Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side Book Review

Pages: 6 (2029 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Agriculture

¶ … Fast food nation: The dark side of the all-American meal by Eric Schlosser. Specifically it will contain a book review of the book. Schlosser's book, made into a major motion picture, discusses America's obsession with fast food, and what that food is doing to the nation's health. It also looks at large-scale factory farming and how the fast food industry really dominates just about every aspect of American life.

The author writes in his introduction, "Over the last three decades, fast food has infiltrated every nook and cranny of American society" (Schlosser, 2002, p. 3). This is the main point of the book, that fast food now dominates our culture and our diet, and that is dangerous for the entire nation. He continues, "This is a book about fast food, the values it embodies, and the world it has made" (Schlosser, 2002, p. 3). These are the main points of the book, but it offers several other points to ponder, as well. The author opens the book with a short history of some of the pioneers in the fast food industry, like Carl Karcher, the founder of Carl's Jr., the McDonald brothers, who revolutionized how their kitchen prepared food, which eventually led to the massive growth of their franchised restaurants. Schlosser notes, "For the first time, the guiding principles of a factory assembly line were applied to a commercial kitchen" (Schlosser, 2002, p. 20). He devotes a chapter to Ray Kroc, the man who founded McDonald's Corporation and really put the hamburger stand on the map. This revolutionary way of preparing and offering fast food allowed McDonald's and others to prepare a higher volume of food, reduce prices and costs, and serve more customers. He shows how all these early fast food operators took McDonald's ideas and created their own restaurant empires as a result. This is an important point in the book because it shows how American entrepreneurism led to what would become one of the biggest industries on Earth.

The author shows how fast food chains cater to families and market directly to children, something that was not common even thirty years ago, but is commonplace today. He writes, "Today's market researchers not only conduct surveys of children in shopping malls, they also organize focus groups for kids as young as two or three" (Schlosser, 2002, p. 44). In this and other examples, he shows how fast food as revolutionized so many areas of American life, from marketing and advertising to agriculture and even the economy. He points out that McDonald's was one of the first companies to specifically target children in their marketing, indicating how the fast food industry changes the way Americans do business, too. For example, many school districts are now selling advertising to fast food and soft drink companies as a way to reduce budget shortfalls.

Schlosser also shows how fast food chains have changed the face of the workforce in America. Most fast food restaurants employ teens who are willing to work for low wages and need little training. He writes, "Jobs that have been 'de-skilled' can be filled cheaply. The need to retain any individual worker is greatly reduced by the ease with which he or she can be replaced" (Schlosser, 2002, p. 70). They have helped created the mega-huge corporation that cares nothing about its employees or their well-being, and they have helped decrease small business throughout the country. He shows how companies like McDonald's have changed the very fabric of America, and implies that is a very bad thing for the nation. They also helped invent the idea of franchising, something that has also spread dramatically across the American landscape. He shows how powerful the companies are, with links to government, lobbyists, and other big businesses, and he shows how they fight unionization and minimum wage laws at every turn. Their obsession is making money for the corporation and the franchisees, while the employees are their last concern.

Another point is how fast food companies have changed the face of agriculture. They demand exacting specifics from farmers and packagers, and they use an amazing amount of product, so they have to ensure they have enough suppliers to meet the demand. He writes, "The impact of McNuggets was so huge that it changed the industry,' the president of ConAgra Poultry, the nation's third-largest chicken processor, later acknowledged" (Schlosser, 2002, p. 140). He shows how low-paid immigrant workers fill most of the positions in packing plants, and that labor laws are often ignored in both the packing plants and in fast food franchises. He states, "The high turnover rate in meatpacking is driven by the low pay and the poor working conditions" (Schlosser, 2002, p. 163). He shows how meatpacking plants are dangerous, and they often routinely fined for their working conditions, but nothing is done to make them safer. In addition, he shows how "natural" and "artificial" additives are at the heart of most fast food items, and people consume them without even thinking about what is really in them.

An entire chapter discusses E.Coli and the outbreaks that have occurred in fast food burgers and other items. The bacteria that contaminates raw meat and can kill children is now the "leading cause of kidney failure among children in the United States" (Schlosser, 2002, p. 200). It again indicates that people do not think about the food they are putting into their bodies, which is also illustrated by the growing obesity problem in the U.S., which many experts link to the growth in popularity of fast food. He writes, "The obesity epidemic that began in the United States during the late 1970s is now spreading to the rest of the world, with fast food as one of its vectors" (Schlosser, 2002, p. 242). As the book progresses, it becomes clear that fast food has changed the country, and not in a good way.

All the points the author makes in the book are serious issues with fast food and its growth in America. What can we do about them? If we do not acknowledge them and act on them, there are serious repercussions for our health, well being, and government, so acting on them is crucial for the overall health of the country. First is the issue of obesity, which is facing more people than ever before, and more children. Many people have asked the fast food chains to openly post the fat, calories, and other nutritional data in their foods. Most offer this information online, but many of the chains' customers are the low-wage working poor, and they may not have access to the Internet. In addition, many people have no idea of the calories and fat in their favorite items, they simply remain ignorant because they do not want to know the truth. If the chains posted the nutritional information in their stores, it might change the minds of at least a few people. In addition, chains should be encouraged to lighten up their menu items, especially in the wake of the obesity epidemic. Many regular fast food customers eat out in these restaurants four or five times a week, and they are not only ingesting fat and calories, they are ingesting large amounts of sodium, additives, and preservatives that are very unhealthy, as well. The companies need to take more responsibility for their food and what it contains, and they need to start on that program immediately.

The author illustrates that most fast food chains pay low wages, work their employees too hard, and disregard labor laws. Many have been fined as a result, yet the practices continue. Clearly, an investigation should be instigated into employment practices throughout the industry, it is not right that the companies are using their employees, not paying them fairly, and not paying them benefits. The author notes, "But it [Congress] can eliminate the tax breaks that reward chains for churning through their workers and keeping job skills to a minimum" (Schlosser, 2002, p. 262). In-N-Out Birder is an exception to this rule, and it would be equitable if more fast food chains followed their example. They pay a minimum of $8 per hour, they offer a good benefit package to their full-time workers, and they pay higher salaries than the other chains do. The author notes, "The high wages at In-N-Out have not led to higher prices or lower-quality food. The most expensive item on the menu costs $2.45" (Schlosser, 2002, p. 260). The food is also made from fresh ingredients, and it ranks first in many areas with its customers. Its customers are also extremely loyal, citing the fresh ingredients and service as reasons to endure long lines in the drive-thru, especially when the franchises open up in a new area. If one fast food company can offer better service, ingredients, and better pay, the others can afford to do the same, instead of serving high fat, mass-produced, frozen food that is cooked by machines.

As for the ranching… [END OF PREVIEW]

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