Food Inc: Michael Pollan and Friends Reveal the Food Industry's Darkest Secrets
It turns out that figuring out the most simple thing -- like what's on your dinner plate, and where it came from -- is actually a pretty subversive act.
That's what director Robert Kenner found out while spending six years putting together the amazing new documentary, Food Inc., which features prominent food writers Michael Pollan ( The Omnivore’s Dilemma) and Eric Schlosser ( Fast Food Nation).
Warning: Food Inc. is not for the faint of heart. While its focus is not on the gory images of slaughterhouse floors and filthy feedlots, what it does show about the journey of our food from "farm" to plate is not pretty.
The story's main narrative chronicles the consolidation of our vast food industry into the hands of a few powerful corporations that have worked to limit the public's understanding of where its food comes from, what's in it and how safe it may be.
But it's also a larger story about the people that have gotten in the way of the stampeding corporate herd -- like farmer Joel Salatin (also profiled in Pollan's Omnivore’s Dilemma), who has bravely bucked the trend to go corporate.
There's also Barbara Kowalcyk, who becomes a tireless food-safety advocate after her 2 1/2-year-old son Kevin died from eating an E. coli-tainted hamburger. And there is the economically strapped Orozco family, which is faced with the difficult decision of whether to save money by buying cheap processed food and spend more later on medical bills, or spring for the more expensive, but healthier food options that stretch its immediate income.
There are also the farmers who appear with their faces blacked out on screen for fear of Monsanto, or the communities ravaged by Type 2 diabetes, or the undocumented workers at processing plants who are recruited from their NAFTA-screwed homelands, illegally brought over the border to work dangerous jobs for peanuts, only to be humiliatingly sacrificed in immigration raids that only criminalize workers and never the employers.
It's really the people that make this film so riveting. If you've read Pollan's or Schlosser's important works, then you already know a lot -- but the film is still eye-opening on so many levels. And sometimes, you really just have to see it to believe it.
Both Pollan and Schlosser narrate the film, but it is the ordinary folks in the film that make you realize how critical these issues are to the future of food, health care, the environment and human rights in this country.
If you care about what you eat, then you should see this film -- and if you do, you'll likely never walk through the supermarket in the same way again. And that's a damn good thing.
AlterNet recently had the chance to talk with Kenner about whether our food is really safe to eat, why the food industry doesn't want us to know what we're eating, and how we can fight back.
Tara Lohan: So how did this film come about?
Robert Kenner: I read Eric Schlosser's book, Fast Food Nation, and I was struck by the idea that with food, there could be so much we don't know about something we are as familiar with. I began to think about doing a film about how we eat and where the food comes from. Ultimately exploring the idea that -- on one level we are spending less of our paycheck on food today than probably at any point in the history of the world -- and at the same time, this inexpensive food is coming to us at a high cost that you don't see at the checkout counter.