Unveiling the Truth Behind the American Food Industry

Caroline Leahy
ENG230

Before enjoying the first bite of the fried chicken sitting on the plate in front of you, ask yourself, do you know exactly where it came from? Disregarding the bag’s labels, did you watch that exact chicken grow up, where it came from, and how it was treated?

What many people do not realize is that the chicken sitting on their plate most likely only lived a life span of six weeks. They were pumped with hormones to be forcefully overweight, and are kept in conditions that no living being should ever reside in; in a dark cage with no where to move.

Do you want to throw that chicken out yet? Well, these horrible truths are the same with most of the meat sold on the shelves at grocery stores. The truth is, food labels give an idealistic (and completely false) view on American farm life. It is unfortunate to know that  even with analyzing the label, people still do not know the truths behind what they are eating. The food corporation has gotten away with corrupting its customers for a long time, but people are finally starting to unveil their secrets. Award-winning 2009 documentary, Food Inc. does exactly just that.

Food Inc. is a documentary that subjects the unhealthful habits the American food industry has plagued our country with. From the inhumane living conditions farm animals are forced into, to the dirty facts behind the reasoning for obesity in America (over-use of corn syrup for example), Food Inc. does a job well done at revealing the horrifying truths behind what we eat, without sugar coating it. America has done a very nice job at covering up the horrible working conditions of farmers, and the animals they raise, with false labeling. Food Inc. is bringing to surface a topic that needed to be recognized.

This documentary is so necessary for everyone to watch, simply because we, as Americans, do not know what is going in our bodies no matter how strongly we try to be “label-conscious”. As people, we have a right to know where our food is coming from. The animals used for our hunger-satisfying convenience have a right to a nice life as well, a simple fact that is so often neglected. Everyone who is interested in knowing where majority of the food often comes from, or want inspiration to buy from more local farmers markets, should definitely watch this documentary.

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Food Inc Review

In the documentary Food Inc which was based on the United States of America’s industrial production of its food, the documentary takes you through how our meat and grain is processed for the country’s high intake of calories. It dives into details on how powerful corporations in America have become and how they control our infrastructure of food being processed into the country’s grocery stores and fast food restaurants. Quoted from Michael Pollan, “There are no seasons in the American supermarket. Now there are tomatoes all year round, grown halfway around the world, picked when it was green, and ripened with ethylene gas. Although it looks like a tomato, it’s kind of a food-incnotional tomato. I mean, it’s the idea of a tomato.” I know one thing for sure, after hearing that quote I will not look at a tomato the same ever again.
The film shows us how unhealthy and unethical the processes are that take place in these industrial factories and how both animals and employees are put into harmful environments and are being abused. “In 1972, the FDA conducted approximately 50,000 food safety inspections. In 2006, the FDA conducted 9,164.” Health and Safety of the animals, the workers, and the consumers are no longer taken into account, instead these large corporations and our government simply “overlook” the problem in effort to provide cheap food regardless of the negative consequences. After watching this film ask yourself, Will you want to order that Whopper, Large Fry, and Coke?”

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Giving A New Thought on Food Waste Management

Caroline Leahy

March 2, 2017

ENG 230

 

Giving a New Thought On Food Waste Management

“There is no such thing as ‘away’, when we throw something away it must go somewhere”.

  • Annie Leonard

 

In elementary schools alone, roughly one billion unopened and undesired food items are thrown out each year. This heap of one billion items could include perfectly healthy yogurt, or fruit that has not even been given the chance to bruise. The fact is, food waste in America alone has become out of control, and it is not just schooling systems to blame. When there are 805 million people going to bed hungry each night, throwing away perfectly good food should not even be an option. Instead of thinking straight to the trash can, businesses, schools, and restaurants should weigh the valuable alternatives, whether it be through donation, left-over projects, or simply more range of availability for the needy.

Think of a landfill: piles beyond piles of smelly garbage eating away at this green earth. Out of all the objects that make up these repulsive mounds of trash, food waste is the most abundant. It seems to be commonly mistaken that placing food in the trash makes it disappear forever, when really we are simply feeding the overfull landfills. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, food waste is responsible for 3.3 billion tons of methane annually by rotting away in landfills. Methane, in retrospect to global warming and greenhouse gases, is the most influential component in climate change by blocking the sun’s heat from escaping the atmosphere. With the fear of global warming creeping into the minds of all Americans, it is completely unacceptable that this much green gas is still produced from simply a lack of food waste management.

To think of it literally, donating is the simple act of taking one’s excess belongings and placing them in the hands of those that could make positivity out of it. Donating food can be this simple as well. The United States Department of Agriculture claims that “donations of non-perishable and unspoiled perishable food from homes and businesses help stock the shelves at food banks, soup kitchens, pantries, and shelters”. In fact, in 2015 alone, food banks used approximately 2.8 billion pounds of produce to feed the needy. Considering this, a few businesses have successfully begun the act of donating their excess food to such organizations. For instance, Jody Shee records in her article Waste Not Want Not that several food chains in the United States (including Pizza Hut and KFC) hold excess food in a freezer, and then “once a week, a charity organization picks up the food containers for repurposing and reheating” (Shee, 2016). Along with this, Shee also states that grocery stores around the country, such as Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and Sam’s Club, have begun to join in on the donation process as well, and now 40% of wasted food in their stores are donated or recycled. There are so many charity organizations looking for opportunities such as this to partake in; it does not make sense for restaurants to oppose participating in food donation.

However, if donation is not an option, small businesses are getting clever by giving leftovers a second chance. Chef Michael Francis from Heartbeat Cafe in San Jose, California speaks about his unique cafe in the article Giving New Life to Leftovers. Here, these people do not believe in wasting good food. In fact, leftover food is better food! Rather than throwing out the extra food not eaten at the end of the day, workers save it all and transform the scraps into entirely new dishes for the following day. For example, one left-over creation that sparked the cafe’s popularity was the chicken stir fry made simply from the chicken not sold at dinner the night before, or the delicious carnitas made fresh from the excess roast beef. Francis tells readers that “We do a lot of off-site catering and whenever we have an overage, we put it to good use in the cafe”.  He claims that it is all about creativity, and the customers love it because there is something new each day. Just as the majority of American families splurge over leftovers in the fridge, businesses should do the same. This one act of creativity can cut down a significant amount of food waste, and even earned an income doing so.  

Related to this, Rooster Soup Co., recently founded by Steven Cook, is a restaurant in the heart of Philadelphia that originated from a surplus amount of chicken carcasses. The profits that roll in through this restuarant are given to the Broad Street Ministry’s Hospitality Collaborative, where the money is then used to provide services and meals to the city. Bret Thorn, author of Turning Food Waste into Good for the Community, states that “Rooster Soup Co. is a way of giving back”.

These small efforts have created a great start to help the economy, as well as the hungry. Because of such efforts, federal laws such as the Internal Revenue Code (allows tax deductions to businesses that donate wholesome food to nonprofit organizations) and the U.S. Federal Food Donation Act (pushes agencies to donate excess wholesome food to eligible nonprofit organizations to feed the homeless in the United States) have been put into action. We live in a world where there is too much food being made, to the fact that it is killing our ozone layers, yet also so many hungry people that can’t find food to put on their plates. Taking the ethical, and intelligent route, businesses, agencies, and all stores food related should weigh their options. There are so many more opportunities than the over-filled garbage can.

 

Works Cited

“Food Waste Worsens Greenhouse Gas Emissions: FAO.” Climate Central. N.p., 22 Sept. 2013. Web. 08 Mar. 2017.

FoodService. “Giving New Life to Leftovers.” Giving New Life to Leftovers 11.2 (2016): 10. Kutztown University Roherbach Library. Web.

“Hunger In America 2014.” Feeding America. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2017

Welch, Ashley. “School Lunch Fruits and Veggies Often Tossed in Trash, Study Finds.” CBS News. CBS Interactive, 25 Aug. 2015. Web. 08 Mar. 2017.

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FOOD CHAINS REVIEW

Food chains is a movie about injustices that occur to the working people who pick vegetables, and more specifically tomatoes. The movie goes in depth with the problem by focusing on the CIW, Coalition of Immokalee Workers. They are a group who want to just bring fair wages and work conditions for people in the food industry, specifically the food pickers. But in order to do this, companies must change their focus from profits and money to the importance of people.

The movie focuses on a way to help the people: by increasing the cost per pound of food by 1 cent. “They [food companies] earn more than monsanto, Goldman Sachs, Microsoft, and Apple.” This amount of money is crazy considering how much those other companies make. Microsoft and Apple sell expensive electrons by the billions yet these food markets are still making more money off of relatively cheap food. These crazy profits along with the company’s refusal to lower cost demonstrates the insane amount of focus on profits. The greed, and selfishness is explained more in depth in the full movie brings out want to fight it.  

In a memorable scene, slavery is depicted by showing the truck that people were forced to live in; they would be chained up in a rusting truck. That one scene just doesn’t settle right because in this century, for something that sickening to happen in America is just unbelieveable. Working day to day just to be chained up is a really terrifying idea that will make you appreciate your life more.

This movie’s focus on people’s abuse rather than food, helps make it a must watch that doesn’t make you feel guilty but instead encourages you to answer the call of action. Even if you don’t care about food, the story is captivating enough for anyone to watch.

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Food Chains Film Review

When I’m rich and famous because my young adult novel on two teens falling in love in their fight against the mistreatment of agricultural workers gets adapted into a film, I’m going to buy all the supermarkets in the world. Why you ask? Well, when I watch documentaries like Food Chains, it makes me want to change the way agricultural workers are paid and the conditions they work under. Food Chains is a documentary that shows agricultural workers point of view and the, for lack of a better word, unfairness they face. This film delves into the real-life struggle of people who deserve way more for their hard work. My argument is the documentary’s argument. “They’re entitled to be paid well.”1 I could end it right there because that’s just the plain truth.

The CIW (Coalition of Immokalee Workers) is a human rights organization for agricultural workers and is the main focus in this film. The coalition held a hunger strike because of Publix’s refusal to speak to them about increasing wages by just a penny a pound. That penny increase would cost around one or two million out of their two-billion-dollar income. This is what makes me angry: the pure greed. Publix could change these hardworking people’s lives by shelling out just a little bit more money but they refuse. They have enough money, they’ve been doing this for ages, and it’s time to do away with this legal slavery (by paying them the absolute bare minimum) and give these honest workers what they deserve; better working conditions and fair pay. It’s about the poor man keeping the rich man rich and the rich man saying thanks and walking away.

I recommend this film for a number of reasons. Besides showing the worker’s point of view as I’ve mentioned before, it exposes the problem of buying industrially. “One of the most difficult things is just coming to a realization how little you mean to the people that you are working for.”2 Imagine going into work every day and besides not getting paid what you should, your employers not giving a care about you. You would think I’m not appreciated it’s time to go, but these people have no choice and must endure it and it’s not right.

 

 

Sources

1 Food Chains. Dir. Sanjay Rawal. Perf. Eric Schlosser. Screen Media Films, 2014. NetFlix.

2 Food Chains. Dir. Sanjay Rawal. Perf. Lucas Benitez. Screen Media Films, 2014. NetFlix.

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Food Inc. Review

Summary:  
Throughout the film, Food Inc., Robert Kenner explores first hand where our food comes from and the disturbing practices among the American Food Industry. To farms, and slaughterhouses with disturbing conditions, the truth is revealed. Amazingly, three or four companies alone control the meat industry, with the biggest buyer being McDonalds. I mean, who would think a simple hamburger was made from not one cow, but a thousand?  As for those beloved chicken nuggets from Tyson? Be prepared for the harsh truth where the quantity of food is more important than the quality. From farm animals to fruits and vegetables, farmers to CEO’s and the consequences of the food industry producing over 200% of what we need; this films goes into depth on the effects of the demand for convenience and low cost food. Throughout you become aware corporations that put money and profit before consumer health and safety.

Review:  
The argument of this film is that we are deliberately left unaware and the pace of industrial production is unsustainable, inhuman, unsafe environmentally and economically. However, if I could sum up Food Inc. In one word it would be horror. Why would I consider this film a horror? While a documentary’s  purpose is to inform the audience and leave awareness, this film instead heavily relies on shocking and scaring the audience about their food to convey their information. In addition, while the movie is filmed poorly, the film has more graphic images of blood, and  guts than a horror film. The serious context and graphic of the film is enough to make you feel sick at times.  
 
Overall,  this film does fulfill it’s purpose in spreading awareness and holds your unwavering attention till you cannot stand to watch no more as do most horrifying things tend. However, I have several serious issues with the film, while this film is effective very little changed within the food industry after the release of this film. In question, I wonder why this film was not enough to change the minds of consumers long term? The issues are emphasized, but I also feel there is not enough content on how to resolve this issue touched in the film. Furthermore, because it is heart wrenching to watch it makes it hard to watch let alone eat meat for a period of time.

If I could sum up Food Inc. In one word it would be horror. While Food Inc. Is a documentary of the shocking practices among the American Food industry, why would I consider this film a horror? While a documentary’s  purpose is to inform the audience and leave awareness this film instead heavily relies on the shocking and scaring the audience about their food. In addition, while the movie is filmed poorly, the film has more blood, guts, and heavy tone than a horror film.
 
 In answer to why I think this film has been ineffective, even if it does make a person rethink what they consume, I realized many prefer too be ignorant rather than worry about everything they eat. The film, in reality was way too shocking to be taken seriously. Very few people can last a week being scared of everything they eat. For children who watch this film in heath class, by the end they are likely more traumatized than actually aware and as a result they become vegetarians for a week.
 
In conclusion, Everyone who watches is in shock, but its not long before our minds kick in to shove the film out of your mind so you can eat that hamburger without feeling sick at the thought of one. While everyday I become more increasingly aware of the issues among our food industry, I found this film to be the least informative, but it was enough to motivate me to think about the food I consumed everyday by effecting how I feel- the feelings remain,  but the details of ones memory fades. I will continue wish for a day where the life of a baby chick is not worth less than a penny, but as a life and a living being deserving of respect and a good life.

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One Less Grocery Bag

Imagine the owner of a local grocery store taking the trash out before closing and accidentally throwing it on some unsuspecting guy rooting around in the dumpster. For Grant Baldwin this was a reality. Only, instead of going through a dumpster looking for food because he was poor, he and Jen Rustemeyer were doing it to prove a point. For six months the pair lived solely off of food waste that they could find in grocery stores, farmer’s markets, and dumpsters. The point that they were trying to prove was that in America we throw out enough food that they could survive comfortably off of this surplus and in doing so, show that we must find a better solution than wasting perfectly good food.

The documentary Just Eat It is an excellent film. It utilizes the story of the young couple to emphasize its point. We get to see Jen break down when she says, “I’m fatigued with this project. I don’t want to do it anymore. It’s not that fun,” and then arguing with Grant over whether or not they should continue the project. We see Grant at his low point after having trash thrown on him. “I felt really embarrassed that I was, like, in his bin, and he felt, like, sad for me probably.” Both of these instances make us feel for them and their decision to go through with the project. By using them as the main focus of the story, the documentary becomes much more personal and relatable.

The documentary also supports the idea that we need to find other ways of dealing with our food waste by including other speakers. In the beginning of the film, Grant and Jen talk with a local farmer, Delaney Zayac, at the farmer’s market about what he wastes. He says, “Overall, there can be a lot of a good crop at a market that won’t get sold if it has just a slight blemish or something’s wrong with it aesthetically.” Throughout the film, Dana Gunders, a Food and Agriculture Scientist with the National Resources Defence Council, supplies facts that drive the message that we are wasting food home. At one point she says, “Imagine walking out of a grocery store with four bags of groceries, dropping one in the parking lot, and just not bothering to pick it up. That’s essentially what we’re doing.” It is jarring to think about just how much food is being wasted.

Just Eat It also has fantastic cinematography. There is one sequence in particular that stood out to me. It begins with a small pepper plant growing and follows the bright orange pepper to harvest, transportation grocery store, and finally refrigerator. All while playing to “Don’t You Forget (About Me)” by Simple Minds. The sequence ends with the pepper rotting away in the appliance. It is a perfect representation of the theme of the documentary; we gain nothing by letting this perfectly good food rot away.

Overall, the documentary offered great insight into both the facts and a few options that we may have as individuals in trying to change this problem. It is the perfect starting point for anyone of any age to gain the knowledge to do something about food waste. By using a few simple strategies (none quite as drastic as dumpster diving) mentioned in the film such as freezing food so that we can prolong its life at home or making smaller, more frequent trips to the food store, we each can reduce our waste and help to stop this cycle of wasting perfectly good food.

Sources:

Just Eat It. Directed by Grant Baldwin. Performances by Tristram Stuart, Jen Rustemeyer, Dana Gunders, Jonathan Bloom, and Grant Baldwin. The Orchard, 2015.

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