If "Fast Food Nation" was a non-fiction movie and if you made "The Omnivore's Dilemma" into a movie, you would get "Food, Inc.," a new documentary that opened in New York City on June 12 and in Chicago on Friday.
You can learn some very disturbing elements of the food supply in 94 minutes. I confess I would have enjoyed having a pause button in the dark in the theater. There were some depressing statistics.
While there were 50,000 FDA inspections in 1972, there were only 9,164 inspections in 2006. If cows eat grass for 5 days, they can shed 80% of the e-coli, yet the system gears cows to corn, something they don't naturally eat, and what leads to antibiotics in the meat.
Yes, I took notes in the dark theater. You might find it handy to do the same. That being said, the movie is also entertaining.
We see a Hispanic family struggle with time, money, and convenience. As tempting as it would be to hope this was exaggeration, their example seemed to mirror millions of Americans from all walks of life.
We meet some farmers even though the voiceover guy tell us in the beginning of the movie that while the image on food is agrarian, it's a pastural fantasy. Our food, by and large, comes from huge corporate farms. We meet a few farmers who represent thousands of farmers in really bad shape due to corporate pressure.
We meet one natural farmer from Virginia who was brilliantly eloquent in summarizing the problems and solutions of the food system. I really needed that pause button and a rewind button for some of his most poignant quotes.
For those of us who rail against the current U.S. food system, you see the visible signs of corporate dominance in quashing even simple solutions for improving food quality, such as Kevin's Law.
Paraphrasing here, the voiceover guy tells us that food has changed more in the last 50 years than in the previous 10,000 years. As we learned from "King Corn," that change in the government goes back about 37 years ago.
Changing the system won't happen overnight. Given some of the legal rulings, corporate abuse, lobbyists to Congress, money going back and forth, insiders in government agencies, some of the damage will likely never be reversed.
The film can make you sad and angry, but there is something to be said for knowledge, as in knowledge means power. The more who are exposed to this information, the better response we can give to the powers that be.
Creating a two-tier system won't be useful, where more knowledgeable people can make better decisions and less knowledgeable people can't or don't. And even the more knowledgeable will still make bad choices out of convenience, even when they know better.
The sad reality is that finding the balance of food requires you to be in the more knowledgeable category. Watching this movie will help.