For informed locavores, director Robert Kenner’s documentary on America’s troubled food system covers little new territory. Though the film promises to “lift the veil” on the diseased machine responsible for most of our nation’s food, none of the revelations are all that novel—many have already appeared in books like Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation and Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma (both authors serve as talking heads). Familiar subjects include the dominance of industrial farming (four meatpackers control more than 80 percent of the market) and the government’s subsidizing of unhealthy foods. But the facts are still compelling enough—and depressing enough—to influence the way viewers eat, which is the film’s ultimate mission.
“If we put glass walls on all the mega processing facilities, we would have a different food system in this country,” says one commentator, summing up Food, Inc.’s central premise. Agribusiness heavyweights—Tyson, Monsanto, Smithfield—refused to go on the record, reinforcing the film’s claim that the industry wants to hide its practices from the public. Meanwhile, an effective roster of underdogs, including farmers who’ve been bullied by corporations and a mother whose son died from E. coli–contaminated beef, deliver real evidence that the more we examine the sources of mass-produced food, the less we’ll want to eat it.