Today is Halloween, and I just watched the most terrifying movie! 😯
No, it wasn’t Carrie or Paranormal Activity 4. It was Food, Inc., an exposé of America’s food industry—the multinational, fast-food and junk-food-supporting, animal-abusing, politically-subsidized conglomerations that produce the majority of our food products.
The film maker, Robert Kenner, points out that the average supermarket contains 47,000 items, but most are made by just a handful of giant corporations, such as Coca Cola, Tyson or Proctor & Gamble.
These megacompanies keep hidden some pretty nauseating industry practices. Perhaps they think we are too ignorant or too scared to peek inside their dark closet of shame. (Literally—watch the bit about chickens raised in dark, windowless, stench-filled storage sheds.)
But we need to look.
I have been telling friends and family members for some time that the best way to save money on health care, and the best way to prevent being a victim of over treatment or medical mistakes, is to just stay out of our broken health care system as much as possible.
A healthy diet of nutrition-rich, minimally-processed foods can go a long way in helping us do that.
High in output, low in nutrition
The knowledge that a lot of what we eat is mass produced and low in nutrition is nothing new. And the movie features two experts on our out-of-whack American food chain: Eric Schlosser, the author of Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal; and Michael Pollan, the author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals.
Both are great books that explore the cultural shift in food production, and attempt to answer the question: How did Americans become so disconnected from the farm—from knowing when, where and how our food came to our plate?
Food, Inc. adds its own voice to the answer.
Aside from a sadly graphic look at the cruel treatment of livestock, Food, Inc. explores the other negative consequences of farming for maximum production and lowest cost:
- Overcrowding of animals leads to increased disease and overuse of antibiotics; overuse of antibiotics leads to antibiotic resistance.
- A predominately corn diet in livestock has fostered the growth and spread of the deadly E. coli bacteria that has been responsible for many deaths in this country.
- Megafarming encourages the use of undocumented labor because it is cheap and the workers are too fearful to report abuses.
- Megafarming also encourages the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers that deplete the soil (and ultimately the food and animals) of nutrients.
On the positive side, the movie interviews farmers that are going back to the old-fashioned model of farming—small family-owned, sustainable farms that care about the animals and the ecosystems.
What you can do
The movies ends with the following suggestions:
- Buy from companies that treat workers, animals and the environment with respect.
- Buy foods that are grown locally. Find out if you have a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program in your area.
- Shop at farmers’ markets. Make sure your farmers’ market takes food stamps. I love farmers’ markets, and am lucky to live in a city (Seattle) that has plenty year-round.
- Plant a garden. I have a very small garden, but even a few fresh strawberries or green beans or tomatoes are worth the time and effort.
- When you go to the supermarket, choose foods that are in season.
- Buy foods that are organic. I admit I don’t always buy organic fruits and vegetables, but I do like organic dairy products.
- Know what’s in your food. Read labels.
Reading food labels can be scary, I know. But making informed decisions about what we eat can improve not only our own health, but the health of our communities.
- Food giants pour millions into defeating Washington GMO label measure
- Why you should care about the Farm Bill