Super Sized Awareness

“Super Size Me 2” is the long-anticipated sequel to the original documentary.

I’m probably not too far off to say that every health class in public schools probably showed Super Size Me at some point in the school year. It’s just one of those basic, straightforward documentaries about nutrition and the conventional American diet that doesn’t hold back from the truth.

Not that we weren’t aware already: Fast food is awful for our health. You can’t expect to eat at McDonald’s every day for every meal and expect your well-being to magically improve. The additives, animal products, and empty calories just add up to problems nobody should have to face. Except we still choose to consume the foods we do. Improvements are evident, yes. Soon after the release of the original film, McDonald’s even dropped the super-size option off their menus. But even with our new obsession with natural, organic, and “healthy” foods, we still rely upon convenience and addictive flavors to satisfy our hunger.

So I along with many others are curious to see what the long-awaited Super Size Me 2 will have to say now. The focus of this film, as is pretty obvious with the released photo above, is chicken. Rather than forcing himself to gobble down McDonald’s for a month, Spurlock is going directly into the problem by starting his own fast food restaurant, one quite similar to crowd-favorite Chick-fil-a. Apparently it’s not a pretty industry, as if the greasy industrial kitchens and deep-fried, mass-produced foods weren’t a telling sign already.

Instead of taking on the health impact of fast food, Spurlock is going after the industrial complex that results in consumers getting duped and farmers getting financially hosed to the point of contemplating suicide. Will the revealing truth of the chicken and animal industries in general convince people to stop ordering chicken sandwiches? Who knows.

Spurlock began preparing for filming after looking at how the fast-food landscape has changed in the past 13 years, in no small part because of the original movie. As mentioned earlier, we are starting to become “mindful” of our choices, and the fast-food restaurants have responded accordingly to keep their business sustainable. Super foods like kale and hummus are now making their way to the value menus. Or avoiding using terms like “fried” for preparing foods that are, indeed, fried. Spurlock calls this the “health halo” marketing strategy to make consumers feel better about ordering food that is bad for them.

And, of course, chicken, the most popular food in the world. 9 billion chickens are killed for meat in the U.S. annually, making up a whopping $48 billion industry. Spurlock doesn’t hold back from the gruesome reality that chickens face every day to end up on our sandwiches. Essentially, chickens are specifically bred to get so fat so quickly, their feathers, their legs, and their hearts physically cannot keep up. Over half of chickens are dead even before their “lifespan” is up.

Not to mention how pointless all those fancy terms are that you see on packages of chicken and really any meat product. Chickens can be “cage-free,” even though meat chickens have never been raised in cages, just a windowless little building crammed with other birds. “Hormone-free” is equally empty since it’s already against the law to give poultry hormones — not that that stops anyone from throwing it on a label. If chickens are fed with animal-free feed, people can even tote their birds are “vegan” and “organic” instead of just “100 percent natural” and “minimally processed.” And when you see a label with “free-range”? All it requires to use that one is providing a small horseshoe-shaped pen on the lawn just outside the barn door that the chickens can occasionally wander through at certain times of the day.

Like any other animal-based food industry, it’s big business. It looks beyond the living beings stuck in the middle of the process in order to rake in all the dough possible. And hey, the American people are helping them out. Usually we feel better about eating chicken over other meats like beef or pork, saying that it’s healthier, but really, who is it healthier for? Certainly not the small businesses getting swallowed beneath huge corporations. Certainly not consumers getting fed lies to convince them to keep buying chicken. Certainly not the ridiculous number of chickens that, every day, succumb to the same awful fate.

People might not quick cold-chicken (see what I did there?) eating their favorite protein, but we need this awareness about what the food industry is truly like and how they operate and manipulate the public. We have the choice to support companies and products that cause less harm. It should be a no-brainer to take that option, but it means giving up a portion of our established norm. Are we willing to do that? I sure hope so.

Super Size Me 2 will be released both online through YouTube Red and in theatres next year. Would you be interested in seeing the film? What are your thoughts on food marketing and the animal industry? I’d be curious to hear your thoughts.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

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