________________ CM . . . . Volume VII Number 5 . . . . November 3, 2000

cover Beef Inc.

Carmen Garcia (Director). Ric Michel (Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 1999.
50 min., 4 sec., VHS, $39.95.
Order Number: C9199 055.

Subject Headings:
Beef industry-Environmental aspects.
Cattle trade.
Beef industry.

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.

Review by Joanne Peters.

*** /4

Steaks, roasts, burgers - most of us don't give much thought to the meat we casually throw into our shopping carts. We know that cattle are raised on ranches, fattened in feed lots, and processed in packing plants. Beef may be one of the more expensive items on our shopping lists, but we assume that the ranchers are fairly compensated for their end of the production process. Beef, Inc. challenges that assumption and takes us into the politics and economics of food production. Like many other traditional farmers, smaller ranchers face a tough struggle against the giants of agri-business. Directly and indirectly, three large American companies control production and pricing of North American beef. These companies are to the beef business what OPEC is to oil: a cartel regulating the price and quantity of a highly desirable product. And business is what it is all about: whether it is fertilizer and pesticide to aid in the production of the grain on which the cows are fattened, to processing the various by-products of the slaughter, the agri-business giants have control of all of it. Large contracts with big players in the food service business also effect what we eat. The fast food industry, with its standardization of product, has led to a narrowing of breeds available for beef production. The sheer volume of product needed by the food industry has led to "intense livestock production," the overcrowding of cattle in feedlots, leaving them vulnerable to disease. Cattle are doctored with a whole range of medical interventions, including antibiotics and growth hormones, leaving the consumer to wonder about potential health risks and changes to the quality of the beef itself. North Americans are used to cheap food - this video asks us to consider the real cost of what we eat. Also available in its original French-language version, L'effet boeuf, Beef, Inc. would be particularly useful in senior high school Geography classes studying agriculture and food production.


Joanne Peters is a teacher-librarian at Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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