What We Can Learn From “Food, Inc.”

When I watched this clip of the 2008 documentary, “Food, Inc.”, I was immediately struck by the sheer power that large corporations such as McDonald’s and Tyson Fresh Meats hold. I argue that “Food, Inc.” contributes to the social construction of knowledge through the use of impactful phrasing, as well as shocking imagery and infographics.

The director, Robert Kenner, was able to accurately capture the sinister domination of America’s industrial food system and its suppliers. His documentary serves the purpose of exposing fast food chains such as McDonald’s for supporting business practices that lead to mass production of engineered meat, which is not only inhumane but unhealthy. This allows the general public to reflect on what they are actually eating, and where their food comes from, in an effort to convince consumers to stop the cycle.

Kenner attributes McDonald’s success to the fast food format of cutting costs: “That mentality of uniformity, conformity, and cheapness, applied widely and on a large scale has all kinds of unintended consequences”. Word choice plays an important role in the sentence’s effect on the viewer; it implies that the industrialization of food production disrupts natural processes. This film is a direct attack on fast food companies’ impact on meat production, as Kenner explains, “Now there are essentially a handful of companies controlling our food system”. This sentence is carefully chosen to imbue fear and doubt in the viewer’s mind as they question the motives of powerful meat corporations such as Tyson Fresh Meats, which is “the biggest meat packing company in the history of the world”. The amount of power insinuated by this simple sentence resonates with the viewer, just as Kenner intended to produce a reaction of shock.

This infographic displays how the top four meat packers control over 80% of the current meat market (more than 3 times what the top five companies held in 1970!)

The next infographic is perhaps even more jarring: “Birds are now raised and slaughtered in half the time they were 50 years ago. But now they’re twice as big. People like to eat white meat, so they redesigned the chicken to have large breasts.”

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The infographic and description shows that humans have completely re-engineered the way animals are raised for “slaughter”, to become more efficient and yield greater results. The purpose of this is to make the viewer question: am I really okay with this happening on a daily basis?

Although the majority of “Food, Inc.” is based on fact, the perspective is obviously biased against large fast food and meat product corporations, hence why the word choice and infographics are intentionally shocking. However, Kenner’s documentary has picked up attention and similar media has emerged that supports his evidence. Since 2008, the general public has become more aware of the repercussions of fast food, and many people have opted out of consuming it for healthier diets such as vegetarianism and veganism.

In fact, this documentary played a large role in my complete shift to vegetarianism. When I first saw it after its release in 2008, I was struck by the inhumane and unethical practices of meat corporations, and I made the choice to cut meat out of my diet completely. Not only did I not want to support these companies, but I wanted to make sure that whatever I was consuming was relatively healthy. Although others may not be as affected by this short video clip, I highly recommend watching the documentary in its entirety to become educated and expand your knowledge of how our food is (quite literally) manufactured.

Food, Inc. Dir. Robert Kenner. Movie One, 2008. Youtube. TheJunglePersists, 12 Dec. 2010. Web. 29 June 2016.


One thought on “What We Can Learn From “Food, Inc.”

  1. Food, Inc. has many important facts about the meat industry, not just due to the inhumane treatment of animals, but due to the inhumane treatment of farm workers and independent farmers. That said, as someone who watched this documentary when it first came out and again every few years after for one reason or another, I have found one huge issue with it: it states all of the horrific things about the food industry in the United States for the entire film, but gives no alternative choice. By the end, even as a vegetarian/vegan, I felt as if I had been scared away from food and given no feasible options on what to eat. I believe that to be an effective film, not just in a bum-you-out kind of way, there MUST be some glimpse of hope given to the viewer.


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