Food Inc.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Food writer Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food, and Robert Kenner, the director of the new documentary Food INC., discuss the upcoming film. Food INC. opens this Friday at Film Forum.


Robert Kenner and Michael Pollan

Comments [34]

Jeffrey Slott from East Elmhurst

Mr. Kenner was also interviewed on the PBS Now program last Friday. I posted this comment on the website and I would like to repeat it here. While I certainly agree that the industrial food system that exists in this country has done more harm than good, I find the claim that it's more expensive to eat healthy home meals and cheaper to eat at a McDonald's (not even taking into account the later health and environmental costs) to be totally off the mark. I am able to prepare dinners for my mate and I for three or four dollars, including desserts (which is always fresh fruit). A family of four or five could easily feed themselves a healthy and tasty dinner for around ten or twelve dollars, the same amount, if not less, as the family profiled in "Food, Inc." claimed to have spent at a fast-food place. The secret is setting priorities and being responsible for living up to them. In this case, you just have to learn what to shop for and where, plus expend just a little more energy in the kitchen.

Jun. 10 2009 07:44 AM
hjs from 11211

no problem you have some great ideas and u sound nothing like peter. my only point was people need to get going on this. something is always better than nothing.

Jun. 09 2009 04:59 PM
JP from Garden State


With all due respect we will all be dead by the time your marketing scheme would work. That's just way to slow of an approach to this very seriously urgent problem. Plus for your idea to work, organic food would have to inevitably be industrialized. Cell phones did not get cheap just because people bought more of them. They became cheap because there was more demand so they were more mass produced. The only way to lower the price on anything sold on such a large scale is mass production. This completely flies in the face of conventional organic farming. It’s a simple supply and demand thing…. I think everyone is forgetting how huge of a supply and demand factor is involved with the food supply of a country that has 300+ million people.

It would also help if we stopped insisting on procreating like rabbits….

Oh god, am I sounding as neurotic as Peter from Sunset Park? Sorry....

Jun. 09 2009 04:24 PM
JP from Garden State

More mechanization. Mechanization makes harvesting and planting far more efficient. This helps because we don’t have to import food that can be grown cheaper in countries with a far cheaper labor force then ours. Just because it comes cheap from another country does not mean it did not come with a huge carbon footprint to get it here.

These are just a very few suggestions that could be done to help that neither side wants to really do because it does not support their “cause”. It’s going to take a fusion of organic and commercial farming to solve this problem and it needs to be solved yesterday.

Jun. 09 2009 04:08 PM
JP from Garden State

For starters, the farm bill. Get rid of most of it. There are some good things but most if it hurts the real farmers (not gentleman farmers), the public, our land and our food supply. A lot of it favors rich folk that aren’t even farmers or in the food industry. In fact, get politics out of our food supply as much as possible. It does way more harm then good. There have been some simple advances that have been very effective in large scale farming like no till farming that help the land on large farms. But this does not work for all soil conditions. A lot more advances like this are needed that add value to the crop and land without destroying both or adding chemicals. Huge sums of money from public and private sources need to be spent right now on Ag with how crops are grown and harvested. Organic farming is not nearly as efficient as commercial farming. This has to change to compete with commercial farming. The average real farmer has to get everything he can out of each acre of land so he can pay for his land, workers and equipment. He can’t do this by loosing up to 30% of his crop. Even more money needs to be spent on figuring out how to control water runoff on the fields. The biggest problem with small scale organic farms all the way up to 1000 acre commercial farms is run-off. Organic or chemical run off will equally render a local water supply useless if field runoff is not controlled. Runoff also caries away many needed nutrients.

Jun. 09 2009 04:08 PM
hjs from 11211

the more people that eat local/slow food, the more the prices will come down, then even more will buy.

Jun. 09 2009 03:34 PM


Fair enough, so how do we effect the massive change you are talking about?

Jun. 09 2009 02:26 PM
JP from Garden State


The food movement needs more of your comments like #25, good common sense cause and effect information with a logical diet solution. This type of info could help the consumer make the right choice and hopefully buy less twinkees.

But the Organic movement seems to be on the slow boat to China. The best analogy I can give is this whole slow food movement is just like the “clean coal” movement. The coal companies know they are polluting and they are now more then happy to point it out because they are implementing “clean coal”. The only problem is no such thing exists. Its just like the slow food movement. They are quick to point out all the problems with our food system but they don’t have any economically feasible large scale realistic solutions for a quick major overhaul that was needed yesterday, not a generation from now. You can’t just pick and choose small pieces to this problem and tell everyone to buy expensive organics and all our problems will go away maybe in a few decades. It has to be addressed head on, all at once. And one of the most important things that everyone seems to forget is that our industrial food is created by hundreds of thousands of real people. You can’t just discard these workers and farmers. They have to be part of the solution to because the job is such a huge task that it would be impossible not to.

Jun. 09 2009 02:11 PM

I just read in the Times that Martha Stewart is pushing this film for its organic food advocacy, tweeting about it and its message.

I don't know if she can answer all of JP's questions, but I think this move on her part is in the right direction.

Glad she is beginning to understand the food chain and responsibility... who knew? I have to say I'm pleasantly surprised.

Jun. 09 2009 01:41 PM


you need to tell the difference between a fiber-rich complex carb and a piece of Wonder bread. Carbs are not all equal.

It's not the "protein v. carbs" argument - it's that Americas eat too much and move too little.

And you can make a complete protein by combining legumes, grains and a small amount of dairy.

Atkins is dead. Read Dr. Dean Ornish, who has proved in clinical studies that you can reverse heart disease far more effectively with a very low-fat diet and exercise, than through invasive procedures such as stents. And obviously, Type II diabetes wouldn't occur if people weren't sedentary. The very act of exercising primes the cells to create insulin.

As someone who did more than her fair share of caring for Diabetes Type II and heart disease patients, I recommend that you acknowledge your meat-aholic preferences for what they are. Preferences, not science.

Ana Maria: I salute you!

Jun. 09 2009 01:23 PM
JP from Garden State

Jodi from NY,

My problem is the grand scope of farming and the population that needs to be fed that I don’t think people realize how big it is. The town I grew up in used to be mostly farmland. Now there are 2 small farms left and they are all but “gentleman’s farm”. I don’t think people realize the amount of local farmland that has disappeared and the large percentage of it that will never be able to came back. I don’t think people realize that if you want true local supplied foods only, you can kiss goodbye most of the fruits and vegetables you love to eat all year round. I don’t think people realize there are parts of this country that have large populations but exists in climates that cant sustain any type of vegetation.

I think it should be a mandatory field trip for everyone to visit the Midwest. Most of Iowa alone is nothing but corn fields and soy. Its truly frightening and extremely overwhelming when you see it for first time and its more overwhelming to realize to displace all this farm land from Iowa alone across this country is going to take a heck of lot more then bringing old small farms back to life and creating urban framing. I think then everyone would get a better grip on how big this problem really is and how it has to be solved now and not latter.

Jun. 09 2009 12:05 PM
hjs from 11211

those 'hunters' died at 40. their only function was to raise kids then they were gone.
i agree with "today's sedentary life styles, carbs are the real killers!" don't runner eat pasta before a marathon

Jun. 09 2009 12:03 PM
Mia from Brooklyn

Brian, you left the impression that eating meat is better than eating complex carbs when you discussed rice. That's not the case, in fact, consuming large amounts of animal protein is also a risk factor for diabetes, along with a host of other chronic conditions affecting millions of Americans. Plant-based foods -- particularly vegetables and legumes -- are healthy for people and the environment. One issue you and the guests didn't touch on is sustainability. There's no way the whole world can eat as much meat and dairy as Americans do, given water and land limits, as well as climate change. It's not desirable that they do, either - and yet the very food companies investigated in "Food, Inc." are busy setting up operations in China, India, and other developing countries. For more on the growth of factory farming in China, and the impacts, as well as other issues of food, climate, sustainability and equity, see

Jun. 09 2009 11:56 AM
Ana Maria Quispe from Kearny NJ

It is up to the consumer to take matters into your own hands as Chomsky stated. The Organic Consumer Association is organizing educational tours for anyone who would like to be self sustainable. Visit their web site.
I quit mi job in hospitals I have a teaching position one day a week and I cook for a friend on Sundays. Other days I volunteer....My very small garden, the local farmer market, whole sale grains and nuts are enough for my caloric intake and my salary of under $12,000 a year with NO government help at 52!. Yes you can eat well organic or just unprocessed foods! that has been my health insurance for the past 10 years and I had learn even more from my Cuban experience!

Jun. 09 2009 11:49 AM
Jodi from NY

JP from Garden State, I'm trying to keep up with you, but those are all great questions. I understand where you are coming from when you say "poor folk get more and more priced out of healthy food." I'm no expert, just a regular person, like I am assuming you are. Some of the questions you are asking may be answered by the food justice movement, urban agriculture, and community gardens.

"How are you going to reclaim old farmland for new small farms that now have housing on that old farmland?"
You may not have to. Possibly with community gardens and farms in urban/suburban areas...on schools, churches, etc. Think of using some of the space which is only currently being used for aesthetic lawns and landscaping. Also rooftop gardens.

Check out Van Jones, The People's Grocery, LaDonna Redmond, and/or Raj Patel.

Also many Farmers' Markets and Co-ops accept EBT and accommodate low and moderate income individuals. Many co-ops also offer discounts based on volunteer hours. Hope that helps.

Jun. 09 2009 11:47 AM
JP from Garden State

Once again the slow food movement has sadly let me down. Once again just pointing out the problems but no real concrete solutions to the serious food problems we have and once again I’m told to buy expensive food in hopes that some day in the far off future our food system might slowly make a change for the better. Meanwhile every day our land gets more fowled and our poor are priced out of healthy food…

Jun. 09 2009 11:46 AM
JP from Garden State

Edward from NJ,

You can do that but there are some serious financial problems with that idea. Most buildings are not designed to hold several tones of soil and a snow load at the same time. Major roof reinforcement would have to be implemented and this would be extremely expensive if you wanted to do it on a large scale. Another problem would be demolition of old buildings. Extremely expensive do because the hazardous materials that old buildings are made of. You cant just rip down aspestos and materials like it in the open air and dump it in the local landfill.

Jun. 09 2009 11:34 AM
hjs from 11211

josh karan
you can't suggest that vitamins from a bottle are equal to vitamins from the earth and plants

Jun. 09 2009 11:30 AM
Erica from Brooklyn NY

I agree with JP from Garden State. This is a huge issue. Asking people to buy local and organic food isn't enough. We need real policy changes.

Jun. 09 2009 11:29 AM
Nina from East Village

That was way too short a segment. :(

Jun. 09 2009 11:28 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Dr. Atkins was the only one who told the whole truth about food, but was largely ignored by the mainstream media which is heavily dependent on processed food advertising. The fact is that for hundreds of thousands of years, humans hunted for meat, eggs, scoured for berries and the like.
It was the introduction of wheat, rice, corn, sugar and other high carbohydrate foodstuffs that on the one hand made it possible for the human population skyrocket, but on the other hand introduced obesity and all of its related ailments. There was never a fat hunter or gatherer of roots and berries. Obesity came with the farming and ingestion of high carbohydrate grains. But as long as people worked very hard, they could burn it off. With today's sedentary life styles, carbs are the real killers!

Jun. 09 2009 11:27 AM
Jack Daroom from New York, NY

I just read The One-Straw Revolution, which had an endorsement from Michael Pollan, saying it was one of the founding documents of the alternative food movement. I picked it up because of Pollan's endorsement and am so pleased that I did. Are there any other books that either of the guests recommend?

Jun. 09 2009 11:25 AM
Nina from East Village

Could you ask Michael Pollan about his views on milk -- skim v. low-fat v. whole, raw v. pasteurized, etc....

Also, the large industrial dairy farms in NY State are destroying the environment. They may have something to say about that.

Jun. 09 2009 11:24 AM
Amy from Manhattan

To tie in another issue, does the clip of the woman talking about the cost of eating vegetables vs. the cost of her husband's diabetes meds also imply that their insurance (if they have it) doesn't cover the meds adequately? Of course, it'd be better not to need them....

Jun. 09 2009 11:23 AM
Edward from NJ

Excellent questions JP... One answer for the where-to-farm questions is urban areas. Vertical farming ( would allow local, sustainable agriculture in, say, Newark.

Jun. 09 2009 11:22 AM
Peter from NYC

This is such an important film and a "must see" to have an insight in where a lot of our food comes from. I saw it at Full Frame Film Festival earlier this year. The film lays out very clearly and specifically the power and intimidation tactics of the mega food corporations. The parallel to the tobacco industry in the late 80-90s is right on. Watching the film, when I found myself really getting depressed about the "system" the filmmaker offers hope that change can be made IF we, the consumers do something about it, by spending and voting with our dollars.
Hats off to Robert Kenner, Michael Pollan, Joel Salatin and the other charaters in the the film for their commitment to this vital issue.

Jun. 09 2009 11:22 AM
josh karan from Washington Height District 6 Manhattan

Today Michael Pollin says that the nutritional quality of our food has declined, perhaps because of soil degradation.

In his last visit to this show he derided the value of vitamin supplements.

Do not these supplements do precisely that, supplement & compensate for the lack of such vitamins and minerals in the food?

Jun. 09 2009 11:19 AM
JP from Garden State

We don’t eat tobacco and never had. Nobody was starving to death because people were suing the tobacco companies. Still have not heard any realistic solutions that could be started today to fix our food problems…. Your still just calling out the problems…

Jun. 09 2009 11:18 AM
Karen from Westchester

This is more of the political economy enslaving our minds - which Noam Chomsky's critics on the previous show reveal they can not see, hear or understand.

Jun. 09 2009 11:18 AM
josh karan from Washington Height District 6 Manhattan

Today Michael Pollen says that the nutritional value of our food has declined, perhaps because of soil degradation.

On his last appearance on this show he derided the value of vitamin supplements.

Do these nutritional supplements do just that, supplement the degraded food nutrition?

Jun. 09 2009 11:16 AM
Melanie Cohn from Staten Island

Good food habits can also be instilled in the work place. A month ago my organization started a wellness program. We now have fresh fruit, vegetables, and yogurt for people to purchase and eat all day long. Plus we promote exercise with a figurette break at 3pm. We're all feeling better after only a month!

Jun. 09 2009 11:16 AM
mozo from nyc

This is good stuff. Keep it up!

Jun. 09 2009 11:14 AM
hjs from 11211

this is all part of the oil chemical system that we are all slaves of

Jun. 09 2009 11:13 AM
JP from Garden State

Our food system is in dire trouble and politically motivated and corrupt. But all I here from the slow food movement for a solution is to buy expensive food and slowly but surly the food system will change. Meantime, poor folk get more and more priced out of healthy food and the environment gets more and more destroyed while we wait for this so called food revolution that may or may not come in the next couple of decades. To date, I have not heard any realistic solutions to problems that plague this so called slow food movement. Maybe your guest has some solutions to these problems. Could you please ask them at least one of these questions?

How do you grow local and sustainable food for huge populations in cities like Las Vegas and Phoenix which are out in the desert?

How do plan to feed America with local farms when the last time local farms where the only food source for America was back when the population was half the size it is now (America has never had to feed 300 million people in its entire existence)?

How are you going to reclaim old farmland for new small farms that now have housing on that old farmland?

Where are you going to house all these people displaced by reclaimed farmland?

If your not going to reclaim old farmland, are you going to clear cut forests for new farmland?

Who is going to pay for all of this new farmland?

Where are you going to get all these new farmers for a new farming revolution (farming is a lifelong career and is not something that can be learned in one summer)?

What are you going to do with states like North Dakota where the average size farm is around 1000 acres but all the land is privately owned (it is illegal to incorporate farm land in North Dakota)? Are you going to take away farmers private land to dived it up into smaller farms?

Jun. 09 2009 11:05 AM

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