Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Food, Inc. (Rhoades)

“Food, Inc.” Will Change The Way You Look at Food

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

My hometown in North Carolina is known for its chicken production. Concrete-block chicken houses dot the countryside, long low buildings where cows used to graze. One of the biggest employers in the county is Tyson Foods. If you don’t go to college you may wind up as a minimum-wage chicken catcher, going out in the wee hours of the night to capture sleeping chickens for transportation to the processing plant. Eventually, they will wind up on your plate as a fried chicken dinner.

As one farmer in “Food, Inc.” – the shocking documentary that’s playing at Tropic Cinema – says, “We’re not producing chickens; we’re producing food.”

It’s a film that will change the way you look at food. In fact, it might change the way you eat.
You’ll learn that four or five companies control the US food chain. Tyson Foods, Perdue Farms, Smithfield Foods, Monsanto Company, etc. They are the villains of the piece.

The film shows how technology has altered the way we grow food and raise livestock. Now farmers can produce a five-and-a-half pound chicken in seven weeks – half the time and twice the weight that it used to be.

Sniffing at the musky smell of chicken houses, a farmer in “Food, Inc. says, “It smells like money to me.”

According to Emmy Award-winning director Robert Kenner, everything we’ve done in agriculture is to grow it faster, fatter, bigger, cheaper.

It all comes back to corn. The documentary points out that 90 percent of the food in your supermarket contains something based on corn.

The average person eats 200 pounds of meat a year, all made possible by corn. We feed corn to chickens, pigs, cattle, even fish. The reason we feed them corn is because corn is really cheap and it makes them fat quickly.

Of course, in this commercialization of food, there are unintended consequences. Tainted meat, for instance. There used to be thousands of slaughterhouses in the US. Today there are only 13. Bigger food processing plants are ideal for the increased spread of pathogens. E. Coli, salmonella, all our deadly bacteria.

The documentary examines the case of a child named Kevin who contracted E. Coli from contaminated food. As his mother bemoans, “To watch this beautiful child go from perfectly healthy to dead in 12 days from eating food is unbelievable.”

To provide a higher standard of safety, advocates have tried to pass a bill called Kevin’s Law, an attempt to put tighter restraints on the food processing industry. But food lobbyists oppose it. Seven years since Kevin died, the law still hasn’t passed.

“We’re hardwired for three tastes – salt, fat, and sugar,” points out one expert in the film. “We’ve skewed our food system to the bad calories. They are from the commodity crops, those that are subsidized.”

Fact is, 1 in 3 young Americans now will contract early onset diabetes.

The thesis of “Food, Inc” is that major food companies’ livelihoods are based on “supplying cheap but contaminated food, the heavy use of petroleum-based chemicals (largely pesticides and fertilizers), and the promotion of unhealthy food consumption habits by the American public.”

Needless to say, Tyson, Perdue, Smithfield, and Monsanto do not like “Food, Inc.” An alliance of food production companies created a website called in response to the film. Monsanto established its own website to refute Kenner’s claims.

Kenner insists, “All we want is transparency and a good conversation about these things.”
His companion book to the film says it all in the title: “Food Inc.: A Participant Guide: How Industrial Food Is Making Us Sicker, Fatter, and Poorer – And What You Can Do About It.”
[from Solares Hill]

No comments: