Film: Food, Inc.

Why the USDA can’t shut down bad meat plants, and more food horror on-screen.

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Food, Inc. is the latest in a line of cinematic polemics that includes Super Size Me, King Corn, and The Future of Food. Yet this urgent, graphic film exposes more atrocious things about the food we eat than all of its predecessors combined. Within five minutes of the opening credits, the screen fills with shots of assembly-line workers staple tagging the heads of chicks, close-ups of hens’ legs buckling under the weight of their own breasts, and dying chickens packed into polluted sheds. Then come the acres of cattle ankle deep in manure, sick cows being tortured before slaughter, and engineers proudly displaying pink slabs of ammonia-washed “hamburger meat filler.” Director Robert Kenner isn’t just concerned with the suffering of animals. He also profiles Americans caught in the snare of the food industry, like Barbara Kowalcyk, whose two-and-a-half-year-old son died after eating an E. coli-infected hamburger. She’s spent six years lobbying Congress to empower the usda to shut down meat plants that repeatedly fail microbial testing. (Who knew it couldn’t?)

For the converted, the film’s litany of horrors may feel familiar, and there is an overreliance on voice-overs by Michael Pollan (interviewed here) and Eric Schlosser. Yet Food, Inc. still engenders disbelief: How does Big Food get away with this? Partly because we, the consumers, often reward it with our purchasing power. An incitement to change comes, strangely enough, from a vice president of the American Corn Growers Association, who explains, “People have got to start demanding good, wholesome food from us, and we’ll deliver.”

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate