A few days ago in Wealth & Poverty we watched Food Inc. I was cringing throughout the movie and I left it wanting to never eat again, for fear of how animals are mistreated and the negative health effects of genetically modified food or handling or such. It’s scary how little we really are in control of our food. We’ve become so far away and detached from our food because it has to increasingly travel farther to reach us, as we move farther away from farms into cities.
The documentary tries to uncover and break down the veil that government and the food industry (corporations) want to keep between us and our food. These corporations want to keep the veil in front of us because if we saw what was actually occurring, we wouldn’t want to eat the food they produce anymore.
Food production has increasingly become more machine-oriented, factory-like. All of the corporations talked about in this film refused to be interviewed. This contributes to the veil and lack of information that people receive about their food.
A big focus in the film was on the chicken industry and the main producers of chicken, such as Tyson. Most chicken farmers refused to let the cameras into the chicken farms because the conditions for chickens were so horrible. One lady had had enough and was deciding to speak out against the injustice and allowed the cameras in. She was let off from the company where she worked later.
A point in the film and the articles we’ve been reading in this class is that how a society treats its food is a reflection on how it treats its people. So if we’re mistreating animals so greatly, we’re doing the same to people. And it’s true. Workers in these corporations are very mistreated, given long working hours, paid low wages, work in terrible working conditions, the list goes on and on. And during one section of the film, illegal immigrants were being round up and deported back to their countries, mostly Mexico in that part of the film, but they were the ones who are making our fried chicken — without them we wouldn’t have fried chicken, etc. It just makes you think. Thinking is good. Because the world isn’t a perfect place, we need to think about how we could change it, what we can do differently, we need to think critically about our systems, we need to think about what we want our priorities to be — people or profit? Right now, the food industry’s main motive and priority is profit. So everything else falls by the wayside (treatment of workers and animals, health sanitation, food sanitation, etc.).
One farmer in the film allowed his cows, pigs and chicken to graze freely and live an actual life before he would kill them and prepare them as food, all on the farm. He refused to sell his food to corporations and insisted that if people wanted his good, fresh, natural food they would have to come to him and his farm to get it. And people did. Sometimes they drove 5 hours to get to his farm.
I thought it was interesting how the Stonyfield farmer wanted to not partner with Wal-Mart, but to work with them so they offer more organic options, especially when consumers have a demand for it. It was also interesting what he was saying about other farmers who are in the organic market — how they would be completely against what he was doing, seemingly going towards profit by having Wal-Mart put his products in the store. He was arguing that no, he wasn’t suddenly thinking more of the profit and instead was still thinking about how the food was produced, but he also wanted to be making a difference and having people eat his organic food so he thought the way to get the product to more people was to allow Wal-Mart to sell it. While I like the free-range animals on the other farm, I think the Stonyfield idea is a good one because it combines the best of both, in a way. It allows people who might not be able to get to the farm access to the local and organic food. Because even if people can’t get to the source of the local food, some still want it. It’s a nice compromise.
The Stonyfield farmer said it was clear why Wal-Mart was doing this — it was for profit, not because they suddenly had a moment of moral clarity. Wal-Mart is one of the biggest companies who treat their workers like dirt, the working conditions are terrible for the factory workers, the workers in the stores are paid very low wages and not offered health benefits and so on. But in this documentary, they were trying to offer more choices for their customers, the consumers. That is where the line is drawn — if the consumer wants it it must be done/made available, no matter if it’s good or not, but the organic yogurt happens to be healthier.
I definitely recommend seeing this documentary. It may not completely remove the veil between us and the food industry, but it definitely puts some dents in it.
Also, an update on my research paper on micro credit. After a grueling weekend of pretty much doing nothing but reading long articles filled with economic symbols and writing, I’ve practically finished the paper (that is why I haven’t been updating the blog in a few days). I just have to read through it once more and make some final edits. It’s due Thursday. I’m very excited to be almost done. It was a very interesting topic to learn about, and in a later post I’m going to write a bit more about what I’ve learned.
But just to rant for a minute, the process of writing a research paper is the worst. I despised it in tenth grade when I was assigned to write about cloning (which was interesting, but very confusing and filled with conflicting articles — but that’s research), I despise it now. I see how it’s necessary to learning and learning how to organize thoughts and the flow of a longer paper, but still I despise it. I like other types of essays better than research papers. And it’s weird because I like doing research for articles. But I don’t like research papers. That’s my rant, sorry. But check back for more on my winter term class and the paper.