The Blame-Game: A Look at Food, Inc.

It was suggested to me by multiple people that I watch the movie Food, Inc. and give my thoughts. There are a few main observations I had throughout the movie, and I’m sure that some are controversial. The purpose of this post is not to assert my opinion as law, but rather to facilitate a conversation.

For those of you who are not familiar with Food, Inc., here is the trailer:

If you are a farmer, or someone who eats food, I strongly encourage watching this movie! It’s a few years old, so keep in mind that a lot may or may not have changed since the production of this movie.

Observation 1:

It is true that the way we eat has changed dramatically in the past 50 years. We—especially us Americans—want everything faster, fatter, bigger and cheaper. In the movie, the food industry becomes this huge scandal. However, I believe the consumer’s demand became the catalyst that drove the food industry to such extremes. The industry is not evil: They are only guilty of giving the population what it demanded, and the consequences of what we demanded are outrageous. I say “we” as in anyone who has eaten fast food. Anyone who has bought a name-brand food item. Anyone who doesn’t regularly shop at the farmer’s market. If you’re the lone exception, click here. Otherwise, you—and I—are partially responsible.

Observation 2:

Not all industrial farms are abusive, animal concentration camps. Yes, I’m sure they exist. However, there are also teachers that abuse their students, yet we don’t make documentaries showing how all teachers are child-abusers. There are industrial farms, and I would even go as far as saying many industrial farms, that provide cruelty-free care for the animals. For example, after my family sold out of the Minnesota dairy business (for that story, click here), they began working for a large-production turkey operation. There are about 27,000 turkeys in each of the three barns. We do not kick the turkeys. The turkeys are not left in the dark 24-7—they are in the dark from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. so they can get a full night’s sleep. The windows are open and the lights are on during the day to encourage activity. One of their favorite activities is chasing the workers—perhaps another day I’ll share the story of them pinning me up against a wall while I scream for my dad. It’s a good one, but I tell it only upon request.

Observation 3:

The food industry gives consumers what they want, but sometimes consumer demands are impossible. One of the farmers in Food, Inc. gives this quote, which sheds a lot of light on the situation:

You have to understand that we farmers are going to deliver to the market place what the market place demands. If you wanna buy two dollar milk you’re going to get a feedlot in the back yard, it’s that simple. People have got to start demanding good, wholesome food, and we’ll deliver, I promise you.

As a consumer, what would you rather have: two dollar milk with a feedlot in the back yard or good wholesome food for twice the price? This is the crux of the whole issue. Whichever way the consumer goes, there is a price that has to be paid. Is affordable food worth the greater margin of error that the current food industry holds? Is the certainty of the quality of your food worth the doubled, sometimes tripled, cost? You are the consumer. You have to decide.

Overall, I think Food, Inc. is a great conversation starter. I think it makes valid points and shows a side of the food industry that was previously unseen. Does it dramatize it? Yes. But my main concern is that the blame-game takes the focus off of consumer responsibility. Remember: If you point your finger at the food industry, you have three of your own fingers pointing right back at you.

About samlaineperfas

Sam Laine Perfas is a Minnesota farm expat who now resides in Somerville, Mass. She is currently working in Boston as a journalist and audio producer. Realizing that a reporter’s brain never fully shuts off, she undertook blogging as a way to share her thoughts, observations, and snapshots as a reporter when she is off the clock and simply living life. View all posts by samlaineperfas

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