April 21, 2009

On the Horizon: Food, Inc.

Did you know there are only 13 slaughterhouses in the United States, down from thousands that operated several decades ago? Meat consumption hasn't decreased at that rate, so what gives - and what does that mean about the meat we're all eating? Hmm...

Food, Inc. attempts to answer such questions by pulling the veil back on America's food industry to expose food corporations as monopolies that control our mind, body, and soul (at least that's what I gathered when the word "evil" flashed on the screen). It's not a "do you know where your food comes from?" scolding, but a "here's why it matters" explanation.

Equal parts Fast Food Nation, The Corporation, Super Size Me, and Enron: The Smartest Guys In the Room, Robert Kenner's Food, Inc. is perhaps most similar to a certain Oscar-winning, action-stirring documentary starring Al Gore. Think of it as An Inconvenient Food, healthy living recommendations before the end credits included.

(Disclaimer: I'll make no effort to hide the fact that I'm automatically in the tank for everything Participant Productions churns out. Founded by eBay magnate Jeff Skoll just about five years ago, Participant produces films with the implicit purpose to inspire social change (check out their TakePart blog in the "Do" section of my sidebar). Recent films include The Soloist, The Visitor, Standard Operating Procedure, and Charlie Wilson's War, but looking back a few years you'll find Fast Food Nation, An Inconvenient Truth, Murderball, North Country, Syriana, Chicago 10, The Kite Runner, Darfur Now, American Gun, and Good Night, and Good Luck.)

Make sense why I'm a big fan? Then check out the trailer for Food, Inc., or watch the first three minutes here:

Food, Inc. will be shown at MSPIFF this Friday, 4/24, and Sunday, 4/26. Because Minneapolis goes ga-ga for all things "green" and because the film is co-produced by Minneapolis-based (Bill Pohlad) River Road Entertainment, I will go ahead and guarantee a sellout for both shows. Get your tickets now.

Watch this space for my full review of Food, Inc. prior to its Minneapolis opening on June 19. In the meantime, visit TakePart's website for all kinds of good stuff related to the film, including a preview screening schedule and a laundry list of action items.


  1. I definitely agree about this one, it really has the chance to be the "Inconvenient Truth" of 2009 if marketed right. People really need to see this, and I hope it does well.

  2. Me too. My only issue is that I got the sense that these Big Ag CEO's are literally menacing lords stroking their beards in opulent towers somewhere. That may be accurate, but the "blame game" doesn't really lead to much but complaining. I think that's actually a reason that Gore was so successful - he wasn't spitting raspberries at anyone in particular, just explaining the situation and challenging The Individual to do something about it. When Food, Inc. used that even-handed approach is when I really enjoyed it. Either way I think it's bound to make more waves than FFN, possibly on the level of Super Size Me.

    I loved that philosophizing farmer, you know the one.

  3. Looks very interesting. Will definitely have to check it out.

  4. It's going to be a controversial one throughout '09, Mikey, so if nothing else you'll be in the pop culture loop after seeing it.

  5. I am curious to see how they portray Big Ag and FDA. Actually, FDA has a pretty good plan for protecting the food supply, and it's not all about the food itself, but also about handling. Of course, The Jungle, the classic book about how unsafe slaughterhouses were for workers, made a dent. Hopefully, films like this will, too. Thanks for bringing it to our attention, Daniel. You know I love docs, too.

    I'm fortunate to live in an area with abundant organics and other healthy choices on the restaurant scene. I recently became a vegetarian, and I do feel better and have gotten lighter. I probably will go through a liquid detox to get myself in better shape.

  6. Big Ag (one corporation in particular) and the FDA aren't targeted so much in theory as they are in practice, meaning corrupt individuals are presented as the problem as much as anything else. I'd say if you're looking for a really probing documentary you might have to look elsewhere. Food, Inc. tries to cover so much ground that it doesn't really dig significantly deep into anything; it's more like a 100 level course, which is what many people may need anyway.

    But I still think you'll find something or someone (there are some great, heroic farmers) to appreciate, especially with your recent lifestyle changes. I don't eat a lot of red meat but I eat chicken all the time and this was a bit of a wake-up call in that sense. I also do a juice/fruit/vegetable detox cleansing fast once or twice a year, so I know what you mean about feeling better. Just hard to stay in the right habit afterwards...

  7. There aren't just 13 sluaghterhouses in the U.S. Just last year, both "USA Today" and CNN reported that the USDA inspects 800 cattle slaughterhouses alone each year. 13 big chains, maybe. 13 investigated slaughterhouses, maybe. I think your stat is wrong.

  8. Yeah, I know that figure has been disputed elsewhere, but I lifted it from Food, Inc. It surprised me when I heard it and it may have been related to chains of slaughterhouses, if such things exist. But the point, as I remember it, was that we're getting our meat from fewer sources than ever before, thus decreasing both its quality and cleanliness.

    I welcome somebody to check back in with the actual number, if I did hear it incorrectly.

  9. I think the stat was that 13 slaughterhouses in the US produce more than 90% of the meat consumed in the country.

  10. That would make a bit more sense; I don't know if I just misheard the number or they leave out the 90% when they report it. Either way the point remains that we're getting nearly all of our meat from just a few sources.


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