July 17, 2009
Robert Kenner set out to make a documentary about the food industry, thinking he'd hear from both activists and industry insiders. But he quickly realized that the insiders wouldn't talk, farmers who did suffered consequences and, by the way, he needs a lot more lawyers. Kenner says the process was "Orwellian."
From the interview:
BOB GARFIELD: Did you end up pulling some punches, you know, in anticipation of litigation?
ROBERT KENNER: There are things that I pulled out that I think were true. I'm used to working with high levels of factchecking. I've worked with National Geographic and worked with American Experience. But on this film we spent a lot of time and looked for multiple sources, and there were times where our lawyers would make us redo things.
One example was that we were dealing with chicken farmers who were involved with Tyson and Purdue, who I think are very big in the Southeast. And one chicken farmer said that she was giving arsenic to her chickens, and Purdue said, well, we've stopped that practice. But they had defended the practice of giving arsenic to chickens a few weeks prior to our filming with the chicken farmer. I ended up taking that out of the film, but the fact is they were like defending that just a mere few weeks before. But I felt, you know, we'll, we’ll take it out.
BOB GARFIELD: Why were they giving arsenic to chickens?
ROBERT KENNER: Because it kills the bacteria and it helps them grow quicker. But the fact that it’s getting into the water, into the land and into our - the food we're eating is besides the point. And if they can keep it off the label, they find customers were still buying it.
BOB GARFIELD: The chicken farmer who was giving her broilers arsenic, under contract with Purdue, having acknowledged that to your cameras, is she still a Purdue contractor?
WHAT THE HECK!!?? Arsenic in chicken!
More of the interview here.