June 9, 2009 -- Director Robert Kenner said his new movie about the path food takes to our dinner tables is a "horror film." "Food, Inc." paints a vivid picture of the food we eat -- where it comes from, how it's made and what it's doing to our bodies.
The filmmakers followed the 1,500 miles from farm to dinner plate that much of our food travels and offered stark statistics about the eating habits of Americans.
Americans eat upward of 200 pounds of meat per capita every year, the film said, and one in three Americans will be diagnosed with diabetes.
Kenner and Michael Pollan, a writer for the film and of the best-selling book "The Omnivore's Dilemma," joined "Good Morning America" today to talk about exposing the hidden world of agribusiness in "Food, Inc." and to tell Americans why it's not too late to change the way we eat.
"I think agribusiness doesn't want us thinking about where our food comes from," Kenner told "Good Morning America." "There is a real desire to sort of keep us behind the veil and not let us see where it's produced and how it's grown."
The Hidden World Behind a Simple Meal
The world of food has changed. The simple hamburgers our grandparents ate are distinctly different from the ones many of us consume today.
"Our food has transformed without us seeing these changes," Kenner said. "Chickens are designed to have large breasts and grow a lot faster. The tomatoes, they don't go bad. But they have no taste at this point. They're nice and shiny and red. They look the same on some levels, but they're a different tomato."
A hamburger from an industrial plant can be ground from 400 animals from six different countries. This method of mass production -- in which only 12 plants make more than half the meat on the market -- makes a cheap burger, but the risk might not be worth the reward if any stage of the process introduces contaminants.
"You have one plant that might be grinding 10 million burgers in a week and that's very dangerous," Pollan said. "If a microbe gets in there, E-coli or something like that, it now affects 10 million people."
The Real Cost of Cheap Food
Another part of the problem, Pollan and Kenner said, is that the government is subsidizing the wrong kinds of food, such as corn and soy.
"Basically, corn and soy are the building blocks of the fast-food diet," Pollan said. "Corn becomes high-fructose corn syrup and these are the kinds of calories, the least healthy calories in the supermarket, that our government subsidizes."
Factory farming is cheap and it allows Americans to feed their families for less. But Kenner said there are hidden costs associated with eating bargain commercial foods.
"We're with a family who is eating this sort of junk food and this processed food and, unfortunately, that same family who can't afford that organic food is now spending $500 a month for medicine," Kenner said.
Pollan agreed. "That's the trade-off," he said. "The more we spend on food, the less we have to spend on health care."
But consumers can do something about the state of the food industry, Pollan said, such as pressuring for a change in government policies.
"We have to change the rules of the food game," he said. "We have to subsidize healthy food. We have to encourage farmers to diversify their farms. We have to change the farm policies in this country, so we can make healthy, nutritious, wholesome, fresh food available to everybody."
But first, Kenner said, consumers need to exercise their rights to know what is in their food, even if it destroys blissful ignorance.
"If you visit feed lots, as I have, you lose your appetite for certain kinds of food," he said. "Some people are in denial. But, increasingly, people are curious to know the story about their food."