Lowdown: A damning review of the state of the American food industry.
Veterans of 2006’s Fast Food Nation sort-of-a documentary (not to mention the 2001 book on which is based) will know exactly what to expect out of 2008’s Food, Inc. The latter is even co presented by the author of the former, Eric Schlosser. By going over the current state of the American food industry, Food, Inc. is a straight documentary that basically claims there’s a horror show running behind the scenes there, and by extension, the whole world.
The core argument made in this documentary is that during the past 50 years our diet has changed more than it did in the previous 10,000 years, yet we seem oblivious to the fact. Not accidentally, though; the industry has been doing its best to keep things that way. According to Food, Inc., it all started with McDonald’s and the strict demands it put on its suppliers; coupled with an already substantive and subsidised corn industry, one thing fed the other to lead to a market where the whole of the American food industry is dominated by a mere few players. These, in turn, both control the market and run off giant, pretty scary, farms. Compare that to the illusion of choice one seems to have upon visiting the supermarket to realise just how badly we’ve been played!
The problem lies in how the above two factors impacted on the rest of the food industry. The poultry industry isn’t doing much better than the meat [beef] one, in terms of industrialisation to the point of losing humanity; neither does the pork industry. Nor does “regular” agriculture, where players such as Monsanto are now in control of the game.
The message delivered by Food, Inc. is an important one. As far as documentaries go, I cannot say it is well delivered, though; perhaps given the big guns the movie has set its sights on, the affair feels more than a bit eccentric and thus uninvolving. Viewers could have also benefited if some advice on how to deal with one’s food needs was to be provided.
I will stress that this does not take away from the core message, even in Australia: sure, things here are much better, but it doesn’t take much more than reading food labels to figure out that the abundance of brands at the supermarket is but an illusion given that the bulk of said brands are owned by a few international companies. And if you think giant paddock beef exists in the USA only, think again: to its credit, Costco Australia is very open in informing its shoppers that its beef comes from one giant mega-farm in Queensland, where beef purchased from all over the east coast is grain fed for fattening in a very calculated – industrial – manner. Why Australians should accept grain fed beef is beyond me, but that’s our reality.
Better yet, think about it this way: when was the last time you’ve seen a pig out in the open? You haven’t, because aside of kids petting zoos, pigs do not exist out in the open anymore.
Overall: Food, Inc. lives by the importance of the message it carries. 3 out of 5 crabs with very poor appetites.