For those in America who have yet to read The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Fast Food Nation or even The Jungle, the new docu pic Food, Inc. smoothly stirs the boiling pot of food production controversy while allowing those not familiar with the dark secrets of the food production industry to enjoy a film in bite size nuggets.
With Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser a co-producers and Omnivore’s Dilemma writer Michael Pollen one of the consultants (in addition to being on-screen participants) the film offers a solid, well presented structure that offers not only scary, gut wrenching even stomach turning scenes in meatpacking plants, chicken coops and but offers a silver lining into the future of food.
Producer/Director Robert Kenner weaves the film through the various food landscapes from the cramped chicken coops of Maryland to the aerial CAFO vistas to the open grasslands of Polyface Farms. Inside one of the chicken coops live chickens that wallow in their own filth and barely have room to move. Factory farm shots show downer cows being uplifted by forklifts to be transported to the slaughterhouse. The film makes a point of showing people how dangerous and unregulated our food system remains.
Besides showing the torturously nauseating animal conditions, the film doesn’t forget the human factor and the social justice issues. Food, Inc. follows undocumented factory farm workers being arrested while making the point that the huge company that they work for should be the ones under the squad car lights. Kenner also captures the human element in the case of one California family that must decide between fast food hamburgers and broccoli as a result of economic hardship. (Guess which they choose?) Food, Inc displays the bigger-breasted chickens, the perfect pork chop, insecticide-resistant soybean seeds, and even tomatoes that won’t go bad, but also shows the new strains of e coli—and the deadly results.
But the film is not all about “dishonest food” and the “ugly truth” as Kenner captures lively footage of environmentally progressive owners such as Stonyfield Farms’ Gary Hirschberg and Polyface Farms’ Joe Salatin who both proudly declare and demonstrate how food can be produced honestly and without a wall of secrecy. Like The Wizard of Oz, Food, Inc. reveals that cow behind the curtain.
Already this docu pic has several large food conglomerates just a tad worried with companies like Monsanto and the American Meat Institute creating their own websites in response to the film. It’s curious why it took till now to get a response from these food giants because according to the filmmakers representatives from Monsanto, Tyson, Perdue and Smithfield, declined to be interviewed for the movie.
Food, Inc. comes off less like a documentary and more like a food based 1984 where the food conglomerates act like Big Brother. Parts of this film appear to be as scary as any recent horror film. But consider, most horror films are works of fiction while this film deals with stuff that sits on your dinner plate.