Research Proposal: Fast Food Nation

Pages: 4 (1296 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 2  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Agriculture  ·  Buy This Paper

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All American Meal: Changing the Land, Workforce, And Above All Culture

According to Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All American Meal, the fast food industry has completely and irrevocably changed the American landscape, workforce, and culture. Many of the aspects of fast food culture Schlosser demonizes are also applicable to other forms of American capitalism -- for example, Wal-Mart also makes use of poorly paid workers who receive few benefits, and are used as disposable commodities, rather than participants in a company who can look forward to being promoted and share in its profits. The overconsumption of meat and high-fructose corn syrup is endemic to American processed food, as well as fast food. But the eradication of cooking, the idea that food is not food but entertainment, that food is a product for children rather than adults and that it is acceptable to have the family meal in a car are all aspects of modern life for which the fast food industry must accept sole blame.

It is perhaps the automobile that really changed the American landscape and made fast food possible: "The triumph of the automobile encouraged not only a geographic separation between buildings, but also a manmade landscape that was loud and bold" (Schlosser 17). Anonymous roadside 'pit stops' replaced lunch counters where everyone knew one another's name. The demand for cheap beef transformed the cattle industry, and made factory farming king. Sustainable agriculture, always a tenuous proposition in a land with a tendency to over-farm and over-graze the soil, became replaced with industrialized agriculture and factory farming. Today, Schlosser writes, poultry farmers are "trapped by debt," captives of large processors and the meat industry may be going the same way (Schlosser 139). The patterns of ownership and management on Americans farms today parallels that of 19th century rural England, not that of the independent homesteaders of previous eras (Schlosser 118). Today, America has more prison inmates than full-time farmers (Schlosser 8).

"In the potato fields and processing plants of Idaho, in the ranchlands east of Colorado Springs, in the feedlots and slaughterhouses of the High Plains, you can see the effects of fast food on the nation's rural life, its environment, its workers, and its health… the hardy, independent farmers whom Thomas Jefferson considered the bedrock of American democracy are a truly vanishing breed" (Schlosser 8). Strip malls, faceless and standardized, dot America's highways, not unique establishments. As persuasive as Schlosser is regarding the role fast food plays in this development, it should be added that industrialized agriculture and food processing is endemic to the agricultural industry as a whole, not just the fast food industry. Most animals today are raised in an inhumane manner, on an unnatural (corn-fed) diet. Of course, the fast food industry's appetite for cheaply produced animal carcasses is a component of the shift to industrialized agriculture, but it is important to keep in mind that merely by eschewing Quarter Pounders, one cannot be assured of eating in an ethical fashion.

The analysis of the fast food industry's attitude towards its labor force is also likely to resonate with many readers. Fast food uses its workers to assemble, not make its food, according to company specifications. Its workers are paid the minimum wage, and receive no training in higher-level cooking skills -- only a few are sent to the coveted Hamburger University of the McDonald's corporation. And even these workers, like most franchise workers, have little opportunities to learn entrepreneurial creativity: "computer programs, training manuals, and the machines in the kitchen" do the thinking for them (Schlosser 73). Most fast food employees are young and receive few benefits. Instead of cultivating a relationship with an employee over time, in the hopes of building up that individual's career within the company, workers are actively discouraged from working for long… [END OF PREVIEW]

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