Food Inc., a documentary by Robert Kenner, sheds light on the importance of food in our daily lives and its impact on our well-being. The film reveals alarming truths about factory farming and how it affects both humans and animals. Through his expertise as a renowned director and producer, Kenner effectively exposes the harsh realities of corporate agriculture.
Kenner argues that the food consumed today holds potential harm to people’s health and has negative effects on the lives of animals and humans involved in its production. To support his claim, Kenner uses pathos, exemplification, and imagery. The film evokes a sense of sadness and sorrow to appeal to viewers’ emotions. Pathos is evident in the documentary through the depiction of the cramped and substandard living conditions of chickens at Tyson farms, as well as the tragic death of a child named Kevin due to E. coli poisoning.
Kenner uses exemplification to provide examples of his argument and their connection to each claim. The versatility of corn and the effects of corn-fed cows are examples of this exemplification. Additionally, imagery plays a key role in conveying concepts and enhancing understanding. The movie’s tone is greatly influenced by the effective use of imagery, particularly in depicting the chickens’ living conditions, the amount of manure associated with cows in the slaughterhouse, and the working conditions at the Smithfield slaughterhouse.
Robert Kenner explores the genuine issue of the food industry’s true intentions and trustworthiness in providing food for markets and restaurants. Over the past fifty years, significant changes have taken place in the food market, with profitability becoming the primary objective for food industries. However, this mindset poses risks to both animals and humans. Kenner employs a problem and solution structure to enhance understanding of his argument. He utilizes pathos, or emotional appeal, through video clips that effectively evoke viewers’ emotions. These clips depict graphic, sorrowful, or harsh scenes that successfully invoke pathos. The first chapter titled “Fast Food to All Food” already incorporates pathos by highlighting the living conditions experienced by chickens. Due to high demand for food, companies like Tyson now mass-produce chickens at an accelerated pace without considering their well-being as living beings. As noted by Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, these chickens are raised and slaughtered twice as quickly compared to fifty years ago while also reaching double their previous size.
Kenner highlights this fact by displaying a striking visual representation of the size difference among the chickens. Carole Morison, a Perdue grower, explains how chickens developed in a span of seven weeks, emphasizing that “their bones and internal organs cannot match their rapid growth.” She observes that these chickens struggle to stand, even taking a few steps before collapsing under the heavy weight they carry. Witnessing such a basic task as walking becomes a poignant reminder of the chickens’ distress.
Tyson farms had small and problematic chickens. The living conditions were also concerning, with the chickens being raised in terrible farmhouses. Vince Edwards, a Tyson chicken grower, mentioned that the chickens “never see sunlight and are pretty much in the dark the whole time”. It is difficult to envision a world devoid of sunlight. Additionally, there is an excessive number of chickens, leading to accelerated disease transmission and heightened filthiness. Kenner presents footage of Carole Morison’s chicken houses as evidence of overcrowded conditions for the chickens.
Carole, a Perdue grower, describes her farmhouse as a place filled with dust and feces. Pathos is also evident in the third chapter titled “Unintended Consequences” where Barbara Kowalcyk recounts the loss of her son, Kevin, due to an E. coli infection. According to Barbara, Kevin went from being perfectly healthy to dead in just twelve days. Kenner highlights Barbara’s grief by mentioning the tears she shed while describing Kevin’s intense thirst in the hospital, leading him to “bite the head off of a [sponge].”
He pleaded for water incessantly, the only thing he could talk about. He contracted the infection from consuming a hamburger during a family vacation. Despite being a vibrant and robust young boy, Kenner opted for a smaller, square screen frame with a black and white color scheme and somber music in an attempt to evoke a sense of “home” in the video. Through showcasing clips of Kevin’s joyful moments on the vacation, the video evokes an emotional response from viewers, creating a melancholic effect. It is unfathomable to imagine the untimely demise of such a content and healthy young boy.
Watching Barbara’s son in the videos brought about a profound feeling of pity in me, as I witnessed the immense happiness he radiated shortly before his premature death. The occurrence of an E. coli infection serves as a stark reminder of how vulnerable food safety is and how anyone can be affected by its most severe consequences. Kevin’s infection was caused by a new strain of E. Coli known as E. Coli 0157:H7, which emerged due to changes in cows’ diet – they are now being fed corn instead. The following chapter, appropriately titled “A Cornucopia of Choices,” explores the significant role that corn plays in the food industry. It not only forms part of livestock feed but also acts as a base ingredient for various products like maltodextrin, xanthum gum, and high fructose corn syrup.
The presence of mysterious elements in modern food is exemplified by corn. It serves as a tangible demonstration to explain a larger idea. Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, explains that numerous food products are cleverly derived from corn. This versatile crop can be transformed into various substances including high fructose corn syrup, maltodextrin, di-glycerides, and others. Additionally, it plays a role as animal feed in the meat industries.
Kevin contracted his infection from an E. Coli 0157:H7 strain-infected cow, which was fed with corn. According to Pollan, cows are naturally meant to consume grass, not corn. However, feeding cows corn can lead to the development of harmful bacteria like E. Coli, which can then infect humans like Kevin. Kenner presents Kevin’s case as a symbolic illustration of the potential consequences of participating in the food industry. In his argument, Kenner employs vivid imagery to support his viewpoint.
Imagery refers to the use of descriptive language to depict objects, actions, or concepts. Several scenes containing vivid imagery left a lasting impact on me. These included the deplorable living conditions of the chickens, the excessive amount of manure on the cows, and the state of the workers in the Smithfield slaughterhouse. Another unsettling image from the “Fast Food to All Food” chapter was the appalling living conditions of the chickens. Carole Morison, a Perdue chicken grower, described her chicken house as follows: “it is nasty in here, there is dust flying everywhere, there is feces everywhere.”
I find this living condition absolutely disgusting. Another image that disturbed me was the amount of manure the cows in the slaughterhouse had to deal with in the “A Cornucopia of Choices” chapter. Michael Pollan stated, “the animals stand ankle deep in their manure all day long” and once the cows reach the slaughterhouse, “their hides are caked with manure.” Considering the abundance of manure, it is difficult to imagine how unclean our meat must be. The situation of the workers in the Smithfield slaughterhouse in the “In the Grass” chapter affected me with great disdain.
One Smithfield worker compared the workers to the hogs, noting that both are considered “temporary” and that “everything has an end”. The worker mentioned that employees would often develop infections under their fingernails, causing them to separate from their fingers. Additionally, workers would regularly be covered in blood, feces, and urine. Hearing about the workers’ fingernails separating was shocking for me and made me realize the harshness of their working conditions. The descriptive language used in this documentary sends shivers down my spine when it comes to the realities of the food industry.
Robert Kenner’s documentary effectively provides strong evidence to support the assertion that today’s food can be unsafe for consumption. Furthermore, he emphasizes the negative impact on both animals and humans involved in the process of producing food. Kenner expertly employs pathos, exemplification, and imagery to strengthen his argument. The use of pathos is evident in scenes depicting the appalling living conditions and overcrowding of chickens bred for slaughter. It is also illustrated through Barbara Kowalcyk’s emotional devastation following her son Kevin’s illness caused by E. coli contamination.
coli. The author uses exemplification to illustrate the versatility of corn and the development of E. coli in corn-fed cows. Additionally, Kenner employs imagery to describe objects, actions, and ideas. The overall argument is that the food we consume is dangerous, and the food industry operates on a market system.