FOOD, INC.

3.5 Stars
Year Released: 2009
MPAA Rating: PG
Running Time: 94 minutes
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In 2001, Eric Schlosser’s book Fast Food Nation revealed to the world that, when we eat a burger, we are basically eating shit. All mass-produced ground beef contains fecal matter, since cows are slaughtered so fast and carelessly that they’re often not correctly disemboweled. (Ugh – yeah, I know.) And this is besides the fact that one beef patty, from a source so heavily processed, may have meat from as many as a 1000 (!) cows in it. If it ain’t ground where you bought it, then chances are, the meat ain’t too clean. And, no lie, ladies and gentlemen: if you eat ground meat from a fast food joint, you might as well not wash your hands after a trip to the bathroom – that is, a long trip.

I quit eating meat after I read Fast Food Nation (but will admit I get my carnal fix from an occasional tuna steak). Those who haven’t read the book but have seen the dramatized film version – co-written by Schlosser and incorporating many of the book’s revelations – try to avoid reality by saying that the movie is disgusting. (Many of my community college students take that safe position.) I’d argue that the movie is realistic, and the food industry is what’s disgusting.

I can’t imagine how Eric Schlosser can eat a burger after what he reported in his brilliant work. But here he is in this documentary, in a diner biting into a hot, steamy, browned beef patty. Along with Michael Pollan (author of Omnivore’s Dilemma), Schlosser is used in a wise move to make “Food, Inc.” a legit document on the insides of the food industry. All of Robert Kenner’s film is quite worthy, even if a retread over grounds familiar to many. Even if readers of Schlosser or Pollan feel this film to be redundant, here’s a truth worth telling over and over.

Ever since fast food became a mainstay and revolutionized food manufacturing, the business has been assembly-lined for profit. Think of all the ways the industry can cut costs to increase production – if feasible, they do them: hence, your cow guts spilling away as unskilled immigrant laborers do the work. Chicken growers work under contracts with large companies so that the farmers don’t even own the product. The modern chicken house is windowless and unventilated, and when Perdue comes to load the chickens (as this film shows in a hidden camera), we see an example of the largest form of mass suffering on the planet.

Yet “Food, Inc.” won’t reduce itself by just wallowing in the mire. One chicken grower named Carole, bemused by the situation, still uses ventilated chicken housing even if it cost her a contract with Perdue. Joel Salatin, a traditional free-range farmer, slaughters his birds onscreen in good spirits, since he’s following the pure farming tradition. True, the birds will lose their heads anyway, so why should we care? But is it our right to torture them for ease and profit? And yet, the mishandling and biological manipulations – just how do you think they grow such busty chickens? – ruins the food quality. (A trip to Whole Foods, anyone?)

Much of the effectiveness of an investigative film like this comes in its ability to shock, so I won’t spoil much more. As expected, “Food, Inc.” was reviewed by resident NY Post blockhead Kyle Smith, an overall movie hater who pans any socially conscious film. Likely soon facing a layoff – his slim wordage suggests he’s as good as gone – Smith treads the corporate moneystream by pandering to big business. A pan from him is a nod to the sane world.

And to all you sane folk out there, be prepared when seeing this film: you’ll ponder the old adage about being what you eat. For those new to the truth about food, this is a great starting point, from which Schlosser and Pollan await. If you’ve been here before, think of “Food, Inc.” as a solid recommendation to family/friends who still need to see the light. I’m sure Kyle Smith’s mama wishes he’d really watch for once.



Posted on June 19, 2009 in Reviews by
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