King Corn is a feature documentary about two friends, one acre of corn, and the subsidized crop that drives our fast-food nation. In King Corn, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, best friends from college on the east coast, move to the US heartland to learn where their food comes from. With the help of friendly neighbors, genetically modified seeds, and powerful herbicides, they plant and grow a bumper crop of America?s most productive, most-subsidized grain on one acre of soil. But when they try to follow their pile of corn into the food system, what they find raises troubling questions about how we eat?and how we farm.
Almost everything Americans eat contains corn: high fructose corn syrup, corn-fed meat, and corn-based processed foods are the staples of the modern diet. Ready for an adventure and alarmed by signs of their generation?s bulging waistlines, college friends Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis know where to go to investigate. Eighty years ago, Ian and Curt?s great-grandfathers lived just a few miles apart, in the same rural county in northern Iowa. Now their great-grandsons are returning with a mission: they will plant an acre of corn, follow their harvest into the world, and attempt to understand what they?and all of us?are really made of.
In Colorado, ranchers says their cattle should be eating grass. But with a surplus of corn, it costs less to raise cattle in confinement than to let them roam free: ?The mass production of corn drives the mass production of protein in confinement.? Animal nutritionists confirm that corn makes cows sick and beef fatty, but it also lets consumers eat a $1 hamburger.
Their investigation of America?s most ubiquitous ingredient, high fructose corn syrup, turns serious when they follow soda to its consumption in Brooklyn, NY. Here, Type II diabetes is ravaging the community, and America?s addiction to corny sweets is to blame. The breadth of the problem is now clear: the American food system is built on the abundance of corn, an abundance perpetuated by a subsidy system that pays farmers to maximize production.