Food, Inc.


Posted on : 9:12 AM | By : Anonymous | In : ,

I had been wanting to watch Food, Inc. for a while, but I guess I put it off because I knew it was preaching to the choir. It's sort of like watching a movie that you know what the ending is going to be. I finally got around to it last night, and I wanted to share my thoughts (warning: SPOILERS!!!) on it.

Factory farming is something I think most of us are aware of now... even though producers are trying to hide the way animal products come to be, it's getting tougher for them to keep it a big secret as more and more consumers become educated on the far-reaching effects. I appreciated the film's attempt to educate people that the problem with our food is not really a business problem, or a problem with the organic food industry (the powers that be would have you believe that the organic industry simply can't produce enough), but a political problem. I suspect that this political problem may also be strictly drawn by party lines, but I have not been able to research that fully yet.

I love the rants of Joel Salatin, the grass-fed beef farmer featured in the movie, who owns Polyface Farms. I have seen him before on YouTube, talking about how his pigs live naturally and root in the soil with their noses like any good pig should do. Doing a simple search there will find you tons. Food, Inc. demonstrates the difference between a farmer butchering their own meat, and sending them to a government-regulated slaughterhouse. Joel talks about how he fought against the government shutting down his butchering operation, which is an issue we have dealt with here in BC as well. In BC there has never been an instance of a home-butchered chicken causing anyone sickness, and yet the government decided that this was no longer acceptable. It has been demonstrated over and over that a large assembly-line style slaughterhouse is simply a breeding ground for every possible bacteria, whereas open-air home butchering is much cleaner.

The film also highlighted Stonyfield Farm, which is a brand of organic dairy products that is now found in most stores, and the film has a very interesting scene with a couple of clean-cut Wal-Mart executives showing up at what is supposed to be Stonyfield Farm, to talk about purchasing their yogurt. The farm is idyllic and it seems like an amazing thing. Cheap, organic yogurt at Wal-Mart? Who can complain about that? The film leaves it up to you to compare the difference between Stonyfield Farm, which tries to mass market to the big wig markets, and Polyface Farm, which has customers driving 100 miles to pick up their beef. Stonyfield was bought by Danone (just like many other organic brands which are bought by Coke and Nestle, etc.), and if you go to their website they have a farm cam where you can look at a beautiful old-style dairy farm. Me, ever the skeptic, looked up Stonyfield and found a BusinessWeek article about how Stonyfield now has an industrial facility like everyone else. So that other farm is just for show, I guess. They have to import much of the organic yogurt ingredients from places around the world, and it is compiled together just like any other processed food.

Which begs the question... what was the point of the movie? I wish they had made it a little more clear that Stonyfield is a sell out, that the real hero was Joel Salatin. Companies like Stonyfield are even more sinister because they say organic, but there's no ethics involved. USDA organic means nothing and there are all kinds of loopholes for labeling items organic and natural. Joel should have been the champion, but I interpreted the film as demonstrating two equally viable organic farm strategies... which then made me wonder if Wal-Mart produced the movie. Well, besides being sponsored by a fast-food restaurant, I couldn't find any proof. But Wal-Mart part of the solution? I don't think so.

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