27 January 2009

9. Fast Food Nation

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser

I wanted to read something that was not fiction. I chose this one because my wife has recently decided to become vegan again. I doubt I will give up all meat, but I thought maybe this book would make it easier to give up fast food. At least it would reduce my intake of junk in some way.
I knew before starting that this book would not paint a pretty picture for McDonald's, Burger King, Taco Bell or countless of my other favorites.

I learned a little bit more than I expected.

The book starts out with the history of fast food. How it became part of our culture. How it has influenced the way we live. How our society is so intertwined with the fast food mentality that we have no idea how to live without it any longer.

Then the author moves on to the effects of the fast food companies on farming and ranching. How did we go from family owned farms to huge conglomerates like Con-Agra? How did the meat-packing industry go from being a highly skilled desirable career to a meaningless job only being completed by migrant workers and the dregs of society? Why are the USDA and FDA unable to do anything worthwhile as far as making food safe for consumption? How and why the fast food industry supports Republican candidates and hates Democrats. Why do we still have people dying from E-Coli and Salmonella? How has the American fast food culture influenced foreign countries and how does it affect their citizens?

The author addresses these problems using real life people as examples. He interviewed many people and traveled all over the world while writing this book. It was originally a set of articles written for Rolling Stone and later he wrote the book. Now it is even a movie.

Did you know that our public school lunch programs get the meat that the fast food chains will not use? That is because it is cheap. It is cheap because it is junk.

Did you know that there is shit in your meat? Yes, you eat shit, and you like it.

Did you know that Fast Food restaurants and meat-packing plants have 200-400% personnel turnover per year? Did you know that this is done on purpose? Low wages encourage it. The teenagers and the immigrants are more easily controlled. It reduces costs because the employees move on before any benefits are ever available. The lack of continuity in personnel also means it is almost impossible for any labor organization to get any kind of backing from the people.

There is so much more.

It is not all bad though. There are examples of good being done. There are reasons that fast food companies have had positive influences. There are people and corporations that are not falling into the same traps as the rest.

In-N-Out Burger in California is an example. I loved that place. They had great food. They had great prices. Now I know why. In-N-Out does not operate as a normal fast food chain. :-)

Eric Schlosser is a muck-raker. Kind of like Michael Moore...but at least I believe Mr. Schlosser.


  1. I really wish I could be a vegetarian. We are at least trying to buy meat from small, local farms or organic.