‘Food, Inc.’ shows rotten side of how our food is produced

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Thursday, June 18, 2009 6:00pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

When you watch a lot of documentaries, it’s hard to cling to cherished illusions.

Take food, for instance. Every time someone makes a “Super Size Me” or a “King Corn,” it becomes harder to be casual when searching supermarket aisles.

Now comes “Food, Inc.,” a documentary that gathers an acre’s worth of material on the process — make that processing — of food in America these days. The news ain’t pretty.

At least partly synthesized from the ideas of writers Michael Pollan (“The Omnivore’s Dilemma”) and Eric Schlosser (“Fast Food Nation”), both of whom help narrate the movie, “Food, Inc.” is a rapid-fire account of the shocking changes in how we make food.

The shocks come not from the expected footage of sick cows or grotesquely oversized chickens (which, their growth having been unnaturally accelerated, do not have bones strong enough to support their fat bodies).

Those are unpleasant things, but even more disturbing is the portrait of how organized and cynical the degradation of American food has been.

The film is firm about attributing this decline to the rise of fast food in the 1950s. Director Robert Kenner marshals a convincing argument about regulatory laxness and corporate greed, which ought to strike a chord in today’s ongoing economic meltdown.

There is detail on the matter of Monsanto and their genetically engineered seed, a story told elsewhere in documentaries, but still depressing. There’s also a heart-wrenching segment on a now-­activist mother who lost her child to E. coli poisoning.

At times the ironies become Orwellian. One vignette introduces us to a family that eats fast food daily because it’s basically the best bargain for them. Because the fat-filled burger is subsidized and cheaper than a bag of carrots, how many options do they have?

But that’s not the irony. The terrible part is that one reason they eat fast food is because a big chunk of the monthly budget goes to pay for the overweight father’s medication — for diabetes.

Sometimes a single point will stand for an entire argument. Consider that the job of meatpacker was once a safe, noble profession with good benefits, the kind of job a father could pass down to a son. The film shows that meatpacking plants now are accident-prone places staffed by illegal immigrants whose jobs are transitory.

“Food, Inc.” is obviously designed to grab the attention of the newcomer to this subject. It might not have the impact of “The Jungle,” Upton Sinclair’s famous, industry-changing book about unregulated food processing. But it will grab people.

“Food, Inc.” 1/2

Fans of the books “Fast Food Nation” and “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” might find this litany of food-industry horror stories familiar, but it’s still a shocking cascade of bad business practices and unhealthy eating habits. A series of vignettes, from corporate greed to personal medical woes, provide the meat of the matter.

Rated: Not rated; probably R for subject matter

Showing: Egyptian

Talk to us

More in Life

Ash was rescued along with Dexter, just before his euthanasia date. (Luisa Loi / Whidbey News-Times)
Whidbey Island woman rescues 300 German shepherds

“Can I save them all? No,” Renee Carr, of Oak Harbor said. “But I’m gonna try my hardest.”

The 2023 Infiniti QX80 has standard rear-wheel drive and optional four-wheel drive available on all models. (Infiniti)
2023 Infiniti QX80 is powerful and posh

A mighty V8 engine does the work while a luxurious interior provides the pleasure.

Artist Michelle Downes prepares to work on a few canvases in her garage workspace on Thursday, July 6, 2023, at her family’s home in Stanwood, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Stanwood artist Michelle Downes creates layered dreamscapes in resin

Resin is one part chemistry and one part artistry. Downes combines the two to make art that captures the imagination.

Kotor's zigzagging town wall rewards climbers with a spectacular view. (Cameron Hewitt / Rick Steves' Europe)
Rick Steves: Just south of Dubrovnik lies unpolished Montenegro

One of Europe’s youngest nations offers dramatic scenery, locals eager to show off their unique land, and a refreshing rough-around-the-edges appeal.

Dark gray wheels and black exterior accents provide extra visual appeal for the 2024 Subaru Impreza’s RS trim. (Subaru)
2024 Subaru Impreza loses a little, gains a lot

The brand’s compact car is fully redesigned. A couple of things are gone, but many more have arrived.

TSR image for calendar
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

This weekend in Snohomish: The Snohomish Blues Invasion and the Snohomish Studio Tour 2023.

Made by Bruce Hutchison, the poster for “A Momentary Diversion on the Road to the Grave” is an homage to 1985 classic “The Goonies.” (Photo provided)
Indie film premiering on Whidbey Island

Filmed almost entirely on Whidbey Island, “A Momentary Diversion on the Road to the Grave” is set to premiere in Langley.

TSR image only
Does your elementary school child have ADHD?

It’s important to identify children with this condition so we can help them succeed in school.

This photo provided by OceanGate Expeditions shows a submersible vessel named Titan used to visit the wreckage site of the Titanic. In a race against the clock on the high seas, an expanding international armada of ships and airplanes searched Tuesday, June 20, 2023, for the submersible that vanished in the North Atlantic while taking five people down to the wreck of the Titanic. (OceanGate Expeditions via AP)
A new movie based on OceanGate’s Titan submersible tragedy is in the works: ‘Salvaged’

MindRiot announced the film, a fictional project titled “Salvaged,” on Friday.

Most Read