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The documentary “Food, Inc.,” written and produced by Robert Kenner and Michael Pollan, won seven awards and received 20 nominations, including several for the Oscars. Released on July 31, 2009 (“Food, Inc.”), the movie earned over 4 million dollars at the box office despite costing only 1 million for production (Food, Inc. (2009) – Financial Information). It has garnered widespread attention for its focus on the unbelievable “corporate-controlled food industry.” Despite the industry’s horrors, which include animal slaughter and unhealthy conditions, it is understandable to some extent why the food industry is corporate-controlled. While the documentary paints a damning picture of the food industry, spotlighting many problems, it tends to offer no solutions beyond the suggestion to “grow and buy whole foods.” Considering the high demand and issues of starvation, one must wonder how out-of-season foods can be accessed or how large populations can be fed rapidly. Though the industry is harmful, it is also helpful in many ways. While Food, Inc. presents a critique of the food industry, it fails to provide any concrete solutions.
The documentary highlights a multitude of issues within the food industry. Among them, the most compelling is the mass production of food and the methods used to achieve it. These methods often involve the use of chemicals in processing. Many people aren’t aware that ethylene gas is used to hasten the ripening of tomatoes available year-round, or that pesticides are used to protect these crops from insects. People may criticize the manner in which these tomatoes are “grown,” but they also complain when the market runs out of stock. The artificial growing process is not limited to produce but extends to harvested animals as well. The film reveals that the chicken industry is the biggest culprit of mass-producing animals. Antibiotics are mixed into the feed to help the chickens gain weight and result in the plump, juicy meat that consumers crave. “In a way, we’re not producing chickens; we’re producing food,” Richard Lobb of the National Chicken Council opines. “If you can grow a chicken in 49 days, why would you want one you [have to] grow in three months?” Given the enormous demand for food, it’s doubtful that the population could survive by waiting three months for their regular intake of fried chicken or their beloved beef burgers.
How it works
The film also points out that cows, which provide beef, are naturally meant to consume grass. However, factories often opt for the cheaper alternative—corn. When an animal accustomed to a grass diet is fed corn, it disrupts their digestive system, leading to the build-up of the bacteria E. Coli. “There [is] some research [indicating] that a high-corn diet [results] in acid-resistant E. Coli…[which] is more harmful,” observes producer Michael Pollan. Evidently, the choice of dinner meat holds lethal possibilities.
Bacteria like E. Coli, and additives such as antibiotics, ethylene gases, and pesticides, are not safe to ingest and could potentially be lethal. Carole Morrison, a Purdue chicken grower, explains, “There are antibiotics…put into the feed and, of course, it passes through the chicken and the bacteria build up a resistance. Consequently, antibiotics do not work anymore. I have become allergic to all antibiotics and can’t take them.” Just like the chickens, Morrison has become immune to certain antibiotics. Therefore, if she becomes severely ill, there may not be any medicines available to help her. It’s a paradox that, while immune systems are deteriorating, mouths are being fed. Who can complain, right? However, that’s not to say changes aren’t needed. People are eating the food that’s killing them. And yet, the documentary is hypocritical for slamming food industries even as they themselves consume factory-produced beef burgers. “My favorite meal to this day remains a hamburger and French fries,” says director Kenner.
Given these numerous problems, the documentary comes off as one-sided and fails to propose alternative solutions to feeding hungry populations. It introduces one authentic farmer, Joel Salatin, who tends to his own cattle and raises his own chickens. “She’s fertilizing. She’s mowing. We don’t have to spread any manure. We don’t have to harvest it– she’s doing it all in real-time,” says Salatin, highlighting the naturalness of his farming approach. However, he fails to consider what people will eat while waiting for the cow to finish mowing the grass. Such a time-consuming approach would cause a catastrophe, and people would starve to death. Yes, people could resort to eating other animals, but those take time to become ready to eat, too. Opting for a vegan or vegetarian diet eventually leads to the same question–it takes months to grow crops. Given the United States’ current population, estimated at 330 million, increasing by an approximate 2.3 million annually (U.S. Population Live), how can we keep up with this demand while waiting for seasonal fruits, vegetables, and naturally sourced meats? The documentary fails to suggest mass production alternatives to feed an ever-growing population.
Simply put, the documentary, Food, Inc., is one-sided. The so-called “investigators” expose the corporate-controlled food industry without considering the reasons behind its structure. After watching the film, the majority of viewers probably grabbed a meal from McDonald’s with the $5 in their pocket. However, the issue isn’t just about money—although aspects like the economy, jobs, and education do come into play. It’s not easy to naturally raise animals and grow a garden without opting for mass-produced foods. Unless the documentary proposes realistic alternatives, feeding everyone would be impossible. Food, Inc. is hypocritical, unaware of the reasons why mass food production is necessary. After all, it’s for the greater good….
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