Although I’ve mostly stuck to restaurant reviews up until this point in my blogging time, I’ve decided to expand my horizons a bit and start reviewing other food-related products as well. I often keep up with my interest in food and food culture through things like newspapers, books, and, as you can probably guess from the title of this post, films. One movie that I was a little late in the game watching, but which made me happy for watching at all is Food Inc, which was directed by Robert Kenner and released in 2008. Like with any documentary, this one has bias and highlights points that support its ultimate message, but even accounting for bias, it is clear that food production in the United States is a serious issue that people need to approach with open eyes. Not too much in Food, Inc. should shock many informed citizens, but it definitely strives to provide people with facts while demonstrating what needs to be done to foster change.
Much of the film is shown along the backdrop of the story of Kevin, a little boy who died of E.coli at the young age of two, as well as farmers and their takes on how this shift in producing food has impacted both their livelihoods and the quality of food their growing. These story lines, particularly Kevin’s, serve a dual purpose; they provide you with tons of facts about where the food industry currently is and they tug at the heartstrings. When you look at the picture of a chicken in 1950 versus a chicken in 2008, it should gross you out, but when you hear about a woman losing her child and people being forced out of their jobs, you should be upset. A bad situation goes from being undesirable to an atrocity, which isn’t a bad tool to use when trying to rally the troops. Personally, as a passionate food geek, the former is enough to skeeve me out, but the latter is necessary in order to draw in bigger crowds. There are dramatics that run throughout, but its goal of starting a discussion about food is one that should be acknowledged and appreciated.
One aspect of the documentary that I found particularly important was the statement that people should be willing to pay a little bit more in order to ensure that they’re purchasing safe products. Nowadays, so many Americans want to be able to eat out often, but eat cheap, large portions as well. Simply put, this can’t realistically happen, and I think people should be more active about buying safe foods, especially if all it means is taking shorter showers or going shopping for new outfits less often. This isn’t true for all families, especially those who struggle to put food on the table in the first place, but for the families that can afford it, purchasing better food should not even be a debate. What we’re doing now only leads to the continual growth of big fast food chains as well as a slew of other problems, including health and economic ones, and the film does a pretty good job of fleshing out the complexities of these issues.
Even those who claim to be concerned about their food will just pick up products that are labeled ‘Farm Fresh’ without bothering to look at the ingredients or research the company producing the good. This doesn’t just apply to meat, but pretty much all produce that you can find in your local store. If you come away with nothing else from this movie, at least take this part to heart and start checking up on the food you’re eating. I’m certainly not perfect in this department, but I think that Food, Inc. encourages me to be extra aware of labels now. The movie isn’t claiming that you should give of up everything you love at all, but strives to promote balance and awareness, two things that people should learn to automatically do for everything.
This is a pretty visually shocking film, and while I can confidently state that I will not be becoming a vegetarian anytime soon, I will acknowledge that some of the shots of meat throughout the documentary left me a bit uncomfortable. The fact of the matter is that so many meats are over-produced with animals who have been fed corn over healthier options like grass. The producers and the farmers are pretty upfront about how good meat should be produced, so Food, Inc. doesn’t really push a vegetarian agenda; however it does encourage citizens to ask more questions about what goes into hamburger patties or large, boneless chicken breasts. Frankly, I think that if you’re a meat lover, this is a great documentary to watch because it will make you want to go out and search for meat that is produced ethically, which often means better flavors. And, if you can’t get on board with tastier meat, what can you get on board with?
There is so much to unpack in this movie and so many complex issues that it deals with that I almost wish it was just the introduction to a whole series. The focus is on food, where our food is coming from and how it’s produced, but this one topic leads to even bigger issues like immigration and changing American values. Even if you aren’t a huge documentary lover, this one is an essential one to watch. I am no perfect food shopper myself, but I do tend to avoid fast food and try to stop by farmer’s markets; however, the hour and a half that it took me to watch this film showed me that I am still a part of the problem, and that until more people realize the same thing, these awful foods are still going to hit our shelves. We don’t have to eliminate all of them completely, but we do have to be aware. Healthy, safe food is essential for the States to continue to flourish, and I just hope that more measures are taken to produce this food sooner rather than later. Food, Inc. is a movie that sticks with you and has you itching to go shopping just so you can make better food choices right away.