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Documentary 'At the Fork' opens our eyes to the food we eat

Persuasively putting a face on the meals most of America consumes regularly without coming across as a sanctimonious expose, “At the Fork” serves up an even-handed perspective on the subject of eating ethically.

Meat-eating filmmaker John Papola, at the behest of his longtime vegetarian wife, Lisa Versaci, embarks on a trip through the country’s industrial agricultural heartland, making stops at various pig, cattle and chicken farming operations and learning some inconvenient truths about animal welfare along the way.

But those anticipating militant vegan abolitionist scare tactics involving hidden cameras and individuals who will only speak on the condition of anonymity will be pleasantly taken aback by the documentary’s open, inquisitive approach.

In addition to profiling those working in animal agriculture who are grappling with the moral and economic realities at play, Papola also receives reflective input from more familiar individuals, most notably, Temple Grandin, who takes a more humane approach to her design and construction of slaughterhouses.

It isn’t just carnivores who can take away some compelling food for thought here, as the dairy and egg industries are also scrutinized for their animal crowding practices.

Nor are smaller agricultural producers immune to the sort of common procedures, like routine castration and culling (both performed here in graphic detail), that might not be seen as taking animal welfare to heart.

At the end of the day, “At the Fork” finds the American animal agricultural industry at a true crossroads as it struggles to strike a conscientious balance between happy hens and cheap chicken.

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‘At the Fork’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica

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