Do you ever think about where your food comes from? Have you ever thought about how all of the different components of the meal you are eating came to be and what processes they went through to get to your plate? Have you ever looked at the perfectly cut packaged steaks or pork chop chops or chicken and tried to imagine the animals they came from and even what part of the animal they came from? Ever ask yourself where that apple or orange you are eating in January grew and how it became ripe just in time for you to eat it? I know I rarely do, but as my new-found passion for food grows I know I need to ask myself these questions and man others.
Last night I did something I rarely do; I went to see a movie in the theater. I went to see Food Inc., directed by award-winning filmmaker Robert Kenner and produced by notable food writers Eric Schlosser and Michael Pollan who wrote Fast Food Nation and The Omnivore’s Dilemma respectively and was given an impactful reminder to think about and appreciate the food that I eat and where it comes from. I read Schlosser’s book almost five years ago and found it eye opening. I expected more of the same and asked myself, “How bad could it be?”. The answer to that question was more shocking than I expected.
The film focuses on three aspects of food: industrial meat production and as presented the unsanitary care and inhumane treatmetnt of animals from birth to slaughter and then similarly the industrialization and scientific modification of plant based food and closes with the legal and economic impact of the food industry on the country and people in the industry, in particular the farmers illustrating an interesting dichotomy of subservient farmers working with major food corporations out of greed or necessity and those who oppose the production practices of the major food conglomerates and pay the price for their insolence with legal battles or financial struggles and intense government scrutiny. It also brings to light the power and impact on government policy the multi-national corporations have and how corporate profits influence decisions that affect the food supply and overall our health. The food industry is no different in this regard from other major industries that politicians are concerned about, but it does have a major impact on our health and livelihood that other industries do not.
The film was definitely tough to watch. I’m sure I’ve enjoyed watching horror movies more than the absorbing the content of this film, but all in all it is best not to turn a blind eye when concerning what goes into your body. The inhumane treatment of animals, unsafe and unsanitary conditions of food production that were portrayed as well as the economic impact and destruction of people’s lives by the major food companies were very hard to take in, a striking reminder of how far we have veered from pre-industrial times and have been removed from our food source, buying pre-packaged meat, fruits, vegetables and other food products without any idea where they came from, how they got there nor their impact on the society and the environment. The idea that food no longer has seasons, allowing consumers to buy apples, pears and strawberries for instance and different types of meat all year round is something rarely thought about regarding food, something the film’s producers hope will change.
I’ll admit, the film did portray an impactful yet somewhat one-sided view of an issue, yet it was still eye-opening and a great reminder for anyone and everyone to value where your food comes from. Beyond the gory images and gloomy tone of the film, clear messages were given that anyone can benefit from for a healthy life.
- Know where your food comes from
- Buy food that is in season
- Buy food that is local and sustainable
While thinking about the sushi for lunch this afternoon I couldn’t help but think about where it came from. The realization that my once frozen fish, vacuum sealed in a plastic bag probably did not come from a beautiful bubbling brook, river, lake or ocean, but rather an overcrowded pool on an industrial farm, fed a diet of corn rather than food it would normally consume in its natural environment was an illusion shattering thought. The burger I ate for dinner the night before consisting of meat from a multitude of cows raised on overcrowded farms knew deep in their own waste started to feel a bit unsettling.
It’s interesting to see the trend of restaurants thinking more and more about their food, promoting locally grown and grass fed beef on their menus for instance. Some do this because it is aligned with their mission while others do it because of consumer preference. Americans are starting to care about what they eat.
Watching the film and thinking about my food from farm to plate reminded me of a discussion about Thomas Keller in Michael Ruhlman’s book, The Soul of a Chef and Bill Buford’s account in his book Heat. Each chef went through a process of discovery bringing them closer to the food source while also giving them a deeper respect for it. I’ve started to get closer my food sources participating in a Meat CSA with Chestnut Farms and look forward to buying fresh and locally sustainable food from farmer’s markets. My resolve definitely has been strengthened, and that’s the point of it all. The film promotes activism and participation of consumers in legislation about food as well as getting closer to their food sources, making healthy decisions and eating better one person at a time. I am glad I went to see this movie and hope to obtain more knowledge about the issues presented in it as I continue my culinary journey.