The American food system as often regarded as unhealthy, several issues are being associated to the way Americans produce their foods such as animal cruelty and too much commercialization by large corporations. However, it appears that the multinational corporations are the ones that control most of the food production in North America. Creating the film documentary is quite a challenge. The filmmakers were denied of access to many of the factories and farms. “ It was nearly impossible to gain access to industrial farms and into large food corporations”. First, they would not let any of the crew and it felt like it would have been easier to penetrate the Pentagon than to get inside the company that makes breakfast cereals,” explains Food Inc producer E Pearlstein. ” The legal challenges on this film were also unique. We found it necessary to consult with a first amendment lawyer throughout the entire filming process to secure the legality of our production efforts.”
The corporate food industry has much to hide from us. “ The industry doesn’t want the people to know the truth about your food otherwise no one would dare eat them” (Kenner). For instance, the way animals are raised has changed significantly during the time that industrialization introduced mass production. Chickens for example are being fed with antibiotics and raised in unlighted coops. They are grown from egg to boneless meat sold in the supermarket all in a span of 48 days. This process is twice as fast as it was 50 years ago. The chickens are now twice as big as before, with a growth rate that is four times as fast due to the chemically induced feeds and genetic engineering.
When people look around the supermarket, it is quite difficult to distinguish what season it is, it is difficult to find bones in the meat department because produce and meat products that are often seen seasonally are now being sold all year round. Large scale growers and food manufacturers are now able to use genetic engineering to cultivate seasonal crops such as corn and make them grow at enormous sizes. Most of the processed foods that are sitting on the shelves of grocery stores are genetically modified and contains synthetic ingredients as preservatives. There are also cheap, subsidized and genetically modified corn being fed to cows, chickens, and farm raised salmons. In fact, more than 30% of America’s land base is planted with corn in order to sustain the heavy demand for corns in most food manufacturing and processing industries.
Food Inc. exposed how companies maintain animals and prepare meat and other food products. Unfortunately, it shows how companies care more about the financial aspect of the industry rather than the meeting the American people’s nutritional needs. The movies exposed the mistreatment of animals from cows to chickens by ways they are being handled including their living and feeding conditions. Cows were basically living in their own feces and being fed the wrong food. Naturally, cows should only eat grass, but in commercial farms they were being fed with corn and scraps from food processing plants. As for chickens, they are also being treated the same way and being raised in poor conditions as cows, other large poultry farms keep their chickens in unlighted coops where there is only no sufficient ventilation and sunlight. The chickens were being fed with growth boosters to accelerate growth and body mass. Some of the chickens become so overweight that they could hardly move because their legs can no longer support their body weight. In worst case scenarios, overweight birds sustain injuries that cause them to die horribly in pain.
In some cases, the animals being raised are the just the only ones that experience the cruelty of commercialized farm owners, some of the employees themselves suffer the same inhumane treatment. There are even companies in the southern region of America that hire illegal immigrants to work for them at a very low salary base in order to save overhead costs. Some of the workers were not even given appropriate benefits such as health and social security. These workers are most of the time assigned in assembly lines doing the same job over and over. There are no apparent benefits, low income, no security of tenure and no clear career path for growth.
There is so much information that I learned from watching Food Inc. 1) Farm Owners treat their livestock and poultry in a horrifying and sickening way. 2) Farm workers are being abused by the farm owners and being forced to work under the minimum safety standards. 3) Food products being sold in the market such as chicken, pork, beef, and others farm live stocks are being fed with artificial food so that they grow faster and become heavier and fatter in the shortest time as possible. 4) Processed foods basically and ultimately come from the same artificially grown product such as corn. 5) There is a new strain of E. coli which has caused illness to 73, 000 Americans and deaths to thousands more. 6) More Americans now have diabetes and heart ailments at an early stage in life. 7) The head of the FDA was the former executive Vice Press of the National Food Processors Association and the chief of staff of the Dept. of Agriculture was the former chief lobbyist for the beef industry?
There are many businesses that have been able to cut productions costs and provide mass quantities of products at much lower price. Because of that, families can now afford meat on the table every single time. The reduction of meat prices is due to the industrialization of factory farming. Food Inc. taught me as a consumer more about this. Factory farming has produced large quantities of food at low cost, but causes problems for the environment because biodiversity is lost in the development of pastures, farms produce too much animal waste which results to polluted water ways and the overuse of antibiotics has resulted in the development of superbugs.
Most people had been under the impression that their food was grown on cute little farms depicted in its packaging. In reality, this cute farm in the pictures does not exist, as most of them have been replaced with large factory farms (Kenner). The factory farms are overcrowded with live stocks causing several environmental problems and disruption of the natural biodiversity. When acres of land are cleared for pastures, it limits the vegetation in that particular area to a monoculture, leading to an ecosystem that can no longer support the native species that once was striving in there (Kenner). The mass land clearing for pastures disrupts the balance in local eco-systems. Furthermore, the overcrowding of live stocks in factory farms creates large amounts of animal wastes, which leads to soil degradation and water contamination. In traditional small family farming, less animal waste are produced small enough to allow the soil to absorb and use the animal waste without compromise.
Water pollution is another problem seen in factory farming. Chemicals and antibiotics are used so frequently to prevent illnesses causes by overcrowding in animal sheds causing the soil to become contaminated. Many farmers store animal waste in man-made damns, which poses a significant risk given that if one of these dams breaks, it will have a devastating environmental implications. For example, in 1995, the New River hog waste spill in North Carolina, introduces 25 million gallons of waste into the water causing the spread of disease and killing most of the fish as a result, 364, 000 acres of coastal fishing beds had to be closed down (Warrick 1995). Spills, antibiotics, chemicals, bacteria found in animal waste may all end up in the soil and eventually in the water.
The use of antibiotics together with unsanitary environmental conditions allows bacteria to spawn in animal waste and become resistant to many types of antibacterial agents. This situation creates superbugs, a type of which epidemic viruses were born. Superbugs disrupt the balance of the ecosystem and create health hazards. In fact, in the study conducted by the University of Iowa found that 70% of the pigs and 64% of the workers had contracted a resistant staph, known as MSRA (Couric).
As a consumer we must realize that when buying foods that came from factory farm animals we are paying the ultimate costs of our own health deterioration. The packages may look nice, the labels may look cute, but we should remember and keep in mind the struggle that farm animals have gone through to serve our utter hunger. The overcrowding and unsanitary conditions, the way in which our soil and water has downgraded affects our health. Even though factory farming will drive down prices at the supermarkets, at the end the day the money we saved from reduced prices is taking the toll on our own health and environment. At the end of the film, Food Inc. made the point that the consumer’s demand for cheaper food source, which has led to the industrialization of farming are endangering the health of the people. It is not too late to rethink about the food that we put in our mouth, consumers should demand for sustainable eco-friendly food that will be healthy and promote the development of environmentally-farming techniques for the future.
Couric, K (Executive Producer). (2010, February 9) Animal antibiotic Overuse hurting humans?
(Television series episode).
New York: CBS Evening Newspapers
Kenner, R& Pierce R (Directors). (2009) Food Inc. (Motion Picture)
United States: Magnolia Home Entertainment
Warrick, J & Leayenworth, S. (1995, June 29). Waste Spill receives hog legislation, House looks again at farm regulations
The News Observer of Raleigh, North Carolina.
Food, Inc. is a 2008 American documentary film directed by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Robert Kenner.
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