This weekend marks the opening of Food. Inc, a film about the food industry in North America. Early reviews describe it as shocking and life-changing, revealing aspects of food production that most people are blissfully unaware of.
We are encouraged to know where our food comes from, and mostly that means local food. Know your farmer; know what’s in season; eat organic, sustainably produced food. And be willing to pay for it.
But as much as we can all sing local until the cows come home, much of the western world still relies on majority world countries to supply our foodstuffs. And we want it cheap.
The BBC 3 series Blood, Sweat and Takeaways, which ran over the past four weeks, followed 6 young British people (who were all accustomed to eating cheap junk food) as they travelled across southeast Asia, working in factories and rice fields to find out the human cost of their cheap food.
The 6 Brits try their hands working at a tuna factory in Indonesia cleaning and gutting fish; a prawn farm (where they spend their days rebuilding a mud levee to keep the prawns from being washed away in a storm); and a prawn factory where some of them are fired for not working fast enough. During the first two episodes they stay in the homes of factory workers, and are appalled by the living conditions and outdoor toilets. They can never keep up with the local workers and are often embarrassed when a job they’ve been assigned has to be assisted or redone by locals.