On Monday night I went to the movie theater to see Food Inc. Many of us think of a trip to the movies as an escape from reality, but this movie pulls back the curtain on our food system to show us the truth behind what it takes to get food from the “farm” to the “table,” or sadly, in most cases, from the CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) to our front seat.
Walking in, I was nervous about the inevitable images of slaughterhouses. There were a few of these scenes, and yes, my eyes were closed, but it was not gratuitous. I think the film makers gave us just enough information to get a sense of what goes on in a food processing center, but I think they probably spared us from the worst of it. So don’t let this be the reason that you don’t go to see the movie.
I thought for sure that my strongest reaction would have been to the way animals are treated, which is awful and disturbing. But I was surprised to find that I was most moved by the stories of the people – from the heartbroken mother, to the farmer being destroyed by Monsanto, to the exploited Hispanic workers and the parents who can’t afford to let their daughter buy fresh pears because dollar for dollar, calorie for calorie the fast food hamburger is a better buy – and easier to eat when you are working long hours and don’t have time to eat at home together as a family.
I was also hopeful – seeing (and feeling) the pain and subsequent epiphany of chicken farmer Carole Morison, and hearing the brilliant, infectious logic of Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms, known to many from the pages of An Omnivore’s Dilemma. Gary Hirshberg, Founder of Stonyfield Farms is also a shining example of how we can create substantial and lasting change in the marketplace – from our purchasing dollars, to dropping the “us v. them” mentality and working with large corporations to create more sustainable – and profitable – practices.
I have read a number of books about our food system, and this movie is an excellent primer to help the viewer understand the main issues. I really hope that many, many people will see this movie and then ask, what I can I do about it?
If you are asking this question, here are some ideas:
Robert Kenner, Director of Food Inc, says on the June 27th, Sierra Club Radio Podcast, “When I was a kid we spent something like 18% of our paycheck on food. Today we spend something like 9%. But when I was a kid we spent something like 5% of our paycheck on healthcare costs. Today we spent like 18% on healthcare. So in aggregate our costs have gone up.” But there is also the environmental cost. Ultimately the system we use to grow our food…is really not sustainable.”
Take a look at your budget. Is there an area where you can shift money so that you have a little bit extra for organic dairy or organic fruits and vegetables at the store? Maybe you could try turning your thermostat up or down by a few degrees and saving on your energy costs, or drink tap water rather than buying bottled water?
Check out localharvest.org to find out about farmers’ markets, and CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) programs.
Look at your menu for the week. Can you cut out red-meat or meat all together from one meal a week, or one day a week, or more?
Many times our meal choices come down to an issue of time (or lack of). Can you prepare some meals at the beginning of the week, or say no to something so that you have more time at home to relax and enjoy mealtime with your family?
Were you inspired by the bravery of Barbara Kowalcyk and/or Carole Morison? Can you turn tragedy into activism? If you spoke up, what would you say? If you took a stand, what would you do?
Please feel free to answer these questions or add suggestions of your own.
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