Food Inc: What Exactly Are You Eating?

I wonder if those who farm and those who raise animals can confirm or refute what I saw in Robert Kenner’s documentary, Food Inc? For example, the film reports that chicken farmers often take out large loans so that they can go into business with companies that then begin to make demands on the farmer for upgrades and farm practices.  The farmer must either comply or cease to do business with the company, an act which would surely lead to bankruptcy for the farmer.  This means that farmers lose control of what happens on their own place.  The film reports that today’s chickens are slaughtered in half the time weighing twice as much as compared to animals of the past.  I saw chickens that are raised in total darkness and farmers who wake each morning to go out and clear their buildings of dead birds.  Many of the chickens were so big that they couldn’t support their own weight.

Kenner interviews farmers who feel that they must buy their seeds from one company or else stop farming.  The once standard practice of seed cleaning for the next year has all but ceased.  Because seeds have been genetically engineered and patented, any farmer whose fields have been “contaminated” with the patented seeds risks legal prosecution.

The film claimed many other bits of information that were shocking to me:

  • The USDA doesn’t have the power to shut down plants that have repeat offenses of contaminated meat.
  • U.S. meatpacking companies recruit workers from Mexico and then works with our government to bust small numbers of illegal aliens so as not to disrupt production.
  • 70% of the United States’ hamburger meat contains filler that has been cleansed with ammonia to kill E Coli.
  • The biggest predictor of obesity is income level.  It appears that cheap food is cheap for a reason.

It was my wife’s reading of Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin’s Skinny B _ _ch that has propelled my family’s revision of how we eat.  I know that in Robert Kenner’s documentary I’m hearing one person’s perspective.  I’d love to hear from others about their perspectives on our food supply.  I’m trying to become less ignorant about the food our family consumes, and as a colleague of mine is always telling me, I’m more determined to try and “vote with the way you spend your money.”

2 thoughts on “Food Inc: What Exactly Are You Eating?

  1. after watching food, inc., i went vegetarian. but like you say, it’s just one perspective. i’m the kind of person who is open to all sides unless i’ve seen something with my own eyes. but, the movie was convincing enough and i tend to believe that those things go on. it also got me thinking about where my food comes from. i think that was the point. it’s amazing what you will discover if you do a little digging about the beef, dairy, poultry, or any food industry for that matter. it’s outrageous what goes on, and what is allowed to go on.
    asking questions also inspired us to grow our own food, that way you know where it comes from.
    ~wendy

  2. The movie and book Food Inc. has caused a lot of concern in the farming community, and for good reason. Much of what is said is blown way out of proportion if it has a grain of truth at all.
    As a farmer, I can only comment on the farm related stuff, but I do know that some of the things shown have happened in the past, and we have laws to prevent them from happening again.
    For many years my dad and I raised seed that was produced with our tax dollars and thus could be propagated and used on other farm fields. We were part of a system that worked as long as seed technology was simple. Seed tech is no longer simple.
    Yes, seed is now patented. It was not Monsanto that first patented seed, nor are they the only ones that do so now. I would not go back to the days of state produced seed. The money to produce what we use now is just not there. Todays seed is much better than what was produced then.
    I raise seed beans for Monsanto now. It is sold under the Asgrow name. I am paid very well to produce that seed, but I am expected to take care of it. The contract tells me what I must do, and if I do it, I get a bonus. If I do not, I either change my ways, or cannot work for them anymore.
    The movie specifically looked at a cleaner of soybean seed. It is very hard to get pollen to move between soybean plants. In the seed fields they do it with a tweezers and a microscope. If you have soybeans that contain patented technology in them it is because someone put it there.
    Companies spend enormous amounts of money to produce each variety of seed, and very few of those varieties ever make it out of the test fields. Yet, farmers, truckers, lab tech’s and many others need to be paid for the work they did.
    The law says if you use seed that does not belong to you, that is theft. Just as if you pirated software, movies or music. You took someone else’s intellectual property.
    Chickens cannot be raised in total darkness. They need to know when it is day and night for their bodies to work properly. You can simulate day and night with artificial light, but you cannot keep them in the dark.
    Yes, birds do die. One of the biggest killers of chickens in large barns is birds killing each other. It’s called pecking order. They all want to be boss, and they fight to get that top position. A little blood, and everyone wants to have some. That’s why laying hens are kept in cages. To keep them from killing each other.
    That bigger bird is there because that’s what the public wants. They want a lot of meat, and they want it to not cost a lot. If you want a smaller chicken it will cost more. If you want a chicken sandwich for a buck, that’s where it comes from.
    Yes, I’ve seen chicken farmers borrow money to build chicken houses. They have a contract that specifies what they will get and what they will do. It’s once the contract is over that the trouble starts. If they were good managers the barns should be paid off by then.
    Food production is a messy business. It’s a matter of either you do it, or you hire someone else to get dirty. The truth is that American produced food is safer today than it was when your grandparents were born. I know it’s safer than when I was born.

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