Sounding the Alarm on Our Global Food System in ‘Food, Inc. 2’

Forrest Hartman



3 stars (out of 4)

Directors: Robert Kenner and Melissa Robledo

Available: In theaters and On Demand


Director Robert Kenner’s 2008 documentary, Food, Inc., was so powerful that it made me reexamine my thoughts on our global food system. Thanks to the work of Kenner and others like him, many Americans have done the same in the 16 years since, and Michael Pollan notes this at the beginning of Food, Inc. 2.


Pollan, who wrote The Omnivore’s Dilemma and also contributed to the first film, plays a major role in the new documentary, as do academics, journalists and researchers intent on building awareness of how food is produced and consumed. During its 94-minute run, Food, Inc. 2 considers everything from the mistreatment of agricultural workers during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to the fact that millions of citizens are being endangered by an overreliance on what Brazilian physician and nutrition professor Carlos Monteiro labels “ultra-processed foods.”



For this sequel, Food, Inc. producer Melissa Robledo co-directed with Kenner, and their stamp is on the film -- but only behind the scenes. They tell their story through the words of interview subjects, visuals, and archival clips. Any good piece of journalism relies on conversations with the right people, and Kenner and Robledo talked to a variety of fascinating individuals. Pollan is joined by fellow Food, Inc. alum and Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser; Wisconsin farmer Sarah Loyd; Iowa farmer Zach Smith; nutrition and food studies professor Marion Nestle; U.S. Senator Cory Booker, D-N.J.; farmer/senator John Tester, D-Mont.; and many others with keen insight into food production and consumption.


One of the primary messages of Food, Inc. was the fact that an extremely limited number of companies control the global food system, and that money is often the driver behind policy that would be better set based on factors like health, safety, and long-term sustainability. This message continues in Food, Inc. 2, but Kenner uses new examples to illustrate the problem. For instance, the film points out the incongruity and environmental concerns involved with shifting massive dairy farms to desert regions with little natural rainfall.



Food, Inc. 2 doesn’t hit as hard as Kenner’s original, but that’s probably a good thing. One reason the film feels less impactful, at least to me, is because Kenner, Pollan, Schlosser and others involved in what Pollan calls the “food movement” have been spreading awareness for years. Those who have been paying attention will already be aware of some of the problems highlighted by the new film, but that’s hardly fair criticism. The movie could serve as a wakeup call to the uninitiated, and every issue broached is well-researched and covered in a meaningful way.


Although, I consider good documentary films journalism, it's only fair to note that Kenner and Robledo are not objective in approach. Surely, corporate food companies, such as Hormel, Tyson and McDonald’s will feel unfairly maligned. It's true that more balance would have given the filmmakers a greater claim to journalistic fairness, but I am not convinced food production and consumption trends are a topic that must be approached with objectivity. In other words, most reasonable people who examine these issues will likely agree that the we have problems that should be addressed quickly. Food, Inc. 2 demands that viewers acknowledge this, and it does so in a manner that’s difficult to ignore.



Author Bio:

Forrest Hartman is Highbrow Magazine’s chief film critic.


For Highbrow Magazine


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