Early Movie Review: Food, Inc.

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by Amy Flanigan on May 26, 2009 · 18 comments

Rated PG • 94 minutes • In Theaters June 12, 2009

Today we walk through a market and are amazed at the 40,000 or so different products we may find down the isles, excited at the cornucopia of food that has been laid out for us, ready to choose one item over another due only to the smallest of details.

Too bad that diversity is a lie.

This opens the film, “Food, Inc.,” an honest and sometimes eye-opening portrait of how food actually gets from the farm to our plate. It builds into an indictment on the giant food business that is monopolized by a few companies existing only to profit from the misery of animals and humans alike.

Veteran journalists Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, are our tour guides through the film’s story. The message is not pro-organic or anti-meat, but within ten minutes there’s clearly an agenda. Some dark corners of the industry are exposed and in order to make the case against huge meatpacking plants, there are several graphic scenes of animals being slaughtered, giving vindication to Vegetarians.

We see the inhumane treatment of chickens as they fatten up (it only takes 49 days to grow a chicken now, compared to the traditional 70 days), and that cows are fed corn instead of grass (something they are not evolutionarily built to do.) We also follow the story of a mother (turned food advocate) whose son died from eating contaminated food.

The film explains that the advent of big business food manufacturing came from the expansion of the fast food chain: speedier animal growth and assembly lines serve the consumer faster. Pollan connects the dots between obesity and low-income levels. How come it costs only 99 cents for a cheeseburger, but two bucks for a head of broccoli? It’s easy to see where families with fewer dollars will spend their money, and the physical results of those purchases.

One fascinating subject is patented soybean genes, and Monsanto’s cloak-and-dagger behavior to ensure that all farmers use their line. (Monsanto is also the home to DDT and Agent Orange. Yes, those chemicals.) The fear that Monsanto drives into these farmers is apparent with one man who has his face and voice protected to avoid identification. This part of the story is worth a documentary unto itself.

Food, Inc. also brings to the forefront the fact that former leaders of these companies are now running the government agencies built to protect us from them. (Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was once a lawyer for Monsanto).

However, the film does not present a complete downward spiral toward food Armageddon. In fact, it paints a positive picture of the progress made toward better conditions for food processing and consumption, citing Walmart as one example. By answering customer demand for organic foods, Walmart has stopped stocking the dairy section with milk from cows with growth hormones, and has started putting organic foods in their stores – more organic foods on the shelves means less room for the processed goods (and the tons of hormones, fertilizers, and chemicals that go with them.)

Documentaries are not the usual big-screen fare, so this might be a rental in your future, depending on your passion for the subject. Food, Inc. is a worthy addition to the growing movement for better standards on food processing and how we consumers can “vote at the cash register” to make a difference. As Schlosser says in the film, “Hey, it worked for Big Tobacco.”

I’m skeptical whether this will truly change how people think and act about their food, but you never know. I guess we’ll find out the next time we write our shopping lists.

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Sandi June 3, 2014 at 1:54 am

5 years later, it looks like Monsanto is slowly going to get exactly what they deserve as more and more countries around the globe ban both their fake food and the poisons they are filling our environment with. “Give me spots on my apples…”.

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Chopper June 2, 2009 at 10:26 am

This movie looks really interesting, thanks for sharing, Amy. And “Pressure Cooker” looks good as well, Gregory. Thanks for sharing that, too.

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Melissa May 28, 2009 at 5:28 pm

I’m definitely wanting to see this, especially the stuff about Monsanto and also the political stuff. Great review Amy. Thanks for sending. I’ve been trying to catch up since vacation, so thanks also for your patience. :)

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Gregory May 27, 2009 at 1:10 pm

I was able to see this film early and a lot of the content is pretty chilling. I agree with you about the Monsanto piece -pretty bizarre. Definitely worth seeing. Next on my list is the new documentary Pressure Cooker, I think released this week? http://www.takepart.com/pressurecooker/

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Emily May 27, 2009 at 11:19 am

The unfortunate part is that the majority of people who are interested in and will actually see this movie are the ones that are already aware of the problems with food processing, and already take measures to change their eating habits. The movie studio and marketing behind the film needs to figure out a way to reach all the other people.

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Mike May 27, 2009 at 8:38 am

Nice review, Amy! I definitely want to see this movie. The older I get, the more I hear about how “dirty” the food industry is. This movie should be interesting. Thanks for pointing it out.

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Jude May 27, 2009 at 10:38 am

Thanks, Amy, for bringing up this important movie. Aside from the chemical-derived plants that Americans consume, there is the reality of slaughterhouses and corporate farming in this country. Seeing the treatment and killing of farm animals first-hand stays with a person, so I hope this movie is as eye-opening and inspiring as Al Gore’s message. If American’s were forced to watch how an animal was treated over the course of its short life before reaching the dinner plate, we’d probably see growth in the localvore and organic free-range farm movement. Imagine the day when force-feeding baby cows in veal-fattening pens has ceased in this country.

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kelly May 27, 2009 at 8:25 am

We also feed our cats and dogs corn, which they are not meant to eat either. Ever look at just about all grocery store pet foods, the first (main) ingredient is typically corn, if not it is the second or third, usually only preceded by animal by-products. It is a shame what we put in our bodies and what we put into our beloved pets bodies. There have been plenty of movies, tv specials, and books written about the same thing this movie shows but hopefully some day, people will start to get it.

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Helen May 27, 2009 at 7:50 am

I heard about this last year and very much want to see it also. As with most movies that have a message though, it might get a few select people to change their ways, but I seriously doubt enough to make a significant difference – did Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” really make a dent in the Global Warming movement? I don’t think so.

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Paul May 27, 2009 at 7:33 am

The movie does a great job of not taking a “food preference” side. The movie is more about the industry, not how we eat. But it has to provide some examples to show the problems.

There is also a part of the film with an organic farmer who shows how we can eat meat without the contaminated slaughterhouse treatment. The guy is infectious with his positive attitude.

And, Cheryl, you do see Schlosser eat a hamburger at the beginning of the movie. (It looked good, too.)

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Amy May 27, 2009 at 7:19 am

To Terry (and anyone else with young children) – I think it’s always a good idea to have an honest conversation with your kids before and after a movie of this nature, to talk about the film’s message, and to clarify any questions or concerns they have.

Having said that, I believe this film really should be rated PG-13. That is just my humble opinion, though.

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Nancy May 27, 2009 at 7:08 am

I can’t wait to see this. We should all get a glimpse at how our food is made; letting us see the man behind the curtain. We certainly pay top dollar for the food. And it affects our health for God’s sakes.

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Cheryl May 27, 2009 at 6:30 am

I’m really glad to hear that this movie is more about the food manufacturing industry dysfunction as a whole, instead of trying to make meat-eaters feel guilty. My understanding is that Eric Schlosser eats beef, so I guess it would have been pretty hypocritical had the movie been slanted toward vegetarians and vegans.

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Lisa May 26, 2009 at 11:18 pm

You rock for the early review – I totally want to see this!!

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Tom May 26, 2009 at 9:46 pm

While there may be some new information divulged, was there really anything shocking that hasn’t already been seen before?

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Terry May 26, 2009 at 8:51 pm

I am very interested in seeing this, although we’ll probably wait for the rental. Amy, how graphic are the images you mentioned? I mean, is this movie inappropriate for kids say around 8 and 10 years old? And will the message go completely over their heads?

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Peter May 26, 2009 at 7:52 pm

There are so few reviews out yet, so this is fantastic. I am really looking forward to seeing it and willing to spend the theater prices.

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Scott May 26, 2009 at 4:10 pm

Great review. I definitely want to see this. I imagine it’s right up there with all of Michael Moore’s catalog and Bill Maher’s “Religulous.”

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