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Michael Pollan on the Oprah Show: “Food 101”

michael pollan & oprah food, inc.

Wow. Double triple BACK FLIP WOW! I am a happy Real Foodie right about now. Did you see it? Did you cheer throughout most of the Oprah show like I did? I can’t even write this without wanting to SQUEAL.

UPDATE: See the comments below for a great idea from Paula! Let’s keep this Real Food Revolution going! Go to the Oprah show to comment and say thank you for having Michael Pollan on, then suggest that she bring on Nina Planck next! (If you want to mention that Kelly the Kitchen Kop sent you, that would be fun to take a shot at an “Oprah mention”! Can you imagine how wild that would be?) So I found 3 places to comment about this show, and I did all 3. You do have to register first and then click on “comments”:

I took notes like crazy as I watched yesterday…

Right on the Oprah show I heard her say phrases like these:

  • The low fat kick made everybody fatter!” Woohooo! They’re starting to GET IT!!! (Read more about healthy fats.)
  • About Food, Inc.:It makes you think. We ALL have to start paying more attention to what we put in our bodies. Do you know where you food comes from, what’s been added, what’s been taken out, what happens before a label goes on it?”

Oprah began with a food quiz:

  • What is the most consumed meat around the world: beef, pork, goat, or chicken? The answer is goat. She stressed that the question was ‘around the world.’
  • Which food travels the furthest: grapes, tomatoes, or mushrooms? The answer, which most of you probably knew, is grapes.
  • How much milk vs. soda do children today drink compared to ? years ago (I didn’t catch how many years ago): the same, twice as much soda, or twice as much milk? The answer is twice as much soda. No surprise there.
  • Americans take in 3 million pounds of antibiotics each year, how many do livestock take in: 8 million, 11.8 million, 14 million, or 28 million? The answer is 28 million pounds. (This number blows me away. Thank God we have healthy local and online sources for our meat!)

I was freaking out when Oprah showed many clips from Food, Inc., and stressed that she thinks everyone should see it. She said that many in the food industry think the movie was biased and misleading, but urged us to see it for ourselves and decide. She actually said that not only should we all see it, but we should all own it, and Amazon is running a deal right now so you can buy Food, Inc. for $9.99!

Michael Pollan stressed these facts:

  • Yes, we need to acknowledge the achievements of making food cheaper, but we also need to acknowledge that there is a cost to this.”
  • When Oprah asked, “How then do we feed America?” He responded that we’ll need to spend a little bit more money on food. “Can we do it? Yes, we figured out how to reengineer the chicken, we can figure out this.”
  • A lot of the food in a supermarket is not really food and does not deserve to be dignified with that label. It is an ‘edible food-like substance’.”
  • In other parts of the world there are populations eating a variety of different types of traditional diets who are not suffering from heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. It is not about counting grams of fat or carbs, or how much meat or fish you eat. It’s about whole foods and minimally processed plants, animals and fungi that our grandmothers ate.”
  • He mentioned a population (I missed from where?) that eats a diet made up of 70% fats but they have no heart disease or diabetes.
  • Avoid food products that a 3rd grader cannot pronounce. It’s not real food.”
  • Only eat food that will eventually rot.” Oprah asked, “But I thought everything rots?!” He said he knows of these little cakes stuffed with cream, golden in color that come in cellophane bags. “Two years after I got it, it was as soft and spongy as the day I bought it. Food is alive and it should die.
  • Do you want to pay now for groceries or pay for a doctor later? When I was a kid, we spent 18% of our income on food and 5% on healthcare. Now we spend 9% on food, and 17% on healthcare.”
  • The low-fat kick made everybody fatter! People thought fat was the only thing that could make you fat. So they took the fat out and put more sugar in. A 99% fat-free yogurt has more calories than full fat because of the sugar.”
  • Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself. Fries, cakes, and other baked goods are kind of a pain. Don’t deprive yourself of any pleasures, but earn them by making them at home.”
  • Oprah asked, “What do you eat?!” He replied (and made me squeal again), “I cook a lot, I eat real food, cooking is the only way to take back our diet from corporations who want to cook for us. Corporations don’t cook that well, and they use too much salt and sugar. It’s not that hard, a little more time, a little more thoughtfulness, a little more money. I only buy pastured dairy, it has more beta carotene, omega 3’s, and other good stuff. I buy from farmers I know. I am picky about the meat I eat, I won’t eat feedlot meat. I eat grass-fed meat, it’s a very sustainable product. When cows are fed corn they grow faster but they also get sick, because cattle were evolved to eat grass. Eat meat that has itself eaten well.” Oprah said, “You’re not worried about saying bad things about beef?” She got a good laugh from that. :)
  • Oprah: “We need a food revolution. Now people want corporations to cook for them because it all boils down to convenience.” Michael Pollan: “But if you know what it takes to make food that cheap, you lose your appetite.”
  • Oprah: “But what about those that say, ‘We can’t afford to eat healthier.” Pollan: “It’s amazing that you can feed your family fast food cheaper than you can feed your family fresh produce. It’s because of our Federal Agriculture subsidy programs! We subsidize corn, soy, and wheat, but no fresh produce. We can get 1250 calories from $1 of processed food, but only 250 calories from $1 in the produce aisle. We’ve made it rational to eat badly. We need to change way we support farmers and encourage them to grow real food.”
  • Oprah: “The consumer really is the biggest voice behind whether there will be real food or not.” Pollan: “This issue is very empowering, we get 3 votes a day. You don’t have to get everyone of them right, but if you get one right a day, buying sustainable food or food that’s humanely grown, whatever is important to you, as long as you vote with consciousness, things will change.” (Yahoo! Let’s all jump up and give each other high-fives!)

A Vegan Diet???

Next actress Alicia Silverstone came on to talk about her vegan diet. There’s no denying that she was sick, lacked energy, had skin issues and other problems until she began her diet and now she feels great. That really does make a point for finding what is right for you… Although I can’t help but think that someone like that would be even more healthy if they did all the good things they’re doing now, as far as avoiding processed foods, etc., but then still kept in the good things, like pastured meat and dairy. She said prior to this diet she was on a steak and donut diet. The steak was no doubt a typical factory farmed steak, and donuts, well, of course those are bad. So just giving up those would have been a huge step toward feeling better. But I know that some people just can’t eat certain things, and everyone really does have to find their own path and what is best for their bodies.

Vegan poop

You should have heard her talk about how great her poops are on this diet. Yep, you read that right! She said there is no more need for books in the bathroom, one minute or so and she’s done, it’s very effortless.

No processed foods?

I found it super ironic, though, that she said she gave up all processed foods, yet on the video clips of her in the supermarket, she was raving about a bag of “chicken-like chicken” in the frozen section. How much processing does it take to make soy or some other not-chicken substance into “chicken”?

The fast food chain making waves: CHIPOTLE!

The average American eats fast food 4x/week. Chipotle founder Steve Ells set out to offer fast food with a conscience. Everything but their corn is fresh, not processed. Oprah asked, “How do you keep up the standards (with so many restaurants now)?” “We only do a few things, but we do them really well.” They have more naturally raised meat than any restaurant in the country. 100% of their chicken and pork is sustainably raised, and 60% of their beef. It is better tasting this way and better for the environment. “Our first experience with pork was after reading an article about an Iowa farmer. I got samples and it was awesome, so much better.” Oprah: “But it must cost so much more.” His reply: “Yes, but I saw what confinement meant, it makes you sad, I didn’t want my success based on that kind of exploitation, so we switched to all outdoor pork.”

Oprah: “Congrats Steve Ells, we need more of you!”

In closing Michael Pollan was asked how this would work, to feed the world with animals who were all outdoors. He said, “Well, it’s a trade-off, we probably wouldn’t eat as much meat.”

(Personally, I’d be OK with eating a few meatless meals a week, we do it anyway to save money and fill in with bone broth or other nutrient-dense meals. Some traditional cultures that Weston Price wrote about only had meat for one meal a week and they thrived.)

Oprah closed by asking everyone to “Eat a little more consciously, to be kinder to ourselves and to the planet. Do it for yourselves, for your families, and for their families to come.”



  1. Not an Oprah fan, but I am doing backflips.
    Now, if we could get her started on raw milk……
    I wonder if Nina Planck could be brought on her show. And they could give away her books…..we should deluge her show with requests.
    Think we could get a few hundred people to do so?

  2. I’m not an Oprah fan, but that’s great that a Real Foodie got on her show to spread the message! She does have a huge amount of influence.

  3. I admit it, I am an Oprah fan. You could sense her moving in this direction over the last couple seasons. Yes, she had Kathy Freston on the show to talk about her 21 day cleanse –but Oprah was never a fan of all that fake soy food and she made that pretty clear to her audience. Sally Fallon told me that she knows members of Oprah’s family use her book, Nourishing Traditions. I think it’s a shame that Oprah is going off the air just as she is starting to delve into these issues. Maybe the Real Food movement will continue to get exposure on her new network. Thanks for giving us the play-by-play, Kelly!

  4. I love Oprah. Always have.
    Bummed I missed this show…meant to tape it…could do without the Alicia Silverstone part but really wanted to see Michal Pollan. Sounds like it was a good one; thanks so much for the recap!

  5. I too was floored by the transition into the ‘Kind Diet’ – talk about an advertisement for processed foods!!! I’m thinking that those products she was raving about did NOT fit the profile of ‘old fashioned’ food.

    Hopefully, more people will be intrigued enough by the ‘tease’ to rent the movie. Netflix offers it. Our small farmers would be in a totally different situation if people insisted on being responsible for the foods they eat.

  6. I have to say that I really like Oprah, too. I think she’s fun and funny and has a big heart. I do disagree with her on issues sometimes, though, (back when I used to have time to watch that is) and then I get miffed, just because she has such a huge influence, but when she gets it right like in yesterday’s show, I love her even more!

    Paula, GREAT IDEA!! I just updated this post to ask people to do just that and I gave links for where to comment!! (I also asked if you might make a teensy weensy little mention of the Kitchen Kop when you’re commenting…!)


  7. Thankfully, someone on the east coast tipped me off to Silverstone’s leanings, so when the kids and I sat down to watch Oprah, we turned it off when Pollan left the stage. We don’t watch Oprah. Ever. It was a matter of pride for me, so turning this on was HUGE for us. Made a big impact on the kids that Mom was going to watch this.

    I was mildly amused how she kept saying “in her opinion” and “do what’s right for you” and the like. Guess that fight with Big Beef got her lawyers supercritical! But I loved how she pushed Food, Inc. This is exactly what Real Food needs right now.

  8. I found the show by accident yesterday and missed the first 15 minutes or so. I started watching it at the point where they were showing the video of the family who could afford to eat fast food, but couldn’t afford the 1.29/lb broccoli, i’m sorry, but wth. It was as if the effort to eat more healthier was too much for them. It drove me crazy. All that money spent on their drugs for ailments caused by their nutrition.

    The show was very eye opening and I’m going to buy the video.

    Our diet isn’t perfect, but the show really made me think about some of the changes that we need to make, like switching to grass fed meat, raw milk and cheese and butter. I try to limit our processed foods, but I do let things slip into my cart. I’m excited to get the video b/c I know my dh will be on board.

  9. Melissa, maybe the reason Oprah is willing to talk about politically-INcorrect foods is *because* she’s going off the air? It would make sense if she’s not as worried about her reputation with the sponsors – maybe she feels like she can be more in touch with what people really need.

  10. Awesome post! I wish I could have seen the show. I think I will buy a few copies of that movie and lend it out to my friends and family!

  11. I seldom watch network TV and never watch Oprah, but know full well her impact. YES YES and YES! I will send a note about getting Nina on, and maybe it’d be too much for her audience, but perhaps we can also wish for Sally Fallon as well?

  12. I thought Alicia Silverstone was quite a contradiction as well. And honestly, that chicken like non-chicken isn’t cheap either.

    And I thought Michael Pollan was talking about Finland as the country with the high fat diet. Is that right?

  13. I commented 3 TIMES!!! Did you?
    Get your friends and family to each comment as well.
    Lets push hard. She does not have her show for very much longer!

  14. Just to clarify, Oprah is not going off the air! She’s launching her own network, OWN, which will reach 70-75 million homes.

    And I don’t think she will be able to lose industrial food sponsors… but maybe she’ll have more control over who they work with and how the advertising is produced. We’ll see.

    Norman (CEO of the network, and former MTV chief) says she’s discussing “experimental” approaches to daytime TV with Procter & Gamble and other advertisers, integrating products into discussions of women’s topics.

  15. I’m pretty sure it was the Eskimos who were mentioned as having a 70% fat diet. They also mentioned the Masai in the same breath… to me it was like just a little “nod” to the research of people like Weston Price. Very exciting! I think Oprah may indeed be starting to “get it” and maybe that’s part of why she’s ending the show. Who knows!
    I thought it was funny to see Oprah’s reactions to Alicia Silverstone’s diet. I think it was pretty clear that she didn’t really agree with Alicia, even though she may have benefited from doing the 21-day vegan cleanse herself (which to me is the longest anyone should ever be vegan!).

  16. Yes! Yes! I am also not an Oprah fan, and I don’t really watch television, but I heard all the hoopla about this yesterday and wanted to catch it, but I think it was over before I even knew it was going to be on. I’m slow on the uptake! I’m so glad this show happened, but I’m also more astonished it didn’t happen sooner. After all, M. Pollan’s books came out over five years ago. But, it just goes to show how some things happen very slowly…at least it’s happening though!

    I am particularly interested to hear about Alicia Silverstone’s appearance, as she has been a vocal vegan for many years. I guess some diets work okay for some people – I do believe some people metabolize certain foods differently…but it is unfortunate that she was endorsing fake meat products. I just don’t understand how anyone can think those are healthy! I have to resist the urge to make comments to people in the store when I am standing there and they come up and start talking about soy products and which ones to buy with other people. I don’t ever know if I am overstepping my bounds and being too personal. I should probably just speak up and not worry about whether they’ll get annoyed. :)

    It would be great to get Nina Planck on there so she could impart even more great information. I think Michael Pollan is a good start for many people, and then Nina takes it several steps further, so that seems like a natural progression.

    I’m really hoping as a result of this show that people are going to take two topics in particular VERY seriously – 1) eating fat doesn’t make you fat – and in fact, makes you healthy, and 2) that we can afford to eat healthier if govt. subsidies went to sustainable foods, we restructure our polices about food, and people are given incentives through education to buy real food (vote with your dollars). It’s great, great, great!

    Just think – if real food became the norm and everyone was eating it…dare I say it? Would there be no longer any reason for us to blog and be activists anymore? Yeah, I’m living in a dream world, aren’t I???? :)

  17. Not only did Alicia Silverstone tout fake chicken, she also plugged fake dairy products like hemp milk and ice cream.

    MP was great and laid out his rules so it made sense to the viewers and the audience, who probably were confused then by Alicia Silverstone basically saying to eat processed foods. She wants to save the planet with her diet, but I don’t really think food processing is the way to go – she has not done her research.

  18. Jeanmarie couldn’t get her comment to show up so here it is:

    Wow, Kelly, you took amazing notes! (It was the Inuit (Eskimo) people who eat 70% fat btw, but you caught everything else!). I was so thrilled to see this. Michael Pollan was great. He is still a little hung up on low fat and not too much meat (which only seems to strengthen the argument of people like Alicia Silverstone; I haven’t watched that part yet), but he’s probably wise to keep his message very simple and limited in scope for mainstream America, and therefore he was able to be very focused and effective in presenting his points and making it all coherent and understandable. This is just HUGE that Food Inc. got this kind of exposure.
    And maybe this will be the turning point for Oprah, who has been so ill-served by all sorts of health gurus who have steered her towards low fat, vegan, soy, exhausting cardio, all the while making her problems worse. (She’s still beautiful!)
    I wrote to her after seeing this (through her website), complimented her on having Michael Pollan on, suggested she fire her guru lineup (hey, you never know!) and talk to Sally Fallon and Mark Sisson (The Primal Blueprint). Someone on the San Francisco WAPF list also suggested we write to her to try to get Sally Fallon, the Real Milk campaign, or Nourishing Our Children ( etc on her show before it goes off the air.
    So how about it, everybody, are you up for a letter-writing campaign to Oprah to get her to talk to Sally Fallon? (Or Kelly the Kitchen Kop, perhaps??!)
    Here are some posts about the bad advice Oprah has been getting, and what she needs to hear: (this one’s a little mean, but has good info)

    Note from Kelly again: no, NOT me on Oprah, not that there’s a chance anyway, but I’m bad enough on radio, imagine how scary I’d be on TV…

  19. Augh. Has anyone tasted hemp milk? Disgusting. Whoever can stand to drink it must have to trick themselves into believing that it tastes good, and is good for them. We are so lucky to be able to drink RAW whole milk – so nourishing? I avoid hemp products, I don’t believe we’ve been eating it for thousands of years.

  20. Thanks for this great service, Kelly, taking such great notes (and posting my comments for me!). I’m going to try again.
    I listened to the rest of the show (Alicia Silverstone, Steve Ells) this morning. Is it just me, or did Oprah look a little bored at Alicia going on about veganism? She deftly turned the conversation back her her agenda: emphasizing that we should all be more conscious about our food decisions. It didn’t sound to me like she was so thrilled with veganism. She is still open-minded and questioning and just ripe for the right person to present healthy fats and lower carb to her. I agree Nina Planck would be a good choice (as though it were up to me!), but I’d still vote for Sally Fallon. Or a dream panel of: Sally Fallon, Nina Planck, Mark Sisson, Jimmy Moore (Livin’ la Vida LowCarb), Gary Taubes would work.
    Oprah was apparently too polite to point out the little inconsistency of Alicia touting processed chicken-like frozen food in place of real chicken. The fact that Ms. Silverstone removed (most) processed junk from her diet and added lots of fresh foods including greens goes a long way to explain why veganism is better for her than the SAD food she previously ate. It may take awhile for her diet to deplete her stores of Vitamin A and D, etc. I hope she gets ahold of The Vegetarian Myth (Lierre Keith) before she goes too far down the processed soy path.
    Meagan, agreed, hemp milk is disgusting. All those fake milks can only be made palatable with lots of sugar and processing. What does it say about your diet if you have to eat foods with “mock” in the name to make it palatable? We don’t eat “mock greens,” after all.
    I did agree with Alicia that those Rice Dream frozen desert thingies are really yummy, but I don’t kid myself that they’re healthful.

  21. Since TV went digital I am frequently unable to watch anything. So thank you SO MUCH for sharing this.

    (Hey, may be you could host a Food, Inc, giveaway. :) )


  22. Kelly,
    Great post. I never watch Oprah, but if I new she was having Michael Pollen on I would have :( Thanks for the great note taking. And great job Michael Pollen.

  23. It really makes me a bit crazy to hear the whole “can’t eat real food cheaply – cheaper to eat fast food” because that just isn’t true.

    It’s P.A. day here and the boys wanted McDonald’s and well, I gave in. I’m not perfect. So, one Big Mac combo and two cheeseburger kids meals came to $16! If I had taken that $16 to the farmer’s market next door (ironic, eh? – and we did do our shopping for this week there after our disgusting lunch) I could get a chicken and a bunch of veggies that I could have turned into a three meals: roast, pie and soup.

    It comes down to convenience, pure and simple. I don’t buy supermarket meats, but I get good quality butchered meat. Soon I’ll be getting “natural” meats straight from the farm, but until then, I can afford a chicken, a roast and some sausage, plus enough veggies for the week. Fast food would bankrupt me! Boxed food like substances are a different matter, but even there, when you plan well, you can still manage to cook real food with actual nutrients in it instead of reconstituted gunge.

    While natural meats and pastured unpasteurized dairy and organic seasonal veggies are the optimal choices, one can easily eat great local foods within a budget.

    OK, I’ll stop grumbling now :)

  24. Just saw the show and LOVED the Michael P and Food Inc. segments! SO glad Oprah got on the ‘real food’ bandwagon and shared it with the masses. I was bothered, however, by her excessive pandering to the beef lobby/legal counsels with her emphasis of making your OWN opinion…I mean come on, how controversial is humane, sustainable food?! (It’s the idealist in me;-) I wish MP had the full hour. To be followed by the fake chicken in plastic bags was not the best segue…

  25. Very cool!! I love it! I hope it keeps going. I am going to start an “eat more fat” challenge on my blog in March and I know I have some very skeptical readers. We’ll see if anyone gets on board with that. :)

  26. I wish I could have seen this show. I just finished his book, In Defense of Food. Loved it, he is a brilliant man. He reconfirmed what I was already doing. I have been living paleo for about 6 months and feeling better than I have ever felt my entire life.

  27. Thanks for the re-cap. Your post and Jo-Lynne’s over at Musings of a Housewife have really caused me to stop and think about this stuff. I just added Food Inc to my Netflix que and bumped it up to #1 so I can see it soon.
    I’m sure to be an avid reader of yours from now on!

  28. Hey, everybody. I taped the first 20 minutes of the show then inadvertently taped over the rest!

    If somebody still has the show (either on VHS or DVD) and can send it to me I’d be willing to upload it to for everybody to re-watch it! Lemme know. Thanks.

  29. Suppose it would help if I included my email (see previous post above)! Here it is: lightstorm1 (at) gmail (dot) com

    (obviously substitute the words with the symbols)

  30. Looking for the recipe “Leek, Mushroom, Pesto Crustini” which was shown on this episode… ‘Oprah Food 101’. Does anyone know how to find it? Thanks.

  31. Um, try She’s the one that featured it. It’s also probably in Alicia Silverstone’s book, “The Kind Food Diet,” which she was promoting in the segment.

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