Food, Inc. is an entertaining and illuminating documentary film directed by renowned filmmaker Robert Kenner and narrated by food experts Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser. A 2008 movie, the film explores in depth the American food industry by going behind the scenes to bring to light the highly mechanized underbelly and inner working of the food industry and corporations that have taken over food production in the United States of America (Lindenfeld 2010). Possibly the most conclusive cinematic investigation of the current American food industry, the Oscar-nominated documentary exposes an oligopolistic industry that is rife with corruption and environmentally harmful practices (Meyers, Irlbeck, & Fletcher, 2011). The film reveals how the food industry is controlled by a few major corporations that use abusive techniques to both animals and employees in order to achieve their own selfish gains.
The absolute reality is that the American food industry, like most sectors, is controlled by corporations and organizations that only benefit themselves. This is factual as the movie uncovers how the food that is consumed daily by Americans is made, showing how unhealthy the food is and the means and methods used to produce this ‘farm fresh’ food. One critic says that if someone was eating any food that has meat while watching this documentary, then they would be restricted to only one reaction: hurling. This may seem like a bit of a stretch, but it is the bare truth. The olden days of having a large farm growing a variety of crops far and wide, with herds of cattle and flocks of sheep grazing on the plush greens, and a brood of chickens feeding on grain are long gone. Instead, this idealistic farm setting has been replaced by factories and industries, stocking chicken in dark, poorly ventilated hatches, and livestock in feeding lots with genetically engineered fruits and vegetables being sold to consumers hence putting their health at risk.
But why blame the corporations alone and no one with integrity has come out to condemn these egregious practices you ask? Well, fear and intimidation are the weapons used by corporations in aiding their cause, which is conducted with limited regulations and sheer impunity. Many farmers and all those involved in the day-to-day activities of these corporations are bullied into submission; try and utter a word and you are definitely out of a job or even worse, be involved in a litigious battle that you cannot afford. However, in one enlightening segment in the documentary, one brave farmer comes out to speak on the state of things and reveals some of the abhorrent demands issued to her and her colleagues. The animal resources used: chicken, cows, sheep, and goats are kept in completely insalubrious conditions with some of them sick. These corporations utilize cheap labor to maximize profits with some of the employees being desperate immigrants.
The documentary is not embellished or exaggerated as it points to the methods that the corporations have resorted to just to make a ‘quick buck’. Animal welfare, for instance, has been ignored and the animals neglected as the cost of maintenance is too high—at least that is how it can be interpreted. It is actually mesmerizing how businesses, such as these corporations that are monopolizing the food industry, can be so profit-margin driven that they can ignore the simplest of tasks just to save a few dollars whilst they are minting billions more in the market and at the detriment of the consumer. Consumers use their hard-earned money to buy what is going to affect them and the environment negatively or even worse kill them in the long run due to the negligence of these corporations (Woodson, 2011). For instance, Food, Inc. clearly shows how genetic engineering is the new normal. The documentary sheds light on how major corporations such as Tyson and Perdue have genetically engineered chickens to grow four times their size in half the amount of time they are supposed to. Food, Inc. at one point in the movie lifts the veil in an appalling scene where these chickens cannot even handle their body weight and can’t stay on their feet for long periods of time. One can simply be left speechless by the lengths to which people can go to in the name of profits.
Food production and safety is a really sensitive issue and this is one of those processes that have to be conducted meticulously as they are literally a matter of life and death. The industrial production of meat, as illustrated in the first segment, just indicates how these unhealthy foods are produced and what their effects, such as obesity in America, are (Wilson, 2011). The documentary explores the agribusiness’ operational procedures, cost-reducing mechanisms, overreliance on harmful petroleum-based chemicals, clandestine trading strategies and their overall political and lobbying power, which is detailed in the documentary’s third and final segment on the corporations’ economic and legal power. Different organizations have tried advocating for a change in the current ‘way of doing things’ but little has been achieved.
The film tried to contact some of these large corporations for rebuttal purposes but they declined. In my opinion, this shows a certain level of culpability that these corporations would do anything to avoid.
In summary, this film is quite effective. It managed to demonstrate to the world all the major aspects of the American food industry and highlighted quite clearly all the flaws that plague the industry. The movie was not perfect, however, with some improvements in tying all the food production aspects together, it would have conveyed the message better. Nonetheless, it created awareness, and even more so, gave the public insight and answers on things that affect them and thus power to make the necessary changes required.
- Lindenfeld, L. (2010). Can documentary food films kike Food Inc. achieve their promise? Environmental Communication, 4(3), 378-386. doi:10.1080/17524032.2010.500449
- Meyers, C., Irlbeck, E., & Fletcher, K. (2011). Postsecondary students’ reactions to agricultural documentaries: A qualitative analysis. Journal of Applied Communications, 95(3), 2. doi:10.4148/1051-0834.1167
- Wilson, N. (2011). Food politics: what everyone needs to know. American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 93(5), 1406-1408. doi:10.1093/ajae/aar058
- Woodson, M. (2011). Three faces of advocacy: the cove, mine, and Food, INC. Society & Animals, 19(2), 200-204. doi:10.1163/156853011×563033