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Eric Schlosser’s Book Fast Food Nation

Updated January 14, 2022
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Eric Schlosser’s Book Fast Food Nation essay

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Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser details common modern day American eating habits and describes the large shift since World War 2. He tracks fast-food workers, high-end executives in the fast-food industry, ranchers and farmers, and food scientists to track the changes. The first major difference is the emergence of major fast-food corporations such as McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s.

As soldiers began to return from the war and moved their families into the suburbs, and with the rise of the family automobile thanks to Henry Ford, fast-food chains became more and more popular thanks to the speedy service they provided. However, this convenience comes at a cost. Workers cannot unionize, work is done with very mechanized processes at very fast and unsafe speeds, and independent ranchers cannot keep up with large-scale ranching

. By exposing the hygiene, safety, and economic issues of fast-food, Schlosser believes that by readers boycotting certain food corporations, health will be prioritized, independent owners will make more of the profit, and food production will be made safer for workers all over the globe. Schlosser wants the readers to understand the terrible health issues that stem from the prevalence of fast food in our diets, as well as how the food is truly processed; fast-food conglomerates sell their food for cheap prices to increase their buyers, forcing them to compromise the quality.

In 1937, two Pasadena brothers, Richard and Maurice McDonald, created their own restaurant chain, McDonald’s, and helped innovate what they called the Speedee Service System. To emphasize mass-production for as cheap as possible, cooks were essentially turned into assembly line workers in McDonald’s, breaking their jobs down into small tasks. As a result, they increased their food output, cut the menu down, and lowered prices.

This caused a boom in their business and set the standard for the fast-food industry. The workers were subject to poor conditions and difficult work for low pay. They couldn’t complain either because “did somebody say McUnion?…Not if they want to keep their McJob.” (77). Customers loved the low prices and convenience, and the industry has grown exponentially since then. McDonald’s wasn’t just selling food, they were selling the future of dining, and their marketing was proof of that.

The McStore, an enormous gift shop selling McDonald’s memorabilia was, “Disneyesque” (33) as the brothers were trying to create a franchise known by people all over the world – their influence far greater than their burgers. By opening “universities” they fooled workers into thinking they were receiving higher education when in reality they were just building up the company. Ray Kroc, the CEO, wanted to open locations on every busy corner and in Disneyland, anywhere they could reach consumers. Kroc was more worried about selling the idea and the image than selling good quality food to the customers.

According to Schlosser, a generation ago, three-quarters of the money used to buy food in the United States was spent to prepare meals at home. Today about half of the money used to buy food is spent at restaurants – mostly fast food restaurants. The main corporation withdrawing all of society’s money is a restaurant we know as McDonald’s. McDonald’s has become a very powerful symbol in America’s economy: being responsible for over ninety percent of jobs in the country, being the nation’s largest purchaser of beef, pork, and potatoes, the largest toy distributor, and the top advertising brand.

To match the demand for a fast-food staple, potato companies must take shortcuts to supply enough for french fries, using unhealthy methods of producing the frozen fries. To get the right taste, flavor companies “enhance” the potatoes using chemicals. Their ingredients are not disclosed, they are just required to use things that are generally safe. The issue with not knowing what’s going into the flavoring is that the companies always say they are using natural flavoring, when in reality they use a whole bunch of chemicals, they just happen to be derived from something natural like a fruit or vegetable.

This lack of regulation allows these corporations to get away with whatever makes them the most money. In fact, “Today the U.S. government can demand the nation-wide recall of defective softball bats, sneakers, stuffed animals, and foam-rubber toy cows. But it cannot order a meatpacking company to remove contaminated, potentially lethal ground beef from fast food kitchens and supermarket shelves” (196). The factories ruin their surroundings as well as provide workers with horrible conditions.

Greeley, a factory town in Colorado, has a smelly problem from meatpacking. Meatpacking factories, “have turned one of the nation’s best-paying manufacturing jobs into one of the lowest-paying, created a migrant industrial workforce of poor immigrants, tolerated high injury rates, and spawned rural ghettos in the American heartland” (149). Most meatpackers are immigrants because they must settle for the terribly undesirable job that no one else will take.

The health issues aren’t just for the workers, though, as the final product these companies create is deadly as well. The issue with large food corporations controlling the market is that when there is an e.coli or salmonella outbreak, way more people are affected than if it happens at a small farm. Outbreaks are more common than you would think too since cleanliness is an issue when using the undesirable parts of the animals as fast-food does. Even if your food isn’t ridden with disease, it is still killing you, as “Twenty years ago, teenage boys in the United States drank twice as much milk as soda; now they drink twice as much soda as milk” (54).

Fast-food is lacking in the things we need like fiber and nutrients, and high in fat and sugar – but not the ones that are healthy for you. The increase of their sales is also leading to an increase in obesity of Americans. Home cooked food will always be healthier than what you can find at McDonald’s, but healthy food is expensive and requires effort, so health is sacrificed. More work has to be done to not only educate people about a healthy diet, but healthy food has to be more widely available for poorer people or else they’ll have no choice but to resort to junk.

The emphasis on mass production and efficiency allows for a few corporations to dominate while all independents suffer. Until more strict health and safety rules are placed on farms, factories, and fast-food restaurants, we will continue to torture factory workers with terrible conditions and low benefits, risk large disease outbreak, and fuel the obesity crisis in this country. As a country, we cannot be content with how these franchises dominate, all the while only hurting our economy and health. We are allowing these monopolies to form in the food production business, not leaving any room for independent farmers to make their living. As long as we are giving McDonald’s our business, they will continue to exploit us.

Eric Schlosser’s Book Fast Food Nation essay

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Eric Schlosser’s Book Fast Food Nation. (2022, Jan 14). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/eric-schlossers-book-fast-food-nation/

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