Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Mealby Published 05 Jul 2005
|Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal.pdf|
A groundbreaking work of investigation and cultural history that may change the way America thinks about the way it eats.
Are we what we eat? To a degree both engrossing and alarming, the story of fast food is the story of postwar America. Though created by a handful of mavericks, the fast food industry has triggered the homogenization of our society. Fast food has hastened the malling of our landscape, widened the chasm between rich and poor, fueled an epidemic of obesity, and propelled the juggernaut of American cultural imperialism abroad.
That's a lengthy list of charges, but Eric Schlosser makes them stick with an artful mix of first-rate reportage, wry wit, and careful reasoning. Schlosser's myth-shattering survey stretches from the California subdivisions where the business was born to the industrial corridor along the New Jersey Turnpike where many of fast food's flavors are concocted. He hangs out with the teenagers who make the restaurants run and communes with those unlucky enough to hold America's most dangerous job -- meatpacker. He travels to Las Vegas for a giddily surreal franchisers' convention where Mikhail Gorbachev delivers the keynote address. He even ventures to England and Germany to clock the rate at which those countries are becoming fast food nations.
Along the way, Schlosser unearths a trove of fascinating, unsettling truths -- from the unholy alliance between fast food and Hollywood to the seismic changes the industry has wrought in food production, popular culture, and even real estate. He also uncovers the fast food chains' efforts to reel in the youngest, most susceptible consumers even while they hone their institutionalized exploitation of teenagers and minorities. Schlosser then turns a critical eye toward the hot topic of globalization -- a phenomenon launched by fast food. Fast Food Nation is a groundbreaking work of investigation and cultural history that may change the way America thinks about the way it eats.
"Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal" Reviews
I thought that this book was going to be like Super-size Me only in book form. Not that the author would eat McDonalds everyday but that he would talk mostly about the unhealthiness of fast food.
I was wrong.
The author barely touches the "fast food is full of fat and fattiness" deal. He mainly talks about the greed, power, and evilness of fast food companies. I would read this book in the mornings as i drank my coffee and I would get so mad at how only a few people can make so many people miserable. I would cry at the working conditions of the meat industry (and trust me, i'm not crying over the cows. it's the workers that have it so bad that i just want to take them all away from that horrible job and give them all sacks of money and comfortable chairs to sit on.)
He discusses the ranchers, the feedlots, the slaughter houses, and the packaging companies. He talks about the potato farms. He talks about minimum wage. He talks about how our government is supposed to regulate and keep us safe from unhealthy meat and that it not only doesn't do that, but CAN'T do that, legally. The USDA cannot recall meat that is unhealthy. It has no rights to do that. The meat companies can voluntarily recall meat, but they can't be forced to, even if the meat is infected with epidemic proportions of e. coli 0157:H7, which, as far as i can tell, is like ebola, it turns your organs into mush.
The meat industry is so corrupt and has bought so many republican congressmen that it has no watchdogs, no police. OSHA is not allowed to investigate a factory unless the injury records show above the national average. The meat companies hire doctors to lie about the severity of injuries and, and, and they keep two injury logs. the real one and the one they turn in to OSHA. This is illegal. And when the companies are caught they have to pay a piddly fine.
The FDA doesn't care about the food you eat. They only care about prescription drugs.
The USDA is not allowed to police the thing it was set up to police. (This is not new and it's also the reason i don't drink milk.) The author also says that the government will not change any of this. That the only way to make some change is if McDonalds will make the change. So if enough people complain and make bad press about McDonalds using nasty beef instead of clean, grass-fed cows...nothing will change.
He discusses the franchise/franchisee relationships.
He discusses the hisory of fast food and the american west. It's amazing.
This book was so interesting. If I were to become a vegetarian it would not be because I had a problem with the way cows are treated. Nay, it would be because of the treatment of humans.
"As God as my witness, I shall never eat another hamburger as long as I shall live!" That's what I said after reading this book. Then the phone rang. It was my friend who wanted to go grab a quick bite at Wendy's. I had a cheeseburger. I never looked back baby!
It's not that this book paints the fast food industry in a wicked horrible light. It doesn't become a witch hunt, this isn't "Hey, you know, Elie Wiesel is right, Nazi's are real sons of bitches!" (which is what I expect most people think after reading Night. I've never read it myself... I just expect people think that after reading said book... though to be honest, most people probably think that already, unless you're Mahmoud Ahmadinejad), but it's not all puppys and flowers either. Really, it's rich old white men looking out for themselves (and who else are they going to look out for?)
It's been a few years since I've read the book, so I could be wrong about this, but I'm going to say this book isn't even as harsh on the fast food industry as Supersize Me (A film which I refuse to see, because: Duh! Eat nothing but fast food for a month and you're going to get sick? Who was shocked by this movie? "No, but you don't get it... it's how sick he was, and how fast." That's usually the opposing argument I get. I still say "Duh!" I'm going to make a movie where I shoot up heroin three times a day for a month, or smoke seven packs of cigarettes a day for a month, or hit myself in the head with a hammer five times a day for a month, and see what happens. I really want people to say, "Man, I knew that hitting yourself in the head with a hammer was dangerous, but who knew how dangerous it could be. I mean he was brain damaged by the second day! I'm never hitting myself in the head with a hammer again!" But I digress, this isn't about film... this is about books).
It's a pretty good book for the history lesson on how fast food got started, and how the industry has done a good job screwing everyone from farmers, to fat kids, to illegal migrant workers, to small business owners, to who knows who else. And just when you start to think, "Man, screw fast food..." the author himself says he still eats fast food... then you think, "I sure do like them McDonalds fries." Then you hear about the newest Halo 3 tie in at Burger King, where not only will your fries be wrapped in a Halo 3 themed package, but your soda will come in a Halo 3 cup!?!?"
So what, so what if the meat might be tainted with the fingers of an illegal, or so what if the farmer who sold the slaughtered cow can barely aford new boots, dammit, I want it my way, and I want it my way now!
Plus there is this one part of the book that talks about how some fast food companies will donate money to schools in exchange for advertising space or a spot in the cafeteria... and let's be honest, what would you rather have fat smart kids, or fat dumb kids? (Smart thin kids isn't an option- this is public school we're talking about here).
It's a light romp through the dark underbelly of the fast food world. It'll learn you but good, and it certainly gave me pause, right before I went out and got a #4 supersized with a Dr. Pepper (cause Dr. Pepper rulz).
Written on May 29, 2012:
I am glad that I had a large Pizza and a KFC burger at the Delhi airport before I started this book. Adios fatty fries, triple-decker domes and cheesy discs, you will be missed. Ignorance is indeed bliss sometimes.
Update: June 22, 2014
I am happy to report that I have largely stuck to this. Ever since reading this I have virtually avoided this sort of trash and must have eaten a maximum of a couple of burgers and pizzas in the last two years (and that too most reluctantly, when unavoidable). Thanks, Schlosser.
By the time you finish reading this book, you will strongly consider becoming either a vegan or a hard-core local eater, or both. I took a tiny bit of comfort in knowing that I eat vegan about half the days in the year; still, the book really scared me. It's hard, factual journalism with a huge section of footnotes in the back. As much as I'd love to dispute some of Schlosser's claims, I look around me and see evidence to support what he says about the amount of cheap food we eat and what it's doing to us.
Contrary to popular opinion, this is not a book that vilifies fast food. Chains like In-N-Out Burger are extolled for using fresh, safe meat and peeling their own potatoes. Nor does it vilify carnivores. The gist of the book is that, in our relentless demand for a cheaper, more efficient system, we have neglected the human element of each phase of food preparation, from farm to plate. Something has gone horribly wrong.
The author avoids what could be a smug, glib attitude in favor of an urgent, prodding tone: it is clear he believes we are in a crisis, and he is probably right. It's hard to go back to your favorite restaurant and order a hamburger after reading "What's in the Meat," or to complain about work after finishing "The Most Dangerous Job." Serious stuff.
I do think Schlosser comes down way too hard on conservatives in the book, and he admits in the epilogue that to be fair, many liberals are guilty of the same sins. For instance, the Clinton family has close ties to the poultry industry in much the same was as the Bush family does to the beef industry (which is the primary subject of his research.)
Finally, I applaud his conclusion, which is a very pragmatist (and even capitalist) approach: in a free market, we vote in dollars spent. If, through our purchases, we demand safer meat, fresher produce, and fair pay for food service industry workers, we will get what we want. It's a simple matter of doing research before we buy, of supporting small farms who do things the old, slow, respectful way.
Well, I'd say "enjoy" . . . but I read it too! I gave it three stars only because I couldn't justify saying I "loved it" when it consistently made me want to skip dinner. But I'm glad I read it. You should read it too.
I grew up in Greeley, CO. It was interesting to read about how your hometown is a home base for slaughterhouses. At night the entire town smells bad. I could relate to this book because I lived in Greeley and I can relate to this book because I am not fond of fast food.
The book talks about the start of burger joints and how they grew to be such an influence in today's society. The author discusses the life of workers and the working conditions in the meat packing plants. This interests me as I believe all workers of any vocation should be entitled to a safe and healthy working environment.
I also learned about In and Out burger joint. I have never seen In and Out Burger here in Colorado. I was very impressed. In and Out Burger purchases meat from local farmers. They also pay their employees better than the popular burger joint.
I enjoyed taking the tour with the author into the food industry's practices. I knew a lot about the meat industry before reading this book and I learned even more about what constitutes "natural flavors." The book made me want to read "The Jungle" by Sinclair.
The book was informative. I might have a biased reason for liking this book as it was validation to why I didn't eat meat anyway. I live in Boulder County now so what can I say? Damn Hippies.