Food, Inc.

April 21, 2010

Food Inc movie poster

So tonight, the hubby is out. I decided to sit down, have a bottle of wine, and unwind. Checking the Netflix queue I settled upon Food, Inc. to watch, probably because of a quiz on YumSugar today about the same movie.

I was perusing the CB2 catalog, and half-watching this movie, while sipping my wine. Afterall, I’ve read Fast Food Nation and In Defense of Food. Not to mention Fat Land and The End of Overeating. I’ve watched my great-grandparents grow their own food, and I’ve started doing that on my own (yet to harvest, but SOON! at least on the broccoli rabe and Asian greens).

Slowly, I began paying more attention. First it was the chicks on a conveyor belt. Do you know how adorable chicks are? Those cute yellow birds that slide down the waterslide at the state fair? Imagine them on a conveyor belt, being stamped on the forehead.

I do realize this documentary is skewed. Yes, corporate America declined comment, but I’ll accept that I don’t know how this was positioned. I love fast food – Krystal, Sonic, McDonald’s, Lion’s Choice, Jack in the Box. I have my favorites at all of these places, and eating those probably isn’t going to end anytime soon (though really I probably get each of these once a year, if that, at this point in time).

The point is, I’m not some grass-roots hippy, railing against the man. But, as I continue to watch this movie, I can’t help but comment. Reading is one thing, seeing someone reach inside a cow’s stomach is another. That makes me never, ever, ever want to eat a cow or burger made from a feed-lot cow again. I still love my beef, but I’ll definitely pay the premium or go without.

So, as this movie progresses, I whip out the Nexus One (yes, new phone plug, and I’m loving it), and I start making notes. The first is when I am moved *almost* to tears… a woman talking about her 2 1/2 year old son dying 12 days after eating a burger.

From my memory, I remember this story in one of the aforementioned books… kid eats frozen hamburgers and dies. Sad story, but really, who the hell is so lazy they buy frozen hamburgers? Does it really take that long to pat one out? That was my stance upon reading the story.

In the movie, queue the clips of the kid. He’s frolicking, rolling around, snuggling with his parents, and happy. The hook here is he’s dead 12 days later. His mom finds a mission – take on the government. At this point, I’m still the skeptic, despite the warm, wet feeling around my eyes. “We put faith in our government to protect us…” Why the hell should my government be protecting me? Aside from a bomb or those commie-pinko-bastards, I’m pretty sure they should stay out of my bidness (note my sarcasm here, please).

Next we go to the Shenandoah Valley-rogue farmer. He’s all about doing things the old school way. The intro to this makes me question if the initial intro shot was really on the East Coast. I’ve only seen skies and clouds like that on the West Coast (bright blue, with penciled in white clouds – a definite outline surrounds them). Alas, it was a beautiful shot, and then we cut to something that looks more like the Blue Ridge mountain area (hazy skies and all of that green from the rain).

Mr. Rogue Farmer cracks me up, talking about “real-time” farming – the cows graze on their grass, shit on their grass, and provide the manure to keep growing their grass. There’s no need to haul away the crap, because we’re not feeding our cows corn, and thus they’re not diseased and need to be rinsed in amonia (ammonia – I’m not completely object to, because I do like hominy, which is soaked in lye… and really, had anyone told me I would be eating food soaked in lye, I would have laughed my ass off). At this point judgment is waning but still reserved.

Anyhow, they contrast the rogue farmer with the sell-out farmer – Stonyfield yogurt – who goes through an organic food convention calling out this brand and that brand, all owned by some corporate brand. Yes sir, I get it. I probably would have never liked Dagoba chocolate had it been labeled “Hershey’s Sustainable Organic” chocolate. Since it wasn’t, though, I’ll admit it is damn good when paired with a ruby port.

When you look at any major organic brand, it can now be tied back to one of the big players, due to their intent to penetrate this market. We cut back to the rogue farmer (who I am quite fond of at this point). He’s sitting in the field with his pigs. Seriously, they ain’t no way any of my farmin’ family would have ever, EVER, sat in a pig pen. EVER. (and, yes, I had to break out the Southern vernacular there, to make my point). To drive this one home further, on my phone’s notepad, I wrote, “Jesus, he’s sitting in the f*ckn’ pig pen!!”

Now in defense of Mr. Stoneyfield, he had an agenda to spread his organic food to the masses, way back in the hippy-love era. So his sellout makes sense, in a way.  And he’s still the one managing his brand. I really like when he and his partner tell the Wal-Mart people that they’ve never been to Wal-Mart. And they answer with, “Oh yeah!!” That clip is really funny. You have to watch it to get it; the facial expressions are almost priceless. End result – Wal-Mart just wants to provide the customer with what they want… even if it’s from peeps that “boycott Wal-Mart”.

The subsidizing of crops is very interesting to me, especially since I know someone who plants whatever the government is subsidizing. I understand the interests in planting what is subsidized, and I unfortunately understand why crops are being subsidized. This ties back to the comment “We put faith in our government to protect us…” Really? The government that is being paid by corporate industry?

Now, mind you, I’m at this point more than half-way through my bottle of Chilean Merlot, grown by Italian-Chileans (Santa Ema Reserve, highly recommended at World Market for $10.99).

Now we start to delve into the deep end. We begin to compare farming to Microsoft. They’re not my favorite….

The movie begins to compare the people that grow my food to Microsoft, and that sends a chill up my spine. The Monsano (sp?) company is compiling an “unauthorized grower list”  based on those breaking the patent law by planting their own seed, which is more than a little fucked up. Farmers really can’t harvest their seed anymore?

Farmers are doing what is “cheaper”.  Monsanto claims they are trying to sue for intellectual property rights. Really? Various generations of my family have grown veggies over the years, and I’m pretty sure they had to harvest seed from the previous crop to do it.  This reinforces my need to shop at the Petaluma seed bank – heiloom seeds. While I’m at it, I want Granny and Grandpas’ sweet corn. Today they might be sued because they’re planting their own seed that was originally given to them from a friend in one of their wintering-in-Florida trips.

To skip to something more lighthearted, have I mentioned the graphics in this movie? Nice saturation and contrast. Where did they get this stock video? Big macs in styrofoam? My Barbie McD’s had ‘styrofoam’ containers… and how long ago was that?

Isn’t it against the law to blackmail? That’s what it reminds me of toward the end, when we have farmers with voiceovers and blackout of profiles.

This documentary ends with, “We have no reserves [of food]…” I’m guessing no one ever read Swiss Family Robinson. F*ck our subsidy. Become self-sufficient.

I’ve seen the evolution. Great-grandparents who are self-sufficient. Grandparents who want to show they are wealthy – they didn’t need that self-sufficiency. Parents who adopt both viewpoints and some sort of balance. And then to me… Inspiring people to cook (me? seriously? supposedly…).

I have to say, I don’t care for this land is your land/my land, due to the in-depth Great Depression class I had in undergrad (which is what the credits roll to in this film). This is a nice rendition though. This is propaganda. But this ‘propaganda’ is also focused on getting people back to something I call normal in the food prep landscape. Family is involved. This is a daily issue. What do we eat? In my family, the answer is rarely McDonald’s, but it is increasingly being replaced by Chili’s. While we lose my great-grandparents gardens, we’re replaced by genetically-altered seed. While we blame what is quick and easy, to me it is eye-opening to realize buying meat at Safeway is supporting chicks on conveyor belts and cows with open-access to their first stomachs, and realizing this isn’t my grandparents’ or greats’ world…

Is this going to change me into a vegetarian? No. Is this going to change me into a left-wing-pinko-commie-bastard? Well, according to some members of my family I might already be there, but in my words, no, not really. I just like good food, and thanks to a wonderful family, I’ve been lucky to already experience a lot of that throughout a lot of my lifetime (I’ll only eat Granny’s soup, I say!!). I still enjoy fast food, Velveeta, Coca-Cola, and all of the other food conglomerates that are rallied against indirectly in this film (and on my most-loved foodie blogs) and in the texts inspiring this film.

In essence, I still think it boils down to parenting. Is this old school of me? Should the Hispanic family in the documentary have changed my mind? Could his diabetes have been controlled and offset by diet? If so, that was at least $140 they could have spent each month… an additional $4+ dollars a day on top of the $1 a day they had budgeted for food (yet one trip through the drive through cost almost $12… so I don’t quite follow the math) that could have been spent on produce. I’m really not sure, because I haven’t faced that situation myself. It makes me question the positioning, though.

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One Response to “Food, Inc.”

  1. Hello! I’m not sure if there is a better way to contact you but I was wondering if I could privately message you? I am an American here in Silicon Valley planning a reception with my husband who is Indian, and I’m absolutely smitten with your wedding (I think I found through googling your wedding venue but at this point I’m down the rabbit hole of internet-wedding browsing). 🙂 I was hoping I could trouble you with a question or 2 about the maid of honor’s dress? I apologize if this is an imposition of any kind. Thanks! 🙂 E

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