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The Author Speaks

How the Sausage Is Made: Peering Inside the Business of Food

An interview with Karl Weber, editor of Food, Inc.

Picture yourself about to devour a big, juicy cheeseburger.

Stop right there.

Ever wonder what that patty has gone through in order to get to your plate?

That cheeseburger, and plenty of other American favorites, has undergone tremendous change in the past 40 years. More of the dishes we order in restaurants and the meals we put on our tables contain heavily processed, calorie-laden foods filled with sweeteners, preservatives and flavor enhancers scientifically designed to make us keep eating them.

Filmmaker Robert Kenner set out to discover what happens to our food during its creation. He thought documenting the process would be straightforward. But he quickly discovered a nearly impenetrable industry — one whose output can be unhealthy and, sometimes, downright harmful. He also found it nearly impossible to get anyone from the food industry to talk to him. His film, Food, Inc., tells a disturbing story about what happens to food before it reaches our mouth.

The movie’s producers teamed with a publishing house to create a user’s guide that expands on what Kenner learned. The result is the first film companion book that taps up-to-date expertise on the food industry from voices such as investigative journalist Eric Schlosser, best known for his exposé on the fast-food industry, and author and professor Michael Pollan, who has examined American agribusiness and the Western diet in his acclaimed books.

Editor Karl Weber spoke with AARP Bulletin Today about Food, Inc.: How Industrial Food Is Making Us Sicker, Fatter and Poorer — and What You Can Do About It.

Read an excerpt from one of the book's chapters written by Kenner about his difficulties making the film.

Q: The book says the food industry has been industrialized. What does that mean when it comes to meat?

A: Instead of chicken, beef and pork being produced on farms in small quantities, they’re now being produced in gigantic factorylike settings where the animals lead short and miserable lives. This kind of production makes food cheaper. The typical American family spends 10 percent of its income on food. As recently as the 1960s, it was closer to 18 percent. We can afford more calories than we ever could before. On the surface this appears to be a good thing. But it’s come about largely because the way common foodstuffs are produced has become industrialized.

Q: And what happens as a result? Take a typical hamburger from McDonald’s.

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