March 4, 2013
More than 50 people filed into Berger Hall Feb.25 for an advanced screening of “American Meat,” a documentary detailing the different methods farmers use to bring animal products to consumers.
“We’re trying to show some of the ways our food system works and also show the system from the perspective of the people that raise the animals that we eat,” said director, cinematographer and producer Graham Meriwether.
“We show you every different type of system,” Meriwether said. “There’s no hidden camera footage. It’s very journalistic in nature in the sense that it doesn’t alienate or say that ‘this is bad’ or ‘this is good.'”
The film showcased primarily four farmers: Joel Salatin, Chuck Wirtz, Fred Kirschenmann and Daniel Salatin.
The documentary looked at raising animals in open pastures and in containment facilities with information on the production abilities of each method and how the techniques effect the way consumers get animal products.
Meriwether was motivated to direct the film after reading “The Omnivores Dilemma” by Michael Pollan.
“While I was reading that book, I was working on the weekends on my friends’ farm,” Meriwether said. He explained that he became interested in the different methods of farming and contacted Joel Salatin.
The documentary struggled some. “The film took a lot of different turns. We were starting out to do a totally different film and ended up with the one we have today,” he said.
“American Meat” is Meriwether’s first feature film as a director, and he has previously participated in short journalistic pieces.
Meriwether has not personally raised animals but said one of his life goals is to farm “just to raise food for my family.” He said he would start with egg-laying hens and broilers – chickens raised for meat consumption.
A panel followed the film. Panelists included Meriwether; Lena Macias, owner of Black Forest Farmstead; Mike Callicrate, founder of Ranch Foods Direct; and Susan Gordon, manager of Venetucci Farm.
Attendees asked questions ranging from how to be more proactive in the Colorado Springs community to what went into the documentary. People who asked questions received Chipotle coupons.
Judith Rice-Jones, teaching assistant for Geography of Food and wife of an organic farmer, encouraged consumers to take a moment to think about where their food comes from and appreciate the efforts.
“It’s a nice tradition that I think we should think about bringing back,” Rice-Jones said. She added that “we vote with our forks every time we eat and that everything that goes into food goes into you.”
“American Meat” will be shown close to 110 times throughout the country in high agricultural states, and Meriwether plans to attend every screening.