"The Omnivore's Dilemma," Vocabulary from the Introduction-Part 1

"The Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan has quickly become a classic in food-obsessed circles for its emphasis on knowing where your good comes from, eating well, and eating locally.

Learn these word lists for this work of nonfiction: Introduction-Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4-Afterword

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. irrigation
    supplying dry land with water by artificial means
    That sweeping second hand was the irrigation machine, a pipe more than a thousand feet long that delivered a steady rain of water, fertilizer, and pesticide to the potato plants.
  2. toxic
    of or relating to or caused by a poison
    The chemical is so toxic to the nervous system that no one is allowed in the field for five days after it is sprayed.
  3. manure
    any animal or plant material used to fertilize land
    And then, very suddenly, the golden hills turned jet-black on both sides of the highway: black with tens of thousands of cattle crowded onto a carpet of manure that stretched as far as the eye could see.
  4. omnivore
    an animal that feeds on both animal and vegetable substances
    But because we are omnivores we have very little built-in instinct that tells us which foods are good for us and which aren’t.
  5. bounty
    the property of copious abundance
    We’re so confused about food that we’ve forgotten what food really is—the bounty of the earth and the power of the sun captured by plants and animals.
  6. resistant
    relating to or conferring immunity (to disease or infection)
    The result is a hybrid—a disease- resistant plant that produces a lot of corn. Sounds good, right?
  7. patent
    a document granting an inventor sole rights to an invention
    But with GMOs, a company can own a patent on a living organism.
  8. diversity
    noticeable variety
    This diversity, with many different types of crops, allowed the farmer to get by if prices fell for any one crop.
  9. emerge
    happen or occur as a result of something
    A new business emerged—cattle, pigs, and chickens started being stuffed full of corn in large factory-type operations called feedlots.
  10. ecology
    the environment as it relates to living organisms
    When George Naylor’s father spread his first load of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, the ecology of his farm underwent a quiet revolution.
  11. subsidy
    a grant paid by a government to an enterprise
    The family only gets by because of the paycheck George’s wife, Peggy, brings home from her job—and because of a subsidy check from the U.S. government.
  12. ban
    prohibit especially by law or social pressure
    Some might be kernels grown with atrazine, a herbicide (weed killer) now banned in Europe but widely used in the U.S.
  13. wean
    gradually deprive of mother's milk
    In October, two weeks before I made his acquaintance, steer number 534 was weaned from his mother.
  14. prone
    having a tendency
    The calves are prone to getting sick.
  15. wholesome
    characteristic of physical or moral well-being
    Compared to all the other things we feed cattle these days, corn seems positively wholesome.
  16. saturated
    unable to dissolve still more of a substance
    Corn-fed beef contains more saturated fat than the meat of grass-fed animals. Too much saturated fat has been linked to heart disease and other health problems.
  17. slaughter
    the killing of animals, as for food
    Every day until his slaughter 534 will convert thirty-two pounds of feed into four pounds of new weight—new muscle, fat, and bone, that's seven pounds of grain for one pound of cow.
  18. scheme
    an elaborate and systematic plan of action
    So food companies have been very successful at getting us to pay more for the same food. What about their other moneymaking scheme, to get us to buy (and eat) more food than we need?
  19. obese
    excessively fat
    Three of every five Americans are overweight; one of every five is obese.
  20. diabetes
    a disease characterized by high glucose levels in the blood
    The disease formerly known as adult-onset diabetes has had to be renamed Type II diabetes since it now occurs so frequently in children, and the Centers for Disease Control estimates that one in three American children born in 2000 will develop it.
  21. epidemic
    a widespread outbreak of an infectious disease
    Behind our epidemic of obesity lies this simple fact: When food is abundant and cheap, people will eat more of it.
  22. gorge
    overeat or eat immodestly
    Rats presented with solutions of pure sugar or tubs of pure lard will gorge themselves sick.
  23. tract
    a system of body parts that serve some particular purpose
    Our digestive tract is also good at digesting different types of foods.
  24. preference
    a strong liking
    To help it make food decisions, our brain developed taste preferences.
  25. retain
    keep in one's mind
    If the rat doesn’t get sick, then it knows it can eat the whole thing—a knowledge it retains for the rest of its life.

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