Faster, Fatter, Bigger, Cheaper
Who would imagine a routine trip down your supermarket aisle could be hazardous to your health? With the documentary Food, Inc., filmmaker Robert Kenner aims to frighten audiences by exposing behind-the-scenes practices in the industrial food system while diagramming the inner workings and identifying the major players of the American food production chain. Food farming and production is controlled by fewer companies than we might imagine -- all of whom seem immune from ethics, responsibility, and the law. Collaborating with authors Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation) and Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma), Kenner sets out to prove in blistering detail that what we don’t know can hurt us.
The advent of fast food radically changed the way food is produced in this country. The industry’s assembly line mentality created a huge demand in beef, potatoes, and other produce, which led food manufacturers to come up with ways to produce food “faster, fatter, bigger, and cheaper.” So companies like Tyson can now grow a chicken in 49 days instead of three months. And cattle on CAFOs are fed corn instead of grass because corn (a heavily subsidized crop) creates fatter cattle. Also, given the abundance of corn, companies developed processes to break it down into byproducts found in a majority of packaged foods containing all those mystery ingredients on food labels such as high fructose corn syrup, diglycerides, ascorbic acid, and xanthan gum.
But these efficiencies come at a high cost to the environment, to our health, and to society. The use of corn in feed operations diet mutated the deadly strain of E. coli known as E. coli 0157:H7. Production of cheap calories like candy, chips, and sodas makes it more feasible for low-income families to purchase bad rather than healthy food resulting in higher incidences of obesity and Type II Diabetes. And because meat packing companies set up operations in economically depressed areas, companies can exploit with impunity employees who are regularly exposed to the hazardous conditions of the packing environment. Governmental controls that exist to ensure compliance and protect consumers are weakened by budget cuts and political appointments of officials with ties to the food corporations. Companies can operate free of legal restraints, and they keep those operations veiled in secrecy.
Food, Inc. comes across as a David and Goliath story, with food advocates, independent farmers, investigative journalists, organic farmers, and concerned citizens hurling stones at the huge multinational food corporations such as Tyson, ConAgra, Monsanto, Perdue, and McDonalds. It is as much an unapologetic, in-your-face exposé to enlighten an unsuspecting public of the disturbing history behind the food we eat as it is a passionate rallying call to action. With his film, Kenner has performed a public service. After witnessing the harrowing journey of food from the farming and growing stages down though the assembly line and packaging, then onto the grocery store shelves and finally to your dinner table, I guarantee you won’t look at your food the same way again. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
(Released by Magnolia Pictures; not rated by MPAA.)
Review also posted at www.moviebuffs.com.