Friday, February 19, 2010

FOOD, INC. (why everyone who eats should see this film)

"Oh, the cow in the meadow goes 'MOO'
Oh, the cow in the meadow goes 'MOO'
'till the farmer hits it on the head with a hammer
and that's how we get hamburger."

Oh, if only that's how we got hamburger. That's a line from a song sung on an episode of Friends by the quasi-hippy Phoebe, played by Lisa Kudrow. In the show Phoebe has been hired to sing songs to kids at story time at a library. All the parents are, of course, upset by her songs lyrics. But the kids love her and seek her out at her coffee shop hang out, dubbing her, "the lady who tells the truth."
Turns out though that Phoebe's hammer - to - head hitting method of getting hamburger is just wishful thinking. We all know, of course, that hamburger comes from cows. That's just elementary. But did you know that that hamburger you're eating could contain meat from hundreds or even thousands of cows? It's true.
And did you know that McDonald's is the countries largest purchaser of beef? And potatoes? And pork? And even one of the largest purchasers of apples? Also true. And by being the largest consumer of these goods, McDonald's in effect controls the way that cows and pigs and chickens (had an Egg McMuffin, lately?) are raised and the way potatoes and apples are grown.
I learned all of this from the jaw dropping documentary FOOD, INC., a Robert Kenner Film. This isn't one of those boring, over-hyper narrator, documentaries from high school about how many days it takes a chicken egg to grow into a chicken. It's more like an investigative journalism film about how farmers are being controlled by mafia-like big business.  Did you know that the average chicken farmer has had to take out oans of $30,000+ to build each chicken house? (Most have more than 3 chicken houses.) Yet, that same farmer makes less than $17,000/year. And those same chicken houses are controlled by the companies that buy his chickens and/or eggs. Farmer John has to do things the way Big Brother tells him or else they won't buy his product. Considering that in this case there is really only two chicken companies that matter - Tyson and Purdue, if Farmer John doesn't cooperate he's pretty much up to his neck in a bunch of chicken waste. And as my grandpappy always said, "You can't make chicken salad out of chicken shit."
I won't even mention the conditions that these chickens, pigs, and cows live in. I'm not exactly a bleeding heart. And I'm certainly no vegitarian. I like a big juicy steak just like the next guy. But when I see pictures of these factory farms where cows are standing knee-deep in their own manure for 90% of their lives, well, it makes me want to reconsider how much I'm willing to pay for my steak.
Did you know that beef is so cheap because McDonald's says so. That's right. McDonald's again. Because Americans want their dollar menu, McDonalds dictates how much it's willing to pay for beef. And since they are the countries largest buyer of beef their word is pretty much law. And since their are only so many ways to cut corners when raising and actual living breathing animal, farmers are forced to feed their beef cows corn - a grain that cows aren't even equipped to digest. Therefore, farmers are also forced to feed their cows large numbers of antibiotics and artificial growth hormones just to keep up with the demand at the price that McDonalds dictates. That's why that hamburger that you just bought at the grocery store was only $1.99/pound. Good deal, no?
I could go on and on about this subject, but I won't. Obviously I believe that there needs to be better laws in this counrty to ensure that people can afford to buy good healthy food. I don't understand why people will organize marches and protests to complain about having to pay for health care all the while embracing their Dollar Menu Double Cheeseburger like it was a life raft.
And before it starts, let me just say - I get it. I do. I'm a mother. I know how hard it is to feed a family, how expensive it can be. But isn't it worth it to spend a little more money at the grocery store than spend exponentially more money on medications to treat preventable diseases like diabetes and heart disease? So for my part, my family will now be spending more money for grass-fed beef and organic local-raised eggs and organic in-season produce, even if it means going meatless a few nights a week. I don't think it will be that difficult. And I think that if we all were smarter consumers then more of these products would be available at out local grocery stores, not just Whole Foods.
Go to the farmers market where a farmer keeps 80-90% of every dollar spent there. (poverty among farmers is more than double that of all other employees) Know where your food comes from. . . and BUY LOCAL! ( the average meal travels over 1,500 miles from the "farm" to your plate.) And buy organic whenever you can, even if it costs a little more. I promise it makes a difference. (70% of all antibiotics used in the US are given to farm animals. and according to the EPA, over 1 billion pounds of pesticides are used each year in the US)
And last, but not least watch FOOD, INC. for more. Like Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, I believe FOOD, INC. has the power to change the way Americans eat. Visit to find out more. If you want to do more go to .

1 comment:

  1. This is next in line on my Netflix queue. I can't wait to see it. Though I think I'll be semi-depressed after that. Thanks for your comment on my blog!