The Harsh Truth of the Fast Food Industry in Fast Food Nation

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Eric Schlosser in the book Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal exposes the inconvenient truth that what we are putting in our mouth has a dark story behind it. This book informs readers about how fast food has completely infiltrated our culture and changed the way that we live.

Important Points Brought Out

Schlosser writes on many perspectives. He writes on the real estate development of fast foods, and how franchises can be bought. He writes about the meatpacking industry, and the manufacturing practices of potatoes, and beef. He explains the business aspect of the fast-food industry, all the way from CEO to line cook. He even adds in a small biography of a lot of the founding fathers of multiple fast-food restaurants. All these perspectives only served to broaden the amount of data present and thus contributing to the success of the book.

Schlosser goes behind the scenes of some of the biggest corporations in the fast-food industry. He goes into detail about the history of the worlds largest fast-food chains, such as McDonald's and Burger King, explaining their increasing struggle with the US legislation, the USDA, and the USHA. He discusses the impact of flavoring factories not only on the fast-food industry but also on commonly used processed products.

Our relationship with fast food starts way before we are conscious of it because these companies are marketing to children. They are not looking at a general consumer populous, they are focusing on kids. The goal is not to make the parents buy the product, but how to get the children to nag the parents to buy the product. This marketing tactic is used by fast food restaurants all over the globe. “Sophisticated mass marketing techniques were for the first time directed at small children, and when federal agencies created to protect workers and consumers too often behaved like branch offices of the companies that were supposed to be regulated”. (p. 8) All of the mascots like Ronald McDonald, Wendy, Jack from Jack in the Box, are all designed to appeal to children. “Fast food is heavily marketed to children and prepared by people who are barely older than children. This is an industry that both feeds and feeds off the young.” (p. 9). Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald's, was a friend of Walt Disney.

Authors Intent

Schlosser's motivation was not to prevent individuals from eating fast food, but to reveal insight into a generally hitting piece of the cheap food industry.“I do not mean to suggest that fast food is solely responsible for every social problem now haunting the United States. In some cases, the fast-food industry has been a catalyst and a symptom of larger economic trends.” (p. 9) The book is intended to advise the readers about what truly goes on behind the counters of our preferred drive-thru restaurants. The writer was attempting to accomplish an amusement factor alongside a descriptive angle when making Fast Food Nation, which is obvious when you read the book.

Schlosser did this by utilizing more straightforward facts alongside facts that would truly intrigue the reader. An example being: “ This year Americans will spend over $110 billion on fast food—more than they will spend on movies, books, magazines, newspapers, videos, and recorded music combined.” (p. 3) This helps keeps the reader engaged and also helps keep the reader wanting to learn more facts.

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Lessons to Be Learned

The lesson to be learned from reading is related to customer awareness. As individuals buying the food these corporations put out, we should be aware of the necessities, like health, that these companies sacrifice for money. Schlosser repeats again and again how critical it is to make sure these companies stay accountable for the goods they produce. His main argument is that the industry is unhealthy, greedy, and takes advantage of the people, mainly children.

He exposes how low quality the meat is, and how willing we are to eat it just because it tastes good. “Here lies a simple explanation for why eating a hamburger can now make you seriously ill: there is sh** ”(fecal matter)“in the meat.” (p. 197). He warns us as consumers to stay vigilant about the food we consume “It has also been made possible by a widespread lack of awareness about how many Americans suffer from food poisoning every year and how these illnesses actually spread.” (p. 197).

Appraisal

One thing about this book that was enjoyable was that it had a good amount of key information and the author integrated a narrative feeling into it. The informal way that this book was written contributed immensely to how interesting and engaging the book was. It helped me stay engaged, and I feel like I learned a lot from this book. So on one side the book is great because he talked about a lot of different things and was interesting. But on the flip-side the book is spread out all over the place, and the transition between ideas is very sloppy so reading the book feels like the author is throwing more information at you without connecting it to the previous information. He does not focus on one argument either. You can tell what the book is about by the subtitle “The Dark Side of the All-American Meal”, but unfortunately he does not remind you of that.

Some of the information in the book is also outdated. The book was originally published on January 2001, and all of his research is from the late ’90s so if you do the math, that ends up being over 20 years ago. So much has changed since then that his research is almost not relevant to this day and age. The book was still a very good source of information about the different practices and everything for that time, but unfortunately, the book would not go very far when compared to this day and age. If Schlosser had done a ten year out afterword exploring the impact of his book, that would be interesting to see. But otherwise, the book is very behind the times.

One thing that he should have included was a well-defined call to action for the readers. A lot of what Schlosser asks of change is the big guns like the people who run these companies or are in congress but that, unfortunately, does not apply to most readers. His only real recommendation for everyone reading this book is to not buy fast food. Which does seem like a great initiative at first sight, but you realize that he just says “Do not buy fast food” and he does not explain what we should do instead. So for me, that was not a very actionable call to action for me to help solve the problem.

Integration of the 5 Major Themes of Geography

There are 5 major themes of geography. They are described as movement, regions, human-environment interaction, location, and place (commonly referred to as Mr. Help). Movement is defined as “the travel of people, goods, ideas, and political events from one location to another.” Movement was a key idea in Fast Food Nation. Though McDonalds was the first fast food chain to use the assembly-line like system, White Castle was still the first official fast food chain. Soon after White Castle’s founding in 1921, McDonalds took their idea for food and made it faster using the assembly line method in 1955. That is an example of movement and development of ideas from one person to another.

Another major theme that was present in this book was human environment interaction. Beef is the main ingredient in many of the biggest fast food chains. Most of this meat is produced in factory farms which contribute to global warming immensely. The whole chain of production affects the environment, not just the chemicals. So that is an example of humans interacting in the environment to create fast food, lets look at an example of the environment adapting to the changes in our behavior.

Deforestation is another affect of the fast food industry. Restaurants compete to provide the best beef products, resulting in millions of cattle being slaughtered. Many corporations like Burger King import rainforest beef, which led to Amazon deforestation. In response to this, the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) started boycotting rainforest beef, mainly honing in on Burger King. “Deforestation causes climate change, animal extinction, and destroys the homelands of Indigenous people. Scientists are concerned that if more rainforest is cleared, there will be less rainfall in the rainforest, combined with climate change, which could worsen a drought in the rainforest.” (Lael Goodman, “Deforestation, Cattle, and Fast Food”,UCSUSA). These are all indirectly a result of fast food.

Conclusion

Since the development and advancement of the fast food industry our country and nation has never been the same. In light of the advancement of drive-through joints, America's economy, wellbeing and ways of life have been strongly influenced in different ways and angles. Eric Schlosser exposed the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of the fast food industry. This advancement in food making has made some positive and negative effects on the American way of life, wellbeing, and economy, in many ways throughout the continent.

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