I am a realist and and optimist, which in 2009 America, often conflicts in somewhat bizarre ways. Last week, I took my kids to see Transformers II - I made the mistake of thinking that I could actually show up 15 minutes before the movie started, it was on about 20 times at the cinema near us, and get decent seats. Well, we were in the second row looking straight up at a movie that my 10 year old gave two thumbs up to.
A recent screening of Food, Inc. was decidedly less well attended which is unfortunate because the screaming masses that loved Transformers II would all be very well-served by seeing Food, Inc. a documentary that, to me, does what many great documentaries before have done. It takes what many know in the backs of their minds, Americans are getting bigger and bigger, there seem to be a lot more major food recalls and something just isn't right.
Food, Inc. takes those feelings and transfers them into fact. It also believes, correctly that if you know exactly where your food was coming from, you might think more about eating it.
As one reviewer noted:
If you're told where most fast-food chains' ground beef comes from, how much E. coli is in it, how much ammonia has been added to kill the E. coli, and how many illegal immigrants the meatpacking companies recruit, underpay, and leave prey to police raids, will you still want to eat that double cheeseburger?
It's not surprising that the filmmakers make liberal use of footage of where chicken and beef come from.
Inside these highly expensive, technologically advanced sheds are hundreds of screaming chickens each with less than one square foot of space. Because some chickens get too big from the growth-promoting antibiotics baked into their food, they cannot support their weight. Their legs snap, and they become immobile and eventually die.
The floors of these sheds are disgusting. They're caked with dead chickens and feces. While the dead chickens are picked up everyday, the feces is cleaned every 18 months.
As I was thinking about Food, Inc. two other pieces of recent news came to mind. Two more dots connected.
First, our country is involved in a real debate, a difficult debate, about healthcare reform. As a small business owner, I know all too well how health care costs have been going through the roof. If Americans, overall, were healthier, it would certainly improve the entire health care system, but as the major food companies profit, it costs us when it comes to health care, Of course, in the health care debate, we also see another disturbing trend, the ability of major corporations to impact the debate at the detriment of the people our government is meant to serve.
Second was the article about the falling demand for organic milk. Unfortunately, one would have to view this as predictable given the economics of our country at this point in time.
I have to wonder though, what will happen if all the incredible hard work done by so many over the past ten, fifteen years, to get more and more organic dairy products out there, what will happen if the organic dairy farmers can't compete? It doesn't seem like a healthy outcome.
So make a deal with the kids. You'll sit through Transformers, but they have to see Food, Inc. Just don't sit in the second row for either movie, trust me.
This is the official site for Food, Inc. which will help you find a theater near you showing the movie. Transformers is easier to find.
P.S. Our friends at Stonyfield Farm, the company whose founder Gary Hirshberg is featured in the film, have a Facebook deal going where you can actually win free yogurt, organic of course, and free tickets to Food, Inc. the details are here.
Follow James Boyce on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jamesboyce