Here's an excerpt from the Food, Inc. discussion guide provided on the movie's web site:
"When most of us think of a farm, we imagine a place with a red barn, green
pastures, and chickens running around the yard. But the reality of most farms
in the United States today is far from that image. Farming has become so
industrialized and mechanized that many modern farms are like factories.
The poultry industry is an example of this change to factory farms. As depicted in
Food, Inc., chickens today are often raised in huge metal buildings with no access
to light or fresh air, confined together with thousands of birds in one building,
and made to grow so quickly that often their bones cannot keep up and they can
lose their ability to walk."
I didn't really think about that the last time I popped a chicken nugget in my mouth. The movie goes on to tell us that chickens grow to full maturity in about 6 months, but steroids and genetic engineering have altered the way our food grows. The food industry now grows huge chickens with large breasts (because consumers prefer white meat) to full maturity in about 48 days. I'm no expert, but that can't be good for the chicken or the consumer.
We also find out in Food, Inc. that most of what we like to think of as "fresh food", like eggs, vegetables and meat, travels an average of 1,500 miles from the farm to the grocery store. That doesn't seem real fresh! This is the first time in history that we aren't able to trace our food from its origin, and we don't really care.
In one particularly disturbing scene, the makers of Food, Inc. showed how 85% of hamburger beef is cleaned by ammonia before it is packaged. Apparently the scientists who came up with this factory-produced process thought that exposing the meat to ammonia would eliminate the risk of disease. The factory was big and metal and contained a seemingly endless labyrinth of pipes. If you didn't know better, you'd think they were building cars in that factory, not packaging meat!!
Now, I'll be honest with you... I don't know quite what to do about this. I'm far too busy (which is undoubtedly part of the problem) to raise my own livestock and harvest my own vegetables. Plus, I don't have any land on which to pursue such things. Going to McDonald's with 5 kids seems much more do-able for my family than stocking the freezer with grass-fed, free range beef, and cooking a bag of frozen beans in the microwave is much more efficient for a family of 7 than snapping, washing and cooking pees acquired from the farmer's market.
But going to McDonald's is no longer desirable, and the thought of continuing to fill my body with overprocessed, pesticide riddled, genetically engineered, ammonia doused, corn based food disgusts me. I hate it that I don't know where the food I eat comes from, and I'm bothered by the fact that huge, multinational corporations control nearly all the available food in the world. Clearly changes must be made. I'll update you when I figure out how to make them. Until then, I'll remember my Grandparent's farm and see if I can find a way to duplicate its wholesomeness on some small level.