Food, Inc. is a documentary by Robert Kenner which explores not only where the food from the grocery stores comes from, but also who is profiting from the production of these products. Throughout the documentary, Kenner explores how profit and efficiency have become the driving force behind America's food production. His investigation uncovers the ugly side of corporate food production in the beef industry, the chicken industry, and the plant industry. Because of the large amount of genetic engineering and pesticides used on foods today, Kenner also follows the development of new strains of E.coli and how they are contaminating our food sources, causing sickness and death.
Starting with the chicken industry, Kenner explores the role of both unnatural and natural foods found in grocery stores. As we have discussed at length in class, the distinction between what is natural and what is unnatural creates a dualism, where one category is usually favored over the other. However, how is natural in this sense defined? Kenner seems to differentiate between the two by calling all of the foods that are processed unnatural and all of those that are grown organically natural. But how are Americans to distinguish for themselves what is natural and unnatural when they don't even know how their food is grown and processed?
Much of the work being done by large companies to create bigger and better products occurs through the use of steroid supplements and antibiotics. Everyone wants to eat a bigger chicken breast, but what is the cost of this mass production? Farmers who live in poverty and animals that live in hellish conditions. Sanitation in the food industry is grotesque. Chickens and cows are raised in conditions where they have to be given steroids and antibiotics to make them "healthy" enough to be used for food. However, this has not always rid the animals of disease, as can be seen from the increasing number of mutating E. Coli strains that are infecting many of our food sources.
The plant industry, like the animal industry, is being affected by corporations that are trying to maintain their profits by modifying their produce. Kenner talks about the company Mansanto and how Mansanto sells seeds that have been genetically engineered to be Roundup Ready resistant. In class, we were given the chance to learn about Mansanto through Vandana Shiva, who spoke about the problems with Mansanto's products and how they dealt unfairly with the farmers who purchased their seed by only letting them use the seed for one year.
The issue of genetic engineering was a topic that our class also spent a large amount of time discussing. Are GMO's going to help humanity? Do they bring more trouble than they are worth? In Food, Inc, I believe that Kenner is arguing against the use of any type of genetic modification in food. He portrays the farmer that raises his cattle, chickens, and pigs without any type of enhancement drugs as the good guy, while he portrays companies that use genetic engineering as the bad guys.
Kenner also brings to light the difficulty for Americans to stay healthy when eating healthy foods is so expensive. This echoes the writing of Raj Patel in Stuffed and Starved, where he explains that for many people, eating natural and unprocessed foods can be so expensive that they must choose either to eat healthy or pay their bills. It is convenient and cheap for people to order food off of the dollar menu at Burger King or McDonalds, but making a meal takes a trip to the grocery store and money. Because of people's busy lifestyles, they have even less time to eat right and exercise, especially for those who want to stay physically healthy.