I know I said last week when I wrote about going to see “Food, Inc.”, that I wouldn’t go on and on about this movie, since many bloggers have already done so…BUT, then I read Jeanmarie’s movie review, and had to share it with you! Thanks, Jeanmarie!
This movie fully lived up to my hopes and expectations for being fact-based, fair, even-handed, and thoroughly thought-provoking. Food, Inc. presents a comprehensive view of our food system, how it got this way, and what we can do about it. The producers pulled back the veil the agribusiness producers and factory farmers try to keep between us and our food. If too many people ask to see “what’s going on in the kitchen,” as Michael Pollan put it, business may have to change. Oh, let it be so.
Viewers of The Future of Food and Fast Food Nation, and readers of The Omnivore’s Dilemma won’t find that much new to them, but the stark reality of how our food is produced is still stunning, and has only worsened since those other works came out. The movie weaves in jaw-dropping facts and figures with compelling personal stories and straight-faced presentation of the other side by agribusiness, at least those that would consent to be interviewed. If I were them I wouldn’t talk publicly either. I’d be too busy packing for my new life in the witness protection program. The audience applauded Carole, the sole chicken farmer who had the guts to talk on camera and let us see her operation, which is not even the worst of its kind. Of course, she’s now a former Perdue chicken farmer.
We also meet a seed-cleaner who was sued for allegedly encouraging soybean farmers to save their seeds, in contravention to their contracts with Monopolisto I mean Monsanto. We meet a food-safety activist whose 2 ½ year-old son died 12 horrible days after eating an E. Coli 0157-contaminated burger. We go into food science labs and peer into the rumen of a cow and watch it digest grass. We listen to Joel Salatin talk about his run-ins with the FDA over sanitation as he eviscerates just-killed chickens in his open-air processing station. Contaminant levels of his chickens: 133 coliform units; factory-farm chickens: 3600. And the FDA wants to shut HIM down, while the grieving mother can't even get an apology from the billion-dollar company whose contaminated beef killed her child.
We see how the poor undocumented workers at meat-packing plants are arrested for immigration violation while the meatpacking conglomerate that lured them to the U.S. is left alone with a workforce too vulnerable and afraid of deportation to complain about conditions. We see the revolving door between industry and the FDA (even the Supreme Court!) in a particularly memorable way.
And so much more. I was enthralled the whole time.
While there are moments that are difficult to watch (not limited to the slaughterhouse scenes), it’s not because of gore but rather the enormous implications and the dawning realization that greed has so warped the system that it’s all but too late to turn things around. That’s when the filmmakers remind us that in a consumerist, capitalist society, consumers actually do have considerable power, if we educate ourselves and make deliberate choices and make our demands known, rather than passively accepting whatever swill the food industry dishes out for us.
Food, Inc. may take the real food revolution to a new level. It isn’t an anti-capitalist screed, nor a an argument for vegetarianism — though vegetarians may well feel it further justifies their choices. The solution is to use the system to compel change. As endnotes to the movie put it, we can all vote to change the system, three times a day. Every choice we make of how to spend our food dollars, of what to put in our mouths, is a chance to say, this is what I value, this is what I want more of, this is what nourishes me.
And maybe, this is what I'm willing to fight for.
As I consider my own recent food choices, I feel pretty good about how far I’ve come. Over the years I flirted with vegetarianism, was macrobiotic for awhile, tried to do Atkins at another point. I fasted in Thailand (twice!) and ate with my hands, squatting on the floor, in India. I lived in Japan for 13 years and ate food from around the world. Now I grow some of my own food, shop at the farmers market, patronize several food co-ops and give my grocery store budget to a local two-store chain that sometimes showcases locally produced foods; I’m certainly on the lookout for them. In my freezer are a quarter of a grass-fed cow, from a local farmer, and a whole pig raised locally on pasture. I buy my friend Julie’s eggs at the farmers market if I get there early enough; they always sell out. When I drink milk, it’s raw, an act that would be illegal in many U.S. states.
I buy fewer and fewer prepared or processed foods of any kind, even at the health-food store. I read labels, and have been doing so since I was a kid eating cold cereal. Now I know what to look for. I cook dinner.
Uncharacteristically, I stopped at a Burger King the other day, I must confess. I was on the road, I wanted meat. I got some kind of big burger and fries combo with unsweetened iced tea (I draw the line at high fructose corn syrup, even on a “binge”). I ate half the burger and fries and felt a bit sick. It didn’t even taste as good as I imagined it might. I threw away most of the bun and gave the rest of the meat to my dogs (sorry, puppies). I wish I’d never stopped there, but I think I minimized the damage, and it will be a cold day in hell before I go back, especially after seeing Food, Inc. I do not want any part of a system that commoditizes and brutalizes animals and workers alike, that is increasingly controlled by the likes of Monsanto and that has turned much of the great American rural landscape into a monoculture ghost town.
Let’s take back our food system.
Jeanmarie Todd is a former health-care industry and science editor for Bloomberg News. She currently lives on a farm in Mendocino County, California, with three dogs, two cats (the third went feral) and billions of friendly microorganisms in the kombucha, kefir and lacto-fermented vegetable cultures that share her home.
Jeanmarie with her cookbook collection. 🙂