American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
The next time you tuck into a nice T-bone, reflect that it probably came from a cow that spent much of its life standing in manure reaching above its ankles. That's true even if you're eating the beef at a pricey steakhouse. Most of the beef in America comes from four suppliers.
The next time you admire a plump chicken breast, consider how it got that way. The egg-to-death life of a chicken is now six weeks. They're grown in cages too small for them to move, in perpetual darkness to make them sleep more and quarrel less. They're fattened so fast they can't stand up or walk. Their entire lives, they are trapped in the dark, worrying.
All of this is overseen by a handful of giant corporations that control the growth, processing and sale of food in this country. Take Monsanto, for example. It has a patent on a custom gene for soybeans. Its customers are forbidden to save their own soybean seed for use the following year. They have to buy new seed from Monsanto. If you grow soybeans outside their jurisdiction but some of the altered genes sneak into your crop from your neighbor's fields, Monsanto will investigate you for patent infringement. They know who the outsiders are and send out inspectors to snoop in their fields.
Food labels depict an idyllic pastoral image of American farming. The sun rises and sets behind reassuring red barns and white frame farmhouses, and contented cows graze under the watch of the Marlboro Cowboy. This is a fantasy. The family farm is largely a thing of the past. When farmland comes on the market, corporations outbid local buyers. Your best hope of finding real food grown by real farmers is at a local farmers' market. It's not entirely a matter of "organic" produce, although usually it is. It's a matter of food grown nearby, within the last week.