Last night I went with my best friend to see Food, Inc. I’d been wanting to see it, knowing it would cause me to change the way I eat. I was right.
Before I get into my thoughts on the movie, I do need to make one thing very clear. As you all know if you read my blog, I suffer from a GI illness that abruptly started 2 years ago. This illness — likely lifelong — was caused from an infection I had, where the antibodies attacking the infection also attacked my body. I am pretty sure that the infection was caused by food that I ate about 8 hours before I got sick. I can’t know for certain, but the timing is right.
If I could go back in time and change just one thing I have done in my entire life, I would go back and order a different meal that night. Maybe I still would have gotten sick — but at least I’d know it wasn’t my own fault. At least I’d know it wasn’t the food industry’s fault.
Which brings me to Food, Inc. I went in to this movie having read blogger and professional reviews, so I had an idea of what to expect. I am also in the middle of reading In Defense of Food, which has already changed the way I see food and the way I eat, especially with regards to low-fat anything and vitamin-fortified foods. I will discuss this in much greater detail when I finish the book and write my review. My point is, I wasn’t going into this movie blind.
I want to stop here and tell you that this gets graphic. Stop reading now if you don’t want to know the way the animals you eat are treated. Stop here if you want to remain ignorant on how the government is controlling what you eat and hiding essential information from you about where your food comes from. Also, this contains spoilers from the movie, if you can call it that. So if you want to discontinue your reading, NOW is the time.
That said, oh my G-d. The tagline is right — you will really never look at dinner the same way.
I learned so much from this movie and none of what I learned is going to be ignored. I will explain the changes I plan to make as a result of seeing Food, Inc:
I will never order chicken, pork or beef in a restaurant again— unless the restaurant specifies in its menu that it is organic, 100% grass-fed, grass finished or pasture finished. This will be slightly challenging for me as I often have few choices in restaurants to begin with since I can’t eat vegetables, but after seeing this movie I simply cannot eat chicken if I don’t know exactly where it came from. I will continue to order fish — probably more so now — although the movie did mention that salmon and tilapia are now learning to eat corn as well. I will likely avoid those fish if other fish options are available. If not, I will choose the fish over the chicken because of the way I know now chickens are treated.
I will also not eat chicken, pork or beef in someone’s home or at an event unless it is specified where it came from.
I will be wary of corn and soybeans. Corn is in practically every genetically modified food. If corn isn’t in it, soybeans likely are, or a combination of both. It is mass produced as quickly and cheaply as possible — and oh hey! It just so happens to be subsidized by the government. It can be mutated and formed into practically anything — and unless it is organic corn on the cob, chances are you don’t want to be eating it. Especially in your peanut butter. Or your batteries.
I will not knowingly eat products with corn in any part of the ingredient list.
I’ve already been trying to avoid soybeans because my mom had breast cancer and I don’t want the phytoestrogens they contain, in addition to the fact that soy is highly processed and awful for digestion. I can’t exactly take any liberties there. And did you know that one company basically owns ALL the soybeans thanks to a sketchy patent on seed saving?
Cows, chicken and pigs (and now fish) are fed nothing but corn, corn, corn. It is cheap and easy to produce. But it is not the food these animals are meant to eat. Let’s talk about cows. Cows eat grass. Their bodies are not designed to handle corn. When they subsist on corn, they develop high stomach acidity, which in turn leads to E.Coli. Then we eat the cows and we all have E.Coli too.
Michael Pollan said in the movie that if the E.Coli infected cattle were given a grass diet for the next 5 days, it would kill 80% of the infection in their bodies. But that is not the way the farmers treat it. Instead, they try and find workarounds that will prevent the spread E.Coli and still allow cows to eat the cheap, mass produced corn. Grass is expensive. Corn is cheap. And what they use to prevent the spread? More chemicals for you to eat. With all their fun possible chemical side-effects. Yum.
And the growth hormones given to these animals make them grow too quickly for them to adapt. The animals aren’t prepared for all their weight, and they often can’t even stand up straight. They just collapse on their legs. Repeatedly. The cows live in awful conditions, where they are all on top of each other with literally no room to even take a step. The chickens are literally kept in the dark — any chicken houses that had windows not have to conform to a rule from the big guys (Perdue, Tyson, etc) requiring the chickens to be kept in a dark house with no windows, no exposure to the sunlight for their entire (short) lives. And so, so many of them die before they even have a chance to be slaughtered.
The cows stand ankle deep in their own manure. The corn they eat has to go somewhere, right? And then the workers have to collect all that manure and dispose of it in lagoons. It decomposes and releases methane and nitrous oxide into the air. On the other hand, cows that have free access to roam and eat the grass don’t have these problems. The manure goes back into the ground, more grass grows and the natural cycle continues.
If I eat meat, I want healthy meat that is strong and led a fairly content life while it lasted. The animals living on grassy farms really did look happy and healthy. They were just milling about, minding their own business, leaving their peaceful existence. The animals living in factories looked sick, dirty and miserable. It is disgusting to produce animals in a factory and cause them to live only to suffer.
As I am sure you gauged, I am not a vegetarian. And I don’t plan to be. But I do care that the meat I eat is clean, healthy and didn’t suffer its entire life.
And did I mention the illegal immigrants brought to work at these factories are treated almost as poorly as the animals? Not to mention the fact that the very company’s that recruited them and brought them here also turn them in. And the companies never get in trouble from bringing the workers. The workers are the ones who get arrested and deported.
I already buy no hormone/no antibiotic deli meat, but now I will be sure any meat I buy (and as I now plan on cooking more, I will be buying more — if anything to support local, organic farmers) is clearly labeled 100% grass-fed or grass finished. I already buy free range eggs, although now I know that might not mean much. I will read egg cartons much more carefully. The same will go for dairy.
I will not purchase a single thing from fast food restaurants — even one of their “healthier” options like salads (not that I could eat that anyway). The innovation of the first fast-food restaurant, McDonald’s, is what initially led to factory-raised cows, chickens and pigs. McDonald’s needed massive quantities of food, they needed it fast — and they needed it all to taste exactly the same. The only way for the industry to meet these demands — and get the big bucks — was to mass produce the animals in a factory setting. Each worker did one job which ensured efficiency and made workers easy to replace. The animals were bred to be the exact same size, given hormones to speed up their growth process so they’d be ready to slaughter quicker and fed nothing but cheap corn.
Now, most of the meat you eat is raised in the same fast food way. But McDonald’s remains the largest purchaser of beef, chicken, pork and even tomatoes. Giving them your money is essentially supporting these practices.
Speaking of tomatoes, fruits and veggies are made with growth hormones and shipped all over the world. You don’t want to eat it. They showed a deformed tomato, with another unripe tomato growing out of it. Not cool. Buy local and organic when you can. A few extra dollars on your meals could save you thousands of dollars in medical bills.
Stonyfield Farms, maker of one of my greek yogurt loves Oikos (and now the only greek yogurt I will eat), is a wonderful example of a company really trying to spread the word about organic foods. Their CEO Gary Hirshberg appeared in the movie and really seemed passionate about his goal. He did not seem at all like a corporate CEO prototype you think of — he was just a guy who started a company to spread the word about organic food to those who might not otherwise know about it. Now his company is the third largest yogurt brand in America. The brand appears in Walmart, which to some might seem like a sellout, but Gary really just wants to make organic, wholesome foods available to anyone — no matter where they live.
One more point I wanted to cover is the role of the government in the food industry. There are a few major companies ruling the game here. During the Bush and Clinton administrations, they’ve had CEOs from these companies, lawyers from these companies, other big shots at these few food giants — in addition to big shots at the National Food Processors Association and lobbyists for the beef industry and more– also taking roles in the government, including as head of the FDA and a supreme court justice. Of course food reform is not going to happen when the exact people with interest to fight AGAINST it are the ones making the country’s decisions!
Do you really think a CEO of a mass produced chicken company will want accurate labeling on their food?? Of course not! No one will buy it then. So much has gone in place to ensure we never find out what exactly we are eating and where it came from. Our food is not labeled the way it should be. Unless a company specifies, we cannot know exactly what is in our food. Restaurants don’t all have to provide nutritional information yet. It is important to know what we are putting into our bodies — we have the right.
That was a very general overview of this issue, I suggest you read more about it or see Food, Inc to learn more. And shop at farmer’s markets as much as you can. Buy locally as much as you can. As they say in the movie, each time you buy organic you are VOTING. You’re voting for more food like this, you’re telling the stores and corporations and government that this is what you want.
My last point is about food safety. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 76 million Americans are sickened, 325,000 are hospitalized and 5,000 die each year from food-borne illnesses. I am fairly certain I am sick now — so sick that I am being told my only chance at feeling better might be to have an organ removed from my body — because of a serious lack of food safety laws. Click here to learn more information and how you can take action on foodborne illness laws.
Click here to read about the issues, which include genetic engineering, factory farming, cloning, the environmental impact and more.
Visit this Eat Well Guide to find local, organic foods in your area. You’ll be surprised by how many good restaurants are on this list!
Nothing I write here will express the point as clearly as Food, Inc. Go see it, form your own opinions, take what you can from it. Read labels. The most important thing is that we all have the facts so we can make informed decisions about our next meal. What we’ve been doing all these years is not making any decisions — most of us have been doing what the government dictates. Now we have the power to choose what we eat, to demand to know where it came from.
Only once you have the knowldge are the decisions on what you eat truly yours to make.