The film Food, Inc. By award winning documentary maker Robert Kenner starts out with a simple goal: it wants to find out where our food comes from. In his quest to answer this question, however, Kenner, and his two narrators, Pollan and Schlosser, find some unpleasant and startling facts about the way in which our food is raised, caught and ultimately produced for mass distribution. Essentially, this wonderfully executed film exposes the negative impact that industrialization has had on farming, on our health and on our environment. This paper will thus prove these negative effects by referencing topics covered by the movie, including what society should do in order to reverse the irrevocable damage that this way of producing food is bound to have upon our society. [1: "Food, Inc.' Film Looks at Corporate Impact on What We Eat | Daily Dish | Los Angeles Times." Top of the Ticket | Jay Carney's Newest Warning to Syria on Violence | Los Angeles Times. Web. 07 May 2011. . ] [2: Official Food, Inc. Movie Site - Hungry For Change? Web. 07 May 2011. . ]
Kenner starts out the film with an important sentence. The narration states, "The way we eat has changed more in the last 50 years than in the previous 10,000." The film continues by describing that although this change has occurred the images used to sell food are still those pristine images of agrarian America from over 100 years ago. Pictures of farmers, green grass, and picket fences are thus ever-present on the things we buy. However, the pastoral fantasy is only a fantasy. The reality, as the documentary will prove, is quite gruesome. [3: Food, Inc. Dir. Robert Kenner. Perf. Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser. Magnolia Pictures, 2008. DVD. ]
With over 47,000 products on the shelves of the average supermarket, it is, indeed unsurprising that endlessness and lack of seasons, especially for produce, is possible. Tomatoes, for example, are available year round, yet, as Pollan and Schlosser state, what looks like a tomato, is only the "idea" of a tomato, as this product was most likely picked green and ripened with ethylene gas. Or take the meat aisle, for example, where bones are non-existent. When in a supermarket, one does not necessarily question these things or see them as unsettling, but, as the film states, there is a clear curtain between consumers and the producers. The reason for this "curtain" is that the industry does not want consumers to know what they are eating because if they knew they may not want to eat these products. [4: Food, Inc. Dir. Robert Kenner. Perf. Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser. Magnolia Pictures, 2008. DVD. ]
Meat, for example, is not produced on a farm, but in a factory. The animals and workers are being abused in these huge facilities and the multi-national corporations that control the system will not do anything about these conditions. The sad fact is that multinationals control the entire food process, have enormous power, and do not want the film's story told. Fast food, for example, is something that many of us have eaten at some point in our lives. Yet how many times have we actually stopped to reflect upon what we are eating? I, for one, love hamburgers, yet before seeing this movie I did not think twice about where the beef in my hamburgers came from, of which I am now ashamed. The idea of a "rural" hidden from us, as Pollan states, is quite startling.
With the advent of fast food, which is the first part of the film, defined as "fast food to all food," the factory system took over restaurant kitchens everywhere. Workers only did one thing again and again and again, according to the film, and could thus be paid much less. This is how McDonalds came to be a huge success in the 1950's. And thus the mentality of uniformity, conformity and cheapness, which is such as rule today, also has unintended consequences, according to the film. Meat was no longer grown naturally, but was enhanced to grow faster and taste better. The documentary shows chickens, cows and pigs living in ridiculous conditions to accommodate our tastes. [5: "McDonald's History." About McDonald's. Web. 07 May 2011. . ]
Due to this kind of production, there are only a handful of companies producing all our food. In the 1970's, according to the film, the top five controlled only 25% of the market. Today, the top four companies (Tyson, Swift, Cargill and National Beef), control over 80% of the market. This is not only valid for beef, but also for pork (Tyson, Swift, Cargill and Smithfield) and chicken. Only three or four companies control the meat, and these companies are very powerful, perhaps the most powerful in the history of the world, states Pollan.
Tyson alone changed the way chickens were raised, with birds being raised and slaughtered at twice the rate, according to the film. A chicken in the 1950's for example, was half as small as a chicken today. Due to this incredible growth over maybe less than 50 days, a chicken will not be able to support itself and, as the documentary shows, it will just fall down and even die due to this accelerated growth rate. Food is highly mechanized, things must taste the same, be the same size, etc. The only things that companies care about is producing a lot of food, on a small amount of land, at an affordable price, according to a representative from the National Chicken Council. [6: Food, Inc. Dir. Robert Kenner. Perf. Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser. Magnolia Pictures, 2008. DVD. ]
One Tyson grower in Kentucky has over 300,000 chickens that live in deplorable conditions and simply states that the only reason one would want chicken that grow faster is "more money in your pocket." The attitude of this grower is despicable, and one cannot help but be shocked at his complete ignorance. [7: Food, Inc. Dir. Robert Kenner. Perf. Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser. Magnolia Pictures, 2008. DVD. ]
He casually states that the chicken never see sunlight and eventually changes his mind about showing the inside of the chicken coops. Only one participant actually shows the documentary filmmakers inside her chicken coop. What this woman shows is very shocking. As she states, "it is nasty in here [the coop], there is dust flying everywhere, there are feces everywhere…this isn't faming it's just mass production like in a factory." She also states that antibiotics are put in the chickens and allows the camera to film a Perdue pickup, which is always done at night because the chickens are less resistant in the dark. On another note, the film states that neither Tyson nor Perdue allowed them to have interviews with any representatives from these firms. [8: Food, Inc. Dir. Robert Kenner. Perf. Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser. Magnolia Pictures, 2008. DVD. ]
The catchers for these chickens, it is later showed, are often picked up like criminals. This woman also illuminates the public on the financials of owning a chicken house, which can cost up to $500,000. This is, then how the big companies can keep farmers under control. They do not allow any say in business, in how the chickens are grown, etc.
The next section of the film is titled "A Cornucopia of Choices" and speaks about the fact that, as aforementioned, there are only a few companies involved in producing our diversity, and according to Pollan, everything seems to lead back to "a cornfield in Iowa." He further states that 100 years ago, a farmer could maybe grow a few dozen bushels of corn, but now, 200 bushels is "no problem" due to new fertilizers and pesticide innovations. Corn is actually produced below the cost of production due to government subsidies and multi-national corporations' lobbyists due to these corporations' need for crops. Scientists, however, do not think that this over-production is necessarily great. In their opinion, we have now engineered our foods. Corn, however, does account for major stapes of our diet, including, ketchup, cheese, peanut butter, salad dressings, coke, jelly, syrup, juice, fast foods and meats. [9: Food, Inc. Dir. Robert Kenner. Perf. Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser. Magnolia Pictures, 2008. DVD. ]
The next topic to be broached is the E.coli virus, a product of the diet of cattle and cattle life. For example, these cattle stand in manure all day long, so if one cattle has E.coli the others will get it. The virus can thus mutate and become the deadly force that had infected America so quickly in the 1990's. In order to illustrate this, the documentary broaches Unintended Consequences in the next section, and the death of a small child from E.coli. By 2006, according to the documentary, E.coli had erupted 20 times. The problem with these outbreaks…