Saturday, November 21, 2009

You'll Never Look at Dinner the Same Way

Recently, I watched a documentary called Food, Inc. I highly recommend it to everybody! Please see it, it is now on DVD! When the movie arrived in my mailbox, I looked at the cover and it said, "You'll never look at dinner the same way." The movie closely follows the popular book the Omnivore's Dilemma, and rightly so. Would you change the way you eat if the curtain was raised and you were able to see into the factories and slaughter houses where much of our food is processed before arriving on our plates? Most of us would agree that our food looks and tastes delicious. So what's the problem?
The problem is our food is part of a large web of other moving parts. It comes from long distances, uses extensive amounts of oil and energy to produce, and the way it is grown and tended to is resource intensive thus causing adverse impacts to the environment. The food we eat is also heavily processed and affects our nation's health (obesity and diabetes are on the rise), the livestock on large industrial farms are often mistreated and raised inhumanely, and for those who work on the farms and in the factories (the immigrants responsible for getting our turkeys on the table this year) often pay the toll of long hours and dangerous work conditions.
As I watched Food, Inc. with my Dad recently, we just finished a scrumptous dinner, which consisted of a nice rotisserie chicken and a cobb salad courtesy of Costco. As we ate our meal and watched the movie, we both looked at each other feeling a twang of guilt. Our rotisserie chicken could of been one of the chickens featured in the movie! The chicken sandwiched in the middle of thousands in a Costco sized poultry farm unable to move from side to side and unable to stand and support itself because it was breed to produce more chicken meat then its small legs could handle.
The movie showcases several chicken farms throughout the country, the majority of which are like the one described above. Because there is such a controversy on how these farms are operated, the chickens never see the light of day (unlike the farm seen in the picture to your left) over the course of their lives, hidden instead by dark walls that keep inquisitive and judging eyes from looking in. The movie isn't meant to make us feel guilty, it will however. But more importantly it is made to educate and enlighten us. There is no question, I felt the guilt because I am a contributor to the problems inherent in our industrialized food system. It takes effort not to be. More than any other book I've read or conversations I've had, this movie did an excellent job of putting the problems of our food industry into perspective in a way that made me feel I had a role in changing it. As a consumer, I want to be part of the solution.
I went shopping today at Metropolitan Market in West Seattle. I was just going in for a couple things. I browsed through the regular array of store products, expecting to find the brands I am use to neatly stocked on the shelves. Yogurt was one of these items and it was on the top of my list. I went to the dairy isle and was pleasantly surprised, blown away really (I know I can get a bit crazed about these things), because I saw two local products that I had never seen before (Yogurt from Grace Harbor Farms- Custer, WA, half and half from Twin Brook Creamery- Lyndon, WA). It made me feel good to see them on the shelves because that meant there is a consumer demand for local products like these. Local grocery stores carrying local products is a positive step forward. There are many. Take your first step and see the movie.
In what ways are you becoming part of the solution?
And please, tell me what you you thought of the movie!?


  1. I haven't watched the movie so I can't answer very well. Depending on who put out the video is how realistically accurate they are in showing mainstream farming. My experience is usually the people putting out these videos are trying to scare the public and don’t have agriculture represented very well.

    We have to ask our selves the question how much of our environment are we willing to devote to food production vs keeping our natural ecosystem in tact. Yes chickens in cages seems like it's inhumane but are chickens, humans? Do they deserve the same rights as us? Are you willing to limit human population so a chicken can have free space to roam. Are you going to go against years of evolution and stop eating chicken all together? Capitalism and exploding world population has caused agriculture to seek out the most productive way at the least cost which usually means the smallest footprint. Personally, letting chickens run around some makes for better meat so the practice should change some, but space is becoming a premium. Which means if you want a more free range chicken you’re going to have to be willing to pay more for it.

  2. I am most interested in how food production and environmental practices can work together. I understand that Americans in particular have an insatiable appetite for meat and because of an ever growing world and need for food (and natural resources in general) it is important that people realize that it is possible to live with less rather than more. Are people willing to find ways to have a high quality of life without an ever expanding lifestyle? I want to see communities revitalized by locally produced food, small scale agriculture, rather than a handful of processing plants scattered about the United States. Whatever happened to the neighborhood butcher? I think we can have better communities and a better food system and a healthier environment if we can scale back. This perhaps will require that we pay more, but at least it will adequately reflect the true cost of our food. Personally, I am willing to pay more for food because I know there are other ways I can save. I also know, if we have thriving communities all people benefit, not just a few.