What Is Food Inc.?

What is Food Inc.?

“Food Inc.” is an upcoming documentary by filmmaker Robert Kenner, probably best known for his film The American Experience, which won an Emmy in 2006.

One of the best reviewed films this year (a quick Google search of the film’s reviews revealed only one negative review, posted by an anonymous blogger), “Food Inc.” promises to be an eye opening experience for Americans, who probably don’t give a second though to exactly what it is they’re eating. Kenner’s goal with “Food Inc.” is to change, or at least slightly alter, that behavior.

You may remember a documentary called “King Corn” a few years back, in which a couple of recent college graduates head to Iowa to raise an acre of corn in an attempt to track where exactly that corn goes. As the two amateur farmers eventually found out, their corn was going, well, everywhere. The two corn producers found corn in just about every item in the grocery store, and learned that the majority of their corn would be used as artificial sweeteners in soft drinks. In fact, the corn they grew wasn’t even edible, it was a product designed to be used in other products, as sweetener, filler, or animal feed. This fact led documentary participant Michael Pollan (also a participant in “Food Inc.”) to state a very scary fact — “The modern farmer can’t even feed himself.”

“Food Inc.” is hoping for a larger appeal, and is enjoying a more massive release, than the under the radar activity of “King Corn”. The new film by Robert Kenner will enjoy a Hollywood-style premiere in New York City, LA, and San Francisco on June 12th before being released in thousands of theatres across the country later in June. While “King Corn” was an arthouse indie film, “Food Inc.” will be available to more Americans, and hopefully, make a larger impact.

According to Kenner, the problem with American eaters (and eaters in other parts of the world) is that we crave the unhealthiest elements in fast food — fatty and practically devoid of real nutrition, this convenient food source quenches our desire for three basic needs: sugar, fat and protein. According to one documentary participant, Polyface Farm owner Joel Salatin, ” . . . we want it faster, fatter, bigger and cheaper.” Salatin is upheld as a successful model of proper and nutritious farming in the film. Salatin raises his livestock without the use of pesticides, growth hormones, or fertilizers. His biggest product is known as “salad bar beef” — cattle that graze on grasses and native forage rather than the corn that most cattle producers use. The problem with corn? Its not meant to be part of cow’s diet, resulting in diseases (like E. coli) which require large amounts of antibiotics. You can see where this is going.

Why don’t more cattle producers use Salatin’s method? This is the big question of “Food Inc.” Our national farming system is set up so that farmers of industrial corn and soy earn subsidies, allowing them to produce cheaper goods for the mass market. This means that cattle producers like Salatin have to charge higher prices. Most Americans will go for the cheaper product every time. This is a fact of life, especially when economic times are hard.

Throughout the film, viewers will learn scary statistics about the state of our national health, which are directly related to our massive consumption of cheaper foods.

Besides statistics and interviews, there are disturbing images throughout “Food, Inc.” The idea, says Kenner, is to “lead viewers to a conclusion that’s hard to swallow”. That conclusion? In plain English, our food and our food choices are making us sick. Our country’s healthcare system is plagued by diabetes and obesity, and this method of farming is harming both the environment and our basic human rights.

There is good news. Unlike many of the scare tactic documnetaries produced in the past (including “King Corn”), “Food, Inc.” offers viewers simple solutions to the problem. Not only is there information in the film to help Americans make better choices, by the distributor of the film, Participant Media, has put out a book to accompany the information found in the film. This book, also titled “Food, Inc.,” will serves as a kind of “field guide” for how to take part in the necessary transition to a sustainable food system.