Movie Review: Food, Inc.

By Melissa Paschall

August 2009

Mealtime has always been a time for conversation, so it shouldn’t be surprising that there’s a buzz these days about what we eat. Robert Kenner’s must-see documentary Food, Inc. takes a broad look at issues of health, ecology and animal welfare within our industrial food system, and highlights alternative models that promise to be more socially and environmentally sustainable. And it does all that while being entertaining – using both comedy and horror to make many memorable points.

The mood is lighthearted when viewers meet Joel Salatin, a passionate advocate of sustainable farming who owns Polyface Farms in Virginia. He feeds his livestock grass with a movable fencing system, and provides an earful of philosophizing on the state of U.S. agriculture today. The mood darkens considerably with scenes of crowded poultry unable to walk, kept in industrial farming conditions that turn the stomach.

Two books provide the basis for much of the movie: Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation, a critique of industrial meat production in the United States, and Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, an exploration of how to eat when faced with a crisis of abundance. The two authors share narration of the movie. For sustainability enthusiasts who have already read this literature, Food, Inc. doesn’t provide much new information – but the visuals alone are worth a viewing. The vast cornfields, giant tractors, crowded livestock, and iconic characters are monumental.

Someone suggested that friends take friends along when they see Food, Inc., because it serves as a graphic and memorable introduction to the complex and fascination problem of sustainable food production and consumption. It covers a wide range of criticisms in under two hours, including:

The movie is highly recommended to all and should be required viewing for company managers in a wide range of food-related businesses. Farmers, food manufacturers, restaurants, retailers and biotech firms will learn more about consumer trends that will shape their industry for years to come – and just might find their personal consumption habits influenced as well.

In terms of stakeholder impact, Food Inc. has the potential to influence not only consumers, but also investors and regulators. Jim Cramer, the TV host of Mad Money, advised his viewers against holding Monsanto stock, citing its portrayal as a villain in Food, Inc. Cramer said the company is provoking a government inquiry through its stranglehold on the seed market, and Monsanto “better hope the guys at [The] Justice [Department] don't go to the movies.”










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