Asked what they considered the most disturbing image in the film, the consensus was a surprising one. Quite a few of the students (especially women) said they were “revolted” by a scene showing poultry workers spilling a tray full of young broiler chicks onto the sawdust-strewn floor of a growout barn. Yes, it was a little rough—although none of the chicks were injured—but it’s tough to imagine that any of the students would perform all that differently if they had several dozen trays to unload.
As the class shared its reaction to the issues discussed in FRESH, the comments were eye-opening:
- “I can’t believe the amount of manure that came from that one (hog) farm.”
- “Farmers using all those antibiotics just creates mega-viruses that get stronger and stronger.”
- “If everyone just bought organic food, then the price would come down to where it’s the same as regular food.”
- “It’s wrong that chicken companies have a total monopoly on making farmers raise chickens.”
- “The big companies all have so much control over Congress that they never get any pushback when they want to change the laws.”
- “I saw this restaurant where they had meat in a bag and they boiled it. It was gross.”
- “I have a friend who works at Burger King and she told me they keep the grease they use on fries from a month at a time.”
- “If people stopped eating fast-food, that would put an end to cramming cattle into feedlots.”
- “After that movie, I can never eat another egg from a supermarket—ever.”
From confusing monopolies with vertical integration to thinking antibiotics affect viruses to assuming that fed cattle end up as fast-food burgers—and knocking sous vide, one of the most benign methods of food preparation—most of the class were truly clueless about our food production, processing and marketing systems in this country. When it comes to how food is produced and processed, the ignorance that abounds among the younger generation(s) is astounding.
But I guarantee that virtually all of them left that classroom feeling “enlightened” about both their politics and their perceptions about the American food system. Many of them will be wolfing down pizzas and burgers later that day, and despite the fact that they’re in college to learn, few—if any—will bother researching further the platitudes so blithely tossed out by Pollan, Salatin and others in the film.