Food, Inc.

This is pretty much a U.S. post, so if you’re from another country I’d love to hear what it’s like where you are.

Ok, so I’m late to the game, but I just watched the documentary Food, Inc. (This is a PBS link, it’s also on Netflix) Wow. It was made in 2008 but I’m not sure things have gotten much better since then. I was unaware of the monopolies in agriculture. I knew people had differing opinions about Monsanto but I didn’t know anything about them. I knew there were some big meat companies but I didn’t realize that four companies provided 80% of the meat in the country. I knew feedlots existed but I didn’t know what they entailed. The whole chicken thing is disturbing.

I’m lucky enough to live close enough to Polyface Farms, which is profiled in the movie, to have a farmer’s market near that sells their meat. I think we’ll be buying more of their meat in the future. It makes me think twice about the butcher’s special that I bought. If there are only 13 slaughterhouses in the U.S., and conditions at those are not conducive to healthy meat, well, the meat I buy from the butcher probably isn’t any healthier than the meat I buy at the grocery store, is it? It still comes from those slaughterhouses, right?

It’s beginning to seem to me that the only way to truly be healthy is to grow and raise all your own food or investigate closely exactly where each thing comes from. It looks like I’m going to have to be much less lazy about my buying habits. This is certainly not the frugal route unless I grow a large percentage of what we eat. That will allow us to afford the more expensive, healthier meats.

This documentary was disturbing. These things that I knew about in a vague way became much clearer. It has certainly made me think more about how I buy. Every dollar is a statement. I’d love to say that the family is only going to eat clean foods from this moment on, but that’s not realistic. Honey Nut Cheerios taste good and my kids love them. There are some other products that we love as well. At what point does it become too austere? At what point does it become too expensive? How do you shop ethically and keep a budget? More on that in a minute though. The movie is well worth the hour and a half it takes to watch it.

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5 Responses to Food, Inc.

  1. polianthus says:

    I see where your next post comes from now. You might want to read the omnivores dilemma by Michael Pollan, addresses many of the points above. I worked in a slaughterhouse when I was a student, leaves you with no illusions about how they work, but in some ways that makes you more honest about what you eat, as you are facing how it was produced. Best paying student job ever, but gave me nightmares…..I used to live in the US now live here in Europe, where in the US nobody discussed genetically modified foods, it was a really big deal here, and people income permitting generally prefer to buy locally sourced, ethically produced foods. supermarkets stock more and more free range produce, and keeping battery hens was made illegal years ago. But then declawing cats was never legal here, and cropping doberman ears and tails has also been banned. It comes back to your comment in your later blog, if you are living in a privileged space and you have the income to cover your needs, you can start to worry about ethics and other things because you are not just surviving. That would be my guess at least.

    • Mr. Pollan was in the documentary, I was planning on picking the book up very soon. I was thinking today about raising our own meat animals but I don’t think I could do it. I’d get too attatched to them. I don’t know if that makes me a horrible person or what. I’m aware of where the meat comes from and I want it to be raised ethically, I just can’t do it myself. I cried when I had to cut the heads off fresh shrimp to make dinner for my husband. I may yet end up a vegetarian. My family won’t join me, but I may yet get there.

      Yeah, Europe seems to be somewhat more sane than the States when it comes to a lot of things. But I think, in the end, it does come back to privilege. I feel like we have a responsibility to make healthier choices so that they are more available, more economical, and more attractive than the unhealthy alternatives. I dunno, I think I’m becoming more of an activist in my old age. 😉

      • polianthus says:

        thanks for that long comment -I agree it all comes down to privilege – if you one is fighting to survive – you cannot worry about other beings, human or animal as well. I couldn’t kill the animals either, I once went fishing, and after 3 days on a lake with nothing to eat but some bread we had taken with us, I found myself able to spear worms and fish with no qualms but I was hungry. Other than that I couldn’t do it either. I was washing bowels in the slaughterhouse for surgeons to practice their stitching on, no actively involved in the slaughter process, which I couldnt have handled either. And i really understand you and the shrimp….That is why I too keep thinking to be consequent I would need to become a vegetarian…

  2. bmary says:

    Baby steps, that’s about all you can do. I’ve been noodling around the meat problem for a while. I’ve looked into local farms and they are twice the price. Which would be fine for me, just me, because I don’t eat a lot of meat. But I’m not just feeding me. I’ve started with http://usmeatsafety.com/ddbik/index.php?function=show_search_form&table_name=business which will show you, based on the packaging, where you’re meat comes from and then you can research the business further. Which is tricky, because we all know how stuff gets shipped around. So no guarantees there. There is http://www.eatwild.com/products/ which can point you to local farms. Very helpful! But again, twice the price. My personal goal daily is to be meatless until dinner, which at the very, very least cuts down my contribution to this factory farming. Ugh. Sorry if that’s not super helpful. It’s a terrible problem that we’ve all been kept ignorant about. It’s like we’re fighting a war and we’ve already been invaded.

    • Thanks for the websites! I didn’t know about them. This. This sharing of information is how we change things. I like the idea of meatless until dinner. That might make it possible to afford the more expensive meat. Thank you for the help and encouragement. It’s good to know that I’m not the only one struggling with this. It’s scary to know what I’ve inadvertantly been doing. But, like you said, baby steps. We do what we can with what we have.

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