I’d like to preface this review by stating that I asked whether people would rather hear an unbiased review or my personal opinion on Food Inc, and at the time that I began to write this, 47 people had said they wanted to hear my personal opinion, and no one asked for an unbiased review. So, if you want to read a summary of the movie, check out this site. Most of the facts on this post are from the Food Inc website.
There were two aspects of Food Inc that really spoke to me and that I will cover in this review:
- The fact that our government is entirely toothless when it comes to ensuring food safety.
- Factory farming of animals is a disgusting practice for a variety of social, environmental, and moral reasons.
Food Inc opens with the following quote: "“There is this deliberate veil, this curtain that’s drawn between us and where our food is coming from. The industry doesn’t want you to know the truth about what you’re eating because if you knew, you might not want to eat it.” That is the whole point of the movie — we are so disconnected from the source of our food (both meat and non-meat) and as a result, we are damaging our bodies and our environment faster than ever before.
One of the primary issues presented in the film is that our food sources have been monopolized by just a few companies. In fact, in the 1970s, the top five beef packers controlled about 25% of the market. Today, the top four control more than 80% of the market. Additionally, the vast majority of the meat produced in the United States is slaughtered at one of THIRTEEN slaughterhouses.
Do you see a problem with that? I do! Imagine if one of those slaughterhouses became contaminated with a super-virus. Unsafe foods cause an estimated 76 million illnesses and 5,000 deaths each year in the United States. Furthermore, think about the conditions of those slaughterhouses. They are basically enormous factories in which animals are killed as quickly as possible — the focus is not on humanity, but on efficiency.
If you think there are laws in place to protect the consumer and ensure the humane treatment of animals, you are wrong. Way wrong. Did you know that in 1998, the USDA implemented microbial testing for salmonella and E. coli 0157h7 (the very dangerous and deadly strain) so that if a plant repeatedly failed these tests, the USDA could shut down the plant? After being taken to court by the meat and poultry associations, the USDA no longer has that power.
In 1972, the FDA conducted 50,000 food safety inspections. In 2006, the FDA conducted only 9,164.
Our government is TOOTHLESS. Our government cannot shut down a factory if the meat is literally killing people. Our government cannot pass legislation that protects consumers, because the meat, poultry, and dairy industries sue the shit out of the government in court. Furthermore, the people in power are sitting pretty in the back pocket of big business.
- During the Bush administration, the head of the FDA was the former executive VP of the National Food Processors Association.
- During the Bush administration, the chief of staff at the USDA was the former chief lobbyist for the beef industry in Washington.
Hello, conflict of interest?!?! Do you see why I do not trust our government at all? We have allowed power to become too centralized. Of the 47,000 products in the average grocery store, most are made by just a handful of companies.
Not only are these giant companies placing their bottom line above the interests of YOUR health and YOUR safety, but they abuse their workers like you wouldn’t believe. Meat packing used to be one of the safest, comfiest jobs in the industrial sector, but due to the boom of the sector, the weakening of unions, and several other factors, it is now the most dangerous. Most of the workers are illegal workers bused in from Mexico. These workers function in horrible, smelly, bacteria-infested conditions, and they earn minimum wage (or less).
When our government cracks down on illegal workers, do you ever stop to wonder why they aren’t attacking the companies that bused these people to America and gave them jobs in the first place? Hmph, I wonder.
Giant meat companies also abuse their farmers. They keep them trapped in a cycle of debt so they cannot get out of their contracts. The average chicken farmer invests over $500,000 and makes only $18,000 a year. Again – power in the hands of few at the expense of the average person.
Which brings me to the discussion about factory farming. I ate meat until three months ago. What made me go vegetarian? I really THOUGHT about how my meat was getting to my plate.
We go to the supermarket and we see row after row of packaged meat. It’s not an animal to us, it’s simply another food product. We are so removed from the process of raising, feeding, and slaughtering these animals that we do not even see a hamburger as a cow.
I truly do NOT understand how someone can see Food Inc and continue eating factory farmed meat. My only explanation is that people choose to "ignore" the situation. Because I feel like I "ignored" all the information I had about factory farming for 25 years of my life. Ignoring the situation does not mean it’s not happening.
If you really stop to THINK about the conditions of factory farms, how can you justify eating factory farmed meat? Factory chickens spend their entire lives crammed in dark rooms. They never see the light of day. Chickens are de-beaked to keep them from fighting and "ruining the meat." Cows spend their entire existence standing in knee-deep manure. They never touch or eat grass. They are castrated without medication. Pigs live in tiny crates that are too small to turn around it.
I went vegetarian because I realized that I come home every night and I coddle my dogs. I pet them and sing to them. I walk them and I bathe them. Hell, I even let them SLEEP with me. I would never do anything to hurt my dogs. Tell me, why are pigs or cows or chicken different from your family pets? Why is it illegal to beat a dog, but it’s OK to treat a farm animal in this manner? I’ll tell you why — because big business earns more money the faster and cheaper they grow and slaughter these animals.
Look, everyone has to deal with their own hypocrisy about their food choices. I’m a vegetarian because of the moral implications of eating factory farmed meat, but I still drink milk and eat eggs. Am I perfect? No. Would I like to be? Well, obviously yes. But I cannot be perfect for a variety of reasons — my own weaknesses, my financial situation, the availability in my area to purchase free-roam and organic animal products.
I’m not trying to say that I’m better than you because you eat meat. I’m not riding around on my moral high horse. I’m just asking you to think about the moral, environmental, and societal implications of eating factory farmed meat. If you can come to a place when you feel educated and aware and you still want to eat meat occasionally, more power to you. It’s a personal choice.
Food Inc presented organic, grass-fed, and free-roam meat as an alternative to factory farmed meat. Food Inc is NOT pro-vegetarian or anti-meat. They spotlight a natural farm as an example of how meat can be produced in a more humane manner. I guess I think that organic, grass-fed, and free-roam is a BETTER alternative than factory farming and it may be the solution for a lot of people. Is it an alternative that would work for me? No.
So, what’s the solution to these problems?
Gary Hirshberg, founder of Stonyfield Farm, says that “The irony is that the average consumer does not feel very powerful. They think that they are the recipients of whatever industry has put there for them to consume. Trust me, it’s the exact opposite. Those businesses spend billions of dollars to tally our votes. When we run an item past the supermarket scanner, we’re voting.”
Food Inc made me realize that EVERY FOOD PURCHASE YOU MAKE HAS AN IMPLICATION for the rest of the country and the world. When you chose to buy organic or local products, you are sending a message to big business. If you try to eat vegetarian or buy organic, grass-fed, and free-roam meat, you are telling these companies that their methods are NOT acceptable.
The Food Inc website lists 10 simple things you can do to help fight the system. How has Food Inc changed me?
- I’m more committed than ever to being a vegetarian.
- I’m going to make an effort to go to the farmers’ market once a weekend and buy my produce locally.
- We’re going to spring for organic products (especially dairy) whenever possible. It’s more expensive, but the environmental, social, and moral costs are higher.
Again, that was just my opinion. I’m curious to hear yours!
I've been a reader for about 6 months but I'm a first time commenter. I love your review of Food Inc. I have yet to see the movie but have heard a lot about it(my mom and I are big fans of Michael Pollan). I especially appreciate your discussion of the treatment of animals who are raised for meat. I have been a vegetarian for about a year and a half for health and animal rights issues. The conditions for these animals is appalling. Lots of my friends thought my decision to be vegetarian was crazy (probably because I went veg at 18) but now some of them are starting to understand and agree with my decision. Hopefully this film educates people about the food situation in our country…wonderful post!