Can a Movie Change the Way We Think About Food?
Here’s a true story: A woman and her husband buy frozen hamburger patties (and plenty of buns) from Costco for their grandson’s birthday cookout in a neighborhood park. Daughter (birthday boy’s mom), remembers hearing something about a recent beef recall at several retail stores, including Nana & Pop Pop’s beloved Costco. (In question were 380, 000 pounds of beef, possibly contaminated with E.coli O157:H7, from JBS Swift Beef Company, a Greeley, Colo. subsidiary of JBS, a mega multinational beef processor in Brazil.)
Mom’s friend (yours truly) gets wind of the frozen patty purchase and decides that she knows her friend well enough to speak up. “You know the burgers they talk about in Food Inc.?” I ask her. I’m referring to the mass-produced patties made from confined, manure-laden, grain-fed cattle raised on concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), one of the thorny subjects of this much-discussed documentary.
She nods yes. “These patties,” I respond, pointing to the freezer, “are those kinds of patties.”
That evening, Mom invites Nana to watch Food Inc, which has been in theaters nationwide since June. The next day, Mom and Nana buy locally raised grass-fed beef, make their own patties and return the recalled goods.
Plastered on the home page of the Food Inc. Web site is the following slogan: “You’ll never look at dinner the same way.”
Ever since the Mom-Nana frozen patty incident and a Food Inc. viewing experience with my own mother, I’ve been thinking a lot about these eight words connected to one powerful documentary and whether it’s powerful enough to create change at the dinner table. My mother (and Nana, reports my friend) was visibly shaken by the story that the film tells about where our food comes from and how it’s grown and raised. But — and this is a big but — neither woman would have made the effort to see the film without the urging of their daughters.
Narrated by Michael Pollan (“The Omnivore’s Dilemma”) and Eric Schlosser (“Fast Food Nation’), Food Inc. dissects the complex universe that is global industrial agriculture and does a very good job of connecting the dots – and the journey – of feedlot to table. But outside of the farmer’s market and CSA crowd that has plenty of disposable income, who’s listening? How do we, as a country of communities, bring this story to consumers who live in the drive-thru lane and quench their thirst on two-liter carbonated plastic bottles?
Throughout July, Chipotle Mexican Grill has been hosting free Food Inc. screenings in more than two dozen cities around the country. For those who’ve seen the film, I ask you: Has this movie had an impact on the way “you look at dinner”? If so, would you like to see more free screenings — and where? Should it come to network television?
Weigh in, if you please, no matter which side of the cattle fence you sit on.