvantages for consumers and the whole planet. The given rhetorical device can be achieved if an author has some expertise in the topic and manages to sound fair and credible. Thus, Pollan should demonstrate his experience in understanding how the industrial food chain works to ensure that the given rhetorical strategy affects the readers.

In particular, a specific quote is helpful to reveal how Pollan uses ethos. It refers to the author’s statement: “I came to George Naylor’s farm as an unelected representative” (Pollan 35). This quote demonstrates that the author was working at the farm for a certain period of time, which allows him to describe the state of affairs through the lens of personal experience. This statement is an example of ethos because it demonstrates that Pollan is directly expertized in what he mentions. Consequently, the introduction of personal experience results in the fact that the readers believe in what Pollan says about the given food chain.

The next step is to explain the purpose of why Pollan relies on ethos. It seems that this rhetorical appeal is used to demonstrate that the industrial food chain implies a few weaknesses. It relates to the fact that numerous farmers use pesticides to grow corn in enormous quantities to satisfy the whole nation’s needs (Pollan 41). Furthermore, the author reports purchasing a steer named 534 to understand how beef is produced to reach end consumers (Pollan 72). This experience allowed the writer to identify that corn-fed meat is not healthy since the animals’ stomach is developed to digest grass. That is why antibiotics are used to prevent livestock from diseases. These examples were introduced to reveal that the industrial food chain typically focuses on production quantities rather than quality.

Since Pollan’s main argument is to persuade readers to make more reasonable food choices, ethos helps achieve this goal. This rhetorical strategy affects people by showing that industrially grown plants and animals can be harmful because they are processed with various chemicals. Pesticides and antibiotics are used to ensure that the food is free from diseases. However, this approach simultaneously results in the fact that these ingredients lose their nutrients and cannot bring many benefits to consumers.

Logos

Logos is the second rhetorical strategy that Pollan uses to influence his readers. This appeal relies on introducing facts and making universally accepted analogies to justify some claims. This strategy is effective since it helps readers understand that it is possible to support an author’s argument with specific facts. As for Pollan, the writer can rely on some historical or literal analogies to persuade his readers.

A specific textual example can demonstrate how Pollan uses logos. The quote is the following: “As the netted bag says, this potato was grown in Idaho, that onion came from a farm in Texas. Move over to meat, though, and the chain grows longer and less comprehensible: the label doesn’t mention that rib-eye steak came from a steer born in South Dakota and fattened in Kansas feedlot on grain grown in Iowa” (Pollan 17). Thus, the author uses pathos to clearly show a contrast in the way in which producers view transparency in vegetable marketing and meat marketing. By using the simple example of product packaging, Pollan shows that it is not an issue to state the location of produce’s sourcing when it comes to vegetables because there is probably more control over how they are grown, and there are fewer ecological issues involved. However, it is in the interest of manufacturers not to disclose some information so that customers have fewer questions when it comes to meat. Besides, the issues with meat industrialization, such as the negative influence on the environment, present additional challenges for manufacturers, which is why Pollan suggests that meat producers are less transparent altogether.

It is also reasonable to explain how logos relates to the bigger picture of Pollan’s argument. Since the author impacts the audience to protect their health and save the environment by choosing sustainable food, the given rhetorical strategy demonstrates whether some universally accepted facts or points of view support this idea. In particular, Pollan tries to persuade readers to make more reasonable food choices, and the organic chain seems to produce the required products. In the example with the packaging of vegetables and meat, there is a clear distinction between the two: products that are grown from the ground do not have the same adverse impact on the environment as meat does. Because of this, the author urges the audience to choose transparency and sustainability. Consequently, one can claim that the rhetorical appeal of logos provides the audience with advice on what food to choose.

Pathos

Pathos is the third rhetorical strategy that is used by Pollan. This approach implies persuading others by relying on their emotions and feelings. One can say that this strategy is effective because individuals cannot always ensure that logic and thoughts govern their actions and decisions. That is why multiple writers often rely on pathos to ensure that readers accept a specific point of view because appropriate emotions are affected.

In the book under analysis, the given rhetorical appeal is found when the author writes about being an American and the associations that come with it. “For an American like me, growing up linked to a very different food chain, yet one that is also rooted in a field of corn, not to think of himself as a corn person suggests either a failure of imagination or a triumph of capitalism. Or perhaps a little bit of both.” (Pollan 20). In the quote, the author shows that the American culture has a history of corn growing, with the long fields of corn being romanticized in visual art and literature. However, Pollan emphasizes that the development of corn production has changed historically and now represents modern America as a highly industrialized and capitalistic nation. The food industry in the country evolved significantly, with the increased focus placed on profit rather than the culture of agriculture. The author appeals to his readers’ emotions of what it means to be an American and breaks down the illusions by showing that industrial development transformed the nation.

The use of ethos brings valuable information to support the larger picture of the author’s argument. Since Pollan insists that people should make reasonable food choices, it is appropriate to make them understand that the industrial development of the country completely transformed the nation. By appealing to the emotions of his readers, Pollan shows that the agricultural heritage of America in the form of corn is now only relevant in the context of commercial production and capitalism. Instead of communicating clearly to consumers regarding the use of corn, manufacturers shield the truth in order to make a profit.

Conclusion

The paper has revealed that The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan focuses on the fact that people’s decision to eat particular food can imply adverse consequences for the environment. That is why the author addresses this issue in the book and relies on ethos, logos, and pathos to persuade his readers to make more reasonable food decisions. Each of these rhetorical strategies has textual examples from the book, and they are analyzed to explain how and why the author influences the audience. The analysis of these rhetorical appeals allows for concluding that the organic food chain is more sustainable and efficient.

Work Cited

Pollan, Michael. The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. The Penguin Press, 2006.

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