"Food, Inc." filmmaker lets them eat burgers

Tue Sep 9, 2008 3:42pm EDT
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By Janet Guttsman

TORONTO (Reuters) - Documentary filmmaker Robert Kenner still eats hamburger, despite what he learned as he made "Food, Inc.," a frank and sometimes gruesome expose of the profit-driven food business in the United States.

But he prefers it ground to order from a single piece of meat, rather than buying shrink-wrapped supermarket ground meat that comes "from a hundred cows."

"Food, Inc.," which opened at the Toronto Film Festival this week, looks at agribusiness through the eyes of farmers, consumers and legislators, contrasting the corporate image of red barns and white picket fences with the reality of factory farms and humongous processing plants.

The companies themselves -- companies like Monsanto, Smithfield Foods Inc and Tyson Foods Inc -- declined to be interviewed.

"That was the real shocker. They didn't want to talk, they did not want us to see where the food comes from, and they wanted total control," Kenner told Reuters in an interview about the movie.

The 96-minute documentary looks at poultry sheds and meat packing plants, including secretly filmed footage of immigrant workers tossing chickens into crates. There are graphic shots of cattle feedlots and animals heading for slaughter.

Other topics include congressional hearings about food safety, the corn subsidies that allowed the agribusiness to get so big in the first place and the way retail giant Wal-Mart Stores is putting organic produce on its shelves.

In a twist of language, farmers producing chicken are known as growers, while the experts seeking higher yields of corn are the breeders.   Continued...

<p>A cow looks out from a barn in Winchendon, Massachusetts in this June 30, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Brian Snyder/Files</p>