Factory Farming and Avian Flu Loomed Large on a New “Real Time”

Eric Schlosser joined Bill Maher to discuss the documentary “Food, Inc. 2”

May 11, 2024 3:04 am
Bill Maher
Bill Maher discussed factory farming and critiqued the media on a new "Real Time."

If you followed this week’s news about Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s parasitic brain worm, it should come as no surprise that it came up more than once on the latest Real Time With Bill Maher. This included Maher’s first guest, Eric Schlosser, bringing it up in the context of the issues infusing the documentary Food, Inc. 2.

“Of all the food-borne problems we’ve got in the United States, ‘worm in the brain’ is not in the top 5,000,” Schlosser said. 

Much of their conversation focused on the problems that ranked somewhat higher on the list. Maher, for his part, noted that the film argues that the nation’s current food industry is bad for almost everyone in it, from workers to consumers to the nation’s flora and fauna. Both he and Schlosser were also frustrated at the lack of governmental oversight of the industry.

Schlosser’s critique also encompassed the consolidation therein. “The biggest seller of coffee in the US is a German company — not Starbucks,” he said. “They sell it under all of these brands, so you have the illusion of choice.” (If ever there was an exchange that called out for a Real Time/Adam Ruins Everything crossover, this was it.)

Maher brought up Schlosser’s critique of ultra-processed foods and asked if the term was a recent one. Schlosser clarified what he meant by it, saying, “If you look at the label, and you see all these chemical names that you would never have in your kitchen — that’s an ultra-processed food.” He pointed to things like flavor additives and emulsifiers, which he linked to obesity. While he was at it, he also called for more nutritious food for kids.

Schlosser cited his collaborator Michael Pollan’s advice when it comes to eating: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Both he and Maher emphasized that eating a wide range of food is good for your health; Maher also got candid about one ubiquitous meat: “I’m so fucking sick of chicken.”

Avian flu was the last subject the two discussed, with Maher asking Schlosser, “What’s the future here?”

Schlosser shared that he was concerned about avian influenza, and spoke of his concerns over the conditions that could lead to it spreading to humans. “Factory farms,” he said, “are a crime against nature.”

Bill Maher Defended Vaccines on This Week’s “Real Time”
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. was among the evening’s guests

Some other notable moments from the episode:

  • Maher, on a very weird election season: ”I think this says everything about the presidential race. The 70-year-old man with a worm-eaten brain is the youth candidate.” 
  • Frank Bruni and Douglas Murray joined Maher for the panel discussion, which opened with the trio discussing Israel, Gaza and campus protests. The discussion got more interesting when Bruni revisited some of the culture wars of the 1990s, including a Robert Bork critique of “radical egalitarianism.” “That’s just ‘wokeness’ with more syllables,” Bruni said.
  • Maher on news headlines overusing words like “shreds” and “obliterates”: “You’re supposed to be a source of information, not Nikki Glaser at the Tom Brady roast.”
  • The editorial segment of “New Rules” began with more discussion of campus protests, but swerved and instead went to a broader critique of how the media covers stories. Maher’s shorthand description was “Narrative first, whole story never.”

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