Food Inc. opening in Canada

I was at our favourite fruit & veggie stand at Kensington Market last weekend, when I heard a woman asking one of the regulars at the store what he was doing the following monday evening. She happened to have a pass for two for a preview screening of Food Inc. at the Varsity Cinema (close to where we live) and couldn’t go. The guy said he couldn’t go and I quickly said “has the movie opened yet? I’m dying to watch it!” I had just written  a post about it the previous day and I wanted to watch it so badly that my initial shyness fell to the way side. She turned to me and said “would you be interested in going?” Oh yeah! “Pass by my store in 15 mins and I’ll have the pass for you.”

The movie opened the last edition of Toronto’s International Film Festival and was released in threatres across the US last Friday to much media attention, leading to some interesting discussions. The screening we attended this past Monday was followed by a Q&A session with local activists as well as Gary Hirshberg, founder and CEO of Stonyfield Farm and one of the people interviewed in the film. There were no surprises for me in the movie. It felt like a film version of the Omnivore’s Dilemma and dealt with the dark side of the American food industry (whose model is exported all over the world, so don’t think you are off the hook for living in Canada or other countries), and deals with everything from the rise of food-born illnesses, the development of deadly strands of e-coli or salmonella, factory farm workers, the powerlessness of farmers who refuse to play the game according to the big industry’s rules, and the presumed powerlessness of consumers. It’s dark and it leaves you stuck between disgust, anger, and frustration.

The basic message sent by Gary and all the others is that although we have known that there are serious problems with the food industry for years, nothing will be done until we are able to make it a mainstream issue rather than a concern of activists only. And to get there, people need to know where their food come from and what is hidden in it. It’s all about transparency and education really. You can’t just pretend it doesn’t affect you. That people are over-reacting. I mean, we are all under the illusion we know what we eat. But that can often be an illusion. Take hamburguers, for example, the quintessential North American food. We all know that eating too many burguers is not really good for us but we assume that’s because too much meat is bad and that’s what burguers are, right? Ground beef. With perhaps a bit of preservative. But do you know that the entire meat industry in the US is controlled by four companies? And that 80% of the hamburguer meat available in the market is washed with ammonia? And that it is washed with ammonia because that meat originally had a much higher content of e-coli bacteria than meat ever had before. You know why? Because cows are fed corn, which their bodies have not evolved to be able to digest. So either you eat hamburguer laced with ammonia or you may share Kevin’s fate.

I have written before on this blog about the importance of knowing what you eat. Some people tell me it is too difficult to eat healthy, that they don’t have the time or the knowledge, or that organic food is too expensive. That’s not necessarily true. Good food can be deceavingly simple. If you are not sure where to start in the kitchen, I highly recommend any of Mark Bittman’s books (or even his site) since they are very didactic and based on principles of cooking rather than holding on to steadfast recipes. As for organic food being more expensive than “conventional” food, yes, that’s true, but only if you don’t consider the hidden societal, health, and environmental costs of this so-called conventional food or the real reason fast food is so cheap. The real reason is that since the entire American food industry is controlled by four or five companies, these multibillion-dollar players have enough power and influence to bend food safety rules and guarantee massive subsidies, allowing them to sell food at well below the cost of production (incidentally, conditions in these factories are so dire that these business have to rely on hiring the powerless – such as illegal immigrants – to work in them) . If sustainable farms could get half of the same subsidies, you wouldn’t have to choose based on price. Also, if there was more demand for organic products, more organic products would be produced. We see that beginning to happen. During the Q&A Gary Hirshberg mentioned how his company’s decision to go for organic sugar made a huge impact on its price and availability. When they made their first orders, organic sugar cost nearly five times the price or regular sugar. With the higher demand, more farmers turned to organic farming methods (which achieve the same yields as “conventional” methods) and began to produce more sugar. Now Stonyfield is able to buy sugar for the same price, if not cheaper, than regular sugar.

There is certainly a segment of the population than cannot afford a 50-cent difference on a particular produce. That is a shame and I’m glad there are organizations dedicated to making organic food more accessible. But many of us can afford to pay a little more to ensure not only optimal health but also encourage the organic food industry. It’s all a matter of priorities. And my health has priority over any other luxury in my life because without it, let’s face it, nothing else really matters.

So do yourself and the planet a favour. Learn about the issues. Watch the movie.

If you have trouble playing the video above, watch it on the official site.

Author: guerson

Food-obsessed historian and knitter.

12 thoughts on “Food Inc. opening in Canada”

  1. You forgot to mention that the 4 corporations controlling the food industry have quite a few politicians in their pockets. How else can you explain laws that make it illegal to even criticize the food industry (in some states it is even a felony). Oprah was hauled into a Texas court only by mentioning in her show that she wouldn’t eat hamburgers anymore. She only won her case after spending over a million dollars in legal fees. What chance has an average person?

    Monsanto has a crew of 75 private investigators keeping an eye on little guys and has no hesitation in destroying the lives of dissenters or making an example of someone.

  2. Oi Alexandra,

    I loved your post! I completely agree with everything you said! I’m truly appaled at people who don’t care about what they put in their bodies! It’s crazy how our society has disconnected from nature.

    Have you watched ‘The world according to Monsanto’? The whole film is on Youtube. It’s definitely worth watching it. ‘McLibel’ is also brilliant but I don’t think it’s available online.

    Although I’m very familiar with the issues discussed by ‘Food Inc’, I can’t wait to watch it!


    1. Thanks Marisa!

      I haven’t watched the videos you mentioned but will take a look. Thanks for the tip.

      We’ve definitely got disconnected from nature in the past 50 years and all the processed food industry has slowly convinced us that cooking with actual wholesome ingredients is left to the initiated, that you somehow need almost a degree to be able to put together a simple meal.

      Having said that, there’s a movement to go back to the basics, to simple ingredients, to local fare… More and more schools are adopting programs that teach kids about cooking and the importance of food. There’s hope.

  3. Wow, as you dig deeper into Monsanto’s past it becomes clear what kind of company it is. If I was living in the US I would be VERY worried about what is on my table.

  4. Hey Alexsandra!

    I noticed that you discussed the film Food Inc. on your blog and I wanted to let you know about a film called Our Daily Bread which I think you would find fascinating. It’s similar to Food Inc. in how it illuminates the horrific reality of industrial agriculture, however; Our Daily Bread is not an advocacy film in the traditional sense. The film communicates its messages using provocative images of places where food is produced by going deep inside the world of high-tech agriculture. Our Daily Bread touches on animal husbandry, labor issues, and the shocking reality of food production with a very distinctive style.

    I appreciate you taking the time to read this. We are an independent company with limited resources, so if our film interests you, I would appreciate it if you could mention it in an upcoming post. If you have any questions about Our Daily Bread or Icarus Films, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

  5. I want to concur about the comment made about the ‘Our daily bread’ movie . I saw it on saturday and if you are interested in Food Inc then you have to see this movie…it has been out since 2005 and I am not sure why I had not heard about it before. It is what we really all should know about our food and the absolutely appalling treatment of the animals which in turn is not good for us and is a relection of where we are….

    I have read a few reviews from others about this movie but have not seen anywhere near the outrage or level of sadness that I would have expected. I just find it such a terrible reflection of our society that I have not read about the shock from people about how we have destroyed the soul and beauty of nature with this industrial method of food production. How can we be messing with nature in this way. For me the image that captures everything that is wrong with the process is where the new mother pigs are strapped in tight in a device so they can’t move so that the young piglets can suckle … This is the most glorious part of nature a celebration of life…..a new mother giving new life to young who are seeking nurturing … what kind of monstors are the human race to twist such a beautiful moment in life …
    I am sickened.. I am sad… It is just not meant to be this way. This movie has certainly changed my perspective on food and the world as we know. I know mine has changed forever…..

    please watch it and tell others about it….’Our daily bread’ by nicklaus geyhalter

  6. I had some mild interest in watching Food Inc. last week when I ran into this blog. 3 days later, I became a subject expert.

    Prior to Food Inc. I looked up “The World According to Monsanto” and naturally I was blown away by the outstanding investigative journalism and the unbiased approach. The subject of GMO’s and rBGH are a hot topic in our kitchen now.

    I continued by acquiring and watching “Our Daily Bread” which was also mind boggling. The sheer cruelty to the animals we feed on was too almost too much to bear.

    2 days ago, I found McLibel as a Torrent on the net. It was interesting to see the same multi-corporate theme being repeated with McDonald’s. My favorite part being the backdoor settlement negotiations that McD’s brought to the table. Disgusting.

    Last Tuesday we made the long trip downtown to watch “Food Inc.” Many of the concepts were already familiar to us after watching Monsanto and Our daily Bread. We were already desensitized and Monsanto was a household name by then. It was also interesting to see the same farmers being interviewed for the movie.

    Food Inc. did not really bring any new insight to the table, it was more of a quick summary to the Monsanto movie which I now own on DVD (torrents widely available on the net – please be courteous and leave it seeding for others to view).

    Yesterday I downloaded “Super Size Me” which I will watch tonight. Needless to say, our diet has taken a 180 degree turn this week. We are surrounded by Organic and Farmer’s markets and we never even knew it. It took a mare 15 min of Internet research for us to ditch our supermarket as a source of food and replace it with something local.

    We have always planted a garden in our backyard, primarily as a stress relief mechanism, but we also wondered how the results are so much better tasting than the beautiful store-bought equivalents. We now have the ability to answer that question with a high degree of confidence.

    Sheer proof that a simple blog can change people’s lives.

    1. Wow Candy, thank you so much for leaving this comment. I have been told numerous times that writing a blog is a waste of time that could be better invested in more important things such as work. But as far as I’m concerned, sharing information and discussing issues that are important to me can never be a waste of time. You’ve just validated that and made my day. Thank you.

      I’m really glad that something I and others wrote here sparked an interest that led you to re-evaluate your habits in a positive way.

      Thanks again for the comment!

      PS: what do you plant in your backyard?

  7. Hi everybody,

    Just rented ‘Our Daily Bread’ today – will see it tonight and let you know what I think…

    thanks again for all the suggestions


      1. Hi Irene,

        I really liked it although not nearly as gruesome as some parts of food inc. I found found the parts with animals very disturbing although my husband wasn’t as impacted.

        I liked the format, without any narrative. It left the audience to figure it out and reach their own conclusion although I sometimes wished to know where a particular place was…

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