Yet another documentary about our screwed-up food production system, Food Inc. starts with a look at how McDonald's has had an immense impact on how food is produced and distributed. Back in the '50s, McDonald's took a factory mentality to the making of its food, and distributors followed suit. Because the chain needed big suppliers who could keep up with demand, the little guy got shut out of the equation.
Now, the top four beef makers control 80 percent of the market. "Even if you don't eat at a fast-food restaurant, you're now eating meat produced by that system," says Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser, one of several pundits interviewed in the film. It's not just beef. Chickens have also been genetically designed to have bigger breasts to keep up with the demand for white meat, and they're now raised in windowless coups where they can barely walk, let alone fly.
Robert Kenner's film has graphic footage of the mistreatment of animals. We see cattle walking around ankle deep in feces (and you wonder why there are outbreaks of e. coli) and pigs being shoveled off to slaughter. A hidden camera captures chickens getting manhandled by a group of workers. There's also a good segment on the illegal immigrant labor force enlisted to do the dirty work.
While the film is almost relentless in the way it delivers the bad news, it also offers some hope, profiling the ever-growing Stonyfield Farms brand of organic yogurt and milk products, and showing how even Walmart has begun stocking organic food and milk without growth hormones. But in the end, the message is clear. If we are what we eat, we're in big trouble.