Will watching Food, Inc. put you off your feed? Not unless you’ve been terribly sheltered or you’re extremely sensitive. I’m sensitive in the “awww, look at those cute baby chicks” sense, so I didn’t like seeing them put through a chute and onto a conveyor belt. It probably bothered the chicks less than going to Disney World bothers me. We know, though, that this is only the beginning for these little birds. And, yes, they are very cute. After a few weeks, they’ll move to poultry houses, where the comparison to Disney World becomes more apt, and the not-so-cute chickens are kept in the dark (literally), housed so densely they have scant room to move.
Cattle crowded together in factory feed lots tugs at the heart strings, too. Look at those big brown eyes, so soulful. Young cattle are handsome, so, of course seeing them packed together shoulder to shoulder is effective. Show cockroaches like that, or crocodiles, and the response may more likely be “so what?” Although I’m a flexitarian who prefers plants to meat, watching these scenes will not keep the rib eye off my barbecue grill this summer.
I would probably would have been more revolted by some of the conditions in which food is cultivated, but you don’t think Tyson or Perdue is going to let us see inside their hen houses, do you? It’s a rare slaughterhouse that will allow television cameras in; the meat packing industry learned its lesson with Upton Sinclair.
My first appreciable response to Food, Inc. was hunger. It wasn’t the burgers and fries that did it; it was the corn. Corn is cheap, and it’s used in places where it shouldn’t be. One of the causes of E-coli outbreaks is feeding cows corn instead of letting them graze on grass (which requires more real estate and is, therefore, more expensive). Okay, but I love corn. I would eat it at every meal if I could, and—according to Food, Inc.—I probably do; corn products are used in a vast range of the foods we eat (and the batteries in our flashlights, too!). If we eat beef, fish, chicken, or pork we are probably eating animals raised on corn; the high fructose corn syrup that has everyone (except pecan pie lovers) in a lather is found in everything from pancake syrup to catsup. Maybe that’s why I’m beginning to look a little heiferish.