Saturday, January 16, 2010

FOOD, INC. - the movie

As its name indicates, this movie/documentary describes the American food industry and its effect on YOU.

Yes, you.

Perhaps one of the most interesting concepts I gleaned from this movie is the power of the average American. As one commenter in the movie noted, every time you run a product across the scanner at the grocery store, your voice, your choice, is heard LOUD AND CLEAR. You're casting a vote for what kind of food you want the industry to make for you.

But most Americans are blissfully clueless about that huge monster out there. Perhaps they should have named this movie "Monsters, Inc." -- except that name was already taken. One man calls it a whole world that is being deliberately hidden from us.

How we eat has changed radically in the past 50 years. The delusion that we still eat "grandma's cookin'" may hover over the Thanksgiving table, but the reality of it is LONG gone. Do you realize that much of what you eat comes from one product: corn? The animals whose meat you eat, are all fed on corn. 30% of our landbase is presently planted in (you guessed it) CORN.
Michael Pollan calls our grocery stores "an illusion of diversity." There are only a few companies, only a few food items - "clever rearrangements of corn." When he tried to trace his food to its source, he kept ending up at one place, a cornfield in Iowa.

(My apologies to the Iowa corn growers.) But the fact is, cows were not designed to eat corn; they are designed to eat grass. Many of the additives found in our food are made from: CORN.

But I digress. The overarching point of the movie is that the food industry is corrupt. They have arranged it so that their people serve routinely on the regulatory agencies that are supposed to govern the industry and to keep it serving the eaters of the nation. These folks have conflicting interests. The laws that are passed are NOT designed to protect the consumers; they are passed to protect the companies, claims the movie.

And why do these multi-national, multi-billion dollar companies need protection -- legal and legislative protection? The assertion is that the way they make our food is so dangerous for us, that they need protection from legal action by the eaters who are harmed by their food.


"Well! And when did this all begin?" you ask. Why did our food industry change? Was it over population? Urbanization? War? No, my friend, it was McDonald's. (So claims the movie)

As McDonald's particularly grew to a massive company, it put more claim on the industry. McDonald's alone is the largest user of meat in the country (yes, beef, pork and chicken -- all three). They are the biggest user of potatoes. And they want an absolutely consistent taste, across the board, so that the Big Mac you eat in Richmond will be exactly like the one you eat in Sacramento. And they have the buying power to dictate to the meat industry how that meat must taste -- i.e., what goes into the cow. That was the beginning of the industrialized, factory-processed food we know today.

Thus, one speaker notes about Tyson (another of the biggies): "It's all a science. They've got it all figured out."

So far so good. What's wrong with that? Well, as long as the companies involved maintain as a primary interest the production of healthy food, it would be good. But these are companies, and they are interested in the bottom line. As one company fellow put it, "In a way, we're not producing chickens. We're producing food.... Raising a lot of chickens, on very little land, at an affordable price. What's wrong with that?"

What's wrong with that is what most of the movie is about -- abuse of the animal/crop, abuse of the land, and finally abuse of the consumer.

They showed chickens in a chicken house, large-breasted birds designed to produce white meat, but their bones and organs were so small that they couldn't sustain their own weight, and they couldn't walk. These birds, produced by growers who are industry slaves to the big corporations, are raised in dark tunnel houses. They never see the light of day. They live in their own feces. And their meat is designed for volume, not quality.

"But wait!" you say. "We do want quality. I like yummy chicken." But, friend, that is not the quality I'm talking about. I'm not talking about how it tastes to you, because, frankly, our taste buds have been trained by this industry to LOVE AND ADORE three flavors: salt, sugar, and fat. The quality I'm referring to is chicken that is GOOD for your health.

It won't have additives.
It won't have hormones.
It won't have antibiotics.
It won't be treated with bleach or ammonia.
And because it DOES matter how we humans treat the animals in our care, they will be given sunlight, grass, food designed for them, and a quick, humane death when the time comes.

Perhaps this is enough to get your interest and convince you to see this movie. The point here is that our food is being engineered. And the attitude of the industry toward American eaters is no better than their attitudes toward the animals they abuse.

Be careful what you eat. Read labels. Eat food that are normally in season at that time. Eat fresh foods. Even though a double cheeseburger is 99¢ and a bag of broccoli is $2, buy and eat the broccoli. The closer your food is to your grandmother's (or maybe by this time, your great-grandmother's), the better off you'll be. Remember that salt, sugar and even fat are rarely found in nature, and we should consume them accordingly.

And ask yourself, when you peruse your pantry shelves, "How much of this is processed food? How often do I cook something purely from scratch?"

Early in the movie, one speaker examines tomatoes in the grocery. They look fine, but they are tasteless, useless plate-filler. He calls it "a notional tomato -- the idea of a tomato." I call it an edible food-like substance.

Make sure what you put in your mouth doesn't just look something like food. Eat real food.


  1. That was a very informative post.
    I have not heard of this movie, but it certainly sounds provocative. I've been paying more attention to our food industry ever since I read "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver.
    Thank you for sharing,

  2. this is a great review. I still haven't written anything yet. *loserme* I found that I already knew a lot in the movie, but that it was helpful in coalescing a lot of what i already knew.


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