Americans enjoy burgers in addition to fast cars, extreme sports, and mosh-pit concerts. Americans are proud of their cuisine. However, a grim, sad, and hidden mystery lurks behind the closed doors of the corporations that supply us with processed foods (Kenner, R. 2008). Companies that monopolize and regulate food production (including farmers and their animals!) have a history of modifying foods and changing how animal farms and meatpacking plants operate. This essay uses Rober Kenner’s Food Inc. documentary to examine how the gut-wrenching events taking place behind our beloved fast foods and restaurants have changed my relationship with food, cities I frequent and how just healthy their foods are and finally, how convenient it is for me to make healthy food choices.
1. My Obliterated relationship with food
My once strong relationship with food has been obscured and our ‘relationship status’ remains bleak. While I have always enjoyed ordering fat chicken breasts while devouring them with relish, I have always failed to notice how what I eat is indirectly controlled by officials who are hungry for profits and overproduction through cheaper methods.
a. Staying on top of the ‘Dollar’ chain
Unlike medieval times where land was communally owned and works communally done, 21st century has seen a drastic change in the number of companies controlling the food industry in America. In the film, for instance, Kenner explores how large food company owners like MacDonald’s genetically and chemically manipulate chicks to grow to full-size chickens within only 49 days. While anyone would wonder where authorities and governmental agencies responsible for checking out food safety are, the truth is simple; they are part of the ‘deal.’ Kenners explain how overproduction of food, on small land pieces can be carried out cheaply using strategies such as the use of antibiotics to fatten cows for beef. The profits accrued from these ‘underground’ dealings are something only two classes of people are aware of; the farmers and the wealthy executives owning the companies. Since the farmers are not allowed to tell as they risk losing their jobs the way Morr Parr did because his pockets could not mine the ‘Benjamin paper’ deep enough. This scenario amply depicts how the lives of ordinary Americans lie in the hands of merciless, high-class and profit-oriented individuals in the society. The farmers are considered of lower class since; they cannot outdo these officials in ‘paying for silence.’ According to the conflict theory, social stratification only benefits a few individuals and not the entire society. In this case, the wealthy farm owners exploit the farmers while harming the society through the unhealthy foods, yet they earn huge profits. So every time I am about to bite that chicken breast, I see a class division that steered the production of an unsafe chicken for consumption.
b. A racial divide in mass production
According to the symbolic interactionism theory, people’s social status impacts their daily interactions. On sociological grounds, most of the workers who work in producing the five-pound chickens in two weeks are mostly African Americans and Latinos. The film indicates that companies love this kind of workers because they cannot object any order given to them. They live to make the dollar and would do anything to keep their jobs. They are aware that the company officials do not care whether the animals are sick or not (Doob, 2015). They just want to hear the words’ more productions and more profits’. Additionally, these farmers see what’s going on keep their mouths zipped as they owe the company massive debts borrowed to build chicken houses and farm structures. Is like they are slaves to the corporations they work for. It is more like compromising the health of citizens because profits need to be made.
2. The inconvenience in making healthy food choices in the 21ST Century
It is quite inconvenient for me to make healthy food choices because social stratification has led to a group of individuals controlling the food industry. The society today is divided into different strata that comprise of different individuals playing different roles in the economy. The working class, the middle class and the lower class are the three main categories in which our society is divided. One would wonder why and how any of these categories make it inconvenient for me to make healthy food choices. Here’s how;
The high class, monetary power, and influence
The high class, making up to 1% of the entire population own most assets of the national wealth and assets. Like in the film, they are the owners of big companies that produce foods and packing of beef and chicken products. While in their quest to produce, the high classes are driven to amass more wealth indirectly or directly through different means. They are also lucky to inherit privilege owing to their affluence. In the film, for instance, the executives wrongly sue (intentionally) the only farmer with clean dealings since he cannot match up to them with regards to money. The upper class controls the working, and middle class as their salaries, wages, and employment depends on them. As seen in the M.C. Donald’s company, each worker has only one area of specialization in the firm and as a result labor cost is reduced and replacing them is easy. This fact helps the upper class participate in unethical food processing without risking being exposed to the public (Doob, 2015). The working class, on the other hand, depend on the upper class as a means of survival and making ends meet. Consequently, the ‘social’ and ‘monetary’ blackmail involved here makes it hard for us, the random American student, teacher, singer, or even pastor to make healthy food choices as these dealings remain unexplained and hidden. I cannot know which restaurant isn’t part of this evil scheme of profit-making as all processed foods are labeled ‘fresh from the farm,’ and of course, they look fresh as an advertising picture ‘a happy farm’ and ‘healthy’ cow is drawn to lure consumers.
3. Cities Frequented and healthy food options available
According to the functionalism view, the different societal facets exist since they strive to serve specific purposes. In other words, it elucidates on the societal role and how they are important in structuring the community. Different cities tend to vary regarding popular cuisines. In quenching my appetite, I traverse through various cities aiming to taste the popular foods within them. The Southern states boast of cornbread, barbeque, hushpuppies, and catfish. Burgoo is a staple food in Kentucky, and I often visit the place to enjoy this dish. It is a spicy dish that normally includes mutton, pork, or chicken. The meal is also meant to encourage oneness within the society as it is served during large social gatherings to feed the crowd. I consider the food healthy due to the nutritional elements entailed in it.
Accessing a healthy diet has become harder as the economic constraints continue to increase. In fact, some communities find it harder to partake nutritious meals due to the cost issues. In other words, people would rather eat fast foods that are cheap than the expensive fresh produces. As such, people make food choices depending on their standards of living. The available wealth determines our socioeconomic class, which is also influential in our food choices.
Cities are stratified as per their economic status. The cities are ranked according to socioeconomic levels of the residents as well as infrastructure among other aspects. As such, cities can be categorized as either big or small depending on their development levels. Even though people do not believe in big cities offering healthy foods like the small towns, it is worth noting that majority of the citizens residing within the cities; hence, appropriate dietary has to be availed. When it comes to getting the most innovative and delicious foods, the small-town preferences do not match the myriad restaurants in these cities. The major towns feed the millions of Americans residing within them. As such, traversing through the cities, I tend to like Kentucky due to the wide variety of dishes available. For instance, Bluegrass Burgers is a Kentucky dish meant to quench the appetite of Burger-loving people who dislike the unhealthy constituents within this food. The food is grass-fed and lacks antibiotic and hormones; hence, heightening the nutritious. With a casual atmosphere, the food can be carried-out or dined at the restaurant. Moreover, accessing gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan choices on the menu is easy. I also frequented San Francisco and Huntington; regions that are considered among the best when it comes to providing healthy foods. Even though the places varied regarding the offered dishes, the constituents were almost similar with the nutritious value likely the same.
Overall, obtaining and maintaining good health is a challenge in many states due to the ever-rising cost of living. Therefore, healthy diets are considered expensive; thus, only favor the wealthy. On the other hand, people facing economic constraints are forced to partake junk foods that are cheaper. The availability of foods is; therefore, relative to the economic class. After traversing the various cities, it was rather easy to notice that various regions had their unique dishes that are mainly influenced by the cultural backgrounds.
Doob, C. B. (2015). Social inequality and social stratification in US society. Routledge.
Kenner, R. (2008). Food Inc. [Motion Picture]. United States: Magnolia Pictures.