Project Description

Cover for the film, What's for Dinner? Features a closeup of a pigs nose through metal bars.

What’s for Dinner?

2014 · Unrated · 28m


What’s for Dinner? explores fast-globalizing China through the eyes of a retired pig farmer in rural Jiangxi province; a vegan restaurateur in Beijing.

This documentary follows the rapid rise of animal product consumption in China, where consumption of pork the country’s most popular meat has doubled over the past ten years. Since China recently opened its doors to foreign agribusiness, both Western and home-grown fast food chains are now commonplace in urban areas and contribute to a $28 billion-a-year business in the country.

None of this would be possible without the rapid adoption of a U.S.-style system of intensive production. But strains are showing: manure and another run-off from so-called “factory farms that can house thousands of pigs, chickens, or ducks are fouling groundwater and rivers. Only two generations after a national famine killed millions, nearly a quarter of Chinese adults are overweight or obese, as are as many as one in five children. Diet-related chronic diseases now kill more people in China than any other cause.

What’s for Dinner? sheds new light on the climate, public health, food security, workers’ rights, and ethical concerns of China taking this path.

Character Biographies

  • Zhou Shuzhen is a retired pig farmer who worked at Ten Thousand Pig Farm in Jiangxi province.
  • Xiao Muxiu is a pig farmer at Ten Thousand Pig Farm, whose small-scale business is threatened by the fluctuating price of pork.
  • Wu Xiaohong works in Beijing on animal welfare issues.
  • Yi Shengming is a pig farmer in Yi village, near Ji’an City in Jianxi province.
  • Wang Ronghua is a young livestock entrepreneur invested in pig and poultry farms, and is building a new pig facility in his hometown, which he hopes to expand.
  • Yu Li is the owner of Vegan Hut, a health-conscious vegan restaurant in Beijing, which he opened after learning about the significant role of livestock in global warming in the 2006 UN report, Livestock’s Long Shadow.
  • Xie Zheng is a pop star and activist who founded the vegetarian advocacy group, “Don’t Eat Friends”.
  • Dr. Tian Yongsheng is a government official and long-time vegetarian who worries about the ecological impacts of feeding a growing livestock population.
  • Wen Bo is one of China’s leading environmentalists, working for National Geographic’s Global Exploration Fund for China.
  • Xie Hongying owns Donald Macky restaurant, a home-grown Chinese fast food outlet in Ji’an City.

About the Filmmakers

What’s for Dinner? is directed by award-winning filmmaker Jian Yi who led an all-Chinese crew that included assistant director Eva Song, producer Douglas Xiao, and cinematographer Pan Kewu. Jian Yi is an independent filmmaker and cultural activist who is interested in religion, education, environmental conservation, globalization, and unofficial history.

In 2009, he founded IFChina Original Studio, a non-profit independent organization focusing on collecting and documenting social memories. Jian taught at the Communication University of China for five years before his three-year appointment with an E.U. program focusing on China’s village governance. He is a Yale World Fellow (2009), an Asian Cultural Council grantee (2008), an India-China Fellow at the New School University (2008-2010), and a visiting fellow at Cambridge University.

Jian’s films have won international awards including the Bronze Zenith at the 31st Montreal World Film Festival, and have been shown at numerous venues across the globe including New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), United Nations conference forums, and university campuses. He has served as a jury member and mentor at international film festivals and spoken at numerous venues including the artists’ series at the Apple Store Beijing. Jian received Master’s degrees from the Beijing Broadcasting Institute (now Communication University of China) and the University of Notre Dame. Jian and his wife, Eva Song, have been vegetarians (mostly vegans) for more than five years and are proud parents of a healthy and lovely vegetarian baby boy.

Interview with Jian Yi about the making of the film:


“But despite its sobering topic, this is not a shock film – we see a slaughterhouse, but not the actual slaughter. And director Jian Yi is careful to include the voices and stories of people working for a different type of dinner menu. After the pigs’ short trip from trough to plate, we meet environmental activists and the Buddhist proprietor of a vegan restaurant. An artist explains how easy it is to be a vegetarian in a country with such a vast variety of inexpensive fresh vegetables. (“Eating meat is more a desire of the mind than a desire of the body.”)” – Grace Communications. “‘What’s For Dinner’: A Documentary Film Review.” Grace Links. 30 Sept 2014

“Very thought provoking! I also just saw the sequel to this documentary, “Six Years On,” at a film screening at my university. Both include good interviews and make us all ask some important questions about what we eat and why we eat it.” – A. Summers, Amazon


Cover for the film, What's for Dinner? Features a closeup of a pigs nose through metal bars.

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