Supermarket Pastoral: a review bite of Food Inc.

The movie FOOD, INC. forces you to wonder: “How much do we really know about the food we buy at our local supermarkets and serve to our families?”

The film begins by strolling through the supermarket aisle…scanning slowly over food labels, colorful packages and a variety of food products. Michael Pollan’s soothing voice relaxes us as we look at these food product labels and their narrative, that is, the story they are trying to sell us. This language, as Pollan calls it, is “supermarket pastoral” and according to him it is “the most seductive literary form, beguiling enough to survive in the face of a great many discomfiting facts.

This form of food marketing includes words like fresh, natural, organic, farm raised, grazed on green pastures, free range and rBGH free to list a few. This language tries to provide consumers with information, beyond a bar code and price,  about how their food was raised; it attempts to tell the story of your food. It hopes to make you feel better about selecting, cooking and eating that $12.00 per pound pork chop. And for me it works. I believe and use that language myself.

But what about those other labels and stories in traditional supermarkets such as Farmer John’s “Farm-Fresh and Wholesome – From Our Family to Yours” or “Amish made.” None of these words are regulated, not certified by a third party, not monitored by the government and all simply fabrications of the corporation developing and selling these food products.

To delve deeper than the label and to follow the story of your food beyond the supermarket, to fields, feedlots, hen houses, kill floors and processing plants this is to know the true story of your food. Food Inc. takes you there whether you are ready or not.

The film is a graphic biopsy of the food system using vivid imagery to show links between corporations and federal food committees, to highlight ubiquitous ingredients found in almost all of the most popular food products and broadcasts footage of kill floors and meat packing plants I have never seen before (and oddly enough I have seen a lot).

The film does an extremely impressive job of highlighting how food is grown, processed and marketed. Showing us how political and industry bedfellows forward the good of corporations’ bottom line over family farmers, it points out how fundamentally misguided Monsanto and other such corporations are—to think a man whose lifetime career is to thresh and preserve seeds so farmers can save their own seed in order to replant them next year is considered to be “inciting farmers to commit patent infringement” on Monsanto is insane. What is even crazier is to sue, put out of business and ostracize this man from his community! But why do we not hear these stories (except in documentaries)? Why do we not get this information on any label?

“Farm Fresh Tofu (seeds designed by Monsanto) brought to you at the expense of people’s freedom and right to farm.  Hmmm, the truth isn’t as ‘pastoral.’

And that is the point of FOOD, INC., to give people the real information, let them decide what they want to eat. I am certain if we really digested that information and held it in our consciousness to refer to every time we picked up a burger, a tofu sandwich or an ear of corn, we might make different choices at the supermarket.

To learn more about the film FOOD, INC. and learn what you can do to change our food system visit UEPI and CFJ will be hosting screenings of this film in the near future so keep looking for new postings with dates, times and locations to see the film for yourself.
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One comment on “FOOD INC.
  1. Great post, Vanessa! If only all labels were transparent…or how about the foods that don’t need labels..aka produce straight from your CSA basket. If you want to know the story of the food you are about to consume, just ask your farmer!

    As for the supermarket, transparency is a must and kudos to films like FOOD, INC. that are attempting to demand that level of accountability and honesty in labeling.

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