Food, Inc.: Summary & Analysis of Today's Food Industry

Food, Inc., is a documentary that looks at industrial agriculture and its production of meat, grains, and vegetables. The film explores how the food industry has been controlled and consumed by large corporations and how it produces negative effects on those who engage with the system. Food Inc. is a disturbing account of what the food industry doesn’t want us to know. The main question that comes to mind when watching this documentary is “where does my food come from?” and simply put, nobody truly knows.

The movie explores supermarkets, the production of beef and chicken, as well as the production of corn (grains) that make up the production of industrialized agriculture. The modern agricultural system’s main focus is doing things cheaper, and faster to produce as much as possible for maximum profit. Thus, the reason why industrialization is so prevalent in the food system is directly related to profit. It’s cheaper for these corporations to mass-produce food, which is demanded by the handful of companies that govern the industry.

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Large industries are misinterpreting farming practices to consumers. These industries are heavily involved in the practices of battery cages, massive cornfields, and congested animal feeding operations.

The documentary was eye-opening in that it showed how factory farms operate like factory lines. The documentary shows footage of battery cages for chickens in which thousands of chickens are shoved into tiny cages where they can barely move. In order to keep costs low, farmers feed corn to animals, which have lasting effects on their digestive tracts.

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For instance, a natural diet for cattle is grass. On factory farms, they are fed corn, which causes major digestive issues and can lead to e.coli in food sources. When the animals at these farms are so crammed together they stand in each other’s fecal matter all day, which can lead to e.coli seeping its way into the food chain. The way food is marketed to consumers is an image of a farmer out in a field with their free-range animals. The industrialization of agriculture produces several negative effects. One topic that seems implicit throughout the movie is the exploitation and abuse of animals.

To begin this section, it would be helpful to define what the exploitation and abuse of animals are. The exploitation that directly harms the most animals is their use for food (Animal-Ethics, 2019). Due to speciesist thinking, humans are under the impression that using animals for food is fine and that animals suffer no harm (Animal-Ethics, 2019). However, as will be discussed, factory farms and industrial agriculture cause tremendous amounts of pain and suffering to animals. These facilities have been termed “torture chambers” for animals (Animal-Ethics, 2019). The abuse and exploitation of animals in factory farms are evident. In today’s factory farms, animals are crammed by the thousands into dirty windowless sheds and stuffed into wire cages, metal crates, and other torturous devices ( Factory farming is all about maximizing profits and minimizing costs, all at the animals’ expense. Giant corporations, much like the ones from Food, Inc., have found they can maximize income by squeezing as many animals as they can into small spaces ( Instead of the farmers addressing the needs of the animals to produce a quality product, the animals are looked on to meet the needs of the industry (Ostrow & Lovell, 2014; Scrufari, 2016). Meeting the needs of the industry can cause an abundance of pain for these animals. Take for instance a dairy cow, who in the 1950s produced on average around 665 gallons of milk every year.

This average has increased dramatically since the beginning of the 2000s (Ostrow & Lovell, 2014). By 2002, a cow was expected to produce 2320 gallons of milk per year, an astonishing 1655-gallon difference. Under this business model, animals are not seen as sentient beings, who can feel pleasure and pain and happiness or loss, but as a means of profit or as units of production (Ostrow & Lovell, 2014; Scrufari, 2016). To achieve maximum profit and minimal costs, these farm animals are maimed, forced into cramped spaces, raised in unnatural settings, fed diets that provide no nutritional value, and fattened with growth hormones (Ostrow & Lovell, 2014). Common practices of these factory farms are the amputation of their tails, castration, beak searing to prevent hen-pecking, and horn and beak removal. These common practices cause a great deal of pain and suffering to the animal’s weeks after the procedure has been completed. To make matters worse, animals are not provided pain-killers as they are not cost-efficient to these industries (Ostrow & Lovell, 2014).

Farm animals spend their entire lives cramped in horrific conditions and are denied their natural aspects of life. The dairy cow is confined in a stall so small that it can barely move or lie down. They are artificially inseminated and are pregnant for most of their lives (Ostrow & Lovell, 2014). Immediately after giving birth, the calf is taken away which causes significant mental stress on the mother. Cows are typically injected with a growth hormone to stimulate and increase milk production (Ostrow & Lovell, 2014). If we compare the treatment of dairy cows to beef cattle, the same result can be seen. Beef cattle are fed an unnatural diet, to maximize growth and body mass. This causes digestive issues and the inability to walk and move around which is associated with unnatural body weight (Ostrow & Lovell, 2014). After reaching a goal weight, the cattle are shipped to the slaughterhouse where they are shot in the head with a bolt gun to render them unconscious. Pigs are treated in much of the same fashion as the other animals in factory farms (Ostrow & Lovell, 2014). When pigs reach 40 pounds, they are put into confined areas where they can barely move. This is where they will spend the next four months of their life, before being sent to the slaughterhouse. Most animals in the slaughterhouse are still conscious when their necks are slit on the conveyer belt (Ostrow & Lovell, 2014). Animal exploitation and abuse is a key practice of modern-day factory farming.

How do this exploitation and abuse occur? The simple answer is speciesism. Peter Singer in the 1970’s popularized the term “speciesism,” which refers to discrimination based on a species membership (Baumann, 2018). Humans show speciesism when they give less weight to the interests of non-human animals than they give to their own interests (Yancy & Singer, 2015). Speciesism can be seen in the exclusion of farm animals to all animal cruelty laws and regulations (New York Times, 2015). Factory-farmed animals are left out in the cold and are rarely protected under these provisions. Speciesism is what allows industries to cram thousands of chickens into battery cages, inject animals with growth hormones, and allow slaughterhouses to operate (Baumann, 2018). It is well-known that human people value themselves over any and all other species, so it comes as no surprise that speciesism is what drives the industrial agriculture business. On top of that, humans have a craving for meat, which has led to the vast expansion of factory farming (Singer, 2015).

Consumers almost take on wilful blindness and believe everything they see through advertising techniques. These large corporations want consumers to think that the meat or dairy in which they are purchasing came from a free-range animal, in which they spent the majority of their lives free and pain-free. A stark contrast to what actually happens within the walls of these corporations. The only way to prevent this attitude towards animals is to simply stop eating meat. However, that is implausible at best. What needs to happen is a law under the constitution which gives animals equal consideration to humans (Ostrow & Lovell, 2014). Obviously, that is a tough task, considering animals cannot talk. Another way of changing course is to change our attitudes and mindset about animals in general. Rather than looking at them as objects or tools, used in the production of meat, we must acknowledge that they are sentient beings, capable of feeling pain and pleasure, who deserve basic rights and for those rights not to be violated. Overall, Food Inc. was an insightful documentary that shows the implications and negative effects industrial agriculture has on non-human animals.

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Food, Inc.: Summary & Analysis of Today's Food Industry. (2020, Sep 10). Retrieved from

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