A Review of the Movie: Food, Inc.

Food, Inc. is an important film for America. Director Robert Kenner teamed up with Eric Schlosser (author of Fast Food Nation) and Michael Pollan (author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma) to take an in-depth look at the food industry and it’s effects. These effects are far-reaching, extending from our own health to the environment.

It shouldn’t be so shocking to learn where your food is coming from. But this knowledge is essential, and watching Food, Inc. is a good first step. I thought the most important points were changes in food production, hidden costs of the food system, food labels, corporate control, and consumer power.

Food Production Methods of the Past versus Today

Kenner opened the film by stating that food production and the way we buy and consume food has changed more in the last 50 years than it ever did in the previous 10,000. These changes have been driven by a general goal of efficiency: the food industry continuously strove towards making the most food in the cheapest way possible. This had led to a highly mechanized way of raising livestock. As one farmer interviewed stated: “If you want a $2 gallon of milk, you’re going to get feedlots.”

These feedlots have livestock crammed into small spaces, standing in their own manure. If one animal becomes sick, they all become sick. Manure often gets into the meat. Knowing this, E-coli and Mad Cow Disease aren’t that surprising. Food, Inc. estimates that each hamburger patty contains parts from a thousand cattle. What are the odds that at least one of them was containing dangerous bacteria?

Food, Inc. examines poultry production; a chicken is now raised in 48 days as compared to 70 days in 1950. Noticing a customer preference for white meat, the chickens were redesigned to have larger breasts and are twice as big as they were in 1950. This results in chickens that are unable to support their own weight, that are unable to walk. This results in food production that no longer resembles farming, but science and factories.

Hidden Costs of Cheap Food

You have to wonder about why it is so much cheaper to buy junk food than healthy produce.

For people with a small amount of money to spend on food, or people who are hoping to save money, this encourages them to buy fast food and junk food rather than vegetables. This is why today income level is the biggest predictor of obesity, and why a third of Americans born after 2000 will develop diabetes. Buying cheap, unhealthy food has long-term health risks.

Society and the environment are also affected: “we eat a lot of oil.” The average meal travels 1500 miles from farm to table. Why is this necessary when farmers markets are accessible throughout the nation?

Importance of Labels

Schlosser shares that one thing that really surprised him was that the origin of many foods he researched was the same cornfield; much of our food is just “clever rearrangements of corn.” 90% of grocery store products contain either corn or soybeans, and most have both. 70% of all processed food has a genetically modified ingredient. Companies fight for years to keep this kind of information off their labels, but as more and more things are becoming required, it is more important than ever to READ THE LABELS ON THE FOOD YOU BUY.

Corporate Control of the Food Industry

In 1970, the top five beef producers controlled 25% of the market; today, the top four producers control more than 80%. These companies not only control the markets, they control the government, their farmers, and their workers. To even speak out against the food industry can be risky.

Monsanto is the example used by Food, Inc. of a corporation aiming to control food from “seed to supermarket.” They introduced a soybean with a patented gene into the market that today makes up 90% of soybeans in the US. They employ 75 people whose jobs consist entirely of investigating and prosecuting farmers for violating the patent.

Many workers employed by the food corporations are recruited in Mexico, even bussed to their new places of employment. They count on these illegal immigrants to not complain, based on them believing that they have no rights. Smithfield Hog Processing Plant loses about 15 workers a day that are sent back to Mexico. No massive raids occur, and production isn’t slowed.

Consumer Power

You really have to believe that you vote with your money. The food industry is a business, after all, and they will follow the money. For example, the organic movement is one of the fastest growing in the country. Most grocery stores stock organic products due to a customer demand. The industry can be changed.

Ultimately, this film is worth watching. The images shown are powerful, the information surprising and awakening. The goal of the film is clear: it is time for Americans to learn where their food comes from and make a change.

In the meantime, the makers of Food, Inc. represent making these simple changes in order to make a difference:

  • Stop drinking soda and other sweetened beverages
  • Eat at home instead of going out.
  • Bring food labeling into the 21st century
  • Tell schools to stop selling sodas, sports drinks, and junk food
  • Go without meat one day a week
  • Buy organic/sustainable food with little or no pesticides (Full Sircle Farms!)
  • Protect family farms; visit your local farmer’s market (Full Sircle Farms!)
  • Read Labels
  • Tell Congress that food safety is important to you
  • Demand job protections for farm workers and food processors