Saturday, February 02, 2013

Movie Review: Food, Inc.


That's my one-word review of Food, Inc.  Wow.

If I had as many as three words they'd be:  Oh.  My.  God.

I knew that the Standard American Diet is pretty . . . well . . . sad. Yet this movie opened my eyes to just how far the ripples spread.  It's not just that my food choices affect my own personal health.  There is an interconnected chain of effects that stems from our industrialized model of food production.

Agribusiness is a term that's been used to describe the industrialization of farming.  It involves not only the increasing sale of the farming enterprise, but a serious shift in the process of farming itself.  Traditional farming follows an organic model -- grazing cows, for instance, fertilize the soil where they graze.  This makes that patch of ground ultimately more productive.  And through rotating crops and animals a cycle is developed which nurtures each and every step in the process.

Modern agribusiness, on the other hand, utilizes a factory model -- emphasizing efficiency over effectiveness.  And so we do away with grazing cattle, for instance, because it's far more efficient to pack all of the animals together into giant barns and treat them as cogs in a production line . . . a meat production line.  And since it takes a while for a cow to grow up, it makes sense to feed it a diet that will maximize growth . . . even though it's a diet that isn't natural to the cow.

The consequences of using a factory model are, roughly, two-fold.  On the one hand, more and more animals can be raised more and more quickly, making more product more readily available for lower cost.  As with the machine factory, economies of scale increase production and decrease cost.

On the other hand, imposing a mechanized model onto an organic process leads to unintended consequences.  When animals are housed in such close quarters and are not allowed their natural exercise, they are far more prone to disease.  And so farm animals are routinely immunized and given antibiotics, and these things get into the food chain, and into us, and many scientists think that one of the major causes of the increase in antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria is this routine and overuse of antibiotics in our food supply.

And feeding animals a diet which has been determined to maximize growth, yet which is not their native diet, has had unintended consequences as well.  It has been demonstrated that modern beef is high in Omega 6 but low in Omega 3 fatty acids.  Too much Omega 6 can cause serious health problems, as can too little Omega 3.  Most Americans suffer from both problems.  Yet beef that has been raised using traditional grazing actually has a completely different balance of these two fatty acids and is, instead, a much more healthful choice as a protein source.  Our modern methods of factory farming have actually changed the nutritional composition of the meat being produced!

In Food, Inc. we see just how sick our system is, yet we also hear from people -- like Virginia's own Joel Salatin, owner of Polyface Farms -- who are demonstrating that all is not lost.

In Gassho,


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1 comment:

Thomas Watson said...

Wow ! A lot to think about. A lot to consider.