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  • The way we eat has changed more in the last 50 years

  • than in the previous 10,000.

  • But the image that's used to sell the food,

  • it is still the imagery of agrarian America.

  • You go into the supermarket and you see pictures of farmers,

  • the picket fence, the silo,

  • the '30s farmhouse and the green grass.

  • It's the spinning of this pastoral fantasy.

  • The modern American supermarket

  • has on average 47,000 products.

  • There are no seasons in the American supermarket.

  • Now there are tomatoes all year round,

  • grown halfway around the world, picked when it was green,

  • and ripened with ethylene gas.

  • Although it looks like a tomato,

  • it's kind of a notional tomato.

  • I mean, it's the idea of a tomato.

  • In the meat aisle, there are no bones anymore.

  • There is this deliberate veil,

  • this curtain, that's dropped between us

  • and where our food is coming from.

  • The industry doesn't want you to know the truth

  • about what you're eating,

  • because if you knew, you might not want to eat it.

  • If you follow the food chain back

  • from those shrink-wrapped packages of meat,

  • you find a very different reality.

  • The reality is a factory.

  • It's not a farm. It's a factory.

  • That meat is being processed

  • by huge multinational corporations

  • that have very little to do with ranches and farmers.

  • Now our food is coming from enormous assembly lines

  • where the animals and the workers are being abused.

  • And the food has become much more dangerous

  • in ways that are being deliberately hidden from us.

  • You've got a small group of multinational corporations

  • who control the entire food system.

  • From seed to the supermarket,

  • they're gaining control of food.

  • This isn't just about what we're eating.

  • This is about what we're allowed to say,

  • what we're allowed to know.

  • It's not just our health that's at risk.

  • The companies don't want farmers talking.

  • They don't want this story told.

  • How about a nice chicken club sandwich made with fresh cooked chicken?

  • You know, that's a nice idea,

  • but I think what I'd really like

  • - is a burger. - All right.

  • My favorite meal to this day

  • remains a hamburger and french fries.

  • I had no idea that a handful of companies

  • had changed what we eat and how we make our food.

  • I've been eating this food all my life

  • without having any idea where it comes from,

  • any idea how powerful this industry is.

  • And it was the idea

  • of this world deliberately hidden from us.

  • I think that's one of the reasons why

  • I became an investigative reporter,

  • was to take the veil-- lift the veil away

  • from important subjects that are being hidden.

  • The whole industrial food system

  • really began with fast food.

  • In the 1930s,

  • a new form of restaurant arose

  • and it was called the drive-in.

  • The McDonald brothers had a very successful drive-in,

  • but they decided to cut costs and simplify.

  • So they fired all their carhops,

  • they got rid of most of the things on the menu

  • and they created a revolutionary idea

  • to how to run a restaurant.

  • They basically brought the factory system

  • to the back of the restaurant kitchen.

  • They trained each worker to just do one thing

  • again and again and again.

  • By having workers who only had to do one thing,

  • they could pay them a low wage

  • and it was very easy to find someone to replace them.

  • It was inexpensive food, it tasted good

  • and this McDonald's fast food restaurant

  • was a huge huge success.

  • That mentality of uniformity,

  • conformity and cheapness

  • applied widely and on a large scale

  • has all kinds of unintended consequences.

  • When McDonald's is the largest purchaser

  • of ground beef in the United States

  • and they want their hamburgers

  • to taste, everywhere, exactly the same,

  • they change how ground beef is produced.

  • The McDonald's corporation

  • is the largest purchaser of potatoes

  • and one of the largest purchasers of pork,

  • chicken, tomatoes, lettuce, even apples.

  • These big big fast food chains

  • want big suppliers.

  • And now there are essentially a handful of companies

  • controlling our food system.

  • In the 1970s, the top five beef-packers

  • controlled only about 25% of the market.

  • Today, the top four

  • control more than 80% of the market.

  • You see the same thing happening now in pork.

  • Even if you don't eat at a fast food restaurant,

  • you're now eating meat that's being produced

  • by this system.

  • You look at the labels

  • and you see Farmer this, Farmer that--

  • it's really just three or four companies

  • that are controlling the meat.

  • We've never had food companies this big

  • and this powerful in our history.

  • Tyson, for example,

  • is the biggest meat-packing company in the history of the world.

  • The industry changed the entire way that chicken are raised.

  • Birds are now raised and slaughtered

  • in half the time they were 50 years ago,

  • but now they're twice as big.

  • People like to eat white meat,

  • so they redesigned the chicken

  • to have large breasts.

  • They not only changed the chicken,

  • they changed the farmer.

  • Today, chicken farmers no longer control their birds.

  • A company like Tyson

  • owns the birds from the day they're dropped off

  • until the day that they're slaughtered.

  • Let me go to the top.

  • - This is the Chicken-- - National Chicken Council.

  • The chicken industry has really set a model

  • for the integration of production, processing

  • and marketing of the products

  • that other industries are now following

  • because they see that we have achieved tremendous economies.

  • In a way, we're not producing chickens;

  • we're producing food.

  • It's all highly mechanized.

  • So all the birds coming off those farms

  • have to be almost exactly the same size.

  • What the system of intensive production accomplishes

  • is to produce a lot of food

  • on a small amount of land

  • at a very affordable price.

  • Now somebody explain to me what's wrong with that.

  • Smells like money to me.

  • 16 chicken houses sit here.

  • And Chuck's son has four over the top of this hill.

  • The chicken industry came in here

  • and it's helped this whole community out.

  • Here's my chicken houses here.

  • I have about 300,000 chickens.

  • What do you want?

  • We have a contract with Tyson.

  • They've been growing chickens for many many years.

  • It's all a science. They got it figured out.

  • If you can grow a chicken in 49 days,

  • why would you want one you gotta grow in three months?

  • More money in your pocket.

  • These chickens never see sunlight.

  • They're pretty much in the dark all the time.

  • So you think they just want to keep us out?

  • I don't know.

  • If I knew, I'd tell you.

  • It would be nice if y'all could see what we really do,

  • but as far as y'all going in,

  • we can't let you do that.

  • I understand why farmers don't want to talk--

  • because the company can do what it wants to do

  • as far as pay goes since they control everything.

  • But it's just gotten to the point

  • that it's not right what's going on

  • and I've just made up my mind.

  • I'm gonna say what I have to say.

  • I understand why others don't want to do it.

  • And I'm just to a point

  • that it doesn't matter anymore.

  • Something has to be said.

  • It is nasty in here.

  • There's dust flying everywhere.

  • There's feces everywhere.

  • This isn't farming.

  • This is just mass production,

  • like an assembly line in a factory.

  • When they grow from a chick

  • and in seven weeks you've got a five-and-a-half- pound chicken,

  • their bones and their internal organs

  • can't keep up with the rapid growth.

  • A lot of these chickens here, they can take a few steps

  • and then they plop down. It's because they can't

  • keep up all the weight that they're carrying.

  • That's normal.

  • There's antibiotics that's put into the feed

  • and of course that passes through the chicken.

  • The bacteria builds up a resistance,

  • so antibiotics aren't working anymore.

  • I have become allergic to all antibiotics

  • and can't take 'em.

  • When it's dark inside the houses,

  • the chickens lay down. It's less resistance

  • when they're being caught.

  • Traditionally, it's been African-American men.

  • Now we're seeing more and more Latino catchers--

  • undocumented workers.

  • From their point of view, they don't have any rights

  • and they're just not gonna complain.

  • The companies like these kind of workers.

  • It doesn't matter if the chickens get sick.

  • All of the chickens will go to the plant

  • for processing.

  • The companies keep the farmers under their thumb

  • because of the debt that the farmers have.

  • To build one poultry house

  • is anywhere from $280,000 to $300,000 per house.

  • And once you make your initial investment,

  • the companies constantly come back

  • with demands of upgrades

  • for new equipment,

  • and the grower has no choice.

  • They have to do it

  • or you're threatened with loss of a contract.

  • This is how they keep the farmers under control.

  • It's how they keep them spending money,

  • going to the bank and borrowing more money.

  • The debt just keeps building.

  • To have no say in your business,

  • it's degrading.

  • It's like being a slave to the company.

  • The idea that you would need to write a book

  • telling people where their food came from

  • is just a sign of how far removed we've become.

  • It seems to me that we're entitled to know about our food--

  • "Who owns it? How are they making it?

  • Can I have a look in the kitchen?"

  • When I wanted to understand the industrial food system,

  • what I set about doing was very simple.

  • I wanted to trace the source of my food.

  • When you go through the supermarket,

  • what looks like this cornucopia of variety and choice is not.

  • There is an illusion of diversity.

  • There are only a few companies involved

  • and there're only a few crops involved.

  • What really surprised me most

  • as I followed that food back to its source,

  • I kept ending up in the same place,

  • and that was a cornfield in Iowa.

  • So much of our industrial food

  • turns out to be clever rearrangements of corn.

  • Corn has conquered the world in a lot of ways.

  • It is a remarkable plant.

  • 100 years ago, a farmer in America

  • could grow maybe 20 bushels of corn on an acre.

  • Today, 200 bushels is no problem.

  • That's an astonishing achievement

  • for which breeders deserve credit,

  • for which fertilizer makers deserve credit,

  • for which pesticide makers all deserve credit.

  • In the United States today,