New Movie on U.S. Food System Seen as One-Sided and Misleading

A new documentary movie on the American food industry is “one-sided, negative, and misleading” and promotes a model of an agricultural system that could not possibly produce enough food to feed consumers in the United States and around the world, according to the National Chicken Council.

The movie, entitled “Food, Inc.,” opened Thursday in New York and will begin showing in Los Angeles and San Francisco next Friday, with engagements in a limited number of cities to follow.

“The truth is that the chicken industry produces, processes and markets chickens and chicken products in a safe, responsible manner that delivers wholesome, high-quality products to consumers at affordable prices,” NCC said.

The film shows Virginia farmer Joel Salatin, who has a “pastured poultry” operation, arguing that small-scale production would produce better food. In a rebuttal posted to the web site www.nationalchickencouncil.com, NCC says that small-scale operations occupy only a small niche in the overall system.

“Small-scale farms and ranches simply could not provide sufficient food for 300 million Americans and millions of other people around the world,” NCC says. “There is simply not enough land or labor available to make the model work.” If the mainstream chicken industry attempted to achieve its annual production of more than nine billion birds on a “pastured poultry” basis, it would need 45 million acres — more than all the farmland in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas combined, NCC estimated. “There is simply no way that much land would be available,” NCC said.

The cost to consumers would also be prohibitive, NCC added, noting that products from small-scale producers are typically more expensive than products from mainstream producers.

“If a consumer wants to pay more, that is his or her business, but insisting that only expensive products from small-scale operations are worth eating is pure snobbery,” the NCC statement said.

Reviews of the new film have been mixed. The Village Voice in New York called it “tedious” and “cluttered.”

The National Chicken Council represents integrated chicken producer-processors, the companies that produce and process chickens. Member companies of NCC account for approximately 95 percent of the chicken sold in the United States.

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