Warning: Many, many animals were harmed during the making of this film. Many humans, too.
Ignorance, they say, is bliss. But when that ignorance leads to an epidemic of adult-onset diabetes, nationwide food poisoning and the willful withholding of information by food producers, ignorance is simply irresponsible. Food, Inc., directed and produced by Emmy-winning documentarian Robert Kenner, seeks to pull back the curtain and expose the unhealthy activities of federal and corporate food organizations that directly influence American families every day.
Narrated by two longtime journalist advocates of corporate transparency--Michael Pollan (author of The Omnivore's Dilemma) and Eric Schlosser (author of Fast Food Nation)--the film covers a broad spectrum of issues relating to the food industry, from the production of GMOs--genetically modified organisms--such as corn and chickens and the callous treatment of both workers and livestock in concentrated animal feeding operations to the legislative and judicial decisions made in order to keep the American public in the dark about the food they ingest. Using interviews with disenfranchised farmers who no longer own the rights to their seed, food safety advocates--including Barbara Kowalcyk, whose 2-year-old son died from a contaminated burger--and free-range meat men who offer a better solution, the film packs an overwhelming amount of information into its 90-minute running time. With the battle for better food being fought on so many different fronts, it's difficult to organize the various injustices into a cohesive film, but Kenner and company make a game try, and the bleak and disturbing imagery of assembly-line slaughterhouses and hushed-up farm workers fill in the picture.
In our modern industrial culture, efficiency and quantity are the two highest virtues of production. To this end, corporate engineers have designed our food, be it meat or produce, to grow larger in a smaller amount of space. The translation of this set of values into the food industry requires a baffling mindset change that many of the farmers and growers pictured aren't completely comfortable with. While certain interviewees have readjusted their thinking, calling themselves livestock "makers" and content to be the first step in a production line, other working-class families Kenner spoke with have either become disgusted with their participation in the industrial system or are being sued by food corporations for crop rights and defamation. With corporate policing and a legislative body filled with former industry leaders, the workers and producers often have little to no recourse but to live under a tyrannical rule.
Food, Inc. is a slick production, at times as glossy as a wax-coated Red Delicious and at others, as squalid as the ankle-deep piles of filth in which many livestock animals spend their short lives. While the film does not offer perfect solutions, it does ask the viewer to think carefully about their purchasing power. In capitulation to consumer demands, Walmart no longer sells milk produced with rBST growth hormones, a small measure of the impact the public can have on how their food is made. Kenner does not address the cyclical nature of cheap, bad food leading to medical bills that necessitate cheap (bad) food, but he does encourage viewers to know where and how their meals were created, and not settle for discounted products or solutions. You wouldn't buy a cheap car, the film states, if you knew it was unsafe. Why should your food be any different?