Posted by: beyonddinner | March 22, 2009

Movie impressions – Our Daily Bread

This week Pat and I watched Our Daily Bread, a documentary by Nikolaus Geyrhalter, about industrial food production in Europe.  It is put together as a series of images with no narration or dialogue.  The soundtrack is just the sounds of the process – nothing else.  It’s a movie that takes its time, spending several moments each piece.  The movie covers the production of fruits, vegetables and meat and doesn’t cover highly processed or packaged foods.  It’s a movie that lets you draw your own conclusions without spoon feeding it to you.

We watched it on Thursday and I find that I’m still thinking about it.  It was fascinating to watch because the images where stunning.  One examples is of a gorgeous field of sunflowers that are subsequently flown over by a plane dispensing chemicals, then later you get a machine-level view of harvesting the same field, all brown and dessicated.  Another time you see baby chicks being rushed about on conveyor belts and then, once grown, getting gathered up by a large machine to be harvested and then slaughtered and processed.  The movie doesn’t sensationalize the process, it’s not intentionally gruesome (though some might find it’s coverage of animal slaughter and processing to be so)  – it doesn’t seek to highlight what goes wrong, though it doesn’t hide some of that stuff either.

I’d imagine that if you are into the achievements of mechanization you could find this a testimonial to those achievements.  While I appreciated the amount of ingenuity that has gone into the mechanization of our food growing – I can appreciate the art of it all – but really, the end result it scary to me.  When you see this enormous amount of produce created in greenhouses with only the inputs supplied by the growers (water, chemicals) and that at several stages the workers have to wear haz-mat suits,  it just leaves me wondering about nutrition – what have we sacrificed nutritionally?  The tomatoes harvested looked fabulous – but are they nearly as nourishing as those grown outside in real soil that has built up over long periods of time?  I know that they are not.

Also, I was struck by the soullessness of it all – horrified really.  People are almost afterthoughts in this process and are only there because the machines can’t do it all.  By removing the humanity from food production, what have we opened ourselves up to?  It allows us to turn our backs on the cruelty of the mechanized processes to other living creatures, and to ignore the impact of the chemicals on our long term health and well being if human beings aren’t truly witnessing or owning what is going on with what we put in our mouths.  Is this the sort of thing that happens when people commit atrocities against other people?  Make people as ignorant as possible and then just do what you want?

This whole thing makes me even more committed to consciousness about my food choices.  To seek out and get to know about local farmers who are immersed in the real and often messy world of non-industrial farming is my continuing goal.

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