Photo: Participate Media/River Road
In the new film Food, Inc., we see Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, take a satisfied bite out of a big, juicy burger—not the image you would expect from a tough documentary about the physical and moral costs of our overmechanized, underregulated food industry. But Robert Kenner's incisive film is keenly attuned to both the practical challenges and the pleasure principles of smart, ethical eating. Experts such as Schlosser (one of the movie's coproducers) and Michael Pollan (author of The Omnivore's Dilemma) lay out the familiar elements of our predicament in vivid, fascinating detail: how high-fructose corn syrup in foods spikes our insulin levels, how farmers are intimidated or even driven out of business by the very corporations they serve, and how low-wage labor and cruel factory-farming practices keep food prices artificially low. Fair warning: The movie includes some harrowing glimpses inside slaughterhouses and overcrowded chicken coops (your correspondent has not consumed meat, poultry, or eggs since watching the film). But Kenner also offers hope for the future. Consumer demand for organic, humanely sourced food is growing, thanks in part to entrepreneurs like Gary Hirshberg of Stonyfield Farm (the organic-yogurt-makers) and Joel Salatin of eco-conscious Polyface farm. Food, Inc. knows that the way to your stomach is through your heart—it might change your life, or maybe just your dinner plans.