Lean Reviews

A review site for conservative, libertarian, center-right readers. We'll tell you what's good, what's bad, what's so-so, and what you'll like even if you have to stumble past liberal tropes to get to a good story

Movie: Food, Inc.

By Allie Duzett

Eric Schlosser’s documentary Food, Inc. (2008) presents an intriguing, disturbing, compelling look at America’s food industries and how they both affect and are affected by consumers. However, the movie’s conclusions are oddly contradictory in nature.

Food, Inc. examines the dark sides of the food industry, taking the viewer on a journey through cornfields, poultry farms, cattle ranches, and a slaughterhouse in an attempt to explain where our food comes from, anyway. The chances are high you won’t like what you see–watching the film for the first time several months ago is what inspired me and my husband to set aside a larger food budget, and since then we have been eating almost wholly local and organic. So, full disclaimer: this movie has influenced me and my family quite a bit.

However, the movie is not without its bias or its faults.

As an example, the film highlights government-agribusiness corruption, pointing out how many government officials involved in food law and regulation are former employees of Big Agriculture. The obvious implication is that we can’t trust the government to keep us safe through regulation, because our regulators are in the pockets of Big Ag.

However, in the very next breath, it seems, the film is urging more government regulation. What? So that the regulations can be designed and enforced by the same corrupted officials who are designing and enforcing our current, highly flawed regulations?

This bizarre conclusion is omnipresent in the film. Americans: you can’t trust the food industries because they buck regulation and hold the government in their pockets–but if you want things to change, put even more power into the hands of the government officials the food industry has in their pockets! It doesn’t make any sense.

In fact, one of the most interesting, compelling parts of the film to me is when a particular organic farmer explains how the government has tried to shut down his open-air abattoir because it wasn’t up to government regulation. The farmer goes on to explain how his meat is demonstrably cleaner and has demonstrably fewer microbes on it, but how that doesn’t matter to the government. This appears to be largely because the government is currently invested in protecting Big Agriculture, and more regulation on independent farmers like those in the movie makes them less of a threat.

According to my personal research, big business has always been in favor of more government regulation on business, because smaller businesses and new startups just can’t compete in a highly regulated field. Supporting more government regulation is a way for big businesses to take out possible competitor, because regulations often take money and expertise in the law to comply with, and even a very competent independent farmer is not likely to have the time or money to stay in the game. Clearly, our current government regulations have done nothing to improve the state of our food–in fact, one could argue that they have made the situation worse by making it more difficult for independent meatpacking plants and so forth to survive.

The film took a look at the corruption in meatpacking plants, showing how one meatpacking plant had made deals with immigration enforcement officials to only arrest X amount of illegal workers per day, so the meatpacking plant could still function. This is a perfect example of government corruption in the movie, yet the film still promotes more government involvement in the food industry.

The film also shows how taxpayer subsidies of cash crops like corn have falsely cheapened food, and additionally helped bring about famine in third world countries. Yet another case of government involvement gone wrong–but we’re supposed to press for more government regulation of industry here?

Additionally, subjects of the film demonize capitalism–while at the same time explaining that choices made by consumers (i.e., people taking advantage of capitalism as capitalism intended) is what makes all the difference. In other words–the food industries would change drastically if consumers like you and me decided we would no longer buy their products. We–our wallets–hold the real power here. The film makes it clear that capitalism is the answer here, and government is the problem–but it takes a critical watcher of the film to make that conclusion, since the pro-government bias is so prevalent.

This bizarre doublethink found throughout the film is an eyebrow-raiser, but despite even that, this movie is important and informative. I do recommend this film, as long as the people who watch it are thinking about it as they do so. The answer is clearly not more government regulation on the food industry; as the film shows in explicit detail, government is bought and paid for by the same food industry. Giving the government even more power and influence over food would be arguably disastrous.

Allie Duzett is currently a stay-at-home mom–or, if you will, a full-time nutritionist and dietitian. Her personal research on food has been enlightening, and also delicious.

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