Distributed by: Magnolia Pictures
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Whenever you decide to head out with a friend to rent movies, you pretty much know that you are going to be watching something you probably never would have rented on your own. Such was the case when we headed out to the local video store this weekend and my food-conscious friend picked up a copy of Food, Inc. She had heard that Michael Pollan had a great deal to do with the movie’s production and she had read and enjoyed two of his books, so she wanted to check the film out. I shrugged - as long as I got to pick out a movie I liked, I was open to watching a documentary.
Food, Inc. stars investigative journalist and author Eric Schlosser and journalist, activist and author Michael Pollan. The main theme of this documentary is awareness. The filmmakers want you to be aware of where your food comes from and how your misconceptions about the way your food gets to your dinner plate can be harmful to your health. The documentary opens by reminding us how often our local grocers like to remind us that everything in their supermarket is farm fresh, even though that may not be the case. Packaging on the items we purchase may show farmers, but our food is not created in the traditional sense of farming.
Thus, we head off to some farms to learn just where our food comes from. We learn about the industrial production of our food. Much like the car assembly line perfected by Ford Motor Company, big corporations are using this process on the foods we eat. Each individual person on the food assembly line has a specific job and this allows manufacturers to pay them less. So, it’s a cost effective way of running things, right? Wrong.
Consider the huge cow farms that began cropping up all over the place in the last decade or so. Hundreds of cows cramped into one place, knee deep in their own manure, being fed corn to make them fatter rather than the hay and grass they are supposed to be eating. Want to know where all those outbreaks of Mad Cow Disease and E Coli have been coming from? This is the place to head toward.
Chicken farms are no better. We are eating genetically designed chickens - chickens fed hormone-rich food to produce more of the white breast meat craved by the consumer. Larger chickens are good, right? Well, the chicken’s body and weight outgrows the bone structure. Thus, the chickens can barely walk because their bone structure can’t handle the extra weight. They are grown in windowless pens filled with other hormone-induced chickens who can barely move. Disease is easily spread in these environments.
Then there is the corn industry and the soy industry. Everything we eat today is filled with either some corn or soy product. However, the farmer can’t use his own seeds to grow the corn or soy, he must use the genetically altered seed created by a top United States chemical company who, at one time, created herbicides, DDT and Agent Orange. These are the people who we are entrusting our lives to by eating food that has been genetically or chemically engineered by this company.
God help the farmer who wants to go against the grain and do things the old fashioned way. That farmer will find himself in litigation for so long he will become bankrupt on either trumped up or real charges. It doesn’t matter - as long as there is no competition. Take into consideration, too, where these companies operate - in financially depressed areas filled with people who are so desperate for some sort of income that they are willing to work there, despite how wrong they may think the process or the diseases they come down with thanks to the antibiotics fed the animals or the deplorable conditions the animals are kept in.
Like Upton Sinclair’s book, The Jungle, this film is meant to shock you into awareness. Food, Inc. may have some rather nasty scenes in it, but they are all designed to bring you the truth in a way that affects your stomach as well as your mind. If you thought the way animals are raised on these industrial farms is disgusting, maybe you’ll think twice about supporting the companies who do their business this way. Maybe you’ll support your local farmers and their attempts to do things the way farmers have been doing them for millions of years. It may seem old fashioned to some, but most can agree that the way these local farmers operate is much more desirable for our own health’s sake.
Food, Inc. is a well-done, well-researched documentary. The fact that major food companies either declined to comment on the film or commented, but did little to disprove the merits of the film’s contents goes to show that there is a great deal of truth to what is being taught in this documentary. The film was well-put-together in terms of visualization, cinematography, music and the like, all designed at grabbing your attention and making a believer out of you.
Some would say that documentaries like Food, Inc. are solely geared toward shock value and contain little in the way of facts. Those individuals would be wrong. I actually know someone who used to live near one of these cow factories, and everything they ever told me about what went on at these factories was shown in amazing detail in this film. We’ve known for years how the big industries have been putting the little farmers out of business. Now we see how and just how unhealthy this has become for the people these industrial farms serve.
Food, Inc. is an intelligent documentary that every consumer in America should take a gander at. The knowledge gleaned in even a half hour of watching can go along way toward promoting health in our communities and put an end to the purchasing of “Frankenfoods“ everywhere.