KBB Collective | The Designers' Corner

Mar 22 2010

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Film Review: Food, Inc. – 5 stars

I recently watched the Academy Award-nominated documentary, Food Inc. To be honest, I was hesitant about watching it. I already know more than I’d like about the sorry state of our food supply. Another film putting images in my head of slaughterhouses and e-coli poisoning was not going to make me any happier. And, after all, being happier is something I strive to be.

The film changed my perception of food and did so without resorting to horrifying images or nauseating statistics. Instead, Food, Inc. walks the viewer through the capitalist structure of the entire food industry and how their pursuit of savings and profit has unintentionally created a system with severe health and environmental consequences.


The cause of our environmental problems can be almost solely put upon the shoulders of the building industry. After all, buildings alone are responsible for nearly half of all carbon emissions and an overwhelming 72 percent of all of our energy goes into our buildings. As an architect, I feel responsible for this, which is why I have dedicated myself to educating people about how to change our buildings. I try to stay focused on my own area of expertise (buildings) and try to not talk about the impact of other industries.

(After all, who wants to hear about the importance of organic food from an architect?!)

But in recent years, the more I’ve learned about our food supply, I realize how interconnected these industries have become. We cannot solve one without addressing the other problems. Despite the impact of buildings, perhaps the most immediate thing a person can do to help the environment is to give up eating meat. The environmental impact of meat production are intense:

* 10 people could be fed with the grain that feeds one cow

* The production of a pound of beef requires 2,500 to 5,000 gallons of water

* Before a cow is slaughtered, it will have consumed 284 gallons of oil (through pesticide and embodied energy)

* Every second of every day, one football field of tropical rainforest is destroyed in order to produce 257 hamburgers.

Source: EarthSave

(In full disclosure, I should admit that I still eat meat. I mostly focus on chicken and fish, and very rarely eat red meat at all, but am still not strong enough to give it up. So, I know full well how hard the idea may be for you.)

The benefits of eating organic and healthy foods go beyond simple personal health. The impact has economic and cultural advantages. Which probably explains why urban farming produces $5 dollars of job growth for every dollar spent on food.

One of my old mentors, famed English kitchen designer Johnny Grey, once told me that a “designer must understand, appreciate and enjoy food in order to properly design a kitchen.” This is evident throughout his work. I would stipulate the inverse: In order to fully appreciate and understand the brilliance of one of his kitchens, you need to prepare food in it. Pictures don’t do it justice.

johnny grey

Incidentally, it was Johnny who taught me everything worth knowing about kitchen design (after also teaching me to forget everything I thought I knew before then…). If you don’t know him or his beautiful work, I suggest you take a look here.

If we designers are creating what we call a “sustainable” kitchen, then so too should we require that all of the food prepared in this kitchen be organic and healthy. While we obviously can’t control this, it raises the issue that how a building is USED is as important as how it is BUILT.

In one scene in Food, Inc., an organic farmer is discussing how cows are fed corn instead of grass. Corn is cheap, subsidized by the Government and in ample supply. Unfortunately, cows are not able to properly digest corn, demanding a series of hormone injections, bacterial precautions and other measures too graphic to mention. He goes on to state, “But at no time did anyone simply step back and ask why we can’t go back to feeding them grass.”

The parallels to our dependence on oil are frightening. In both cases, you have a native crop that was abundant in early industrial America. The Government formed subsidies and incentives to encourage the use of both. Inventive chemists found the means to manipulate both crops into thousands of alternative products (plastic, in the case of oil; fructose, in the case of corn). Our entire economy grew around this cheap crop and became dependent on it. As the decades passed, these once cheap crops were no longer affordable, but it was too late.


Source: www.eere.energy.gov/ golden/News_Room.aspx

In the case of both oil and corn, we have spent the last 30 years trying to find any solutions that solve the health and eco problems, but allow us to continue our addiction. This explains the push for impractical solutions such as “clean coal,” corn-based ethanol and corn-based plastics.

At no time is it ever suggested we just give up oil and corn. Perhaps we should.

Eric Corey Freed

Food, Inc.
Directed by: Robert Kenner
Running Time; 94 minutes
Rent on Amazon


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This entry was posted on Monday, March 22nd, 2010 at 7:00 AM and is filed under Green, Kitchen Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.