I'm not generally in the habit of praising movies for being good for you, but Food, Inc. is more than just a terrific documentary it's an important movie, one that nourishes your knowledge of how the world works. Or, in this case, has started not to work. The director, Robert Kenner, features and builds on the muckraking testimony of Michael Pollan (The Omnivore's Dilemma) and Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation) to create an essential, disturbing portrait of how the food we eat in America has become a deceptively prefab, even hazardous industrial product.
Kenner doesn't rant. He connects the dots from the huge, aggressively lobbied government subsidies for corn to the transformation of farms into factories of mass-produced, corn-fed cattle, which are then slaughtered and ground into ''hamburger meat filler,'' which is cleansed with ammonia, all so that we can buy a double cheeseburger for 99 cents. Food, Inc. shows how the use of high-fructose corn syrup in almost every supermarket product is part of the same system that masses chickens in concentration-camp coops, where they're bred for their oversize, flavorless white meat (and you thought breast enhancement was just popular for humans). It all traces back to the assembly-line techniques pioneered by the fast-food industry, which were then adopted everywhere else. A big-picture vision of conglomerate duplicity and control, Food, Inc. is hard to shake, because days after you've seen it, you may find yourself eating something a cookie, a piece of poultry, cereal out of the box, a perfectly round waxen tomato and you'll realize that you have virtually no idea what it actually is. A