Robert Kenner’s documentary “Food, Inc.” sounds like something you’ve heard of before. When Eric Schlosser’s book “Fast Food Nation” first woke America up to the horrific way that fast food meat is processed and Morgan Spurlock’s documentary “Super Size Me” exposed the deadly health concerns of too much fast food, most Americans began to associate fast food with unhealthy food. The organic food movement began to take off and most well- educated Americans began to take what’s in their food more seriously. But it hasn’t been enough — “Food, Inc.” breaks down why in this highly educational investigative film.
The documentary highlights the problem on a corporate scale. Although we appear to have a wealth of options at the supermarket, just because we’re not buying from the big companies or going to the fast food restaurants as much doesn’t mean we’re not buying from the same process. The food industry has changed so much over the last 50 years because of the big companies that the way cattle, chicken and pigs are raised have completely changed. The battle for healthier and safer food goes beyond choosing fast food.
Kenner visits chicken farmers who are basically controlled by the big industry names. Not moving toward more engineering and efficiency is cause for loss of contract. These farmers are constantly in debt to meet these standards imposed by the major brands and thus have to meet them in order to work out of debt. He talks to a soybean cleaner being run out of business by Monsanto, the company that engineered a pesticide-resistant soybean and won the right to enforce that patent so that no farmer could save an unused engineered bean.
The strength of the food lobby and the business people making the policy decisions in government is incredible. Kenner shows us how protected they are, reminding us of when Oprah was sued for saying she wouldn’t eat another burger on her show and had to fight forever before winning the case. The disconnect between the decision-makers and the farmers is vast.
“Food, Inc.” also tries to inform us as much as possible for ways to instigate change, rather than let us be completely overwhelmed by the apparent lack of control both the public and farmers have over food production. There are people out there fighting (such as the mother- turned-advocate of a boy who died of e.coli infection) and there’s proof that consumer choice can drive even the giants like Wal-Mart to do things like only provide milk from cows without growth hormone.
It also doesn’t lean on the many possible gross-out factors. If you’ve been eating processed meat all your life, you won’t come out of this film saying “I’m going to be a vegetarian,” but you’ll be wiser when it comes to your food purchases and who you support (namely organic and local brands) when you are at the grocery store.
Food production has changed so much that it feels like “Food, Inc.” is opening up a huge can of worms in terms of just how much is wrong with the process, but the awareness that it will create in each of its viewers is enough to justify the documentary’s broad scope.
Directed by: Robert Kenner