"Though heavy-handed in places, Food, Inc. is both a chilling expose and a practical manifesto."
"You can change the world with every bite," ends the film Food, Inc., in theaters on June 12. Directed by noted documentarian Robert Kenner, with Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser on the production team, Food, Inc. takes a sharply critical look at Big Agra--the corporations that manage an enormous percentage of America's food supply by controlling the nation's beef, poultry, corn, and soy industries.
Pointing fingers squarely at corporations driven by profit motive rather than product quality or consumer health, along with the government agencies that allow them to do so, Food, Inc. finds plenty of villains to tackle, blaming them for obesity, illness outbreaks, worker abuse, and the environmental consequences of factory farming.
And they're not shy about pulling on your heartstrings, with close-ups of wobbly, fluffy chicks on conveyor belts, and an extended segment with a food safety advocate whose two-year-old died after eating an E. coli tainted hamburger.
Though heavy-handed in places, Food, Inc. is both a chilling expose and a practical manifesto. Sweeping aerials of cattle farms are sobering; shots of ammonia-cleansed ground beef, nauseating; and statistics about the FDA's lax behavior, enough to raise even the most jaded eater's eyebrows.
These factory farms are juxtaposed with shots of more holistically-minded farmers, the kind who raise grass-fed cattle, greet their swine with "Good morning, piggie!" and ruminate on the morality of a profit-minded world.
Yet the film doesn't stop at this small-scale pastoral ideal. It goes on to profile Stonyfield Farms, today the nation's third-largest yogurt producer--a company that, despite its size, still hasn't loosened its responsible-farming standards. "I'm thrilled to be at Wal-Mart," says CEO Gary Hirshberg, once a self-fashioned botanical anarchist of the 1970s.
Selling to the masses isn't selling out, by his logic, but proving the economic viability of sustainable dairy manufacture. And the Wal-Mart dairy buyer has a clear message of his own. "If the customers want it, then we get behind it."
Ultimately, the film suggests, control of the food industry lies with the consumer. Mega corporations may own the farms, but their product is only as good as our business. If we demand ethically and environmentally sound food--and purchase accordingly--they will have to supply it. Which shifts part of the blame to us, the public. But also shifts the power.