Home & Lifestyle, Wellness, Food

Discover Where Your Food Comes From

Michael Pollan

Lesson time 19:11 min

Learn how to navigate the four food chains—industrial, big organic, regenerative, and first-person—and explore the values each one represents.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Why You Should Learn About Food Sources • Understand Industrial Food • Understand Organic Food • Not All Organic Food Is Created Equal • Find Regenerative Sources


[MISCHIEVOUS MUSIC] - I think it's impossible to eat well unless you know where your food comes from, unless you know how it was produced. You can have a potato here and a potato there, and they might look the same. And they might even taste the same, but one of them may be full of pesticides. One of them may be grown in a system that was really dangerous for farmers or environmentally irresponsible, and so you can't tell looking at it. You've got to do a little bit of a deep dive and-- and trace it back to the source. In one sense, your food comes from the supermarket, but as you know, they don't actually produce the food. They only sell it. In the supermarket, there's a certain amount of information you can get about how your food is produced. You can find an organic label. You can find a humanely raised label or pastured chicken, so there's an attempt to get some of that information to you. But labeling is a poor substitute. It's never enough information, and sometimes, it's deceptive information. People put labels on things that don't mean anything-- farm fresh or natural. It means absolutely nothing. So it's very easy to become confused in the supermarket, and we have to dig a little deeper to figure out where our food comes from. So there are three or arguably four main food chains that are-- that are operating in America today and worldwide, actually. There is the Industrial food chain. There is the organic or I call now the big organic food chain. This is industrialized organic. There is what I call the regenerative food chain, which consists of smaller farms, highly diversified farms, and then there is what I sometimes call the first-person food chain. This is food you grow yourself or you forage yourself. It's the shortest food chain of all. So we go from the longest to the shortest. And they each operate according to very different rules, and they produce a very different kind of food. Let's say you care about the environment, and that's the value you want to express. Eating from the industrial food chain is damaging to the environment, and eating from the regenerative food chain actually may contribute to environmental health. Without knowing something about these food chains, it's very hard to eat sustainably. [UPBEAT MUSIC] - So for our next assignment, we're going to do a little detective work, trying to figure out, of the food in your-- either your pantry or your refrigerator, which of the various food chains that exist in America are they part of? So let's take a look at them in turn. Now, in a way, this is the easiest to spot. This you'll recognize as the iconic Twinkie. There's some of the cream on the back. This is very much a product of the industrial food chain. This is a confection made from corn and probably soy ingredients and derivatives of various kinds, highly processed, ultra processed. So this is the crowning glory of the industrial food chain. This is a product ...

About the Instructor

For more than 30 years, award-winning journalist Michael Pollan has explored the intersection of humans and nature—including groundbreaking probes of the food we eat. Now the NYT bestselling author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” teaches you how to ditch fad diets and eat with intention. From following the food chain to fixing dinner, learn to make choices that reflect what’s important to you.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Michael Pollan

Acclaimed author Michael Pollan teaches you what he’s spent decades researching: how to eat more ethically, healthfully, and sustainably.

Explore the Class
Sign Up