(2008) dir. Robert Kenner
While not necessarily breaking any new informational ground, Food, Inc. is the kind of informative and artfully produced kind of documentary that it would be great to get out to “middle America”. The film uses lots of cute and somewhat effective graphics to demonstate points and ideas (it gets a little tired after a while, I thought, but some were good), ideas about the manufactuing of food in the United States. It’s primary interviewees are Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, both of whom come across as knowledgable and grounded, not polemical. But the one who gets the best sound bytes is the free range farmer with a colorful set of expressions.
It’s quite true that our civilization has evolved to a place in which most people are not at all in touch with exactly where their food comes from other than, say, “the grocery store.” Not only do they not know how it is manufactured, but they probably aren’t aware of what is in it, who made it, or why some things might cost so much more than others.
I’m not going to try to boil down the whole set of arguments here. They are all valid. Factory farming is dangerous and disgusting whether it’s poultry, beef, or pork. And the conditions not only are cruel to the animals, terrible for the workers, but potentially lethal to the public. E coli, anyone?
The industry, like so much corporatization of the world, boils down to a handful of massive businesses, much more focused on “the bottom line” than on animal or human life. Farmers are not the farmers that they used to be, but more company pawns, whose subsistance relies upon the corporation, who keep them as indentured servants to a great extent.
And the scariest of the scary is probably Monsanto, who have bio-engineered crops that have filtered over into other fields, infecting (genetically) the entirety of key food crops such as corn and soybeans. And they consider that naturally-spread unnaturalness to be their “intellectual property”.
All I can say is that I feel very lucky to live in the Bay Area, where it’s relatively easy to get one’s hands on not just organic or free range foods, but local foods, whose “carbon footprint” is not so large. These are models that would do well everywhere, potentially, though there is both human-level change and huge governmental, systemical, massive billions and billions of dollars industry change that needs to happen too.
I’d heard that you were supposed to come away from this film kind of afraid to eat anything, but I’d say that I’m more interested in thinking about what I can do personally to help change things. One person in the film suggests that you vote every time you spend money on food. Okay, that’s a start. But how to get this message out further? Well, it seems that reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma might give me other focus and ideas, but I do encourage that this film is a good enough starting point for the uninitiated.
Though its final sequence of “advice” is too long and ends up being too much. Keep it simple, stupid.