Food Inc – Watch It!

Last night we watched the movie Food Inc. It has just come out on DVD which is going to bring it to a much larger audience than a few theaters. When the disk arrived from BlockBuster in the mail our 12 year old son shouted “Yeah!” I hadn’t realized it was anticipated so much.

I had expected propaganda. There was very little. I was very pleased to find that Food Inc sticks closely to the facts. The documentary is well done, doesn’t bog down and covers the topic. They explode the whole issue of Big Corp’s revolving door access into high government offices showing how their lobbyists and they abuse our laws and courts. If anything they could have hit Monstersanto in the face a lot harder and more often – as it was they only did a few jabs and one really good punch although that did land squarely on the giant’s big lumpy nose.*

The film makes the point that food priorities are screwed up by pricing models. This is an issue I’ve visited many times: the whole system of subsidies hides the true costs of petroleum and ‘cheap’ food. We need to eliminate all the subsidies in this country and get the free market working again. Saying this is bound to make me unpopular with everyone. This is going to hurt. It can’t be done overnight but will need 10 to 20 years of transition. In the end gasoline would cost its true $10/gallon. You think it hurts now to fill up your gas tank? Wait until you pay the real price for war at the pump every time. True costs would fuel a lot more research into conservation, alternative energy and make people think about not wasting precious resources. As a consequence there would be a lot less pollution. Maybe even Al Gore would think twice about jetting around the world and just use his wind bag of hot air.

Yes, with the loss of petroleum, corn and soy subsidies the price of many foods will go up significantly. But consider that the prices of those foods are artificially low right now which makes the highly processed junk food look attractive. Because corn and soy is subsidized they are over produced and over utilized. Ignoring the mercury in the High Fructose Corn Syrup, we shouldn’t be feeding corn and soy to livestock to fatten them up. Cattle, sheep, goats, chickens and even pigs can thrive on a pasture diet. We raise pigs without commercial corn/soy based feeds here on our farm in the mountains of Vermont – year round. Our pigs get the small treat of waste barley from a local beer pub or a bit of dated bread to train them or move them for loading. About 90% of our pig’s diet is pasture. ~7% is waste dairy. Almost all of their remaining food (~3%) is veggies we grow on our farm. Corn is candy and should not be a steady diet – it makes for fat pigs and cows with sick digestion that spreads E. Coli.**

I do take exception to one part of the movie. The producers showed a family who claimed they could not feed themselves fresh vegetables and fruit because of the high prices for good food so they bought and ate fast food junk instead for $3/person/meal. Crimminy – Wait one freakin’ minute! We feed our family on less than a dollar a meal, 62¢/person/meal in fact. Not only that but the prices in our stores are significantly higher than the prices they were showing in the movie. Sure, we grow food but even without what we grow it is still less than $1/person/meal. I know, we just went shopping yesterday and this year we had almost total crop failure to the bad weather.

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So why can’t this family eat on $1/person/day? Their excuse was they didn’t have the time to prepare meals. Ah, that is a lifestyle choice. They choose to pay someone $2 to prepare their meals. Then after choosing to dine out they complain that food costs too much. If they would spend that same $3/person/meal and buy rice, eggs, vegetables and even some meat and a piece of fruit for an excellent home cooked meal. Not only would they eat more healthily, be in better physical shape but the husband in the movie family might be able to control is diabetes via diet reducing his $260/month of medication costs thus freeing that money up to further expand their healthy food budget.

I have read of many people saying it costs a lot of money to eat good food and that junk food is cheaper than good healthy veggies, fruits and meats. These are false, they’re myths. The fact is when food gets processed you pay for the processing, extra handling, extra transportation, energy and small serving size portions. Its the same at the supermarket or fast food at places like MickyD’s. If you want the service of processing then it costs more, not less. Raw food costs less, not more. Locally grown, wholesome raw food will cost more than the mass produced, pesticide laced, herbicide treated, antibiotic, hormone injected, infect and disinfected factory farmed veggies, fruits, nuts and meats. However, that local raw food still costs less than junk food. Not only that but the ‘cheap’ processed food uses junk, real junk, and fillers that have less food value. Big Ag is stealing from your pocket on tax day for subsidies, stealing from you when you shop and stealing from you when you eat.

So don’t eat it and certainly don’t make it your main diet.*** Make a choice. Yes, it takes a little bit of time to cook your own meals and not have a personal chef (or MickyD burger flicker) but cooking is a fun family activity. Enjoy life. It’s all you’ve got.

Cheers,

-Walter Jeffries
Sugar Mountain Farm
Pastured Pigs, Sheep, Chickens, Ducks, Dogs & Kids
in the mountains of Vermont
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/blog/
http://NoNAIS.org/

PS. No, I don’t get any money, commissions, etc from the movie, promoting it, mentioning Amazon, BlockBuster, etc. I do appreciate these companies who like the Sears Roebucks of the old days help bring the world to those of us out in distant rural areas. This movie is only available at limited theaters. Rent or buy Food Inc and watch it with your family.


*Recently Monsanto has lost several key court cases, legislations and farmers have been dumping the use of Monsanto’s start hormone mimic rBGH as if it caused cancer. Even Wal-Mart has gotten in on the act coming down on the right side due to consumer demand for healthy, Monstersanto-free food.

**I was amused to note that Joel Saladin, whom I greatly admire, was free feeding
grain to his pigs such that they were ignoring the perfectly good grass, legumes, wonderful burdock and delicious thistles right there in his pastures near the feeders and elsewhere. Burdock, thistles and clover are some of our pigs favorite herbs – they mow them down. I’ve seen this before on farms where they feed commercial feed which is based on corn/soy. Corn = candy. It’s high in calories. If you are going to feed corn to your livestock, do limited amounts, preferably late in the day so they will first eat their veggies (pasture).

***Go ahead, enjoy that bag of chips, you can eat some junk, but shoot for moderation in everything.

Outdoors: 40°F/26°F Sunny & Snowy
Tiny Cottage: 61°F/56°F

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About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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36 Responses to Food Inc – Watch It!

  1. Linda says:

    Awesome review! Thanks

  2. Sasha says:

    It's often surprised me how little cooking many people do or know how to do. I followed a blog once by a woman who attempted to eat organic food on the food stamp allowance for her and her husband. They managed, although they had resources few poorer people had. I think most people "know" that it is impossible to eat well without spending a lot of money.

    I know that a lot of it is ignorance people who don't know how to cook certainly can't cook cheaply but a lot of it is cultural; people don't eat beans a rice although they can be really good.

    However, it is true that the cheapest food is carby garbage. I was hungry the other day while grocery shopping so I got a 1/4 lb of sliced roast beef and a roll. It cost more than $3.00. I could have gotten a double cheeseburger and fries at McDonalds and spent less. It amazing what you can get for $2.20 at most of the fast food places around here.

  3. Anonymous says:

    The thing about the movie I had hoped more would address is the low level of nutrients in the grocery store food. Salatin or Pollan did vaguely address this.

    This, and the cost of paying someone else to do the work, were the main reasons we started raising much of our own food: grass fed beef, pastured chickens, organic gardens, and next year, pigs.

    Both of us have serious chronic illnesses, and live on a single disability income. But we do manage to keep it going, through long term frugality and doing it ourselves. It just takes a lot longer to get things done.

    So the family who wouldn't make lifestyle changes and ate junk food and spent the money on meds, it's mostly about choice. But a little education goes a long ways.

    Pam R.
    who always thought she couldn't raise her own food

  4. Anonymous says:

    We watched it last night as well! We did like it although do not agree with that it's the govts job to keep us safe. A half informed person should have a clue about some risks. If the law comes into effect I think we'll soon be all eating the burger that looks like the one that had been ammonia washed.
    My brother is a farmer in Finland and wow, do they still respect their food and crops even through the EU is trying to regulate them to grow grass.
    I agree with Sasha's post. So few people know how to cook/bake/preserve etc. esp in my generation (late 20s-early 30s).
    This is what they should be showing in schools if something instead of AlGore's propaganda.

  5. Jessica Rabbette says:

    Thank you soooo much for this review. I had been wanting to see it but it isnt around here. I will join blockbuster to rent it since that is the same cost as buying it. I love your insights.

  6. A Bay Horse says:

    We both have full time jobs and still prepare almost all the food we eat. We also find that the local farm stand is even more convenient and quick than the grocery store. It surprises me how many of our working friends can't find the time. Cooking is a fun activity. And food seems better when you know what you put in it. We're healthy and happy. We usually have left overs and really, preparing our own food can be done cheaply.

    If I watch that film no doubt it'll make me grouchier than before!

  7. Evelyn says:

    I'm so glad that Food, Inc. has finally come out on DVD! In Feb I heard about the movie opening in June, I was so excited! I've never waited for a movie to be released before; but I waited for that one! I was so disappointed to find that it was such a limited release. :( I did finally get to see it & was disappointed that it didn't go into the depth that it could have. But, I guess the masses aren't ready for the whole truth yet. I'll be buying this, to go w/ http://www.freshthemovie.com/ .
    When I was a student, living on welfare & receiving food stamps (double load of computer sci & electronics, no laying on the couch eating chocolates!) I used to cook one day a week. I'd cook about 30 meals worth of food & freeze it in individual portions. That way, my older son could take food out to feed his younger siblings while I was studying. Cheap, healthy meals. I knew what was in them, because I'd cooked them. Each of them got exactly what they wanted, so there was no fighting. It can be done! You just have to be willing to do it.

  8. We suspected that they limited the depth of the movie because they probably had a very long list of topics and knew they could only cover so much in the time period given – an hour and a half.

    Like you we do a lot of ready-to-eat meals. We can up chili, soup, stews, etc in large batches for quick warm meals all through the fall, winter and spring. It's very efficient and makes for inexpensive quick meals. We also freeze lasagnas. It takes about the same effort to make four as to make one.

  9. Putting this movie on my to-do list. Have you also read "Omnivores Dilemma" by Michael Pollan ? Such a good read.

  10. oshea12566 says:

    Nice review Walter! It is amazing how someone can claim they do not have time to cook food but have to get in the car, drive to McDs and eat that crap. Amazing. Mcds should be a treat (if that) not your daily caloric intake. Either my wife or myself (or together) cook the family meal. It is fun to prepare different dishes, try new stuff, try your own inventions…like you said it is a choice we make. Time spent in the kitchen together is not viewed as a chore in our household. My opinion, food tastes better at home. (Sometimes)

  11. RL says:

    Great review Walter! My family and I are part of a group that gets together and watches movies like this. We do this during the winter months when we have more free time.

    Food,Inc. is definitely on the top of the list for the up coming season. Your review makes me even more intrigued to see it.

    Also, you make some really good points about the cost of food. Enjoyed the post!

  12. oshea12566 says:

    (Waaaay to many paranthesis)

  13. Mary Ricksen says:

    I was really glad to hear you say that cooking was a family thing. I'd like to think that means you help your wife. I have an idea what a farmers wife is like and it's hard work. The fact that you share the burden with her makes me think, hey, this guy is okay.

    I live in West Palm Beach, Florida, and I gave up my yearly garden when I moved from Vermont. Ever taste a tomato grown in Florida. Ugh!

  14. Mary Paddock says:

    Thanks for the heads up on this one. I've added it to our Netflix que. We watched "Killer at Large" back in September and it offered up a similar message, though they were specifically examining obesity and its causes. Much of the same information (especially the political power welded by these big corporations. It made me glad we can't get a signal here.

    One of the things I relearned after I left my job with Extension back in 07 was how much money we saved when I returned to cooking from scratch. We returned to growing our own food again in the summer of 08 and it's been hugely educational for the boys, who were too young to remember or really contribute much when we moved to this house and I went to work.

  15. Sasha says:

    Mary mentioned how much savings there is in cooking food from scratch and I think that concept really runs counter to conventional wisdom. The idea that time is money is so ingrained and yet it occurred to me that time is only money if there is someone willing to pay you for that moment in time.

    Most people work set hours and cannot get paid for a random half hour here or there so it actually does make sense, for most people, to spend more time than money. Besides, it just doesn't take that long to cook many dishes. People are petrified that cooking a meal will take hours and hours. It can, of course, but it doesn't have to.

  16. Evelyn says:

    I had a college proffessor that said there are only 3 comodities, time, money & enjoyment. We spend our lives trading one for another. You'll take less money to spend time at a job you love. But, a job you hate had better pay you very well. You spend time & money for enjoyment.
    Cooking from scratch can actually be a savings in both time & money, as well as enjoyable. It's one place you can cheat the system. Walter & I have both seen this happen. We've both done batch cooking, aka Once a Month Cooking. It's not much more work to cook 10 meals than it is to cook one. You then divide it into seal size portions & freeze or can. Do the batch cooking as an enjoyable family project and the kids can have a sense of accomplishment & a better sense of worth.
    You can buy large quantities of what's on sale if you have to buy from the market, or cook meals from your own produce/meat. If you go thru the work of canning, why not go thru the work of cooking meals?
    Then, you just heat the pre-cooked meals. Just like buying that pre-cooked food from the freezer section of your local grocery store.

  17. jan says:

    I am sure you two share and your wonderful kids share the responsibilities but it doesnt have to be everyone doin half of every thing. My hubby works hard dawn to dusk on our farm and I do more of the things around the house like the house garden and goat milking and cooking. It is equal shares and different. We both work hard. He does heavy lifting I couldnt ever do. I cant flip 60 pound bales of hay around. Men are built that way. I do things like making and nursing babies he cant do. Its team work and I love it all. A partner ship a mariage doesnt have to be about the new femanist ideal of everyone dividing everything exactly down the middle. Our mothers went through that angst and what they get is more heart attacks. We can each do what we are good at and make every thing work.

  18. Bruce King says:

    Walter, how many pigs do you have, and over how many acres of pasture?

  19. Number of pigs and number of acres in pasture are both fluctuate greatly over the years as we're still growing our farm gradually and carefully.

    In one day we might have sixty new piglets born or a hundred leave. At other times we'll go for weeks without any new litters. Sows often cluster their farrowing.

    For pasture we used to have about 20 acres for the pigs last year and 10 acres before that. This summer we cleared approximately another 40 acres for pasture plus roughly 20 acres that will eventually be hay field. We're working on fencing and seeding that now.

    What I suspect you really want to know is how many pigs per acre is sustainable. Again, it's not a fixed thing since smaller pigs need less land and big breeding pigs need more land. To give you a rough rule of thumb, figure 10 to 20 pigs per acre. See this post for more details.

    Note that this will also change with what you feed for supplemental feed. If you're feeding a full grain diet then you could probably pack 6,800 pigs to the acre – at least that is the CAFO model. I think it's a bit excessive. On the flip side, with nothing extra then about 5 to 10 pigs an acre would be appropriate. We free feed whey although most of what the pigs consume is the pasture.

    Pasture type, soil type, terrain, climate, season and other things can all affect this too so don't take any numbers too hard and fast.

    Cheers,

    -Walter

  20. One other thought for you, Bruce. Don't think the problem so hard. Real life isn't as exact as the Swine Science book would like us to believe.

    We've raised three batches of pigs 100% on pasture. They took a couple of months extra to reach market weight and were leaner with less marbling and less back fat. Adding dairy to that mix brings the growth rate up and the time to market size about the same as if they were fed grain. This flexibility is a great thing about pigs.

    I'm just reporting our results and have no vested interest in you doing it any particular way. Raise your pigs however you like. They're great animals that are very flexible and robust. They thrive on many diets. Don't think the problem too hard or you'll miss the forest for the trees.

    Cheers,

    -Walter

  21. Irene Sandler says:

    I am looking forward to seeing this flik. Theres a showing coming up near here and were all going. Thanks for the notes.

  22. John says:

    Thx Walt for the notes on pigs and acres and food. It was reading your posts that got us to looking around for alternatives to grain feeding and offering hay to our pigs in the winter. At first they wouldnt eat it at all they just laid on it and I wondered but then after the hay was wet they started eating it. I think this is a key thing. They like decomposing stuff. It is just like out in the field when they are digging up a stump or log. We havent gone as far as you with trying just pasture but we are gradually weaning our way off of corn soy feeds which are all GMO. Thx for all the help and advise!

  23. Hayden says:

    I've just moved and have been wondering recently what my food budget will be since there are huge regional differences between SF and rural Michigan.

    Given that breakfast today was oatmeal and fruit, and lunch was homemade lentil soup and homemade bread… I'm guessing my budget will stay low.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Walter,

    When you raised strictly on pasture and hay, how long to butcher weight and what season?

    Thanks,
    Brad

  25. It took a couple of extra months to bring pigs to market weight on pasture alone compared with feeding corn/soy commercial hog feed. The meat of purely pastured pigs was very lean with less marbling and little back fat. This was over the spring, summer, fall months.

    Adding dairy gives calories and lysine, a limiting protein. Both are low on pasture alone. We found that adding the dairy brings up the back fat and marbling as well as increasing the growth rate to the same as on commercial hog feed or grain diets. The meat of the pasture/hay + dairy fed pigs has a sweet taste, particularly noticeable in the delicious fat. Excess dairy is a long time traditional food for pigs, a way of turning the left overs from making cheese into tasty, high quality lipids and protein.

    Dirt provides valuable minerals – do get a soil test to see if yours is lacking in anything. This is why as I've mentioned before it is important to provide winter time access to dirt.

    Additional things like pumpkins, beets, turnips, apples and such round out the diet. Diet is not simply calories but also proteins, vitamins, minerals, fiber and such.

    It is important not to over think the problem with pencil and calculator but rather to spend time observing the animals and then adjust their diet accordingly. Here is a article I posted a while ago that will explain this in greater detail.

    Cheers,

    -Walter

  26. Anonymous says:

    Walter,
    Can you please add some ideas as to how much dairy you feed a pig?

    I realize most will eat all they can, but what might a daily/weekly minimum per pig be?
    Thx again!

    Brad

  27. I can give you numbers for various things but it won't pencil out for you. Better to look at the diet as a whole and work with what you get rather than focusing in too tightly on how much the animals eat of specific items. I've given numbers before, that are averages over the herds over time, but people then abuse those numbers by trying to formulate a feed from them. Worse yet two people have misquoted me changing what I said from the word diet to the word calories which are totally different things. Diet is the whole. Calories are one part of a diet. There is also proteins of many types, minerals, vitamins, fiber, etc. More over all things are not the same and can't be just penciled out unless your hogs are in a confinement type operation.

    For example, consumption of the whey varies greatly depending on several factors including:

    – type of dairy
    – type of pig (e.g., sow vs piglet vs grower…)
    – size of pig
    – season
    – air temperature
    – forage
    – rain
    – what else they're eating

    Sometimes we get very thin whey, sometimes we'll get milk, sometimes it is a load of cream or even a load of butter. In addition to the big tanks we also have a lot of 50 gallon food barrels we use to store heavy dairy such as cream, butter, cheese and such when we get loads so we don't have to feed it all out at once. In our cool climate it stores well almost any time of the year.

    Rather than fixating on three decimal points of calories I would suggest providing a base diet, we use pasture and hay, with something else that provides lysine and calories. Then adjust with the seasons (they need more calories in winter), the age of the pig, the condition of the pig, etc.

    Observing your animals and adjusting to their needs is very important. Otherwise just stick with a commercial feed that someone has pre-calculated for you. It's not rocket science but don't over think the problem.

    Cheers,

    -Walter

  28. Linda says:

    Yes, as John Seymour said about milk cows – "Stockmanship is a matter of constant keen observation and common sense. Look at your animals: learn what the "bloom of health" means. Watch their condition. Are they getting fatter or thinner? Watch their milk yield, watch how hungry they seem to be. The "stockmans eye" may not be given to everyone but it can usually be acquired." That can go for every type of animal you are growing…

  29. Sam says:

    Saw it last night. The movie could have been twice as long and it would have kept me on the edge of my seat. I realize they have to cut it down for the mainstream but there was so much more I would have liked details on. Really good exposĂŠ.

  30. MMP says:

    We were able to watch it on Netflix Watchit now (streamed off the internet).

  31. Karen says:

    Food, Inc definitely makes you want to raise your own meat or buy direct from someone you know raises and butchers humanely. My skeptical hubby watched the movie with me, and it kept us both very interested all the way through. Though afterward he said oh, it's very biased; he then purchased it and has been passing it around where he works :-D The ones he's loaned it to have told him it makes them want to a) go vegetarian or b) buy all their chicken and pork from me! He doesn't like being involved in the butchering process, but at least it made him more accepting of my desire to raise our own. I raised 90 meat chickens and a pig for our freezer in 2009 (plus two extra pigs to sell), and bought half a beef from a friend who also raises her animals humanely.

  32. Patricia says:

    One more question. I always have more questions, sorry. Your pigs free range, but do they chomp the grass down to nothing, or is it six inches tall when they are done with it, etc.? I section off pieces of our acre and rotate the pigs down the fenceline with new paddocks or whatever you call them. My plan was that they would clear the grass, till the ground, then I move them and plant something in the old place. That worked pretty well, but I let one place go too long because everytime I planted corn, my stupid chickens would EAT THE SEED (MMmmmm… fried chicken sounds GOOD!). I planted 3 different times in corn and beans. Stupid chickens. Anyways, the weeds grew back up to about 8 inches or so or bigger, so I let the pigs back into part of it. They don’t seem to be working it down much, but it’s summer and the ground was getting dry. I ran the house over it for them to have a wallowing spot, but they aren’t rooting much or munching much. They seem to do that more when it’s rainy weather, but I am puzzled how to get them to chow when it’s dry on the weeds. I want to primarily free range like you do, not supplement with feed as much. They seem to prefer the feed right now. If they get hungry enough will they flatten down the grass finally? Thoughts?

  33. Kyle says:

    I loved that movie! Really puts into perspective how farming has been manipulated in certain areas. I watched a documentary on BBC a while back that talked about Jamie Oliver and how he’s helped change the nutritional value of school meals, which is a giant leap from the original staples they were used to.

  34. douglas says:

    > Big Ag is stealing from your pocket on tax day for subsidies,
    > stealing from you when you shop and stealing from you when you > eat.

    Watch what you say in public my friend. Those are not nice people.
    Amerika is no longer the home of the brave and the land of the free.

    Had you not noticed?

    Go north young man, go north.
    Na, sorry, each to his own. We are having the blight spreading up here with Harperism lately. Same BS.

    Don’t get excited, keep your ass low, get connected, draw major blood….. donttreadonme
    acanuck 2nd gen. the 6th

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