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Cinematographer Graham Meriwether talks ‘American Meat,’ screening Thursday at MoBOT

September 10th 12:09pm, 2013

091013_americanmeat

 

“American Meat” is a documentary by Graham Meriwether that looks at contemporary chicken, hog and cattle production in the U.S. The film debuted in 2011 and premiered in St. Louis in October 2012. This Thursday, Sept. 12, Meriwether returns to St. Louis for a screening of the film at Missouri Botanical Garden.

Meriwether was inspired to make the documentary after reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. In particular, he was drawn to Joel Salatin, a pasture-based farmer in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley and a central subject in Pollan’s book. “He was jumping off the page with charisma,” said Meriwether. He initially  planned to focus the film on Salatin’s Polyface Farms. “In the end, we decided to cover the entire industry as a whole.”

“Our film has a journalistic nature in the way we portray all the different types of meat production in America,” he said. “We don’t vilify or make one as evil and one as good.” He added that moviegoers “really appreciate how balanced the film is.” And while “American Meat” attempts to give an even-handed look at animal husbandry as it moves from feedlot and confinement systems to pasture-based farming models, Meriwether accedes that “we certainly are advocating local, grass-fed meat production.”

Although Meriwether feels the average American “doesn’t have much of an idea where their [sic] meat is coming from,” he is optimistic that awareness levels are changing. “People are becoming more and more curious about production models. I think we will see a huge increase about food transparency and where food comes from in the coming years.

Meriwether’s next project, a documentary titled “Farmers of America,” should continue to shed light on food production. Still in the preproduction stage and with an anticipated release for fall 2015, “Farmers of America” will focus on beginning and young farmers around the country.

MoBOT, in partnership with Chipotle, is presenting a screening of “American Meat” Sept. 12 as part of its Savor Your Summer film series. The screening will take place at 7 p.m. at the Shoenberg Theater, with a reception beforehand outside the theater at 6:30 p.m. Following the film, there will be a question-and-answer session with Meriwether. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, go here.

 

 

By Ligaya Figueras

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