WRH 315: Propaganda and You

Critical Analysis Part 2: Food, Inc.

Posted on: April 23, 2010

The film’s message of promoting sustainable food production is clearly outlined in the shocking images and facts that are repeatedly brought up in the various segments in the film. First, authors and food industry researchers Pollan and Schlosser give an overview of the history behind the mass production of meat and produce. The filmmakers interview corn growers (who grow excess amounts of corn to keep its price below market value to feed cattle and chickens in CAFO’s) and contract chicken farmers with Tyson. Pollan explains that cows and chickens naturally don’t eat corn, but meat production companies feed corn to the animals because a) it’s cheap, and b) it speeds up their development when hormones are included. After shocking images of cows and chickens crowded together in CAFO’s eating corn out of feed troughs and standing in their own excrement, Pollan summarizes the detrimental impact feeding corn to mass-produced animals on the environment and human health. He states that animal excrement from CAFO’s can contaminate nearby water supplies and can even be found in the finished meat products. Next, the film conveys the negative health impacts by focusing on Barbara Kowalcyk and her advocacy for food safety. She explains that she was working for Congress to pass legislation on stricter USDA food testing regulations entitled Kevin’s Law, named after her two and a half-year-old son Kevin who died from E.coli. Afterwards, the film focuses on the negative socioeconomic impact of the food industry by interviewing a Hispanic meat company workers union leader and following him on a local police raid for illegal Mexican immigrants who worked with him at a meat packing plant. The film crew also went inside the pork processing plant where the Mexican immigrants worked. The workers were required to not only slaughter the pigs through electrocution but also perform gruesome tasks like separating the slaughtered pig carcasses with meat-cutting saws. Finally, the film visits Polyface Farms, an organic farm in Virginia and interviews its owner. Images of the cattle grazing in open pastures and the farmers carefully preparing each slaughtered chicken for sale contrast drastically from the images of the CAFO’s and meat processing plants of large food corporations. Thus, through emphasis on the negative effects of the mass-produced, conglomerate food industry, the film conveys its message in a shocking and compelling manner.

Finally, the emotional appeal of Food, Inc. is prevalent throughout the entire film. Harsh images of the mistreatment of animals in CAFO’s, the poignant story of Barbara Kowalcyk’s son’s death from food-borne illness and her activism, and the footage of Mexican migrant workers being dragged out of their homes by a police raid in the middle of the night all invoke a strong emotional response from the audience by forcing them to become aware of the negative impact of the food industry on U.S. society. The creators of the film then give the audience a direction for their newly-incited awareness by directing them to go onto the film’s website to sign petitions, find local organic food, contact legislators for food safety laws, and many other options. Thus, the film sustains a strong emotional appeal through harsh images and poignant personal stories before finally encouraging the audience to stand up against the corrupt food industry.

In conclusion, Food, Inc. uses a variety of techniques from propaganda in order to convey its message. Through the four stratagems of persuasion, the film conveyed its message in a shocking and powerful manner while also giving the audience direction for activism. 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.

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