‘Fatter, bigger, cheaper’ is the motto of the American food industry, as exposed by Robert Kenner’s excellent and eye-opening documentary.
Kenner had originally been interested in adapting Eric Schlosser’s 'Fast Food Nation'. Beaten to it by Richard Linklater, he decided to embark on his own investigation inspired by a simple impulse to understand where our food comes from.
What he discovered is that there are vast forces aligned against anybody who dares look for answers. But in a nutshell, a small handful of giant corporations have staged a stealth takeover of our stomachs, offering uniformity and cheapness under the illusion of diversity.
Why does this matter? Because in exercising control from seed to supermarket, these corporations have turned food into the new automobile – profit, not protein, is what counts. Thanks to the free market ideology, we now have farm bills written by food companies, a revolving door between legislative bodies and corporate boardrooms, unsustainable levels of corn production to drive down prices, bankruptcies in Third World countries, new strains of E-coli in our food, and an obesity pandemic.
Kenner introduces us to the chicken farmers kept in economic feudalism by their corporate overlords; the migrant workers exploited and abused in abattoirs; and the mother whose son was killed by poisoned meat and who can’t even get an apology from the manufacturers. But we also meet the good guys: the organic farmers and government representatives determined to turn back the tide of bad calories.
It would all be too depressing if Kenner didn’t have a fine sense for cinematic storytelling, with smart animation and a jaunty score. But more than that, he puts forward a persuasive counter-argument to tackle the food giants: we vote with our mouths three times a day. All we have to do is realise that we’re the ones in charge.
Might make a change from being shouted at by Jamie Oliver.
By turns an absorbing, enraging and entertaining experience.
Where do we sign up to the revolution?