It’s January again (wait, let me check…yep it’s still January), & my movie mind starts to wander toward documentaries. It happens every year. Whether it is the exposure documentaries get this time of year with the lead up to all of the big awards shows or it is a form of movie new years resolution, I’m just drawn to documentaries at the beginning of a new year. And do I have a fabulous one for you this time.
Food, Inc. is an investigation into how our food supply has changed dramatically over the last 50-60 years. As the movie says, we have experienced “more changes to our food supply in the last 50 years, than the 10,000 years previous.” Producer/Director Robert Kenner was interested in finding out about where the products that stocked his local supermarket’s shelves came from. What he, & co-producer Eric Schlosser, found will startle, anger, & sadden you.
The movie contends that what was once a rich, diverse market for food supply has come to be “controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of
consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of
workers and our own environment.” And why did it all change? Because how we ate changed. Fast food changed how we eat & thus changed everything about our food supply. The bigger, faster, cheaper mentality gobbled up small family farms, & created a monopoly out of our food supply. McDonalds is the #1 consumer of meat & potatoes in the U.S. They are also near the top for tomatoes, lettuce, apples, & wheat. Sort of startling, but maybe not too surprising. Don’t worry, we’ll get to surprising.
What Food, Inc. does well is weave in stories of how our modern food supply has affected everyday people in all walks of life. The food safety advocate who also happens to be a Mom whose son died of an E. coli infection in 12 days. The chicken farmer who wouldn’t cave to the demands of Tyson & build new, closed, dark chicken houses (at a cost to her of several hundred thousand dollars) all for a paltry sum of around $20,000 per year (Tyson revoked her contracts after she refused). The farmer who was helping his neighbours “save” seeds to replant the following season, & who was being sued by a giant seed conglomerate. The low-income family in Los Angeles who would eat fast food because it was often cheaper than buying vegetables at the supermarket (in a particularly heart-wrenching moment, the young daughter would like to get pears from the grocery store, but her older sister explains she could only get 2 or 3 for the amount of money she has, so she would be better off buying chips).
But all is not lost. There is the story of Joel Salatin, whose farm in Virginia is beyond organic. He stresses the importance of buying local, which he backs up with the fact that they will not ship anywhere. He wants people to go seek out farmers & co-ops in their own communities. And then there is Gary Hirshberg, founder of Stonyfield, who has helped to bring organic to the masses. And when I say masses, I mean Walmart. He says he still gets a lot of flack from his environmentalist friends about dealing with Walmart, but he figures that he doesn’t want to be David, he wants to be Goliath.
Food, Inc. is not another movie warning us against “bad food.” Frankly we don’t really need another movie to do that. We all know what foods are “bad” for us. What we didn’t know is how bad these foods are for all aspects of our life, from our economy to our environment.
This movie pretty much floored me. I was shocked by the politics; by the callous regard that these big conglomerates have for not only the consumer, but for their own employees; & by the fact that the family farm is practically a myth. It made me want to make changes any way I know how. With my wallet. With my vote. With my voice.