Recently, I attended a documentary, sponsored by the South Dakota State University Film Club, titled, King Corn. Produced by Bullfrog Films, King Corn tells the story of two college graduates from Boston, who decide to uproot their lives to move to Iowa and plant an acre of corn. Their goal was to plant this crop and trace it to an end product. Sometimes corn goes to high fructose corn sugar that is used for sweeteners. Other times it is used in cereals and breads. Most often, corn is utilized for energy and livestock production. These two men were bound and determined to trace their corn crop to its finally destination.
The documentary was created to portray an innocent story of self-discovery and education on agriculture. Instead, the documentary craftily twisted and turned to make farmers and ranchers seem like ignorant, greedy barbarians. The film even featured the infamous Michael Pollan (the inspiration behind the film) from the University of California. His notorious writings that criticize the food system include books such as The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food. Pollan shared his thoughts throughout the film, blaming our environmental and health problems on corn.
More interesting and thought-provoking than the documentary itself were the questions and comments from the audience. The moderator asked what the audience felt about the United States’ cheap food policies? People stood up in support of only buying natural, organic or grass-fed beef from the local farmers’ market. While this is a fine and viable option, I have to wonder what’s wrong with conventionally raised beef from the supermarket? Others thought that farmers were making too much money? Ha! Many wanted to see subsidies for “healthy” food. What constitutes as healthy? Isn’t everything healthy in moderation? Isn’t it time we point the fingers at ourselves and take responsibility for what we put into our own mouths?
Without a doubt, the American consumer wants to know where their food comes from, and they are looking to inaccurate documentaries like these to fill them in. I believe King Corn missed one huge point as they criticized the efficiencies of farmers and ranchers. In the United States, consumers spend less disposable income on groceries than any other place in the world. Farmers and ranchers dedicate their lives to producing a safe, healthy, readily available, affordable product to put at the center of the plate, and I’m proud to be a part of it as a fifth generation livestock producer. The big question of the day is this: when are we going to create an accurate documentary to tell the world the REAL agriculture story?
BEEF Daily Quick Fact: On a low-fat diet? Say thank you for corn. Many low-fat foods depend on corn-derived food starches to provide qualities that used to come from fats. Examples include everything from low-fat salad dressing to baked goods and meat products. (Courtesy of Iowa Corn Producers)