Food…a basic need for all living things. There’s a vast disparity, however, between the way humans and other species meet this need. Food, Inc., the documentary by Robert Kenner, puts a critical eye on our food industry.
Americans, in particular, tend to be left in the dark about how our food gets from the farm to the table. That is, of course, how the major food conglomerates want it. For if we actually knew what went on in the stages between production and ingestion, we would likely cease buying that food altogether.
In the opening of Food, Inc., we see a typical American supermarket, filled with the kinds of food many buy week-to-week: milk, eggs, butter, ground beef, chicken, etc. The credits, in fact, are cleverly designed to resemble the packaging on these items.
Now imagine the dairy section in your supermarket; what sorts of scenes are portrayed on the packaging? A classic rural farm with a red barn? Cattle grazing in the fields, or a rooster crowing? As you may see in the film, these images are little more than a fantasy on most of today’s corporate farms.
As Roger Ebert points out in his review of the film, years ago you would’ve heard very little about E. coli, the bacteria which inhabit human intestines. Now, it seems, every other week a news item pops up about some type of contaminated food on the market. Specifically, in Food, Inc., there is abundant information about the E. coli serotypes that produce Shiga toxin (Stx), which, according to About-Ecoli.com, is “one of the most potent toxins known to man.”
The film does, surprisingly, have its humorous moments, just as in the film you might call its predecessor, Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me. For example, in some segments, Food, Inc. practically satirizes the American fast food we’ve come to know and love, particularly Burger King, McDonald’s, and Wendy’s.
The majority of its focus, however, is an exposé on the FDA and the USDA, the very government organizations that are, in theory, responsible for our health and the safety of our food. In detail, the film shows what takes place inside the meat processing “farms” which turn cows, pigs, and chickens into the meals we see on the supermarket aisle and in fast food restaurants. Much of these graphic segments are stomach-turning, not only in the cruel treatment of the animals, but in the way their meat is handled afterwards. The film may make vegetarians out of a number of viewers!
Support for Food, Inc.‘s message is provided by such authors as Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma) and Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation). Also, besides its criticism of the industry’s treatment of food itself, the film exposes the often poor and unsafe conditions that workers are forced into, especially those who are illegal immigrants.
Without giving away all of the film’s surprises (and yes, there are many), Food, Inc. is definitely a piece that should, by its very nature, make you think the next time you sit down to eat.
On the other hand, the filmmakers are in no way asking consumers to give up meat, or to live on a farm; instead, they hope you will consider the source of your nourishment.
So, too, does Food, Inc. tell almost all sides of the story, hearing from those who grow the food; those who sell it; the workers that pack and distribute it; and the consumers who eat it. Many of these stories are heartbreaking, but not all.
Should you see it? Answer that with this question: do you eat food?