Making the Grades
If going to the grocery store before seemed like a daunting task, wait until you’ve watched Food Inc. Finding affordable, safe, healthy ingredients during a weekend shopping trip may seem more intimidating than ever.
In his documentary, investigative journalist Robert Kenner takes on the industrialization of food production. Inviting audiences inside meat packing plants and onto poultry and pig producing farms, his cameras capture disturbing images of dead animals and questionable slaughtering practices.
Kenner seems to think that the unsavory tactics are employed because only a handful of companies control the food production process. In order to grow things "faster, fitter, bigger, cheaper" to keep up with the demands of the ever-expanding fast food industry, ethical farming practices are sacrificed. Unfortunately the consequence appears to be increased dangers that affect end of the line consumers. (Among the interviewees is a mother whose son died after he ate an E. coli tainted hamburger. She now lobbies the government for more stringent controls and rapid recalls.)
But the revolutionized approach to food production is about more than slaughterhouses and meat processing practices. The film also addresses the rampant use of corn products as fillers and additives, the growing use of illegal workers and the increasingly dangerous work environments that production line employees are subjected to.
Obesity, diabetes and other long-term health issues caused by poor food choices are also impacting Americans at an alarming rate. According to the film, one in three Americans born after 2000 will contract early onset diabetes and the rate is even higher among minorities where one in two will be affected. In many cases, shoppers with limited resources cannot afford healthier choices, triggering a need for expensive medical treatments that further erode their buying power.
In his attack on the corporate boardrooms that manage the food chain, Kenner questions the sustainability and environmental impact of genetically modified seeds and cloning as well. He further accuses companies of employing intimidation tactics to silence their employees and drive other farmers out of business. (According to the film, some state laws make it illegal to speak out against the food industry.)
After creating a progressively negative picture for consumers, Kenner’s solution seems to be supporting farmers’ markets and organic growers. While those options are touted as the most appealing, many of them may remain beyond the accessibility of average shoppers, either because of cost or availability.
In addition, the director urges patrons to vote with their food buying dollars by purchasing only carefully monitored and ethically produced options. Sadly, because of finances or time constraints, the power to cast that kind of vote isn’t always distributed evenly among the populace either.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Food Inc..
What concerns do you have about the food production after watching this film? What role does the FDA play in regulating the industry? Are all companies fairly depicted? Is all big business bad? Are all farmers victims of the system and do all independent producers practice ethical and sustainable procedures?
How do food standards in the United States compare with other countries around the world? Why do you think many companies refused to be interviewed for the movie? Are there questions or viewpoints this film failed to address?
How, if at all, will this documentary change your eating habits?
Home Video Viewing Alternatives
Here are some ideas for home video titles that are related to Food Inc..
With obesity on the rise, the food industry has a critical light shone on it in the documentary Super Size Me. Michael Moore also attacks government-run agencies in his documentary Capitalism - A Love Affair. A drama based on a true story of a huge price fixing scheme involving food additives is portrayed in The Informant!.