If you live in or around the Austin area, now’s your chance to see Food, Inc. It’s playing at the Alamo Ritz and Arbor Great Hills theaters. Friday afternoon my mom drove into town, and I announced, “We’re going on a hot date.”
Of course, I took her to see Food, Inc. I’m not sure how “hot” the date was — other than the 105 degree heat that persisted right up until showtime. After the movie, we dropped by Kerbey Lane for coffee and a delicious key lime cheesecake. (Rare indulgences like this are worth it when you’re out on a once-a-decade, exclusively mother-daughter date.) Our patio seating was pleasant compared to earlier in the day, but still a humid 90 plus degrees.
Being a blogger who is also a passionate advocate for Real Food, I’ve heard and read a lot about the film. Needless to say, I was mildly excited.
I’ve long wanted to see a movie that introduced audiences to the multiple failings of our food system. I’ve watched just about every documentary on food that’s been released, and only been impressed by a handful. Of that handful, none tackled our industrialized food system quite as fiercely as Food, Inc.
Don’t get me wrong, those other films (like The Future of Food and King Corn) did what they did quite well. But they only covered one piece of the puzzle. The Future of Food looked into the story of GMOs — including the loss of crop diversity, the far-reaching implications of what it means that a farmer can no longer save his seed, the potential health risks of GMOs, the environmental impact of GMOs, and more. King Corn told the story of an Iowa cornfield, expanding a segment of Michel Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma into a feature length documentary.
Food, Inc. covered more.
This is, perhaps, it’s greatest strength as well as it’s greatest weakness. By covering so many different facets of the food problem, it has the potential to serve as a great introduction to the topic for those not in the know. Yet it never gives any single part of the problem the full attention it deserves, likely due to time constraints.
For someone like me, who already knows about the ubiquitousness of corn, who already knows about the revolving door between high-ranking government regulatory positions and giant agribusiness employees, who already knows about CAFOs and factory farms, who already knows about the dangers of GMOs, who already knows about the public health risks of industrialized food, who’s already connected the dots between government subsidies of commodity crops and the way the globalization of our food supply undercuts farmers in third world countries, this film essentially preaches to the choir.
I watched the entire film waiting to see something I didn’t already know, and the film came up short.
But for the uninitiated, or for someone who isn’t as fanatical about where their food comes from as me, I think the film is a great introduction to the key issues at hand.
You know who they are. They’re your friends, co-workers, relatives, or fellow church-goers. They’re people who would never be inspired to pick up a book like Omnivore’s Dilemma or Fast Food Nation because they simply haven’t got the time to read.
But maybe, just maybe, they might go catch a movie with you.
They’d probably never pick this movie of their own accord, so they need someone like you to invite them along.
So, before you become a Real Food Revolutionary plotting to convert your friends and family by taking them to see this film, you should know a couple of things about what you’ll be seeing:
- The slaughter of animals. The film contrasts the inhumane and machine-driven slaughter of hogs at the rate of 400 per hour with Joel Salatin’s team killing chickens by hand in perhaps the most humane and clean way we know of. You will see animals die. If you’re like me, you’ll be uncomfortable even when watching Joel’s method. But Joel has a point: this is intimate work; we should know what taking another life is like, even if it’s just the life of a chicken.
- The seedy underbelly of giant agribusinesses, particularly as it relates to the human side of the story. You’ll see how indebted farmers are kept when contracting out to these corporations (an average chicken farmer takes out $500,000 in loans to build two chicken houses which will turn a meager $18,000/year in profit). You’ll watch the tears of a mother (now a food safety advocate) whose two year old son died after eating an e-Coli contaminated hamburger. You’ll see a struggling California family making the choice between paying for the father’s diabetes medicine or eating healthier food because they simply don’t have the money to do both. Your heartstrings will be pulled, and rightfully so.
Thankfully, the film ends on a positive note.
Remeber Big Tobacco? They were a large, unscrupulous industry which had congress in the palm of their hands. Yet because of a shift in public thought, they came crashing down.
The same can happen to Big Food. They think they control the shots because they hide the real story from the average consumer. But as enough of us take action, voting with every bite of food we consume, we will have the momentum and power we need to watch this industry crumble. Barring total economic collapse, I don’t see them disappearing. (After all, tobacco is still thriving, even if it’s not as popular as it was in its heyday.) But I do believe that corporations respond to consumer demand. They have to. It’s why Wal-Mart carries organics now. So, in the very least, I believe we can see Big Food change its practices towards something more sustainable.
And as for me and my family, we will keep eating as sustainably, organically, locally, and traditionally as possible.
In case you haven’t seen it already, watch the trailer:
Crystal @ Cafe Cyan says
Good summary! I saw Fresh, the movie and felt that Food, Inc. was going to be too similar. And for someone (moi) who rarely goes to movies, I felt 2 movies about the same thing would be overkill for me, so I skipped it. However, I love hearing when people go out and see them!
Crystal @ Cafe Cyan
Kitty Krueger says
Thanks for the review. I am sure I have much to learn from the movie, but I am a little afraid of the visuals you described. I had to stop reading Fast Food Nation at Chapter 11 because I thought I might never eat anything ever again. Maybe I’ll just read through all your links in this post to fill in any reamining knowledge blanks I have.
Thanks again- you do great work!
Thanks for a great review. I have several people I’d like to take to see this movie.
Diann — You’re welcome!
Kitty — I figured people would probably want fair warning, particularly if they were taking children to see the film. It’s not like it’s all THAT terrible, but for sensitive people it might be too much.
Crystal — Well I can’t wait to see FRESH. I’ve heard it’s much more positive, focusing more on sustainable farmers and what they’re doing RIGHT.
There’s definitely a storm brewing. I am cautiously optimistic that this may be the summer that fosters real change.
Thanks for the review!
Local Nourishment says
This is definitely the summer of the food movie. In my town, Food Inc. was held over after its only two schedule showings sold out and an angry mob basically stormed the box office! Way to go, Nashville!
Susan R says
I’d love to take my husband, friends and family to be educated at this movie. BUT I just don’t think I could sleep again if I did. At least in the Fast Food Nation book, I could quickly skim over the worst parts. 🙁 I hope Nashville is a good indication of peoples’ eyes being opened.
Cathy Payne says
Great review! Jon and I watched Food Inc. and FRESH on the same day. Our reaction to Food Inc was very much like yours. It does do a great job of introducing people to the horrendous state of factory food. However, it might scare people into being vegetarians! FRESH, however, picks up where Food Inc. leaves off to show how farming can be done sustainably and how healthily and humanely good clean pork, poultry, lamb, and beef is being produced around the country and how diversified farms have been shown to be more successful and productive than factory models. It was an interesting contrast to watch them back to back. Even though they both featured Joel Salatin and Michael Pollan, I did not feel that the material was repetitive. This week we interviewed one of our local sustainable beef ranchers. His story of how he transitioned from conventional to sustainable farming is very encouraging. He is now a leader in the state.
I have seen Food Inc and King Corn as well. They tell a compelling story as to just how compromised the food system is in the USA.
What I worry about is that it will take a crisis to expose the problems in the supply chain.
A comment on the visuals – I am usually not one to be overly sympathetic to animals. (Don’t get me wrong, I am all for cruelty-free which is why I rarely eat meat and if I do it is grass fed or free range organic, yada yada) All of the visuals they showed seriously made me ill and really caught me by surprise. I really was close to tears, and that was just from the beginning with the conveyor belt of chicks. 🙁 This movie pretty much was preaching to the choir for me (and unfortunately the rest of theater) and I wish more people see it/care. It also did move me more towards a lifestyle with less animal protein.
I like to read your blog from time to time, but I fail to see any significant merit in your review of the movie. I would think that it would serve a greater purpose to actually review the movie rather than go on about how much you know or think you know about the issues. I don’t discredit your knowledge about the issues you addressed in the post, but you sound arrogant in doing so. You’re a good advocate for Real Food and I like the message you send, but it doesn’t help to be arrogant and slightly condescending about it.
Jared Maidenberg says
Saw Food Inc down the road from you here in Houston Sunday night and I agree wholeheartedly with your review, you pretty much said it all here!
Food Inc did a good job of introducing the unitiated to the Problems of our modern day food supply, showing where our food comes from, what’s in it and why we should care, without being preachy, just by shwoing the Facts (which are scary enough!) As I have taken the time to read Micael Pollan’s books (and am a voracious reader/consumer of REAL food info online as well) I was very aware of the issues so the film really just cemented and re-inforced my decision to support REAL/SLOW Food and local Farmers producing food in a conscious, thoughtful, traditional manner and feed me and my lil girl the best food ever! I did take along a friend who was fairly new to this, although he eats in a pretty Paleo/Traditional way, and he found it quite interesting, especially the ‘Cornocuppia’ part, showing how pervasive Corn is in so many products in grocery stores today, and he asked why does the Governmnet not subsidize REAL food?! So he ‘gets it’ right away and that was cool to see/hear!
Look forward to seeing Fresh to see/learn (hopefully) more about the Solution!
Here’s to the Real Food Revolution in America (and around the world) if we the people can effect change in the Tobacco Industry, why not with Food?!
It starts with being conscious of the Problems (read the books, see the movies, pay attention, wake up) and then being a part of the Solution and it starts with US!
BE THE CHANGE!
Here’s to the good fight, the one with our forks and wallets!
To our Healthy Success!
Jared — I’m glad the movie cemented your resolve!
Winston — I’m sorry you found the review worthless. My main audience is people like me, as was the audience in the movie showing I attended. I wanted to express my regret that — in my experience at least — this film was preaching to the choir. I’d love to see it watched by more average people who are less fanatic about their foods. Hence, my call to action, hopefully inspiring readers to take their friends, family, etc. to see the film. But I also wanted to give them fair warning about just what they’d see because I felt it was inappropriate footage for younger children and would make even many adults queasy.
Jenny — OH! The conveyor belt of chicks. I absolutely hated seeing animals treated like objects, rather than the sentient beings that they are. The movie didn’t make me want to eat less meat, though, probably because I know how important meat (particularly organs and animal fats) are to a nourishing, traditional diet. That said, it did make firm up my resolve to only eat meats raised and slaughtered in sustainable, humane ways. After all, we vote with every forkful of food we consume.
GregR — I think we are at a tipping point now. The number of food recalls is escalating at such a rapid pace, consumers have totally lost their confidence in their food.
Cathy — I can’t wait to go listen to the podcast! Thanks for the heads up. I *still* say you should consider submitting a podcast in an upcoming Fight Back Fridays. That would be a hoot.
SusanR — I have a friend who went to see the movie herself and is waiting for the DVD to show it to the rest of her family. That way she can skip the most gruesome parts, but her kids can still get the gist of why Mommy eats this way.
Local Nourishment — Go Nashville!
Ren — Cautious optimism is a good thing. Thanks for commenting.
Raine Saunders says
I’ve actually had conversations with people who say “how could anyone work for or support the tobacco industry? There’s clearly NOTHING good about it!” To which I wholeheartedly agree…but what I want to hear in the same sentence, or at least close to it, from everyone I know, is “How can anyone support the industrial food industry either?” As both are as abhorrent as the other. It is my hope that someday SOON things will change, as Ren said, maybe even as soon as this year. The voices are becoming louder and more people are taking action. Perhaps we WILL see change, I hope! Haven’t seen this movie yet, but will the first chance I get (it has not been shown in Boise as of today’s date).
Have you seen Our Daily Bread (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0765849/)?
Tiffany V says
I just saw this while I’m undergoing a sugar, salt and processed food ‘detox’. I had also read: Plan-D ( a woman who took her chemist background and nutriion information to inform the public of the dangers of processed foods)… so decided to finally watch Food Inc. THAT WAS SO AWESOME and EYE OPENING! I never got to Fast Food Nation, probably one of very few people, but now that I’ve decided to really take a stand on my health (before any condition or illnesses) I wanted to expand my knowledge. I have been more and more upset with the state of our nation and government. ‘Good ‘ol Boys’ padding each others wallets, not wanting to upset anyone but get paid under the table… makes me sick. (REALLY sick now!) realizing the publics health is at risk for these idiots, and on top of that these farmers trying to make a living by NOT complying to this, are being forced to! What the hell is wrong with our world? I did LOVE the ending though… It’s never good to leave watchers without a way to find out more, but to offer suggestions of way to help. And I love what was said: You vote every day by the purchases you make. WOW, I never thought about it that way. Excellent movie, will be seeing how many people I can get to watch it, as most dont really care and it may not really change much for them but at least they’ll be informed. Thanks for your blog, keep it up! You’ve gained another renegade!