I’ve already mentioned that I love food. Well, one of the foods I love most is the cheeseburger. A lovely patty of sizzling ground beef, topped with a perfectly melted slice of cheese, all atop a nice sesame bun? Perfection. Add in tomato slices and pickles and it gets better still.

So when I first started reading “Fast Food Nation,” I was sad. With all the gross stuff I was learning about how ground beef is handled in this country — not to mention the horrible way the industry treats its workers— I was starting to think I’d have to give up my beloved cheeseburger.

Then, as I kept reading, I stopped feeling sad and started feeling really angry. One, at the meat industry executives who care so little about the well-being of their employees, and of their customers, that they would sacrifice both worker safety and food safety in the interest of saving a few pennies. Two, at the government for allowing this to happen. And three, at myself, for being lulled into believing that I should be able to buy ground beef for a fraction of what it used to cost and have it be safe. Logic and past experience tell us prices go up over time, not down.

I’m not going to get into the undue influence of lobbyists on lawmakers, because that’s far too big — and political — an issue for my little book review blog. But the upshot is that I’m no longer trusting the USDA to tell me what’s safe to eat.

For now, I’m making a few adjustments to my eating habits in light of what I learned from this book. I’m continuing to cut back on meat consumption in general. I’m trying out different kinds of locally-sourced meat. It costs a lot more, but I figure if I don’t get sick or die from e.coli (or any of the other possible illnesses resulting from tainted meat) it will be worth it. I’m also trying to buy more whole cuts of meat. They can’t hide the garbage in a plain cut of meat the way they can in something that’s all ground up and mixed together. I’m toying with idea of visiting a butcher and getting my ground beef there, where I can actually watch him (or her) put the meat through the grinder right in front of my eyes.

As with a lot of “eat better” plans, a lot of these things cost more money. I know not everyone can afford it. And, honestly, I can’t afford to eat perfectly all of the time, either. But I’m taking Michael Pollan’s advice and doing what I can.

Epilogue: Eat less meat. Buy local. Buy whole cuts. Visit a butcher. I would say “Cut back on fast food,” but 1) I rarely eat it anyway and 2) after starting the whole mess in the meatpacking industry, the fast food chains are actually better off than the rest of us now, since they command enough buying power to require the meatpackers to give them the best meat and leave the rest for us. Lovely.

Next chapter: Chick lit. I need a break from all of this heavy reading. I finally got “Twenties Girl” by Sophie Kinsella from the library after being on the wait-list for quite some time…

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