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Scary ‘Food’ for thought

Documentary looks at industry practices.What goes on in corporate operations may outrage viewers.

By Meridith Ford Goldman

Article from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Did you go to the supermarket Wednesday or today? Did you buy carrots? Corn? What about strawberries? Or meat?

Did you know that the bite of grilled steak you’ll enjoy tonight has the power to change a corn farmer’s life in Iowa? A pork industry employee’s work conditions in North Carolina?

Did you know that it has the power to change everyone’s life?

After seeing “Food, Inc.,” a compelling new documentary scheduled to open Friday at Landmark’s Midtown Art Cinema, you’ll know. The film, from director Robert Kenner, takes a hard and alarming look at what’s for dinner, and serves a plate of reality some Americans will find hard to stomach.

The 90-minute film’s tagline is “You’ll never look at dinner the same way again,” and you won’t. I’ve been writing about food for close to 15 years and this film scared the heck out of me. It angered me. It made me sad. And it inspired me.

The PG-rated film offers provocative interviews from foodie phenoms, including Michael Pollan (who wrote the new foodie bible, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”) and Eric Schlosser (who wrote “Fast Food Nation”). There are also moving retellings from food advocate and mom Barbara Kowalcyk, whose son Kevin died 12 days after eating a hamburger contaminated with E. coli 0157:H7 in 2001. (A strain of the deadly bacteria that, according to Pollan in the film, was accidentally engineered by our industrialized food system and Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations and the tainted conditions these huge operations employ.)

The food industry’s answer, as conveyed in the film, is to treat our ground beef with ammonia, a construct devised by huge industries such as Beef Products Inc., at a large profit. It is, as farmer Joel Salatin remarks in the film, our way of “hitting the bull’s-eye of the wrong target.” God forbid we should change the way we farm. Or change the way we process beef. And let’s face it —- those tasks seem monumental.

But as Gary Hirshberg (who I met years ago when his organic dairy, Stonyfield, was barely a gleam in his eye), points out: People think they have no power and that these big corporations hold all the cards. “They couldn’t be more wrong,” Hirshberg says. “Consumers have all the power.”

A fact proved by Wal-Mart’s choice (in 2006) to include organic groceries and products on its shelves. Why did it go green (at least in part)? Because we told it to. We told it to with our wallets.

I know you’re probably thinking: Even if we could change industrialized farming, why should we? It’s easier just to keep things the way they are.

Get involved. Start a revolution. We can create change —- one table at a time.

It should be noted that the film contains a few disturbing scenes involving animals in processing plants that might not be suitable for some.



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