My Review of Food, Inc.

A number of people emailed me to insist that I see it. And, I wasn’t too excited about it. I’ve still not read Pollan’s books, nor have I read Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation. Both authors are featured prominently in this documentary film.

Here’s the official website. Well, we saw the film last weekend, and, I’d wanted to get this review written and published sooner. It’s the unfortunate reality, however, that it’s often when I have the most to say that saying anything at all is the most difficult. That’s where I find myself, and why getting this done has taken longer than I’d have liked. In the end, it’s going to only slightly convey my thoughts on this, so let me just tell you up front: see this film. See it now.

The reason I wasn’t too enamored of seeing it, at first, is that I figured it would mostly rub me the wrong way. I guessed it would mostly be about how "big bad business" ought to be even more tightly regulated than ever (since the mountains of regulations to which they are already subject have worked out so well, I suppose).

While one "sub-plot" of the film was indeed about this aspect of "food politics," it wasn’t nearly at all the theme nor major element of the film. And, in fact, to large extent in my view, the rest of the film undercut the calls for more regulation.

I’ll go a step further. The film was pretty pro-business (on "practical" rather than principled grounds, i.e., freedom and property ownership), and even so for larger corporations. One notable scene was that of a long-time environmentalist who founded an organic yogurt company and has now succeeded in getting his product into Wal-Mart. The rational was, of course, obvious to anyone who knows anything about free-market economics: 1) Wal-Mart will sell what people want to buy, and 2) to the extent that Wal-Mart displaces non-organic, unhealthful products with true organic and healthful ones, it represents a tremendous positive impact in terms of things conservationists, environmentalists, and others worry about: pesticides, chemicals, transportation footprints, etc.

Now, maybe I’m seeing what I want to see here, but this film is more an indictment of government than anything else, and rightly so. After all, how would Monsanto be able to corner the corn and soybean seed markets, if government hadn’t been for sale and Monsanto came forward with the cash (various euphemisms get used, of course)? And Monsanto isn’t the only one. The film makes the point, if I recall numbers correctly, that four mega-companies control over 70% of the food supply in America (in the early 70s, it was under 20%).

Now how could that be? Did they hire private armies and conquer that market share by force? No, they influenced and bought it, and in no small measure due to the important numbers of former corporate players in these firms who now hold appointments and positions all over the FDA and the USDA. And it wasn’t just in the Bush administration. This goes back to Clinton and beyond.

The result is that small farmers either tow the line or face losing contracts with the big boys, and all manner of regulation and court precedent is in place to ensure that the big boys get their way. You see, big corporations love big government and they love regulation. The reason ought to be obvious. On the scale at which they operate, they enjoy economies that allow them to spread regulatory costs over sales in the billions. What’s another few million in regulatory costs for them, when it represents a fraction of one cent for every unit they produce, ship, and sell? On the other hand, how many small guys will be prevented from even getting in the game when the minimum entry-level regulatory cost is in the millions per year?

I’ll make this brief, because readers of this blog know the score: the "food" is crap. Virtually all of it; top to bottom and wall to wall. Even the things us paleos like to eat (meat). In one sense, it’s a fabulous affirmation of the productive power of quasi-"capitalism" (genuine ownership and the freedom to produce would be even better, and small guys could play too, without artificial barriers to entry). These companies are masters at lowering their costs, passing some of those savings on to you for lower prices, and reaping some of the difference for themselves in higher profits.

Jolly, I say: for shoes and automobiles. Food? Nope, I don’t think that anymore. Where in the world did we come to the place where we try to spend the least amount possible for what we ingest into our own bodies? Why do we want to go cheap for something so important?

You can see the film in order to see what is so awful and bad about virtually everything in the local supermarket. What I want to do to wrap this up is to focus in on one of my new heros: Joel Salatin. Joel is the proprietor of Polyface Farms, "the farm of many faces."

By including so much of Joel in the film, the core message becomes clear: you are responsible for what you eat, not the government, and the only real way for good and wholesome food to become ubiquitous and less costly is to get the government out of it.

But what about food safety? Here’s what Bill Marler, a Seattle trial lawyer, has to say:

In 16 years of handling nearly every major food-borne illness outbreak in America, I can tell you I’ve never had a case where it’s been linked to a farmers’ market.

Let me frame it a different way. Suppose there were calls for USDA and FDA regulations for anyone who served food to their guests, in their own homes? Would that make you feel safer, or, do you suppose that it would mostly serve to keep people from serving food to guests altogether (just like the small farmers who don’t want to bother)? Yet, who is best situated to judge the safety and wholesomeness of such food? Is is not you yourself, and is it not by means of having a personal relationship with those serving that food?

So, the reason small local farmers are never implicated in food-borne illness outbreaks is many faceted. First, while they are certainly earning a living, they are typically doing it through means they care a great deal about. They also have personal relationships with many of their customers. You can go to the farmers’ market and talk personally to these people. They can become your friends. You can utilize the best safety system around: your own judgment. When you see hordes of people cheerfully picking through the fruits and veggies, chatting up the farmer and his workers, do you not have a far greater sense of safety and propriety than with the notion that some bureaubot in DC is looking out for you?

Well, if you don’t, then that’s a big part of the reason it has all come to this. Know your food. Know where it comes from. Know who’s producing it.

I fist became aware of Joel Salatin a couple of years ago when someone linked to his essay, Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal. I recommend you read that. An excerpt:

I want to dress my beef and pork on the farm where I’ve coddled and raised it. But zoning laws prohibit slaughterhouses on agricultural land. For crying out loud, what makes more holistic sense than to put abattoirs where the animals are? But no, in the wisdom of Western disconnected thinking, abattoirs are massive centralized facilities visited daily by a steady stream of tractor trailers and illegal alien workers.

But what about dressing a couple of animals a year in the backyard? How can that be compared to a ConAgra or Tyson facility? In the eyes of the government, the two are one and the same. Every T-bone steak has to be wrapped in a half-million dollar facility so that it can be sold to your neighbor. The fact that I can do it on my own farm more cleanly, more responsibly, more humanely, more efficiently, and in a more environmentally friendly manner doesn’t matter to the government agents who walk around with big badges on their jackets and wheelbarrow-sized regulations tucked under their arms.

OK, so I take my animals and load them onto a trailer for the first time in their life to send them up the already clogged interstate to the abattoir to await their appointed hour with a shed full of animals of dubious extraction. They are dressed by people wearing long coats with deep pockets with whom I cannot even communicate. The carcasses hang in a cooler alongside others that were not similarly cared for in life. After the animals are processed, I return to the facility hoping to retrieve my meat.

When I return home to sell these delectable packages, the county zoning ordinance says that this is a manufactured product because it exited the farm and was reimported as a value-added product, thereby throwing our farm into the Wal-Mart category, another prohibition in agricultural areas. Just so you understand this, remember that an on-farm abattoir was illegal, so I took the animals to a legal abattoir, but now the selling of said products in an on-farm store is illegal.

Here, now, take a look at Joel — and see and hear how a farm ought to operate. See and hear about the sorts of people you ought to take the time to get to know in your local area, and to support. I know I’m going to make that effort. (I recommend clicking on the HD button once the video starts.)

One of my favorite scenes in Food, Inc. is of Joel sitting in the grass with his free ranging hogs nearby, eating from a feeder.

All of those pigs tails are wagging, just like a happy dog’s. You’re not likely to see that in a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO).

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More


  1. Ryland on July 22, 2009 at 11:14

    I saw this movie last night and it’s damn good!
    I’ve supported small farms in my area through farmer’s markets and direct buying for some time now. The past few years though, I’ve seen an explosion in my area of people choosing these venues to get their food. It’s almost like a parallel food based economy/distribution system has arisen.
    Hopefully BigAg/gov won’t try to regulate this great advancement away. It’s gained so much interest and acceptance in my area that it may well be beyond the tipping point.

  2. Julie on July 22, 2009 at 11:33

    Very nice review. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I have read Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food, and lesser known, Second Nature. In Omnivore’s Dilemma I remember being completely enamored with Joel Salatin’s way of doing things and appalled that he was so constrained by so-called “safety” regulations. Even in the organic world, the small farmers are at a disadvantage over the big guys that Whole Foods generally supplies from, because of the high annual cost of being “certified organic.” That’s why I’ve begun to pay less attention to the certification, and more attention to where the food comes from. If I’m buying from the local farmer who tells me that he uses sustainable practices in his farm, who cares if he’s “certified organic” or not. I’m happy knowing that I’m supporting local agriculture and not consuming pesticides, rather than having my organic broccoli, flown in from Chile.

    Does the movie also talk about the imbalance of the Omega-6/Omega-3 ratio in CAFO beef? Beef has gotten a bad rap over the years for being low in Omega 3s (among other things)…but grassfed beef is a great source of Omega 3s. Who would have guessed that feeding animals what they’re meant to eat would have a positive effect? 😉

    If you’re interested in this stuff, I definitely recommend Pollan’s books (minus Second Nature…didn’t like that one as much), and Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (one of my favorites! You are welcome to borrow it when I get my copy back from my friend).

    • Richard Nikoley on July 22, 2009 at 13:27

      Yea, I think WF definitely needs to begin paying more attention to sourcing local fare. They could come up with their own organic standards for the small guys that can’t go to the expense of the official certification.

      Otherwise, we’re just going to eventually have “BigOrg” just like we now have BigAgra, if not there already (actually, there was some treatment in the film about how the larger organic producers are being bought by the big boys.

      Another advantage to local is that it undercuts the possibility of these massive food-born illness breakouts that span the country, owing to the mass conglomeration and distribution of food. At one point in the film, for example, they pointed out that a package of ground beef could contain meat from up to 1,300 different cattle. So, local means that if there is a problem, it’s confined locally and it easier to trace and correct.

      They did not touch on the n-6/3 ratio. I personally don’t think that’s a HUGE deal, provided one avoids vegetable oils entirely, processed foods that contain them, and eats nuts in moderation. I also take 3 grams of fish oil per day, and 2 of cod liver oil to further get as near to a 1-1 as I can, give or take a bit. A paleo diet ought to range from 4/1 at most to 1/2 (Inuits). The modern diet is like 15-30/1 n-6 to n-3.

      For an awesome set of posts (and comments on the huge badness that comes from excess n-6, see Stephan’s posts:

      I have one of both of Pollan’s books in my e-reader, and I’ll probably move them closer to the top of the stack. Currently reading Mark Sisson’s The Primal Blueprint, now the go-to guide to the paleo/primal lifestyle, not only in terms of diet, but in all aspects of life.

      Yea, I’d love to borrow Kingsolver’s book and move it to the top.

  3. Fast Weight Loss Diets on July 22, 2009 at 14:06

    I’ve welcomed the new calorie labeling in deciding what to buy fast food places. It instantly reveals what I could only guess before and I’ve been surprised how misguided some of my guesses were. Who would have thought a smallish carrot muffin could be so calorie-heavy?

    • Aaron Blaisdell on July 23, 2009 at 07:56

      Fast Weight Loss Diets,

      I don’t think it’s the calories in the muffin you should be worried about. It’s the grains and industrial oils contained therein. I was on holiday at a fancy resort hotel in Palos Verdes last weekend and for breakfast every morning I ate one large omelet with spinach, cheese, and bacon inside, 5-6 large strips of bacon, 2-3 pieces of sausage (from the 5-6 kinds they provided), a few slices of ham and prosciutto, some of the various cheeses and berries. There were all kinds of donuts, muffins, and danishes but I didn’t even touch those (though the donuts looked tempting). This was a LOT of food at one sitting! Needless to say, I wasn’t hungry until dinner time (actually wasn’t even that hungry then, either) but ate a large dinner consisting of meat (and sweet potato fries one night) and salad and vegetables. Skipped dessert both evenings I was there. When I arrived home two days ago the scale read 138.5 lbs (down from 140 – 141) for the first time since high school (I’m 40 years old now). Whoa! I wasn’t even trying to lose weight, but dropped a couple of pounds anyway. Just completely cut out all grains and see what happens.

  4. CJ Hunt on July 22, 2009 at 15:21

    Hi Richard,
    I saw this film about 3-weeks ago and agree with you completely… the current state of affairs with modern commercial meat supplies is sad and much worse than I had thought.

    Loved seeing Joel Salatin and Polyface Farms- that was really inspiring.

    Folks should see this film… but be prepared to shop for local/organic/farm raised meat & veges… and cook at home more often!


  5. Patrik on July 22, 2009 at 17:21

    Great post Richard. As usual.

    1) Uou are spot-on here:

    >>>>You see, big corporations love big government and they love regulation<<<<<<

    Unfortunately, too many well-meaning people (usually Lefties) just don't see the reality of Big Government in bed with Big Business. The more regulation, the more you get outcomes that most of these aforementioned well-meaning people don't want.

    2) It is awesome that you have no more "wheat face" — I lost mine very quickly as well — BUT you gotta change your new profile pic:

    You look so sad…, damnit! 🙂

    • Richard Nikoley on July 26, 2009 at 17:27


      Here’s the deal with that pic. I like it better than my smiley face, which is quite unnatural for me. My natural face is a serious frown, and it kinda goes with me.

      Bea, my wife, picked this one. She didn’t like the previous one. And plus, I like the depth of field artistry of it. The pots in the foreground and the stainless fridge in background are blurred.

      It was taken by my friend Ale, a green card Italian, and PhD physical chemist for Intel, while I was cooking dinner for him and friends (liver and onions, as I recall, which he devoured). I think it’s here to stay.

      The bottom line is I have to go with what I’m mostly comfortable with.

      But, I understand the need to show various facets of myself. I’ll endeavor to cater to the smileys from time to time.

      Remember this?

    • Richard Nikoley on July 26, 2009 at 17:31

      BTW, Patrik, this somehow got caught by the spam filter and I have no idea why (it’s set to moderation only if 4+ links…). Still getting a handle on the new platform.

      I’d love if there was a way to make flag commenters as “trusted,” so no matter what, it would go through. Obviously, you’d be there.\

      So, I see you’ve waited a while. Hope you didn’t think I would hold or delete because of your criticism. I love constructive criticism.

  6. shel on July 22, 2009 at 22:22

    hear, hear.

    i recently had an argument with a social liberal flake about the supposed evils of WalMart. using his usual illogical hippie argument, he bashed their competitive tactics while ignoring the fact that competition forces quality (if the state stays the hell away). he refused to see that, although some direct competitors (mom & pops) are put out of business, the overall economy in each area dramatically improves with the inclusion of a Walmart.

    the Monsanto thing pisses me off though. i’m pro corporation and despise anti-trust laws that prohibit corp expansion (we can voluntarily boycott if we feel a corp has too much clout), but when corps and the state collude, and for example, use eminent domain to expropriate others’ private property or force other corps out of business because of subsidies, its a heinous evil.

    Monsanto took a canola farmer from Saskatchewan to court for letting “roundup ready” gmo seeds from a neighbor’s field, which had blown into his field, grow in his field.

    despite property issues, and the fact that one can’t control the wind, Monsanto won, further eroding our trust in capitalism.

    capitalism means individualism. corporations are not evil, just like greed and self interest are not evil (unless one believes in magical sky fairies or the subjective whims of one’s own mind). violence, coercion and fraud, however, are. when corps collude with the state, this is what we get: a cynical population who looks upon capitalism with suspicion. very dangerous for liberty. thus, Obama. i hope you guys get over him and get back to the Constitution. i love your country too much to see it lost.

    as for localism, i kill my own grassfed bison, lamb, goats and chickens from farms and ranches in my area.

    f:)ck regulations, f:)ck middlemen and f:)ck the state.

    holy cow! i’ve written a tome…

    thanks for letting me rant. heh…

    • Don Matesz on July 24, 2009 at 06:21


      If you study Wal-Mart and other big box stores I think you will find that they aren’t examples of unfettered capitalism winning market shares via competition, superior quality at a lower price. You will find that they “win” largely because they garner Federal, State, and local government favors not given to small businesses. They frequently get help not given smaller businesses in the forms of eminent domain, property and income tax breaks, road construction, and relaxed regulation. I think you will find that the situation is exactly as in agriculture, that the secret of success for many if not all “big” business lies not in providing better products and lower prices, but in getting favors from government, or by getting laws passed that burden smaller competitors.

      The libertarian/anarchist economist Kevin Carson has written extensively about this issue, attempting to distiguish between free enterprise (e.g. non-subsidized small business, farms, etc.) and capitalism (state-subsidized business). He has one article on this called The Iron Fist Behind the Invisible Hand:

      He argues that in general “big” businesses only succeed in killing small local businesses because they avoid paying for such “benign” State actitivities as building roads, establishing and maintaining ports (water and air), etc., while also getting various favors from the various levels of government.

      If a small business can’t avoid taxation that pays for these things, but Walmart gets tax relief such that they aren’t paying as much or at all for these things, it amounts to small businesses subsidizing their own competitor(s)! No wonder the local hardware goes out of business!

      • Don Matesz on July 24, 2009 at 06:55

        Carson has a series of blogs about Walmart itself here:

      • shel on July 24, 2009 at 10:49

        ~hi Don.

        corps aren’t squeaky clean although the left loves to vilify the obvious targets, and are given sufficient ammo. the problems aren’t with corps, though. the problem is with human nature and government. we can control corps through boycott because they can’t legislate our actions, but it is much harder to control Leviathan.

        municipal governments in Canada are more strict with zoning than in America, believe it or not, and aren’t as prone to expropriate property or be bought off with subsidies. but corp/state collusion is a recipe for eventual socialistic control (events leading up to Obama for you guys).

        i don’t recognise the difference between “free enterprise” and “capitalism”. to me, this is semantics, and can confuse the issue. these are, as one, capitalism, a pure concept based on natural law. i stand behind Rand, and Rothbard, Hayek and the Austrian school.

        greed is good and pure, but coercion is not, and if, in the States, Walmart is truly getting tax breaks at the expense of small business, then this is obviously unconstitutional (i’m curious. i’ll look into it).

        my point is this, and i know you understand, but others might not: don’t blame corps, the free markets and capitalism. blame corp/state collusion. in other words, blame the state for allowing some unscrupulous individuals to control their own agendas through government at the expense of others.

        this is not what your incredible Constitution had in mind.

      • Don Matesz on July 24, 2009 at 19:46

        Hi Shel,

        I completely agree with you, and also see the reason people like Carson want to create a distinction between free enterprise and capitalism is that what everyone knows as “capitalism” is not really capitalism, it is fascism (state and corporations in collusion). Starting with granting corporate charters, which Jefferson despised, knowing from experience with Britain that corporate charters create limited liability entities protected by the state. In true capitalism, which I might rather call free enterprise or free marketism, there is no state so no one gets the iron fist protection. I know you know that. Not the place to discuss all this. I do recommend Carson’s blog and articles, you might not agree with everything but he does dig up some historical facts which indicate that what we know as “capitalism” today could never have emerged without collusion of state and corporations.


      • Richard Nikoley on July 25, 2009 at 10:41

        Don & Shel:

        Great comments, and, yes, I agree with you, Don.

        I think this is a big blind spot in libertarianism, knee jerk defense of big corporations is perhaps only a bit better lefty knee jerk condemnation on the basis of anti-productivity, “labor” issues and radical environmentalism.

        I’ve never been a defender in particular of Wal-Mart. I support freedom, property, productivity. Wal-Mart is a great success story, growing as it did from that one little corner downtown department store. Sam Walton is indeed a business hero.

        I’m sure he would have created something great even without the eventual favorable zoning, tax incentives, eminent domain, etc.

        …Not to mention fiat currency, which is really at the root of all of this. If money was a private matter, the government’s thievery (if it could even exist except on a very local level) would be a lot more obvious to everyone.

  7. Janice H on July 23, 2009 at 03:52

    I saw this movie a few weeks ago and I came away with the same thoughts. We have to choose carefully where we buy our food. I thought I knew alot about this but there was still some eye openers in there. When I bought some grass fed beef at our local farmers market recently the woman that runs the farm was concerned that I would freeze this meat in a free standing freezer and not in my refrigerator’s freezer as she wanted me to have perfect quality food when I went to eat it. She was that proud of her product to be concerned about how I stored it. The meat has been amazing by the way.

    • Janice H on July 23, 2009 at 03:53

      Sorry I meant to say she was concerned because she did want me to freeze it in a free standing freezer as it would keep better.

  8. Joseph Miller on July 23, 2009 at 04:50

    This film makes me want to do something: start a serious campaign to destroy Monsanto and its ilk, become a farmer, at the very least write my congressman every day (twice a day) for the next twenty years. How do we in good conscience see the waste, the cheapening of life that is going on all over, and not take some concrete action to stop it? I will have to look into the farmer’s market again. I am a poor student with a family to feed, and the market is usually more expensive than the “grocery” store; but still, money talks. My goodness, how did we come to this?

  9. Sharon on July 23, 2009 at 20:36

    One of the people involved with the film, Robert Kenner, was interviewed on the NPR show, ON THE MEDIA. The interview concentrates on the legal problems the makers of the film had, as well as food producers that talked to them:

  10. Paulie on July 23, 2009 at 08:05

    This post brought two separate things together for me. My desire to eat healthy food and my desire to fight big government are now one and the same. They used to be separate, because my health food pursuit brought me into contact mostly with leftards. It is very satisfying when two apparently unrelated ideas come together like electricity and magnetism.
    I don’t think Monsanto and Cargill et al are evil. I think the people who work there are simply drinking the conventional wisdom cool aid, otherwise they are capitalists like me. They are playing the game by the rules that exist. Our task is to change the rules, not disqualify some of the players because they always win.
    There will have to be another agricultural revolution if poor people are going to get the health benefits of a grain free diet, and we are going to need the big players to make it happen.

    • shel on July 23, 2009 at 09:53

      ‘This post brought two separate things together for me. My desire to eat healthy food and my desire to fight big government are now one and the same”.

      ~Paulie, this is exactly the thing that’s been on my mind for the last while now. i’ve even been thinking about making plans to restart and revamp my long defunct blog with just this concept in mind.

      …kind of like a libertarian with paleo instincts.

      the “leftard” comment regarding nose pierced, cornbraided third-world romantics in health food stores is oh so true.

      Churchill said: (paraphrase) “if one is 18 years old and not a socialist, he has no heart. if one is 30 and still a socialist, he has no brains”.

  11. Alec on July 23, 2009 at 10:17

    Hi Richard,

    That’s an amazing story. Here in Austria we have these special vintner’s restaurants called Heurigen. By order of the Kaiser, vintner’s are allowed to sell their own fare without extra tax. So almost all of them have small restaurants where everything is fresh and almost everything is home grown. Wine, pork, vegetables.

    Believe it or not it’s some of the best food in the world. Much like what Joel is suggesting. He knows exactly what he’s talking about. Agrobusiness will be the death of us.

    • Richard Nikoley on July 23, 2009 at 14:04

      I’ll be it’s great.

      Perhaps someone need to remind governor Ahnold of his heritage.

  12. Food Inc the film: Is modern agriculture making you sick? : The blog of Drew Price on July 23, 2009 at 11:30

    […] Review at ‘Free the Animal’ blog […]

  13. James on July 24, 2009 at 05:35

    Just noticed that “Penn & Teller’s: Bullshit” will be airing a show next week “debunking” the health and nutrition benefits of organic foods.
    Be interesting to get there take on it and see how fair they treat the subject.

  14. onewaypockets on July 24, 2009 at 08:15

    Hi Richard, If you could comment on this Track Your Plaque thread I think it would be helpful!

  15. Weekend Link Love | Mark's Daily Apple on July 26, 2009 at 07:03

    […] Food, Inc. is a  documentary that digs into the twisted world of modern food production. If you missed its theatrical run, you may have to wait for the DVD release. But in the mean time I’d still suggest reading Free the Animal’s top notch review of the film. […]

  16. Grant on July 26, 2009 at 07:57

    I wonder how the food industry got to be this way? My guess is that at first it was a response to demand for cheaper and quicker food, and then once entrenched economically, the regulations came.

    But that doesn’t answer the question of where that demand came from. While Ancel Keys and the Food Pyramid played their part, my guess at that is that it was predominantly in response to all of those “regulations” on people – taxes on their businesses and incomes – which made slowing down and eating healthy a threat to one’s standard of living. In the short-term, it makes a heck of a lot of sense to say “forget my health, I don’t have time. I’ve got bills to pay, and even though I’m still working as much if not more, I’m not taking home as much money as I was. Where’s the cheap meal?”

    Americans are eternal optimists. When something comes along that forces them to make a choice they don’t want to make, they do it by telling themselves that it won’t last forever. They keep doing that until it becomes habit and the thing goes from being a temporary concession, to a way of life, all the way up to an economic phenomenon.

    That’s why it’s important to realize that optimism is not, and has never been, enough to maintain a healthy way of life. Not inside an individual’s body, and not inside a society. It all has to, sooner or later, be translated into explicit understanding, and used as a check against the urge to cut-corners.

  17. warren on July 26, 2009 at 08:34

    Spot on review Richard! I was a little letdown by the positive spin of the big organic yogurt guy, mainly because their products contain immense amounts of added sugar and are more often than not fat-free.
    I do agree though that such massive market forces can have a positive impact.
    On a somewhat related note I highly reccomend this recent article by Richard Manning in M.E.N. on grassfed beef I would also reccomend his book “Against the Grain” from a few years back.

    • Richard Nikoley on July 26, 2009 at 08:57

      Thanks Warren. I’ve tagged that for an entry I’m going to do on grassfed beef.

  18. Jim Purdy on July 26, 2009 at 09:04

    “the “food” is crap. Virtually all of it; top to bottom and wall to wall. Even the things us paleos like to eat (meat).”

    Yes, indeed. It’s a bad situation, and getting worse.

  19. […] This, of course, comes on the heels of revelations in seeing the documentary film Food, Inc., which I reviewed extensively. On the same day I saw that film, I went to a local farmers' market and secured some grassfed […]

  20. My Health and Fitness on August 2, 2009 at 02:10

    […] Food, Inc. is a  documentary that digs into the twisted world of modern food production. If you missed its theatrical run, you may have to wait for the DVD release. But in the mean time I’d still suggest reading Free the Animal’s top notch review of the film. […]

  21. […] my review of the film Food, Inc., I have been more interested in farmers' markets, free range eggs (I got some duck eggs the other […]

  22. Ben Faber on October 9, 2009 at 09:07

    Free the Animal,

    I am a full-time college student. I have been eating Paleo for about six months now. Here is my story to share and I would like to her your perspective.

    If I had unlimited funds to buy all of my food (i.e. medicine) at the farmers market I would jump at the opportunity. As of right now, I buy my vegetables at the farmers market because I know it’s good to support local agriculture, the vegetables are fresh, organic (even if they are not officially certified), and cheaper than the alternative. But I go to Costco to buy my eggs (5 dozen for $5.29) and whole chickens (99 cents/lb). If I bought this much animal product at the farmers market, a dozen eggs cost $4 and a whole chicken cost $12.

    Two things would have to happen: I would have to spend a lot more money every week to eat the way I do now or I would have to eat much less animal product than I currently do. I learned from Michael Pollan in the Food Inc. documentary that the cheap food (that I buy at Costco) is actually much more expensive in reality. We are paying for the costs in processing, environmental, and health. I think it’s difficult for me to say, okay, this week I’m only going to buy 2 dozen eggs from the farmers market and 2 chickens from the farmers market. All of a sudden I’m receiving a lot less food for a lot more money. Because I’m active and use food to fuel school and workouts (about 5 small meals a day), I’m going to try sticking to 3 meals or using IF. Maybe if I just eat less, I can afford real food.

    Thanks for the topic.

    • Richard Nikoley on October 9, 2009 at 09:22


      I think you’re doing just fine. Sure, local is ideal for produce and meat, but not everyone can swing it, either because of availability, expense, or other reasons.

      You do what you can do, perhaps always thinking of ways to do marginally better over time.

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