When most people think of propaganda films, they associate them with a major organization that has a negative or detrimental political agenda that reaches a large audience. For instance, the propaganda films from Nazi Germany are infamous for spreading the negative ideals of the Nazi party through the medium of film in order to present their message to the country. However, elements of propaganda films can also be incorporated into films that have messages that seek to implement positive change within society. For example, the Academy Award nominated documentary Food, Inc. has a mission of revealing the detrimental practices of corporate farming in the U.S. food industry; at the end, the film provides audience with steps they can take to improve the sustainability of their food-purchasing practices. Nevertheless, like other propaganda films, Food, Inc. uses the four stratagems of persuasion in order to convey their message in a visually-striking, almost shocking manner that captures and holds the audience’s attention. Therefore, the four stratagems of persuasion are used in the film Food, Inc. in order to convey the movie’s message as propaganda for positive change.
Pre-persuasion is established immediately in the film’s first scene. The opening credits and one of the film’s commentator’s off-screen narration take place within a typical American grocery store. As the opening credits roll by, one of the film’s commentators noted that most corporate food producers, especially meat companies, use the image of the pastoral farm to advertise their products. According to the commentator on the film, by using the image of a farm, the customers associate farm-fresh quality and wholesomeness with the large corporations’ meat and produce. Sure enough, the grocery store in focus has images of red barns, cattle, and burly white men in overalls over its meat and produce displays. Following the introduction, images of cow carcasses hanging from a conveyor belt in an industrial slaughter-house and an aerial view of miles of a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) with thousands of cows contradict the food companies’ “farm fresh” marketing campaigns. The juxtaposition of the images of the food companies’ campaigns in the grocery store and their actual meat-processing facilities establish pre-persuasion by discrediting the food companies’ advertising campaigns and exposing the true nature of mass food production. Thus, the film’s introduction establishes their credibility with pre-persuasion by exposing the truth behind food companies’ mass-production methods.
The film also establishes source credibility through its commentators and interviewees. Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, both served as commentators in various sections of the movie. Pollan and Schlosser conducted extensive research in the U.S. food industry before the publication of their books on the subject, and both authors and are currently activists for sustainable food production. Schlosser is even shown serving as an advocate against genetically modified produce during a California House of Representatives session focused on developing a law requiring the labeling of genetically modified produce in stores. The film also establishes source credibility by interviewing a contract chicken farmer for Tyson. The farmer took the film crew on a tour in one of her chicken houses where she raised chickens for Tyson. The conditions of the chicken house were severe, with the animals crowded together from hatching to shipment to Tyson with little ventilation or light. The chickens were also given food with growth hormones so that they would reach development faster for quicker production. The farmer expressed disdain for Tyson and their requirements for raising chickens, but she also stated that with production costs, she would not be able to afford to operate the farm independently. Thus, the film establishes credibility by providing sources both inside and outside of the food industry.
Reaction Paper - Food Inc.
My reaction to, and thoughts about, the documentary 'Food Inc.'
Food Inc. 2008. Robert Kenner and Participant Media.
For this reaction paper, I viewed the documentary 'Food Inc.' which explores, in depth, the inner workings of the modern food industry to identify the ways in which food production has changed. Today, our food is often marketed as being "Farm Fresh," which gives consumers the idea that farms still look like they did in the 1930s and 1940s. However, this is not the case. Modern food production appears to be more of a factory than an idealistic farm setting. Thousands of chickens are packed into dark, poorly ventilated houses, hundreds of thousands of cattle are stocked in dry feed lots, and fruits and vegetables don't have growing seasons any more because of genetic engineering. Doesn't this seem wrong?
Food safety and production is an issue that I hold very near to my heart, and this documentary discusses this. Food Inc. goes into detail about how the food industry has become oligopolistic, that is, run by just a few major companies. This is because those companies have developed some sort of edge - via technology, marketing, etc. - which has allowed them to become very successful. Due to this success, they seek out large-scale providers of ingredients necessary to make their products and control the quality of those products, forcing smaller businesses with less say in the matter to comply. This sort of corruption is similar to what has occurred with genetic engineering. I have written multiple papers on the topic, including one last semester, and through my research I have found that the situation is very much the same. In that market, "big buck" companies develop and patent genetically engineered seeds which are in high demand. Due to the patents, however, small farmers cannot compete and are often run out of business because the products they can provide are not in high demand.
Another issue that I care deeply about is the issue of animal welfare. In the English class which I took this semester I wrote a paper on animal welfare, and my research only made me care more about the issue. In the food production industry, the major corporations which control the quality of the products being produced by major providers care only about profit, and not the well being of the animals they are producing. One example in Food Inc. related to chickens. The chickens produced by big corporations such as Tyson and Perdue have engineered the chickens to grow to four times the size of a normal chicken in half the time. Though the skin and muscle have been designed to grow very quickly and efficiently, the bones and internal organs of these modified chickens can not keep up. The documentary showed several clips of these mutant chickens taking a few steps and then having to lay back down because their bodies can not support their weight. This is appalling. Production animals everywhere are suffering so these corrupted companies can dominate the market and keep turning profits.
This documentary has presented issues which relate to classes I have taken in the past, but they relate to Science and Global Change as well. One of these issues relates to climate change. The aforementioned massive corporations only produce mostly-corn-fed animals. In order to produce the corn necessary to feed these animals, the corn must be planted, fertilized, harvested, and transported, and all of these actions contribute to global warming through the production of greenhouse gases. Also, many major production animals such as cattle are not "designed" evolutionarily to efficiently consume and digest corn. They most efficiently digest forage. This indigestion causes for an increased production of gases, particularly methane. This is already known to be a greenhouse gas with a large impact on climate change and global warming. A large portion of Science and Global Change's curriculum for this semester consisted of learning about how human action is impacting our Earth's climate. Food Inc. relates to this in that it discusses how society's actions pertaining to food production are detrimental to our planet.
Overall I found this documentary to be very effective. I think that it covered all of the major aspects of the food production industry and did a good job of pointing out the flaws with each of these aspects. It simplified some of the more complicated components of the industry and made it easy for the audience to comprehend the messages it was trying to convey. However, I do believe it could be made more effective by tying all of the information together better, as well as by providing more of a "So what?" component. All of the sections are well developed but I found it hard to relate them to one another. I also think that, though they did very effectively point out many of the major issues existing in the food industry, the audience could be made to feel more powerful by making them feel as though they have the power to change the issues at hand.