Fast Food Nation
The Dark Side Of The All American Meal
Author: Eric Schlosser
A great piece of investigative journalism, Fast Food Nation written by Eric Schlosser explores the fast food culture and the industry behind it with great detail to unearth many disturbing facts for all of us to see. Reading the book, I am reminded of a saying, ´Every beautiful face has an hideous skull behind it”, and this book tries it best to bring out this hideous aspect of the cheerful and the progressive fast food industry which became an icon of the American way.
The book traces the history of the fast food culture with case studies of McDonalds, Subways, Burger King’s and Wendy’s that has brought America efficiently prepared meals at low prices and has transformed the eating patterns and the lifestyles. Schlosser delves into the structure of the industry and explores the participants of the Industry, employees, meat industry, flavor Industry, packaging industry, potato farmers, the franchisees, the frozen foods industry, the agri-business aspects.
The fast food culture exerts a direct influence on large parts of the population, Schlosser cites an estimate that “one out of every eight workers in the United States has at some point been employed by McDonald’s” alone. The fast food industry seems to provide cheap, convenient, and fast food, and provide employment to a large number of people — but the food is arguably not particularly healthy. The effects of the consolidation of the agribusiness, the demand of the unskilled, cheap labor by the fast food chains is disturbing.
To promote mass production and profits, the industry must keep labor and material costs low. Hence the bringing of the American concept of assembly-line production into the food industry to exercise control, deskill the job done, maintain consistency. Teenagers and recent immigrants make up much of the fast food workforce, often working under poor conditions. Companies profit from huge turnover. Schlosser recounts how McDonald’s and its ilk have fought against unions, sometimes closing stores to prevent workers from unionizing.
MNC’s have little regard to the economic fortunes of individual farmers or local communities. Poultry owners doesn’t even own the birds and the potato farmers have nothing in their control due to the corporate ownership of the agri-business units. The chapter on Why the Fries Taste Good offers a bleak look at the future of food through Flavor Industry, where any taste can be given to any product.
Regarding dangers to consumers Schlosser focuses on E. coli and salmonella infection. Workers in meatpacking plants routinely suffer from repetitive strain injuries, and many have lost fingers and worse as the pace of killing and cutting up animals has increased to create higher profits. The faster the line moves, the less attention is paid to food safety. Parasites and bacteria are another price paid for the meatpacking industry’s profit margin.
Schlosser ends the book saying that “you can still have it your way”, highlighting the choice the consumer has to say no to the fast food.