Omnivore's Dilemma

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In the early 1990s, the Beef Industry Council launched a new advertising campaign. A series of commercials showed sizzling steaks while a voiceover proclaimed “Beef. It’s what’s for dinner” (Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion & Research Board, 2012), and a walk through any grocery store’s meat department shows that slogan is still effectively shaping the American dinner table. But before these neatly-wrapped packages of meat go from the store to the table, they are part of a living animal. In his 2006 book The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan endeavors to illustrate the process of how a cow becomes a steak. Industrial farming is not a simple process, it is rife with problematic practices. Pollan’s book is akin to a written documentary, and he uses rhetorical devices to gently guide the reader as a companion on his journey. Through his use of logos, ethos, pathos, imagery, and diction, Pollan pushes aside the curtain that the cattle industry has placed around their operations, and by presenting some very terrible truths he is able to persuade the reader to take action. In a compelling thread about the cattle industry that runs through the entire book, Pollan begins by describing how he decided to view the life-cycle of a cow by buying a steer. Pollan describes his interest in buying the steer as not “financial, or even gustatory. No, (his) primary interest in this animal was educational” (66). Although this has a nearly clinical tone, Pollan nearly immediately begins using pathos to evoke an emotional response for the steer. First, and very importantly, Pollan refers to steer 534 as ‘he’, not ‘it’. He also refers to him as “my steer” (69), which carries connotations of ownership, responsibility, and protection. This already begins a process of personalization for 534 as an individual animal, not merely a product. Pathos is also practiced in the very choosing of 534,

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