Saturday, January 18, 2020

Food Inc Essay

Food Inc. opens in an American supermarket and draws attention to the unnatural nature of year-round tomatoes and boneless meat. It pulls aside the curtain that is concealing the truth about food from the consumer. After the brief intro, the movie shifts its focus to the topic of fast food and its impact on the meat industries. Fast food virtually started with McDonald’s. When they decided to simplify their menu and hire employees that repeated one task over and over for minimum wage, the result was the fast food phenomenon that swept the United States, and then the world. Today, McDonald’s is the largest purchaser of beef and potatoes in the United States, and is one of the largest purchasers of pork, chicken, tomatoes, and apples. Though an unintentional consequence, this has had a drastic impact on the way all food is processed. The top four meat packers now control over 80% of the market, the Tyson Corporation being the largest of them all. The documentary next takes us to a Chicken farm in Kentucky and explains that, since the 1950s, chickens have doubled in size, and they reach that incredible size in half the time it used to take them to reach their more natural size. Chickens today are genetically modified to have larger breasts in response to the consumer preference for white meat. The chickens grow at such a rate that their bones and organs can’t keep up with the rapid growth of the muscles, or the meat. The original farmer that was followed in the documentary was unable to take the filmmakers inside the chicken houses. After being visited multiple times by Tyson representatives, the farmer informed the filmmakers that he would be unable to escort them inside. After a long search, a woman finally stepped forward and agreed to take the filmmakers inside an overly-crowded coop and behind the veil of the modern chicken industry. The next veil that is lifted by the film is that of the corn industry. Corn can be chemically engineered into many different products, such as the extremely unhealthy high-fructose corn syrup. Corn costs more to make than it is worth, so it is subsidized by the government, encouraging even more of its use. Corn is the number one grain used to feed animals for slaughter. Feeding cows corn instead of their natural diet lead to the unintentional creation of 157H7 E. coli, a deadly bacteria that can kill. The film reveals how food standards have dropped, with only 9,164 safety inspections from the FDA each year as compared to over 50,000 in 1972. The food industry has become consolidated to the point of a few companies having a great deal of power and influence via the government. The USDA is no longer able to shutdown plants with contaminated meat. A bill titled â€Å"Kevin’s Law† had the intent of changing that, but, after 6 years, the bill still has not been passed. Food companies have made some attempts to reduce E. coli by cleaning their meats in an ammonia solution. However, unhealthy food is being subsidized and contributing to American obesity and the rise of type 2 diabetes in adolescents. The film then travels to a hog processing plant that kills 32,000 hogs a day. They expose the strategy of the company to hire extremely poor and illegal immigrants who can’t afford to quit their jobs, despite problems with frequent infections of the hands and fingernails, a side effect of poor sanitation standards. We then discover that it has been legal to patent life since the 1980s, and learn about the company Monsanto’s round up resistant soybean that now makes up 90% of the soybean market. Monsanto systematically sues offenders that break copyright laws. Private investigators are hired to monitor and find any infringements. Even if infringement was unavoidable, smaller, neighboring farmers are forced to purchase the round up resistant seeds. Monsanto has a great deal of political influence, with close ties to both parties. Both the Bush and Clinton administrations had close ties with Monsanto. Only the consolidated power of consumers can overcome the political and economical power of the large food processing companies. We owe it to ourselves to use that power to demand healthier, organic foods. In a free economy, the consumer has the ultimate power. Just as the tobacco industry was exposed and its power drastically reduced, so too can the substandard food industry be wrangled into submission.

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