Chris MacDonald’s commentary appears originally and regularly on his blog The Business Ethics Blog, and is redistributed via 3BL Media with his expressed consent.
I finally saw Food, Inc. Frankly, I didn’t expect to like it much. I expected a one-sided, misleading anti-corporate tirade, along the lines of The Corporation. I was only partly correct. The main message really does seem to be that big companies are ruining everything, and that things would be better if we all just realized that we should be buying directly from the kindly farmer/sage down the road. But in spite of that slant, the movie does contain some useful stuff. So, my conclusion: a grudging endorsement. I think the film is flawed, but worth seeing.
First, I’ll note a couple of worthwhile take-away lessons, points that are made by the film and that seem well-justified.
Number one is that the meat industry is pretty disgusting. Most of the people who might be tempted to see Food, Inc. likely already knew that. But it’s a rotten industry. Injury rates for workers are high. Animals are treated badly. And quality control can be dodgy. The causes are pretty clear. Competition drives companies in all industries to cut corners in order to attract and keep customers. Sometimes that has undesirable effects. In the food industry, those effects can be pretty bad. Food, Inc. doesn’t tell us much that’s new, here, but it’s a useful reminder.
Number two: the corn subsidies in the U.S. are apparently insane. Those subsidies result in overproduction of corn (and hence of High-Fructose Corn Syrup). The result is that crappy food can be more affordable than nutritious food. Politically-powerful food companies like the subsidies (since they keep the price of ingredients down) so the food-buying public is likely to go on being subject to all the wrong incentives.
(For more on that topic, see the excellent 2007 documentary, King Corn.)
But in several ways the movie is less than satisfying.
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