I know Food, Inc. has been out for a while. However, our family is so slow at getting to movies that I just watched Food, Inc. while we were on Staycation. This movie made such an impact on our thinking that I wanted to share it with you here.
Prior to viewing, I did already know that our food supply is controlled by only a handful of major corporations. But I had no idea how that control came about, or to what extent these corporations go to keep it that way.
Narrators Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, and Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, take the viewer behind the scenes of commercial chicken farms, slaughterhouses, poultry and pork processing facilities, and Concentrated Animal Feed Operations (CAFO). A few of the chapters include:
- “Fast Food to All Food”—how the fast food industry started the industrial revolution for food.
- “A Cornucopia of Choices”—the role corn plays in most manufactured food.
- “Unintended Consequences”—highlights one mother’s battle for legislation after the death of her son due to an infection with E coli.
- “The Dollar Menu”—discusses the choices parents make between fresh vegetables and cheap, fast food.
- “Power of the Consumer”—discusses what choices consumers can make to change the system.
According to the movie, manufacturing food began to fulfill the fast food industry’s need for uniformity. McDonald’s, for instance, wants to know that a hamburger in one of their stores in Ohio looks, weighs, and tastes the same as a hamburger in Florida. This drive for uniformity not only led to manufacturing the food, but growing it as well.
In 1950, it took 70 days to grow a meat chicken. Today, a chicken twice the size grows in 48 days. Since people like to eat white meat, chickens have been redesigned to have large breasts. This disfigurement causes other issues. On my own place, I’ve seen our Cornish Rock Cross broilers get so heavy they could barely walk. We routinely lost chickens to broken legs. Feeling this unnatural and unhealthy, this year we purchased Freedom Ranger chicks and were much happier with the outcome. But in an interview for the movie, Richard Lobb of the National Chicken Council said, “We’re not producing chickens, we’re producing food.”
Conversely, Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms shares, “The industrial food is not honest food. It’s not priced honestly; it’s not produced honestly; it’s not processed honestly. There’s nothing honest about that food.”
Following are a few random facts about corn that I gleaned from this movie:
- “So much of our industrial food turns out to be clever rearrangements of corn.” Michael Pollan
- A hundred years ago a farmer could grow 20 bushels of corn to the acre. Today, 200 bushels is normal.
- Thirty percent of the land in the US is planted in corn.
My own brother, a physician, told me that the number one concern that Americans face with their diet is that we are overdosing on corn. It is in practically everything we eat. If you want to avoid genetically modified corn products in your foods, look to avoid the following ingredients on your labels:
- calcium stearate
- xantham gum
- high fructose corn syrup
- ethel acetate
- citrus cloud emulsion
- ascorbic acid
- baking powder
- vanilla extract
- sorbic acid
You probably want to avoid all commercially raised meat as well because corn is the main ingredient in all animal feeds. Even farm-raised tilapia and salmon are fed corn—something they would never eat in nature.
While on the subject of corn, the chapter “From Seed to the Supermarket” plays like a suspense thriller describing the lengths that Monsanto goes through to protect the patents that they have on corn. Yes, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of this corporation patenting what, initially, God created, and now they have genetically modified.
What We Can Do About It
Watching Food, Inc. is almost despairing. But there are things that you can do. That is where “Power of the Consumer” comes in. Grow as much of your own food as possible and what you can’t, buy from local, organic farms. Taking this transition one step at a time, you can change the way your family eats and make a difference in the food manufacturing process.
The Washington Post said of this movie, “Everyone should see Food, Inc.”
Oprah Winfrey said, “It might change your life.”
I say, “Watch Food, Inc. and it will change your life.”