Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Food Inc. - Time to Weigh In

I just caught the tail end of Food Inc. tonight on PBS. This is probably only the third or fourth time I have seen the 2008 documentary detailing 'corporate farming' and the agri-food industry in the U.S.

The first time I watched it was on a plane, and I was compelled to comment but had no forum do so. I suppose, had I been a good 'agvocate' and didn't have a policy against small talk on airplanes, I would have turned to the person next to me and starting discussing the film's themes and got their feedback. I didn't.

Rather than give an opinion on the film overall, I want to share the feelings and emotions it brings forth each time I've seen it. Bear in mind, I'm of farming background.

Anger - Anger at an industry so focused on profit and money, they've overlooked health. I don't mean farmers, I mean the huge processors who drive this industry. Anger that companies I respect would sue and put their own customers, farmers, out of business.

Disgust - Disgust at what goes on in a meat-packing plant.

Embarrassed - Embarrassed to be disgusted. I know what goes on in a meat packing plant, and feel like it should never be shown publicly. There is no way that can look good. People should be educated, but large plants will never look good. If a meat-packing plant was all rainbows and butterflies, how sadistic would we be as people?

Fear - Fear of meat-packing plants. I always have been from the time I was a little girl, and I accompanied my mom to the butcher shop and saw carcasses hanging in the cooler. I still eat meat. Fear we've fed ourselves into obliteration. Literally. As a university student, I recall reading a study on starch and its high glucose level and (primarily negative) impacts on our body. I am mildly educated, and I believe high fructose corn syrup is one of the worst things you can put in your body. It's in everything and that scares me.

Frustration - Frustration at the blatant one-sidedness that most viewers, who know only which aisle to find the corn pops versus what corn is, will never question. Frustration the agribusinesses weren't permitted to tell their story in a fair manner.

Pride - Pride over the farmer that states: "As long as you want $2 milk, you're going to have a feedlot in your backyard. You have the control. I guarantee farmers will produce what you want."

Hope - Hope that consumers will choose healthier food options with their wallets. It happened in the tobacco industry. Hope that consumers will continue asking more questions about their food. Hope we as an industry will be open to listen, provide answers and calm and internalize their concerns.

Happy - Happy I can watch the film and feel all these things. Happy that concerns like traceability, which our Canadian industry is working hard (and spending money) to implement are highlighted as gaps. If we're going to go to the effort to implement this high system of accountability, then there better be a spotlight pressuring our largest trading partner to do the same.

That's all from me, for now. I'm dying for your feedback on Food Inc. Have you blogged about it? What's your opinion?


  1. * Pride - Pride over the farmer that states: "As long as you want $2 milk, you're going to have a feedlot in your backyard. You have the control. I guarantee farmers will produce what you want."

    Jen that says it all! That is by far the best part of the entire film, as it is the only completely honest line.

    The film as a whole frustrates me. I took Ann Clark's first organic course back in 02 or 03, she was all about Joel and his farm, we read excerpts from Guns Germs and Steel, the Omnivore's Dilemma, and so on and so forth. But what it all boils down to is: sure, raising and processing our food like we did in the 19th century is all well and good.. but.. there's no way on earth to feed 6,000,000,000 people in that fashion...
    So it's up to the consumer to decide whether or not we feed 3bln or 6bln people... YIKES. So let's leave it to the gov't to figure it out... YIKES...
    Luckily we have the AGW debate to the rescue to give us the food v. fuel dilemma..

    I could probably go on for hours more on the film and it's topics but right now it'd be rambling after a long nightshift of putting sweetcorn in 15oz cans..
    I hope that more comment on this topic as well, especially since folks here are complaining that the price of food is climbing... ooh 1.99 for a doz. eggs, 3.99 for a gal. of milk, oh no the sky is falling....

    oac '04

  2. I never took Ann's class, so it's interesting that she would teach these things. It's one thing to teach organic practices, but quite another to try to get the whole industry to change over.

    And how about consumers who already feel they pay too much for food? How would they cope? For me, the film scratches the surface of several other issues.. like a society that doesn't buy healthier, fresh food because they don't know how to prepare it.

    $3.99 for a gallon of milk though.. what was it formerly and when did the price start going up?

  3. I too had a variety of emotions when watching Food Inc. I'll admit my first was anger, but it gradually changed. I felt the same way when reading the book Skinny Bitch. I recently wrote a two part blog post on the book. Check it out. http://ruralrouteramblings.wordpress.com/2011/05/16/the-skinny-on-skinny-bitch-part-1/

  4. Jen, I extrapolated at bit, as a bachelor I only buy it by the half gallon and it's 1.49 on sale to 2.19 regularly depending on the brand, but typically I buy store brand Piggly Wiggly milk 2% m.f. that is 1.99/half gal. It's been roughly at this price point since I moved here to the Dairy State 3.5yrs ago.
    Ann is a different cookie but she is def one of the driving organic forces at Guelph. She's got the grazing ideas bang on, but when it comes to the socio-economics of production agriculture it gets a little sketchy..
    When it comes to the price point... you've got it, there are millions here on the continent that feel that they pay too much for food as it is... to that I argue, they've never endured a war like Europe has, Europe values food. Portions are or were smaller and steak is/was a luxury. In essence we've had it to damned good here.
    Regarding the the healthy fresh food, people claim that but what it boils down to is we are a "I want it good, I want it fast" society. It's not that people don't know how to make gravy on the stove with the drippings from a roast, they just don't wish to take the time or effort. Hell, I fall into that category when I'm working 70+hrs a week too, but come fall/winter, I watch what I buy and I make it myself!