I recently watched the documentary Food Inc. and it blew my mind. This documentary goes deep into the United States food industry to show viewers where our food actually comes from. This movie aimed to show how the way food is grown and produced is hidden from consumers, and the realities of the origins of everything we eat shocked me.

One point the documentary argues was that our food comes from what we picture in our mind to be a typical American farm. The film states that much of our food does come from farms, but large corporations often own the animals on those farms, and thus have the power to control how our meat is grown and produced. The result of this is overpopulated farms, with animals living in unhealthy conditions (both for them and for us once we eat them!). Cows are fed corn when they are meant to eat grass, leading to a build up of E. coli in their system, which then is cleaned with ammonia. Chickens are grown in a manner that leaves them too large to walk. Also, many people who work in food producing factories are mistreated and underpaid, and the farmers who grow the food often end up with debt from standards that the corporations force them to uphold. Food Inc. argues that this system is harmful to our animals, our health, and the people who work hard to put food on our tables.

Another important topic the documentary discussed was the government’s relationship with the food industry. The government heavily subsidizes corn, wheat and soy, which can be harmful to our health, especially for those in poverty. Food Inc. points out that we can buy a double cheeseburger for 99 cents, but we cannot buy broccoli for this price. They argue that the reason for this is that calories in the double cheeseburger are cheaper due to heavy government subsidies.

The documentary goes in depth on many other issues related to the food industry, and toward the middle of the film I began to wonder if there was anything in the refrigerator that I would be able to make myself for dinner! Thankfully, they showed success stories of farmers and producers who grew their products organically and safely and still were profitable. They stressed the importance of buying foods grown locally to reduce your carbon footprint. They also discussed past successes in the food industry, such as the push from consumers that led Wal-Mart to stop selling milk products with rBST. They are confident that if consumers treat their dollars as votes, we will be able to tell the food industry what we expect from our food, and the system then will change to benefit our environment, our animals, our workers, and our health.

Food Inc. is an eye-opening documentary that depicts one point of view of the food industry, and I would recommend it to anyone. I learned a lot and now think about food in a different way. While it does give some suggestions about how you can have a positive impact on the food industry, I was still left with questions about how I should act on this issue, so if you watch it I suggest going to their Web site for more ideas. Also check out their blog.

So, I leave you all with some questions. Have you thought much about how your consumption affects your health, other human beings, animals and the earth? Has it changed how you eat? Do you have suggestions for those who wish to take action on these issues? I would love to hear ideas from all of you.

-Allie Stehlin