Food Ick.

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Food Ick

What a juxtaposition of films in the last few days as I continue my ‘road to the Oscars’. Apparently they’re on the ball as much as those around me have been eagerly anticipating details – I got a call from the prize sponsor yesterday and was informed today the ‘Academy’ would be contacting me to coordinate my trip to the red carpet. Fancy!

Anyway on Saturday I watched the delightful Julie & Julia, as my previous post mentions. Last night I opted to watch the squirm-inducing ‘Food Inc.’ as it’s being tapped for best documentary (unless ‘Big Food’ gets in the way).

First, some background. Several years ago I opted to read ‘Fast Food Nation’ for a journalism book project, and I was pretty engrossed (and grossed out) by the thing. I basically vowed to stop eating fast food on the spot, and am still pretty vigilant about what I’ll dine on in the food court. I have the occasional burger from A&W because I’ve worked there and know their standards are crazy high within the restaurant – I can’t speak to the processing, but they make tasty burgers, so sue me. Beyond that, I’ll have the occasional Subway (although their chicken is making me squeamish as I type this), Pita Pit (or other pita), Arby’s, and Taco Time. There ends my general involvement with fast food, unless it can’t be helped. Note that Subway, Pita Pit, and places I get from salad from aren’t really the big fast food psychos out there (okay, maybe Subway) – I like to believe I can make those things at home so the nutritional content isn’t quite as brutal.

But moving on. The thing that really bothered me about Fast Food Nation’s messaging, and Morgan Spurlock’s infamous doc ‘Supersize Me’, is the way the food industry engineered my dining experience. From the scene in FFN where Schlosser visits a ‘scent’ lab to McDonald’s concealment of the harmful nature of its food, I was disturbed more by the concept of mass produced, industrial food, than I was by the dollars and cents of calories and fat content.

Food Inc. is another great chapter in the exposure of the industrial food industry. Instead of pinpointing fast food restaurants, it covers the whole food industry – although it clarifies in a way no other publication has to date just why the two are so intrinsic to one another. If you’re tracing the food chain – even on a surface level as a consumer – you learn that McDonald’s is one of the largest customers of major agricultural / farming companies. If you start jacking up prices or underperforming on McD’s, they’ll threaten your contract. The farmers are under an equally brutal thumb – of the agricultural companies they’re contracted out to. If you start underperforming for Cargill and McD’s gets mad, they’ll terminate your contract. It’s a vicious cycle that is unfortunately manifested by our addiction and reliance on fast food.

While Food Inc. looks at fast food in detail – sometimes covering new territory than past efforts, sometimes not – it also looks at the ‘fast’ food packaged as ‘wholesome’ food in the grocery store. Although I’m relatively comfortable with the fact that Canada’s food production standards are higher, I’m not entirely convinced that I should continue to buy my meat at a supermarket or Costco.

It’s frustrating not to have any control over what goes in your mouth, but that’s the price we pay as consumers with little time and small food budgets. One thing is for sure though, if Fast Food Nation and Supersize Me inspired me to kick fast food to the curb (for the record, I’ve had McDonald’s approximately once in the last five years and it made me ill), then Food Inc. has encouraged me to pay attention to the ingredients in what I’m buying, look into the food quality control in Canada and products entering Canada, and to find ways to purchase more of my produce and meats at farmer’s markets, delis, and local greenhouses.

A preachy post, but I’m still a little shaken by the oversized chickens from the film.

- Britt’s On

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