Food, Inc. (2009)

Directed by Robert Kenner
Written by Robert Kenner, Elise Pearlstein & Kim Roberts

I have never been inclined to watching documentaries, though I find, depending on the subject matter of course, that documentaries I do watch are always relatively entertaining, informative, and interesting. Food, Inc. was one of those. Although clearly manipulative and biased (but sometimes that is what is needed for the subject matter, and sometimes that can be all you have to work with), the film works and accomplishes its goals. It sets out to paint a picture of the American food industry and the ideals for which it strives. What we soon learn is that the industry is a business that operates based on how much money it can make. It draws from Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation and Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

I know that the food industry is a business; I get it. Major corporations have borderline, and in some cases straightforward, monopolies in the food business. It sucks. These companies are producing food at such a high rate and for so cheaply that they are able to make a ton of money. We live in a capitalist economy and these corporations are part of it. It is their right to do what they do and to make the money that they do. What comes into question in the film is are they allowed to do what they do, the way they do it? What I found to be the main focus of the film was to point out all the wrong doings and inequalities of the business. For instance, Kenner shows, on multiple occasions, conditions in factories and chicken houses. They are oftentimes and almost uniformly, with the exception of Joel Salatin (pictured above), atrocious. They are made up of overcrowded, dark, dank, and unsanitary prisons. It is awful to witness.

The problems that are raised in the film is not only the conditions in factories for animals, but for workers too. These workers are subjected to some of the worst working conditions in America. They are paid low wages and as a result are stuck in the cycle of living in small towns, being of a low income demographic, and oftentimes of illegal residence. These major corporations have the people, the workers, and the government seemingly right where they want them. The food laws in this country, as presented by the film, are atrocious as well. Something seems to need to be fixed, that is all. Due to the growing globalization of Earth and the general growing overpopulation, it is near impossible to envision a world where food is grown and distributed in the manner in which Mr. Salatin does business. It is ideal, but not plausible in my eyes. There are too many people, and quite frankly, too many poor people to be able to afford to operate in that manner. Thus, I find the solution in the FDA and USDA doing a better job of regulation. One statistic given in the film was that in 1972, over 50,000 inspections were conducted by the FDA and that in 2008, less than 10,000 were conducted. Much of this may be attributed to the decline in number of producers and manufacturers as monopolistic big business has grown, but something must be done to better regulate.

As a college student, while I appreciate, and generally agree with, the sentiment presented here, it is not, at this time, realistic for me to shop and eat the way that they want me to. There are many people out there like me. I know it, you know it, and the filmmakers know it. That is their idealistic goal, but what they really wanted to accomplish here was to get the information out there to the general public, for people to realize what the options are, and in the end to get things changed, especially politically speaking. Whether that happens remains to be seen in the coming years, but as they said in then end of the film, things are already starting to change, even if just slightly. In that respect I feel that the film succeeded.

*** – Good

Adam Kuhn

Adam Kuhn was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, where he attended Saint Charles Preparatory School. He studied History at the University of Cincinnati, where he was a contributor of The News Record, the twice-weekly, independent student news organization. He has been writing film reviews and blogging since 2009.

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