I watched Food Inc. in the wake of the Supreme Court decision to strike restrictions of corporate contribution to political campaigns. Already feeling that the hand of corporate American had too much control on my personal life, I almost abandoned the film early and to let my husband finish watching it alone. I’m glad that I didn’t.
Food Inc. is a good example of a documentary that takes sides without ramming an agenda down the viewers’ throats. It set out to show how the food industry is controlled by a small amount of corporations who have sacrificed nutrition, safety and ethics when it comes to animals, workers, products, consumers and environment. Food Inc. refrained from using fringe examples to make an extreme point. Instead, the producers were able to find several people with the same story to support a stance. For example, there were several different chicken and soybean farmers to who were being squeezed by their one corporate client by sharecropping and mafia tactics. “You want to sell chickens to us? Then you must borrow money from us every year to make technical upgrades that you will never be able to pay off.” The soybean farmers were routinely followed by undercover seed agents to make sure they were not “cleaning their own seeds.”
Food Inc. had its fair share of scary yet revealing moments. I knew that live stock is often herded together in quarters that are inhumanely close. But I was surprised to learn that cows are fed corn because it is cheap even though they can’t digest corn very well. The results of undigested food can lead to E Coli. The cows are fed corn because the crops are subsidized to such a low level that it costs pennies to feed the cows thereby allowing the beef corporations to make the biggest profits possible. If you follow the trail of corn, it will take you to chicken breeding facilities, genetically modified foods and thug-like control over criticism of the industry and its products. Remember the beef industry lawsuit against Oprah Winfrey?
An hour into the movie and I was feeling enlightened but was on my way to complete depression about the times in which we live. That’s when Food Inc. threw me a glimmer of hope by way of the Stoneyfield Farm yogurt company. I eat Stoneyfield. I feed it to my kids. What a relief to know that I have been supporting a company whose mandate it is to produce healthy food, ethically, that is good for the environment and is a capitalism success story.
When the film ended, I was feeling that the very bumpy journey had been worth it. I admit that I have a soft spot for socially conscious documentaries that invite the viewer to join the struggle with specific suggestions. Food Inc. did not disappoint me. After the images faded to black, a list of simple tips were offered. Easy things like “read food labels” and “cook with your family” are simple but can have big affects on families as well as the food industry. The next morning, my husband and I spent ten extra minutes in the grocery store attentively labels while conscientiously choosing our food.