A documentary by Robert Kenner. Starring Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser. Rated G. Opens Friday, July 10, at the Fifth Avenue Cinemas
In the capitalist system, the consumer is said to be king. But what is a consumer other than someone guaranteed to swallow whatever is shoved down his throat?
That’s the question asked, not facetiously, by Food, Inc., a disturbing yet easy to watch documentary about the increasingly industrialized yanking on what used to be called the food chain.
The gist of the film, made by The American Experience TV veteran Robert Kenner, will neither be quite so shocking to frequent documentary watchers, nor to readers of books by Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma) and Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), both of whom make surprisingly amiable maí®tre d’s at this quick dinner from hell.
They, among others, lay out the indisputable case that a few mighty megacorporations, like Tyson and Perdue, have hijacked eating in the U.S., turning the whole country into a saturnine corn-and-cattle production zone with zero room for variation, ethics, or criticism. And regulation? Forget that: since Reagan, foxy lobbyists have been in charge of the pitch-black, hormone-injected, feces-filled hen houses.
Among the ills spilling from the assembly-line method of manufacturing food are frequent outbreaks of E. coli and salmonella (and their attendant cover-ups), the patenting of plant life and the bullying of farmers who break agribiz contracts (yeah, I’m lookin’ at you, Monsanto), a pandemic of childhood allergies and diseases, and the dislocation of—or creation of—entire work forces that are as expendable as any other units of meat on four or two legs.
One of the most infuriating aspects illuminated here is the way heavily subsidized agribusinesses—much like the country’s political hierarchy—mask their totalitarian methods with images of farm-fresh pastoralism. Still, there are hints of another “real America” here in visits with organic farmers savvy enough to challenge a system that is choking on its own success.