Sunday, June 28, 2009

Food, Inc - Digested Thoughts

Call me naive. Okay, I'll save you the effort, I'm naive. I wanted to like, no love, this movie.

I was looking forward to an expose showing how cattle are stunned, bled-out and mechanically de-hided; how veal is mass produced with the baby calves being confined to small cages so to not use their muscles which promotes a more tender meat; how chickens live their full lives packed in small cages stacked 10 ft. high never seeing sunshine and are discarded, still alive to suffer a slow death, at the first sign of illness; how pigs are lined snoot-to-ham in single file to feed from each others feces because of their inefficient digestive tract; how ducks and geese are force fed grains to cause a swelling of fattiness in their liver to produce the prized foie gras. I want to know what happens in a packing plant, the nastiness, the conditions, the real story. How about following the graft from plant GM to USDA inspector/grader? I want reasons to swear off meat for the rest of my life. I want to know what happened to Shorty.

I was expecting to see how animals are mistreated in a mass production operation. I'm naive.

I was looking forward to a deeper understanding of how the mass production of crops is having a negative impact on our environment. How herbicides are creating new strains of undesirable and resistant, yet invasive plants; I want to know how new, more economic(but oxymoronically wasteful), farming methods and techniques are turning our nation's once rich and fertile farm land into a simple sterile growing medium. I wanted to know how raising corn and soy beans have affected the American diet causing an epidemic of obesity. I wanted it made clear, to all Americans, if we continue to "feed the world" as we are now doing, what long-term price is being paid.

I've always subscribed to the thought "give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime". Could that not have been at least constructively suggested by filmmaker Robert Kenner?

Again, I'm naive.

I was also expecting the issue of labor and lifestyle to be addressed. How under educated, commonly undocumented workers toil long hours at low wages. How they're often cheated of their wages and how they have no other options, no recourse, no health insurance and no chance for an improved future. I want to know how the few large corporate farms/developers are using genetically modified plants to not only intentionally incapacitate small, family farmers, but are controlling the global commodities market. I wanted an analysis of how small farm communities have been a host for the parasitic factory farms that continue to cause lifestyle decay and how farms that were once passed from parent to child are now forced to be sold to cover mortgages and other debt; and future farmers only option are to take low paying jobs the corporate farms create.

Overestimation on my part because I'm naive.

Instead Kenner elects to sit on the sidelines and throws darts at large corporations such as Monsanto, Tyson, Cargill and Conagra. Easy targets are they. So benign were the claims, representatives from the corporations wouldn't comment. Really, how hard is it to establish a point, especially with these topics, to get a corporate PR person to "at least" respond? These issues, labor reform, animal cruelty and environmental impact are current hot-button issues with a plethora of information and supporters. I'm calling it lazy filmmaking.

But I'm admittedly naive.

A couple high points of the film gave me hope. Michael Pollan was a consultant and his book Omnivore's Dilemma is heavily relied upon. And Polyface Farm in Virginia is given well deserved exposure showing exactly what can be done in a sustainable, organic and transparent operation. Polyface is also a major player in the book Omnivore's Dilemma. I highly recommend the read.

Perhaps I was expecting a movie version of Pollan's book. Naive thinking.

Can I recommend this film? Only for required curriculum in a basic nutrition course, but in a perfect world it be required viewing in every Junior High health class.

I do; however, recommend spending a few more bucks and time reading Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma. You'll finish satiated and with much less naivety.

Here's a wrap-up with the most redeeming quote from the film:
"to eat well cost more than to eat poorly, to eat poorly cost more than to eat well"

Now, that's food for thought.

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