Skip to content

On “Food Inc.”


Here's the idea you have to get used to when it comes to Food Inc.: One message is that there's nothing wrong with eating animals, and in fact it's fantastic and thrilling and a win-win-win (people-planet-profits) when you eat animals that were "produced" by Polyface Farms. There's no remotely vegan or even vegetarian (though I'm not even sure what the latter would look like) message. We eat animals, and the CAFO system is an evil, filthy, cruel one, but it doesn't have to be that way. The moral of the story is that it's all about the way we farm animals, not that we farm them that is what needs changing.

Film is a visual medium and through direction, dialogue, editing, music
and any effects, the filmmaker presents (in this case) his agenda. And
though I left my notebook at home and was one of three audience members
at yesterday's 12:10 pm showing and could easily have taken notes, I
think I should be able to say what I need to say without exact quotes.

Everything you need to know about what director Robert Kenner wants to say about animals comes a bit more than half way through the film with what I can only describe as a giddy, ecstatic Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms. The tone of the film has just changed from here's-the-terrible-state-of-affairs to look-how-some-ingenious-individuals-are-doing-it-better, and enter Salatin, grinning ear to ear, as he and his family/friends toss chickens upside down into those cones where only there heads stick out so you can yank said heads and access the attached throats to slit. Then they yank the heads, slit the throats, and de-feather and gut the chickens. And all while inspirational music is playing and a breeze is blowing across the fields on a gorgeous, sunny spring day. They grill the chickens, and trust me when I say it's all presented as a peak spiritual experience.

Now, if you can get beyond that, and if you haven't read Pollan and Schlosser and seen King Corn and The Future of Food (both of which are far more thorough on gentically-modified food, corn and Monsanto), you might actually learn something. I tweeted that according to Grist's "Should You See Food Inc.?" quiz, I got a resounding No, so I did know what I was walking into. The film wasn't made for me, so it's almost unfair of me to critique it as I have considering I don't have the same beliefs as the filmmaker or his main sources when it comes to an enormous component of what/whom he calls "food."

Here's the lesson: We have all been lied to about where our food comes from and what goes into making it and who is running the show. We have (and this is true of so many things in this country) the illusion of choice when we go grocery shopping. We are made to believe not only that the tens of thousands of products available in the store come from different companies/sources, but that they are the result of good old fashioned farming that to this day we teach our children about in their books and their toys.

In addition, our system of subsidies has made it so that it is less expensive to exist on fast food than on fruits, vegetables and grains. And then the way we eat causes diabetes. And then the medication we must pay for costs so much that we have to continue to eat fast food rather than choose to eat well because the money that could have gone to eating better has to go to the medication for the disease caused by eating poorly. That's criminal.

Luckily, we know who the criminals are who have put us in this position: the politicians who either came directly from Monsanto or the poultry farmer's association to a position of making food policy, or who are simply bought by them. Our own legislators have put us in this position because they and their friends benefit from it. They are in league, also, with the people who continue to strike fear in migrant workers by performing regular arrests (not of managers, though, but of people more easily replaced), and keeping people with no rights terrified, at tremendous physical risk, and extremely poor.

We also know that many companies with admirable business practices have been bought by colossal corporations (e.g., Tom's of Maine by Colgate, The Body Shop by L'Oreal, Kashi and Mornigstar by Kellogg) and that if voting with your dollars means anything, you need to find out who really owns the food you're buying.

If you dare, check out this small chart and these diagrams, and also please let me know if you know of any from 2008 or 2009. If there's a lesson in Food Inc., it's that you don't know what's in your food or where it came from until you read the label, and then investigate beyond the label.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. I've been putting off watching this film, despite all of the recent fuss over it. Many vegans and animal rights activists participating in forums have been wondering whether it's just another animal welfare or pro-locavore documentary, and from what I've been reading here and elsewhere, that seems to be the case. Maybe instead of Food, Inc., it should have been called Happy Meat, Inc.?

    June 27, 2009
  2. Nemo #

    Lets become more supportive to corporations that spend billions a year to improve the quality of life for all. Namely the corporations that develop seeds that yield more crops for farmers. Of course Food Inc. distastefully knock Monsanto for protecting its patents, but that's a whole different issue for another day.

    August 1, 2009

Leave a Reply

You may use basic HTML in your comments. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS