Farm Progress is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Serving: East

Food, Inc., fails credibility test

I watched Food, Inc., last night. Not impressed. It certainly is not Oscar worthy, in my opinion. But what do I know about documentary film making?

I thought the presentation was muddled, lacking in focus and failing in its attempts to link issues to the food industry that belong elsewhere: immigration, health care, and patent protection, to name three.

It was one-sided, but that was expected. At one point I wondered why some of the big-name industries refused to be interviewed for the film but after watching the biased focus for just a few minutes it was easy to understand why any company would be reluctant to have bits and pieces of an interview chopped into sound bites that likely would have been unflattering, to say the least.

One possible unintended consequence: early on in the film they showed clips of folks making hamburgers in the most famous hamburger franchise in the known universe. That just made me hungry.

The clip of the organic farmer slaughtering and processing chickens took care of the hunger pangs, however. Can’t see how that would play better than the shots of poultry carcasses moving through a processing plant.

As expected, the film came down heavily on the side of organic agriculture but failed to mention how the inefficiencies in that system would be adequate to feed a population that will top 9 billion in about 40 years. They also did not address the unasked question of where all the grassland will come from to satisfy enough grass-fed beef, free-range chickens and barnyard hogs to feed that growing population.

How many acres of conservation reserve land, forests and wetlands will we have to bring into production to make up the difference in productivity? Didn’t mention that. Also didn’t mention where all the labor will come from to pull the weeds, pluck the bugs off the plants and process the locally grown food and get it to market.

Yet the producers managed to champion Wal-Mart. How odd. Have they checked those labels lately?

The beef cattle industry took some body blows. Corn took a big hit and I don’t know how many times I heard how farmers are producing corn “below the cost of production,” and are able to do so because of huge government “subsidies.”

Last time I checked those “subsidies” were not adequate to meet break-even levels and certainly not high enough to keep farmers in business long term. Farmers have been pushing above break-even thanks to technology — which the documentary criticized — and by expanding to take advantage of the economies of scale, which apparently also is a bad thing from the Food Inc., point of view.

Are there problems within our food system? Of course there are. Nothing as massive and as complex as the American food and fiber production system is without flaws.

Those defects should be addressed. Animal abuse should never be tolerated and perpetrators should be punished. The food industry should always strive to make our food safer and when mistakes come to light must act swiftly and aggressively to prevent human illness.

But I certainly have more confidence in what we have now than I do in the backwoods organic operation championed in Food, Inc.

This documentary is sensationalized propaganda from persons and/or organizations that would take American agriculture back to the 1950s. A simpler time, perhaps, but can we feed the masses with that technology?

Can we even begin to meet the demands that are coming with outdated technology? I recently read that to meet the food demand of 2050, we will have to produce more food than has been produced since the inception of agriculture, 10,000 years ago.

Will anything less than the most efficient, cost-effective system be adequate to achieve that goal? Certainly not.

Sorry, Food Inc., but Ma and Pa Kettle have left the barnyard.

e-mail: [email protected]

TAGS: Management
Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.