Food Inc. Director Rober Kenner Speaks

By now, you’ve probably all heard about the new film Food, Inc. directed by Robert Kenner. (And if you haven’t, it will be my pleasure to introduce it to you.) The documentary about our nation’s food supply has been released in selected theaters in the U.S., and will have a wider release within the next month.

From all I’ve heard, the film is like a cross between the two most influential food journalism books of the last decade, The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Fast Food Nation, and the documentary film The Future of Food. It even features frequent voice overs by Pollan and Schlosser.

The Washington Post ran an interview with Rober Kenner, the film’s director, in yesterday’s paper. I loved a couple of Kenner’s point blank answers to the criticism the film’s received from giant agribusiness, and thought I’d share some excerpts from the interview with you:

When asked about the primary message of the film, Kenner responded with this:

There is such a conscious effort to not have us think about where our food comes from. I’m not shocked that agribusinesses denied me access to their plants. But they go to great lengths to continue to deliver this image that food is like it’s always been, when in reality it’s been fundamentally transformed.

Tomatoes look similar but they have no nutritional value and they don’t taste like anything. . . .

I remember the first real tomato I ever ate. I was an adult, at a street market in Cusco, Peru. We’d bought the tomatoes off an aging Quechua indian lady. It looked like any tomato I might have bought at a supermarket in the U.S., but when I cut into it and took a bite, it was like a party in my mouth. The flavor was as concentrated as the best sun-dried tomatoes I’d ever had. Yet this was a fresh tomato, picked off a vine somewhere in the Peruvian mountains less than 24 hours before.

The idea that our food is like it’s always been is pure fantasy. Like Kenner said, “in reality, it’s been fundamentally transformed.” If his film can really help people see that, then it’ll be my new favorite food documentary!

Here’s a bit more from the interview:

Monsanto argues that industrial food is necessary. Population is expected to double and without technology millions will starve.

The Union of Concerned Scientists dispute their yield results. A number of farmers I spoke to felt Monsanto yields weren’t necessarily greater. I can’t answer whether they are or they aren’t. I’m not an expert. But the Union of Concerned Scientists is a legitimate operation.

The other answer is people are starving now. We’re not feeding the world now and the system that exists now is a totally unsustainable system. It’s based on gasoline and pollution and it cannot go on.

What do you say to critics who label you elitist? Some argue that if we change the system, food will be more expensive.

Right now it’s elitist to think we can create a system where the food we feed a poor family makes them so sick that they need medicine for diabetes. There’s something wrong with a system that makes food that makes them sick.

What action do you want people to take?

One thing is that people say to me, “I’ll never eat chicken again.” And that’s not what I intended. What I intend is that there’s a system that’s bad. Your tomatoes are as bad as your chicken. The whole system is industrialized. You don’t need to tell them the dark side of every item. And you don’t have to stop eating foods you love. You can eat chicken, but try not to eat industrial food.

Is there one thing you’ll never eat again?

This film is really about connecting the dots of the whole industrial system. But if there’s one thing, it would have to be strawberries sprayed with pesticides. We saw people in the field with hazmat suits. The fact that there are people that have to wear those to grow food is really incredible.

And, here’s a trailer for the movie:

(photo by Darren Copley)
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I am a passionate advocate for REAL FOOD -- food that's sustainable, organic, local, and traditionally-prepared according to the wisdom of our ancestors. I'm also an author and a nutrition educator. I enjoy playing in the rain, a good bottle of Caol Ila scotch, curling up with a page-turning book, sunbathing on my hammock, and watching my three children explore their world.
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10 Responses to Food Inc. Director Rober Kenner Speaks
  1. johnny
    June 15, 2009 | 9:59 am

    I can’t wait to see this movie. I joined a CSA this year and have only had 1 delivery so far but it was truly amazing. One of the items I got was some fresh organic spinach which had a fuller richer taste than any spinach I’d eaten before. I’m kind of afraid to see the movie but perhaps it will help keep me buying mostly local organic produce and local grass-fed beef.

  2. Vin - NaturalBias
    June 15, 2009 | 10:35 am

    Although I don’t believe a word that Monsanto says, even if their products did offer better crop yields, it’s at the cost of borrowing from the future by depleting land and will undoubtedly catch up to us.

    I’m looking forward to watching Food, Inc (and Fresh as well). Hopefully it eventually makes it’s way to local theaters.

    Vin – NaturalBias

  3. Stacy
    June 15, 2009 | 10:38 am

    Yay FOOD INC!!
    I saw it opening weekend here in NYC. Afterwards, Robert Kenner did a QA session. I found the movie very informative, and powerful. Of course, being the information junkie that I am, and the passionate about food person that I am, I would have loved to see the movie go in much greater detail. But that would have turned it into easily a 3+ hour movie. :) It covered a very broad range of topics, all of which can be turned into their own feature length documentary.

    I also bought the guide featuring an excellent essay by my hero Joel Salatin. I highly recommend this movie. I’ll probably post my own review on my blog later this week.

    Stacy

  4. Raine Saunders
    June 15, 2009 | 11:17 am

    I really want to see this film, but it hasn’t come to our city yet. I’ve posted on several web sites about finding out how to bring the film to Boise. I’ve also gone to the Food Inc. web site and sent a request but have had no response. I helped bring Two Angry Moms to Boise last fall, and our turnout was low. But I know this film would have a better turnout here because there are various groups in our city mobilizing and getting active about food and healthy choices that I wholeheartedly agree with. I have heard many stories from random people I’ve talked to and friends I have who have traveled or are living abroad, talking about how the foods tastes so different in other countries than here, that it looks, tastes, and is more like real food than anything they have ever eaten here. That’s a disturbing concept. I also find it ironic that most small farmers are more than happy to have people come tour their facilities and look around to see how the food is produced, but all the big corporations don’t want anyone near their facilities. Obviously there is something to hide. That should be a BIG red flag to the American consumer.

    Raine Saunders

  5. Alana Sheldahl
    June 15, 2009 | 11:33 am

    I just know I have so much more energy and I feel better, healthier, eating REAL food. I look forward to the movie.

    Alana Sheldahl

  6. Stacy
    June 15, 2009 | 11:41 am

    To Raine – The director said that it will be opening in many more theatres by the end of the month. The film is opening slow, just a few theatres in a few cities at first, but it will grow by the end of the month. I don’t know the exact plans for Boise (though I really hope it will play there since I have family there!) but don’t give up hope! There is also a DVD release scheduled for the fall if nothing else.

    Stacy

  7. KristenM
    June 15, 2009 | 7:44 pm

    Johnny — There are two films coming out right now about food. “Food, Inc.” has a wider distribution (for now) and focuses more on what’s wrong with industrialized food. “Fresh” is making the festival circuit and being previewed in select cities. I’ve not watched either, but I’ve heard that Fresh focuses more on the alternative food systems and their positives.

    Stacy — Glad to hear you liked it! I’m very excited about it. You can bet I’ll be watching it opening night here in Austin.

  8. Amelia of Gradually Greener
    June 16, 2009 | 12:03 pm

    Can’t wait! It sounds like he has taken a very even-handed approach, which is exactly what we need if these ideas are going to catch on among the broader consumer population.

    Amelia of Gradually Greener

  9. Natalie Rotunda
    June 16, 2009 | 3:37 pm

    I haven’t seen the movie yet, but am anxiously awaiting its release on DVD. Though the meat industry chose not to respond on camera, they chose a less-direct route: a website to ‘tell their story.’ Curiously, the site uses a picture of grazing cattle—notice there’s no visual of a feedlot to denote their true identity—for their visual. It’s a pathetic attempt to mislead site-goers into thinking they’re on the same page with those of us who are concerned about how our food is raised. Sustainable agriculture (organic farming practices) is a one-way road away from the bad food corporate agriculture insists on producing. When consumers demand safe, healthy food, we’ll get it. But demanding it means we must support those ranchers and growers with our food dollars.

  10. Amy
    June 17, 2009 | 9:02 am

    Just found your blog through today’s American-Statesman article. Great site! I’m in Cedar Park and just started researching more about food source, organic foods, and sustainable farming I dramatically changed my food sources in the last 2 months and I can feel a huge difference in my moods and my health – I can’t wait to see FOOD, Inc and to keep reading your blog now that I’ve found it. Is there a good farmer’s market in the area that you’d recommend?

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Who Am I?

My name is Kristen Michaelis. I'm a nutrition educator, author, and mother of three. I adore hats, happy skirts, horizons full of storm clouds, the full-bodied feel of wind as I ride motorcylces, reading in my hammock, and a hearty shot of Caol Ila scotch. I'm also a rebel with a cause.
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