Living in San Francisco, I have always been aware of many of the environmental problems that our society faces. I remember my younger self being dragged to the Ferry Building every Saturday during the summer so my mom could find the freshest and most “wholesome” peaches. Good and nutritious food has always been a part of my life, but even still, I struggled to understand the true importance of what I now call “responsible food.” Now I’m sure that some, if not all of my inability to comprehend the importance of where my food came from may be attributed to my five-year-old brain still wrestling with the idea of addition and subtraction. Yet I was still able to recognize the importance of a food product grown the right way.
I think another problem I had was that I knew a problem existed, but I didn’t know what the problem was. There was so much talk, either directed at me, or talk that I overheard on NPR driving to and from school, that talked about the effects of the problem, but struggled to define what that problem was. And then we saw books like the Omnivore’s Dilemma start to be published, and that, in my eyes, began to bring some closure to this idea of righteous food. However, even being in fifth grade, you can only grasp so much out of the children’s version of the book, which my mom forced me to read by the way. I needed something visual. I wanted to actually see, with my own eyes, what was being done, why it was wrong, and then what I could do to change that. At the time, it seemed like that was that too much to ask.
Fast-forward three years, and my prayers were finally answered. Enter Food Inc. It was one of the most controversial films of the 2000’s. I remember seeing the preview and, albeit disgusted, I decided to watch the movie by myself and at least try to understand this problem, which by now had swollen into a national debate (I mean the media had to focus on something after the 2008 elections, and the recession was just getting too repetitive).
I relive one of the scenes, and it still can’t get it out of my head. The scene was about pigs being slaughtered, and just as the narrator was about to explain how the industrial farms did it, a massive metal block came in and crushed a half dozen pigs into what could only be assumed to be a meet grinder. The worst part was this awful squeal that pierced the audiences ear. But it wasn’t only how they killed the pigs, the conditions that all of the animals lived in were just as horrific. Cows needing to be moved with forklifts because they were too weak and big to even stand on their own. One farm had two chickens per every cubic foot cage; they couldn’t even stand up.
After watching that movie, I realized that I needed to be more informed with what I eat. The simple truth was that I had a choice in participating in those types of practices, or in more natural and humane practices like grass fed and free range. I know that this is an ongoing struggle, but I recognize that I need to continue to do my research on the food I eat, asking where it came from and how the animal lived. I can’t sit idly by and wait for a film like Food Inc. to come around again. I need to take responsibility for my actions, and what I decide to and not to eat.