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

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

4.1 306
by Eric Schlosser

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New York Times Bestseller, 

 With a New Afterword

“Schlosser has a flair for dazzling scene-setting and an arsenal of startling facts . . . Fast Food Nation points the way but, to resurrect an old fast food slogan, the choice is yours.”—Los Angeles Times

In 2001, Fast Food Nation was

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New York Times Bestseller, 

 With a New Afterword

“Schlosser has a flair for dazzling scene-setting and an arsenal of startling facts . . . Fast Food Nation points the way but, to resurrect an old fast food slogan, the choice is yours.”—Los Angeles Times

In 2001, Fast Food Nation was published to critical acclaim and became an international bestseller. Eric Schlosser’s exposé revealed how the fast food industry has altered the landscape of America, widened the gap between rich and poor, fueled an epidemic of obesity, and transformed food production throughout the world. The book changed the way millions of people think about what they eat and helped to launch today’s food movement.

In a new afterword for this edition, Schlosser discusses the growing interest in local and organic food, the continued exploitation of poor workers by the food industry, and the need to ensure that every American has access to good, healthy, affordable food. Fast Food Nation is as relevant today as it was a decade ago. The book inspires readers to look beneath the surface of our food system, consider its impact on society and, most of all, think for themselves.

“As disturbing as it is irresistible . . . Exhaustively researched, frighteningly convincing . . . channeling the spirits of Upton Sinclair and Rachel Carson.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“Schlosser shows how the fast food industry conquered both appetite and landscape.”—The New Yorker

Eric Schlosser is a contributing editor for the Atlantic and the author of Fast Food Nation, Reefer Madness, and Chew on This (with Charles Wilson).

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Editorial Reviews
Fast food has become a veritable American institution, with restaurants serving a quick bite in every strip mall and roadside rest area across the country. But, according to Fast Food Nation, the fast food establishment has been serving up much more than just cheap hamburgers and greasy fries. In compelling fashion, author Eric Schlosser traces the growth of fast food chains after World War II and condemns the industry for giving rise to such cultural maladies as obesity, classism, American global imperialism, and environmental devastation.

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CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN SITS on the eastern slope of Colorado’s Front Range, rising steeply from the prairie and overlooking the city of Colorado Springs. From a distance, the mountain appears beautiful and serene, dotted with rocky outcroppings, scrub oak, and ponderosa pine. It looks like the backdrop of an old Hollywood western, just another gorgeous Rocky Mountain vista. And yet Cheyenne Mountain is hardly pristine. One of the nation’s most important military installations lies deep within it, housing units of the North American Aerospace Command, the Air Force Space Command, and the United States Space Command. During the mid-1950s, high-level officials at the Pentagon worried that America’s air defenses had become vulnerable to sabotage and attack. Cheyenne Mountain was chosen as the site for a top-secret, underground combat operations center. The mountain was hollowed out, and fifteen buildings, most of them three stories high, were erected amid a maze of tunnels and passageways extending for miles. The four-and-a-half-acre underground complex was designed to survive a direct hit by an atomic bomb. Now officially called the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, the facility is entered through steel blast doors that are three feet thick and weigh twenty-five tons each; they automatically swing shut in less than twenty seconds. The base is closed to the public, and a heavily armed quick response team guards against intruders. Pressurized air within the complex prevents contamination by radioactive fallout and biological weapons. The buildings are mounted on gigantic steel springs to ride out an earthquake or the blast wave of a thermonuclear strike. The hallways and staircases are painted slate gray, the ceilings are low, and there are combination locks on many of the doors. A narrow escape tunnel, entered through a metal hatch, twists and turns its way out of the mountain through solid rock. The place feels like the set of an early James Bond movie, with men in jumpsuits driving little electric vans from one brightly lit cavern to another.
         Fifteen hundred people work inside the mountain, maintaining the facility and collecting information from a worldwide network of radars, spy satellites, ground-based sensors, airplanes, and blimps. The Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center tracks every manmade object that enters North American airspace or that orbits the earth. It is the heart of the nation’s early warning system. It can detect the firing of a long-range missile, anywhere in the world, before that missile has left the launch pad.
This futuristic military base inside a mountain has the capability to be self-sustaining for at least one month. Its generators can produce enough electricity to power a city the size of Tampa, Florida. Its underground reservoirs hold millions of gallons of water; workers sometimes traverse them in rowboats. The complex has its own underground fitness center, a medical clinic, a dentist’s office, a barbershop, a chapel, and a cafeteria. When the men and women stationed at Cheyenne Mountain get tired of the food in the cafeteria, they often send somebody over to the Burger King at Fort Carson, a nearby army base. Or they call Domino’s.
        Almost every night, a Domino’s deliveryman winds his way up the lonely Cheyenne Mountain Road, past the ominous DEADLY FORCE AUTHORIZED signs, past the security checkpoint at the entrance of the base, driving toward the heavily guarded North Portal, tucked behind chain link and barbed wire. Near the spot where the road heads straight into the mountainside, the delivery man drops off his pizzas and collects his tip. And should Armageddon come, should a foreign enemy someday shower the United States with nuclear warheads, laying waste to the whole continent, entombed within Cheyenne Mountain, along with the high-tech marvels, the pale blue jumpsuits, comic books, and Bibles, future archeologists may find other clues to the nature of our civilization — Big King wrappers, hardened crusts of Cheesy Bread, Barbeque Wing bones, and the red, white, and blue of a Domino’s pizza box.
        OVER THE LAST THREE DECADES, fast food has infiltrated every nook and cranny of American society. An industry that began with a handful of modest hot dog and hamburger stands in southern California has spread to every corner of the nation, selling a broad range of foods wherever paying customers may be found. Fast food is now served at restaurants and drive-throughs, at stadiums, airports, zoos, high schools, elementary schools, and universities, on cruise ships, trains, and airplanes, at K-Marts, Wal-Marts, gas stations, and even at hospital cafeterias. In 1970, Americaans spent about $6 billion on fast food; in 2000, they spent more than $110 billion. Americans now spend more money on fast food than on higher eeeeeducation, personal computers, computer software, or new cars. They spend more on fast food than on movies, books, magazines, newspapers, videos, and recorded music — combined.
         Pull open the glass door, feel the rush of cool air, walk in, get on line, study the backlit color photographs above the counter, place your order, hand over a few dollars, watch teenagers in uniforms pushing various buttons, and moments later take hold of a plastic tray full of food wrapped in colored paper and cardboard. The whole experience of buying fast food has become so routine, so thoroughly unexceptional and mundane, that it is now taken for granted, like brushing your teeth or stopping for a red light. It has become a social custom as American as a small, rectangular, hand- held, frozen, and reheated apple pie.
        This is a book about fast food, the values it embodies, and the world it has made. Fast food has proven to be a revolutionary force in American life; I am interested in it both as a commodity and as a metaphor. What people eat (or don’t eat) has always been determined by a complex interplay of social, economic, and technological forces. The early Roman Republic was fed by its citizen- farmers; the Roman Empire, by its slaves. A nation’s diet can be more revealing than its art or literature. On any given day in the United States about one-quarter of the adult population visits a fast food restaurant. During a relatively brief period of time, the fast food industry has helped to transform not only the American diet, but also our landscape, economy, workforce, and popular culture. Fast food and its consequences have become inescapable, regardless of whether you eat it twice a day, try to avoid it, or have never taken a single bite.
        The extraordinary growth of the fast food industry has been driven by fundamental changes in American society. Adjusted for inflation, the hourly wage of the average U.S. worker peaked in 1973 and then steadily declined for the next twenty-five years. During that period, women entered the workforce in record numbers, often motivated less by a feminist perspective than by a need to pay the bills. In 1975, about one-third of American mothers with young children worked outside the home; today almost two-thirds of such mothers are employed. As the sociologists Cameron Lynne Macdonald and Carmen Sirianni have noted, the entry of so many women into the workforce has greatly increased demand for the types of services that housewives traditionally perform: cooking, cleaning, and child care. A generation ago, three-quarters of the money used to buy food in the United States was spent to prepare meals at home. Today about half of the money used to buy food is spent at restaurants — mainly at fast food restaurants.
        The McDonald’s Corporation has become a powerful symbol of America’s service economy, which is now responsible for 90 percent of the country’s new jobs. In 1968, McDonald’s operated about one thousand restaurants. Today it has about twenty-eight thousand restaurants worldwide and opens almost two thousand new ones each year. An estimated one out of every eight workers in the United States has at some point been employed by McDonald’s. The company annually hires about one million people, more than any other American organization, public or private. McDonald’s is the nation’s largest purchaser of beef, pork, and potatoes — and the second largest purchaser of chicken. The McDonald’s Corporation is the largest owner of retail property in the world. Indeed, the company earns the majority of its profits not from selling food but from collecting rent. McDonald’s spends more money on advertising and marketing than any other brand. As a result it has replaced Coca-Cola as the world’s most famous brand. McDonald’s operates more playgrounds than any other private entity in the United States. It is one of the nation’s largest distributors of toys. A survey of American schoolchildren found that 96 percent could identify Ronald McDonald. The only fictional character with a higher degree of recognition was Santa Claus. The impact of McDonald’s on the way we live today is hard to overstate. The Golden Arches are now more widely recognized than the Christian cross.
        In the early 1970s, the farm activist Jim Hightower warned of “the McDonaldization of America.” He viewed the emerging fast food industry as a threat to independent businesses, as a step toward a food economy dominated by giant corporations, and as a homogenizing influence on American life. In Eat Your Heart Out (1975), he argued that “bigger is not better.” Much of what Hightower feared has come to pass. The centralized purchasing decisions of the large restaurant chains and their demand for standardized products have given a handful of corporations an unprecedented degree of power over the nation’s food supply. Moreover, the tremendous success of the fast food industry has encouraged other industries to adopt similar business methods. The basic thinking behind fast food has become the operating system of today’s retail economy, wiping out small businesses, obliterating regional differences, and spreading identical stores throughout the country like a self-replicating code.
        America’s main streets and malls now boast the same Pizza Huts and Taco Bells, Gaps and Banana Republics, Starbucks and Jiffy- Lubes, Foot Lockers, Snip N’ Clips, Sunglass Huts, and Hobbytown USAs. Almost every facet of American life has now been franchised or chained. From the maternity ward at a Columbia/HCA hospital to an embalming room owned by Service Corporation International — “the world’s largest provider of death care services,” based in Houston, Texas, which since 1968 has grown to include 3,823 funeral homes, 523 cemeteries, and 198 crematoriums, and which today handles the final remains of one out of every nine Americans — a person can now go from the cradle to the grave without spending a nickel at an independently owned business.
        The key to a successful franchise, according to many texts on the subject, can be expressed in one word: “uniformity.” Franchises and chain stores strive to offer exactly the same product or service at numerous locations. Customers are drawn to familiar brands by an instinct to avoid the unknown. A brand offers a feeling of reassurance when its products are always and everywhere the same. “We have found out . . . that we cannot trust some people who are nonconformists,” declared Ray Kroc, one of the founders of McDonald’s, angered by some of his franchisees. “We will make conformists out of them in a hurry . . . The organization cannot trust the individual; the individual must trust the organization.” One of the ironies of America’s fast food industry is that a business so dedicated to conformity was founded by iconoclasts and self-made men, by entrepreneurs willing to defy conventional opinion. Few of the people who built fast food empires ever attended college, let alone business school. They worked hard, took risks, and followed their own paths. In many respects, the fast food industry embodies the best and the worst of American capitalism at the start of the twenty-first century — its constant stream of new products and innovations, its widening gulf between rich and poor. The industrialization of the restaurant kitchen has enabled the fast food chains to rely upon a low-paid and unskilled workforce. While a handful of workers manage to rise up the corporate ladder, the vast majority lack full-time employment, receive no benefits, learn few skills, exercise little control over their workplace, quit after a few months, and float from job to job. The restaurant industry is now America’s largest private employer, and it pays some of the lowest wages. During the economic boom of the 1990s, when many American workers enjoyed their first pay raises in a generation, the real value of wages in the restaurant industry continued to fall. The roughly 3.5 million fast food workers are by far the largest group of minimum wage earners in the United States. The only Americans who consistently earn a lower hourly wage are migrant farm workers.
         A hamburger and french fries became the quintessential American meal in the 1950s, thanks to the promotional efforts of the fast food chains. The typical American now consumes approximately three hamburgers and four orders of french fries every week. But the steady barrage of fast food ads, full of thick juicy burgers and long golden fries, rarely mentions where these foods come from nowadays or what ingredients they contain. The birth of the fast food industry coincided with Eisenhower-era glorifications of technology, with optimistic slogans like “Better Living through Chemistry” and “Our Friend the Atom.” The sort of technological wizardry that Walt Disney promoted on television and at Disneyland eventually reached its fulfillment in the kitchens of fast food restaurants. Indeed, the corporate culture of McDonald’s seems inextricably linked to that of the Disney empire, sharing a reverence for sleek machinery, electronics, and automation. The leading fast food chains still embrace a boundless faith in science — and as a result have changed not just what Americans eat, but also how their food is made.
The current methods for preparing fast food are less likely to be found in cookbooks than in trade journals such as Food Technologist and Food Engineering. Aside from the salad greens and tomatoes, most fast food is delivered to the restaurant already frozen, canned, dehydrated, or freeze-dried. A fast food kitchen is merely the final stage in a vast and highly complex system of mass production. Foods that may look familiar have in fact been completely reformulated. What we eat has changed more in the last forty years than in the previous forty thousand. Like Cheyenne Mountain, today’s fast food conceals remarkable technological advances behind an ordinary-looking façade. Much of the taste and aroma of American fast food, for example, is now manufactured at a series of large chemical plants off the New Jersey Turnpike.
        In the fast food restaurants of Colorado Springs, behind the counters, amid the plastic seats, in the changing landscape outside the window, you can see all the virtues and destructiveness of our fast food nation. I chose Colorado Springs as a focal point for this book because the changes that have recently swept through the city are emblematic of those that fast food — and the fast food mentality — have encouraged throughout the United States. Countless other suburban communities, in every part of the country, could have been used to illustrate the same points. The extraordinary growth of Colorado Springs neatly parallels that of the fast food industry: during the last few decades, the city’s population has more than doubled. Subdivisions, shopping malls, and chain restaurants are appearing in the foothills of Cheyenne Mountain and the plains rolling to the east. The Rocky Mountain region as a whole has the fastest-growing economy in the United States, mixing high-tech and service industries in a way that may define America’s workforce for years to come. And new restaurants are opening there at a faster pace than anywhere else in the nation.
        Fast food is now so commonplace that it has acquired an air of inevitability, as though it were somehow unavoidable, a fact of modern life. And yet the dominance of the fast food giants was no more preordained than the march of colonial split-levels, golf courses, and man-made lakes across the deserts of the American West. The political philosophy that now prevails in so much of the West — with its demand for lower taxes, smaller government, an unbridled free market — stands in total contradiction to the region’s true economic underpinnings. No other region of the United States has been so dependent on government subsidies for so long, from the nineteenth- century construction of its railroads to the twentieth-century financing of its military bases and dams. One historian has described the federal government’s 1950s highway-building binge as a case study in “interstate socialism” — a phrase that aptly describes how the West was really won. The fast food industry took root alongside that interstate highway system, as a new form of restaurant sprang up beside the new off-ramps. Moreover, the extraordinary growth of this industry over the past quarter-century did not occur in a political vacuum. It took place during a period when the inflation-adjusted value of the minimum wage declined by about 40 percent, when 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. Ever since the administration of President Richard Nixon, the fast food industry has worked closely with its allies in Congress and the White House to oppose new worker safety, food safety, and minimum wage laws. While publicly espousing support for the free market, the fast food chains have quietly pursued and greatly benefited from a wide variety of government subsidies. Far from being inevitable, America’s fast food industry in its present form is the logical outcome of certain political and economic choices.
        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 fast food chains now stand atop a huge food- industrial complex that has gained control of American agriculture. During the 1980s, large multinationals — such as Cargill, ConAgra, and IBP — were allowed to dominate one commodity market after another. Farmers and cattle ranchers are losing their independence, essentially becoming hired hands for the agribusiness giants or being forced off the land. Family farms are now being replaced by gigantic corporate farms with absentee owners. Rural communities are losing their middle class and becoming socially stratified, divided between a small, wealthy elite and large numbers of the working poor. Small towns that seemingly belong in a Norman Rockwell painting are being turned into rural ghettos. The hardy, independent farmers whom Thomas Jefferson considered the bedrock of American democracy are a truly vanishing breed. The United States now has more prison inmates than full-time farmers.
The fast food chains’ vast purchasing power and their demand for a uniform product have encouraged fundamental changes in how cattle are raised, slaughtered, and processed into ground beef. These changes have made meatpacking — once a highly skilled, highly paid occupation — into the most dangerous job in the United States, performed by armies of poor, transient immigrants whose injuries often go unrecorded and uncompensated. And the same meat industry practices that endanger these workers have facilitated the introduction of deadly pathogens, such as E. coli 0157:H7, into America’s hamburger meat, a food aggressively marketed to children. Again and again, efforts to prevent the sale of tainted ground beef have been thwarted by meat industry lobbyists and their allies in Congress. The federal government has the legal authority to recall a defective toaster oven or stuffed animal — but still lacks the power to recall tons of contaminated, potentially lethal meat.
I do not mean to suggest that fast food is solely responsible for every social problem now haunting the United States. In some cases (such as the malling and sprawling of the West) the fast food industry has been a catalyst and a symptom of larger economic trends. In other cases (such as the rise of franchising and the spread of obesity) fast food has played a more central role. By tracing the diverse influences of fast food I hope to shed light not only on the workings of an important industry, but also on a distinctively American way of viewing the world.
        Elitists have always looked down at fast food, criticizing how it tastes and regarding it as another tacky manifestation of American popular culture. The aesthetics of fast food are of much less concern to me than its impact upon the lives of ordinary Americans, both as workers and consumers. Most of all, I am concerned about its impact on the nation’s 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. During the two years spent researching this book, I ate an enormous amount of fast food. Most of it tasted pretty good. That is one of the main reasons people buy fast food; it has been carefully designed to taste good. It’s also inexpensive and convenient. But the value meals, two-for-one deals, and free refills of soda give a distorted sense of how much fast food actually costs. The real price never appears on the menu.
       The sociologist George Ritzer has attacked the fast food industry for celebrating a narrow measure of efficiency over every other human value, calling the triumph of McDonald’s “the irrationality of rationality.” Others consider the fast food industry proof of the nation’s great economic vitality, a beloved American institution that appeals overseas to millions who admire our way of life. Indeed, the values, the culture, and the industrial arrangements of our fast food nation are now being exported to the rest of the world. Fast food has joined Hollywood movies, blue jeans, and pop music as one of America’s most prominent cultural exports. Unlike other commodities, however, fast food isn’t viewed, read, played, or worn. It enters the body and becomes part of the consumer. No other industry offers, both literally and figuratively, so much insight into the nature of mass consumption.
        Hundreds of millions of people buy fast food every day without giving it much thought, unaware of the subtle and not so subtle ramifications of their purchases. They rarely consider where this food came from, how it was made, what it is doing to the community around them. They just grab their tray off the counter, find a table, take a seat, unwrap the paper, and dig in. The whole experience is transitory and soon forgotten. I’ve written this book out of a belief that people should know what lies behind the shiny, happy surface of every fast food transaction. They should know what really lurks between those sesame-seed buns. As the old saying goes: You are what you eat.
— Copyright (C) 2000 Eric Schlosser. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"Schlosser is a serious and diligent reporter..." "[Fast Food Nation] is a fine piece of muckraking, alarming without beling alarmist."
—Rob Walker, New York Times Book Review 1/21/01

"Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation is a good old-fashioned muckraking expose in the tradition of The American Way of Death that's as disturbing as it is irresistible....Exhaustively researched, frighteningly convincing....channeling the spirits of Upton Sinclair and Rachel Carson....Schlosser's research is impressive—statistics, reportage, first-person accounts and interviews, mixing the personal with the global."
San Francisco Chronicle

"An exemplary blend of polemic and journalism....A tale full of sound, fury, and popping grease."
—starred review Kirkus Reviews

"Schlosser is part essayist, part investigative journalist. His eye is sharp, his profiles perceptive, his prose thoughtful but spare; this is John McPhee behind the counter...."
Washington Post

"...everywhere in his thorough, gimlet-eyed, superbly told story, Mr. Schlosser offers up visionary glints....For pure, old-fashioned, Upton Sinclair-style muckraking, the chapters on the meatpacking industry are masterful."

"'Fast Food Nation' is investigative journalism of a very high order. And the fit between the author's reporting and his narrative style is just about perfect. The prose moves gracefully between vignette and exposition, assembling great quantities of data in small areas without bursting at the seams."

"Schlosser establishes a seminal argument for the true wrongs at the core of modern America."
Publishers Weekly, Starred

"Reminiscent of Upton Sinclair's 'The Jungle'....."
Boston Globe

"Schlosser has done huge amounts of intense, on-the-scene reporting, and he backs up his concerns very convincingly. He presents incredibly resonant images and statistics and observations the reader is unlikely to forget."
San Jose Mercury News

"'Fast Food Nation' should be another wake-up call, a super-size serving of common sense...."
Atlanta Journal Constitution

"Part cultural history, part investigative journalism and part polemic...intelligent and highly readable critique...."
Time Out New York

"Fast Food Nation is the kind of book that you hope young people read because it demonstrates far better than any social studies class the need for government regulation, the unchecked power of multinational corporations and the importance of our everyday decisions."
USA Today

"Fast Food Nation presents these sometimes startling discoveries in a manner that manages to be both careful and fast-paced. Schlosser is a talented storyteller, and his reportorial skills are considerable."
Hartford Courant

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Fast Food Nation 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 306 reviews.
Phil_Slender More than 1 year ago
While very reminiscent of Upton Sinclair's 1906 novel, "The Jungle", Eric Schlosser manages to convey the same provocative and enlightening messages in his 2001 novel, "Fast Food Nation". While a bit outdated, the overall themes featured in the novel still hold relevance in today's society and truly make a person think twice about going to fast food restaurants in the future. The book is divided into two sections: a history of fast food chains, and then the "behind-the-scenes" production of fast food in more recent history. Throughout the novel, Schlosser aims to show his audience the truth about what fast food chains do to reach high production levels, and how little they value both their employees and their customers. As a high school student, I find this book to be extremely relevant to my generation, seeing as how millions of teenagers' first jobs are at fast food joints. The novel itself is a reasonable length, but the writing itself is hardly sophisticated, as evidenced by the number of typo's in the text. On the contrary, Schlosser's main strength in this novel is his amount of research that evidently went into his writing. The novel is packed with statistics, experimental findings, and first-hand interviews with people involved in the fast food industry. 20 pages at the end alone are dedicated to his bibliography. Many of his interviews with employees of fast food chains and meatpacking factories are very touching and display the level of tragedy thousands of people in this industry face everyday due to lack of health coverage and safety precautions provided by the corporations. I would highly recommend this novel to a broad audience- in fact anyone who eats fast food on a regular basis should read this so that they become fully informed on what exactly they are putting into their bodies every time they eat fast food. As a high school student, I found this book to be a worthwhile read, (unlike many other required readings in school) and I believe that it will forever change how I make choices in my diet, which I am sure was the author's intention behind writing this.
WhyAmIUpSoLate More than 1 year ago
106 years ago, Upton Sinclair revolutionized the food industry, uncovering the dirty secrets of food production. Fast forward to the present and Eric Schlosser is attempting to once again revolutionize how America eats by exposing the flaws with the fast food industry. He argues that the commercialized industry of fast food has changed how we as Americans live. Schlosser takes the reader on two tours. The first is the oft-repeated success stories of Ray Kroc, the founder McDonalds, and other fast food titans. A glorification of the American success story, this initial tour walks the reader through the story that the fast food industry would like America to hear. Yet this first tour is quickly followed by a disturbing second. Schlosser walks his readers through factories, plants, and warehouses—the true sources of fast food. He bares all, as he walks readers through olfactory factories. That’s right. Factories where smell is fabricated for your Big Mac, fries, and McFlurry. Schlosser exposes a disturbing—disgusting—amount of artificiality in every bite of McDonalds, Carl’s Jr., or Burger King we take. Certainly, most Americans don’t think of fluorescent lit factories, flighty plants, and dusty warehouses when they think of fast food. I know I didn’t. Schlosser changed that. He also speaks to the dangers of the fast food industry, both to the consumer and the producer. Dangerous malpractice in factories and plants lead to thousands of injuries, which, Schlosser argues, are the fault of lack of government regulation and intervention. He goes on to interview the victims of work injuries, creating a pathetic portrayal of an apparently flawed industry. Schlosser’s copious amount of statistics, factoids, and research should earn him 5 stars, yet his overtly single sided approach mars what has the potential for a fantastic book. Throughout the piece, Schlosser increasingly points toward government (particularly Republicans) for problems with the fast food industry. He selectively provides facts and statistics to enforce his point, while simply ignoring those that don’t. While Schlosser definitely exposes the flaws of fast food America, he fails to objectively present the issue, its root cause, and solution, earning him only 3 out of 5 stars.
CouponToes More than 1 year ago
The Book I was reading was Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. This book was a documentary about the food industry and the Fast Food Industry in particular. In the beginning of the book Schlosser is talking more about the history of fast food. He talks about how McDonald's and Carl's Junior and other fast food restaurants are created and how they evolved. The next section of the book is about the where the food you're eating comes from. It talks about the slaughter houses and the danger of working in the meat packing industry. It also tells stories of people getting extremely sick from salmonella. I would definitely recommend this book to another person. It was shocking and gave you the facts without completely bashing the fast food industry which I thought gave this book more integrity. I do think that some people will not be able to appreciate this book. Squeamish people and people that get bored easily will not like this book; however I found most of the book engaging. The reason that I say that people that get bored easily wouldn't like this book as much is because of the beginning. It is a little slow getting into the book because the whole first section is mostly a history lesson. It takes a little while to get hooked into the book. Once I got into the sections about the farms and the slaughterhouse and such I was completely hooked, just getting past the first section was a hurdle. The other reason why people might not like this book is because there are some more gory parts in this book. Especially when the slaughterhouse process was being explained. I don't consider myself to have a particularly weak stomach but I became a vegetarian for a couple months. Some people I have talked to on the other hand only wanted a cheeseburger when they read this book. I have to say my favorite part of this book was when Schlosser was in the place where they chemically created smells. Though it was a little disturbing that the smell of feet could be chemically manufacture, it was still intriguing. I'd never heard about anything like it before and I found it incredibly engaging. I never knew that I could get so excited by a book about Fast Food. Another part that I found that made me think was when I was reading about the workers in the slaughterhouse. I found it incredible that these workers were doing "the most dangerous job" according to Schlosser, and getting paid next to nothing. I read stories about people getting caught in the grinding machines and falling into the grease and getting hurt or dying. It made me wonder why anyone would want to do these jobs because of the risk and the low pay. I found that many of the workers were immigrants that just needed the money. The thing that I liked most about this book was that it wasn't a snarky book. It didn't say "Don't eat fast food, it's ruining America!" I found it refreshing to find a documentary book that didn't tell me what to do because I like forming my own opinions. I hate it when authors try to force their opinions on me. Schlosser said the facts and stated his opinion as separate things whereas many writers state their opinions as fact. I also liked how Schlosser had a mixture of the facts and stories so that you were less likely to get bored while reading just facts or just his thoughts. I would definitely recommend this book. It's subtly progressive so that's not annoying. It was hard to choose favorite parts because there were so many great parts. Though the beginning of
Triple_Entendre More than 1 year ago
Just like how Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle brought regulatory reform to the Theodore Roosevelt era, Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation should cause a wake up call in America today. It is a fascinating narrative of a revolution in the country that has been barely examined. Schlosser covers the aspects of the all American industry—food-born illnesses, animal abuse, worksite dangers, political corruption, and high rates of obesity—originated on the promise of being cheap. He effectively draws the connections to what most Americans know and don’t know about the industry while alarming us of what we very often take for granted. With nearly all of his research being done from first hand experience, he does not even need to use a passionate tone in the narrative because the facts are so compelling that they speak for themselves. The facts make it disturbing of what we are picking up at the drive-through window. The narrative definitely turns some heads and could quickly change many Americans' diets. Maybe one day in the future people will look back on this time in history with disgust just like how we look back at the time Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle. Schlosser’s piece of journalism deserves nothing less than five out of five stars for the above reasons and has the potential to transform the American public’s view on the fast food industry.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fast Food Nation is undoubtedly the most shocking book written on the topic of the fast food industry. Schlosser has an uncanny way of telling the facts without dragging the book down. He reveals industry secrets that franchises definitely do not want the public knowing. He writes about not only fast food itself, but also about food conditions in general. Schlosser reveals the gruesome, dirty, inhumane conditions animals are put through before they are shelved in supermarkets and sold in restaurants. He also gives interesting statistics about our consumption of fast food and its harmful effects on our health that will certainly change your views forever about fast food. The truth that Schlosser reveals is one that many have in some way heard before, but the main thing that sets this tell-all apart is the details that he goes into and the many well-kept secrets that big businesses have kept hidden for years. When it all comes down to it though, the main reason why EVERYONE should read this book is simple: health. Without a doubt our health is the single most important thing we have, and in today’s society there are numerous unhealthy factors in our lives. Fast food though is one that we can have some control over. Awareness is key to stopping this travesty, and the more people are aware of just how bad fast food has gotten, the faster the problem can be solved. Schlosser relates this important message in a way that is not like any typical boring nonfictional book. He keeps you interested in what he has to say the whole way through. Though some of the things he reveals may get gruesome, they are the truth and it is important that we know it. Read this book if you want to know what you are really consuming when you eat fast food.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book educates people as to where their food comes from. Once you read this book you will realize just how out of touch we are in so many aspects of our lives. There are videos, rumors, and stories all the time about spit (and other bodily fluids) being added to fast food by angry employees. But even if no one is spitting in your food it could still be very unclean. The author is not suggesting that eating out is evil entirely. He even mentions businesses that are cleaner and more ethical in their practices. Everyone should know where their food comes from, and how it affects their environment, health, and society. Even if caring for your own health isn't a priority, learning how others and the environment are affected is quite eye-opening. Note: I just rented the movie last night. I do not recommend that. It was more about sex and personal lives than the actual issues at hand. The movie touched on less than 1% of the issues discussed in this book. This book is a MUST READ!!
Lizzy_Shine More than 1 year ago
I have seen the film Super Size Me many times in the past, but this was my first time reading Fast Food Nation. I thought that they would be extremely similar and although they focus on the same central topic, they are very different. I would recommend this book over the movie any day. With every page, you could feel the passion that the author had for the topic and that he truly is looking out for the benefit of the country and to show people the truth. It takes the reader beyond just the fast food element and looks at how quick meals came to be so prominent in our society. The book discusses how great of an impact the use of automobiles affected the fast food industry and the progress that occurred in such a short amount of time. It discusses the use of a production line system, marketing, the affect on society's youth, and the meat packing industry. The book takes the reader across the country and is filled with extremely interesting facts relating to the history of the fast food market. It may be somewhat disturbing to read but Fast Food Nation only is revealing the truth about what Americans eat and the sources of their food. I think that this book is truly groundbreaking and I would highly recommend it to anyone. Although it may no be the easiest read for some, this book will open the reader's eyes to the truth of fast food and it may make one think twice before they go through the drive-thru or order a pizza.
IRBY_RAL More than 1 year ago
Eric Schlosser's book on the economy and strategies of the fast-food business should be read by anyone who likes to eat at fast-food restaurants. I shall certainly never do that again. He employs a long, cold burn, a quiet and impassioned accumulation of detail, with calm, wit and clarity. Fast Food Nation is witness to the all-American diet gone totally out of control, hopefully after reading this book we will all be say "No" to the question, "Do you want fries with that!"
Solveiga More than 1 year ago
The book Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser was actually not what I expected, that being in a positive aspect. What I enjoyed about this book is the way it provided factual information but not to the point where it overwhelmed me as a reader. It incorporated real life stories well into paragraph and chapter structure in an entertaining light. In a way it opened my eyes to what I was not noticing was already so relevant in my life. Never did I realize how many fast food chains there are around my house, but even if I did never did I think about their business outlook nor how strong of franchises they really are. Further thinking about it, I realized I could not think up as many local food businesses as fast food companies there are around my town, leading me to really notice the power restaurants such as McDonalds holds. Eric Schlosser wrote about how these companies use certain deceiving methods to establish clientele. They use kid friendly product recognition figures or toys in happy meals to appeal the younger demographic. This then attracts children whose parents bring them thinking they are feeding them healthy (from interpreting commercials) when in reality they are polluting the child bellies, as shown by increasing obesity statistics. Schlosser opened my eyes to this unfair and tricking way companies play on the public. What I really liked was his capability to bring the wrong doings of these firms to such light for all to see and understand better. His style of writing appeals to me because he doesn’t over power his own opinion and leads you questioning the fast food company’s intentions and methods of unclear advertising. Overall I would definitely recommend this book for all to read, much can be learned from it and the well researched factual evidence can provide the reader with a better understand to then let them formulate their own outlook on this topic.
yonagigai More than 1 year ago
Overall, the topic behind Fast Food Nation is overdue. America (and by extension, the rest of the world) has not done itself any favors creating industrialized homogenized fast food. However, reading the book is like listening to my next door neighbor rant about 3rd world politics over the fence - it sounds good but lacking in many of the details. In the book, there are too many value-laden judgements just 'thrown out there' without enough information and clear persuasive argument behind it.

Overall - great conversation starter - not a great treatise.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought that Fast Food Nation was a brilliant idea, however it was poorly organized. The book has interesting facts but they are intertwined with the author's obvious hate of most people in the world the Republicans are evil as well as the Democrats. He claims that all chains are wrong including the GAP and other major clothing stores, everything that has more that one store is portrayed as bad. After finishing the book it did give me some insight, however, if I could meet Eric whats-his-name I would ask him where he gets his food, clothes, and electronics. I highly doubt that he eats only vegitables grown in his garden and wears only the clothes that come from his personal alpaca. I just think that if he has such a right to put down everything that he lives for he should prove that he doesnt eat any fast food, food from supermarkets, or any restaurants, and he doesnt buy anything that he hasnt personally worked for. It could have been a brilliant book but the use of politics gave me a eerie sense of communism and facism.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was a HUGE disappointment to me, my classmates, and even my teacher! We expected to be reading amazing facts on every page, but we instead found ourselves reading about things totally irrelevant to FAST FOOD!! Here's a useful piece of advice: if you are just looking to find out what's in the actual food, researh that topic online instead of wasting 15 bucks to read about nothing. FAST FOOD NATION REALLY WAS A HUGE DISAPPOINTMENT!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
There may be some truth here, but it's hard to be certain. The book has lots of quotes and notes, but there were many unfounded jumps to conclusion. I can't help but think that this is one person's interpretation of details slightly beyond that person's grasp. One thing though is perfectly clear; the author doesn't like McDonalds or Republicans. Early on, when the author describes some horrible observations in a French fry factory his lack of knowledge of industrial processes or how products are manufactured causes one to question whether to believe other subsequent observations. A statement is made that he couldn¿t tell the difference between a stream of potato containing water and a refinery. Come on, anyone who has ever been around a refinery knows that there is no way it resembles a plant that prepares food. Where are the tall columns? Where are the pipe lines? Another statement in the same chapter decries the use of ammonia in the plant. the implication is that potatoes are processed in an ammonia atmosphere. This too is absurd. In industry ammonia is commonly used as a refrigerant, like Freon or R22. But the refrigerant should be entirely contained within the refrigeration system. There is nothing sinister about ammonia in a food processing plant, particularly if the product requires refrigeration or freezing. Both of these examples are simply scare tactics. Such tactics can be effective when bombarded upon persons who don¿t understand the technical aspects of a subject. The author goes on to bash the fast food industry, particularly McDonalds for being directly responsible for all the woes described. He next bashes the Republican Party at every opportunity as being indirectly responsible. The Republicans, the party of ¿Big Business¿ he thinks must have been beholden to the fast food guys for campaign money and made everything possible by gutting the FDA. I am not particularly fond of fast food myself, and I am not personally beholden to the Republican Party. But it bothers me that someone with such a limited grasp of technical matters can misinterpret facts so badly then put out very questionable conclusions as facts. It bothers me even more that no one reviewing such a piece of ¿yellow journalism¿ hasn¿t seen through these half truths and called the author¿s bluff. The sad thing is that some of the charges might be true. It¿s possible that there is more tainted meat out there, but this book has too many holes in it to make the case for me.
snyderhhannah More than 1 year ago
Eric Schlosser definitely exposed the dark side of the fast food industry in his novel Fast Food Nation. In writing this non-fiction book, Schlosser reveals the effects that fast food chains have on their employees, customers, and livestock, while also addressing the production process and corporate greed that comes along with fast food. The first section of the book is called “The American Way”, which mainly discusses the history of fast food in our society and how it has changed over the years. The second section is titled “Meat and Potatoes”, where the audience will gain insight into how the food is made and will learn some shocking secrets about fast food. Once I got to the second section I was definitely intrigued, but I found myself dozing off during the beginning of the novel  due to the boring historical facts. Although it was sometimes disturbing, I actually really enjoyed learning about fast food production process. The parts regarding the chemically created smells and the slaughterhouses especially sparked my interest; however, I am now hesitant to eat at fast food restaurants. Readers will forever think twice before ordering fast food again, which was probably Schlosser’s main goal. Schlosser educates American citizens and tries to protect them from obesity, but at the same time he bashes successful companies and the Republican party. On the other hand, I can appreciate the endless facts, interviews, statistics, surveys, and research done to complete the book. Many topics are addressed by Schlosser in the book, but anyone who eats fast food on a regular basis should give this book a try, so they know exactly what they are consuming. To learn more about the problems of obesity in America, I recommend also reading Food Fight. However, if you are more interested in the minimum wage-fast food-employee life aspect, I suggest picking out Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Eye opening...
Guest More than 1 year ago
This guy didn't bother to organize himself before he put pen to paper. The book is chaotic, filled with anecdotes instead of facts, and drips with the author's apparent communistism. A total waste of money.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I must admit, i was excited to read this book, thinking it would be something like 'Super Size Me.' However, as I progressed through the book, I was dismally disappointed. It starts off with details, that I found, had nothing to do with fast food. As it continues, the fast food portion comes into play bit by bit. The parts that tell of the slaughterhouses, and the ingredients in the food, etc... did interest me, but there was little of that. I also felt that the book was entirely one-sided. The points about minorities are true, but to me, it sounded as if Schlosser was saying that minorities and teenagers made up the fast food nation [workers and customers]. Dont get me wrong, teenagers and minorites do make up the majority of the working population at fast food restaurants, but when it comes to customers, where I live, Jacksonville FL, it seems like more adults, all different colors, eat out daily. just so you know i'm only 16. so please dont bash my review. I had to read this for AP Language Arts [Jr. in highschool].
Guest More than 1 year ago
In all honesty, I was greatly disappointed, and if the book was not required in my AP Human Geography class, I would have scrapped it from the beginning. Mr. Schlosser and I share a common dislike for fast food, and he did state some very interesting facts that I did not know about, but I found him to bevery redundant and boring. Nothing made me want to read on to the next chapter, even the one entitled 'what's in the meat'. I would not recommend this book to someone who gets bored easily, nor to someone interested in fast food.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What do fast cars, unions, and the kkk have to do with nutrition? Nothing that I can see. In my opinion this book has clearly bashed capatalism and individualism by wording personal opinions in a way that is unacceptable between the cover of a book that has nothing to do with the actual title. So what if Mr. Simplot started with nothing and made a few hundred million for himself? Isn't that the American way? A hefty section of the book is dedicated to Labor Unions and illegal immigrants, nothing nutritional there. The book was recommended reading from a nutrition teacher, go figure. In my opinion, if you take all the socialist propaganda pages out of this book and leave in the few references made to fast food and nutrition, the book would fit neatly into your shirt pocket. To bad a rating of zero stars was not available. Do not let the title of this book deceive you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is nothing more than an anti-meat, pro-animal rights, vegetarian propaganda. The author's whole point of the book (i.e. don't eat fast food) is very clear, and there is no need for the bunch of figures and statistics throughout the book to prove his point. Although a bit boring, his meticulous research into the dynamics of the fast food industry should be commended.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I purchased this book thinking I would get a fair and unbiased analysis of the fast food industry and the impact it had on society and the economy. The beginning chapters offered what I was looking for, but all was lost in later chapters with Schlosser revealed his bias against capitalism. Schlosser strays from providing unbiased analysis of his research to an all out assault on anyone who believes in a free market economy without unwarranted government intrusion. Sure the FDA should take food safety more seriously, but Schlosser goes way beyond making that point. In chapter 10 Schlosser refers to Mikhail Gorbachev as "the man who'd ended the Cold War...". Ronald Reagan led the United State of America to end the Cold War, not the communist dictator of a country now in shambles. This, more than anything else written by Schlosser revealed how extremely biased he is and his true motivation in writing the book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really do hate books written by journalist's. Most of them regurgitate someone elses words and this book is no different. I decided against my better judgement to buy this book based on two friends recommendations... and now they are going to pay me back for the hours i spent reading this book! The book is written in a logical flowing manner... but i found myself blanking out through huge sections of the book... "blah blah blah... The houses seem not to have been constructed by hand but manufactured by some gigantic machine... blah blah blah... mcdonalds...blah blah blah soviet bombers... blah blah blah...USDA... blah blah blah... " Honestly... it didn't turn me off fast food- i enjoy being a part of the masses- a consumer... i enjoy marketing strategies and how ingenious they are... in fact i think i will go enjoy some e.coli 0157:h7 topped with some shigella between two sesame buns right now!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I hope the excerpt I read online was just a rough draft!! There were many typos and numerous grammatical errors. Who proofread this for the author anyway? While the text is interesting and informative in many ways, I would not buy this book as it appears to be written by someone who can't read and correct his own mistakes. It's dreadful what can get by an editor these days.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Written by Eric Schlosser, Fast Food Nation- The Dark Side of the All-American Meal conveys the “pioneers” of the growing fast-food industry, the industry’s advertising methods targeting young children, and the lives of fast-food employees. In addition, Schlosser reveals the chemical flavoring of the food, fast-food meat production, and the dangers of consuming fast-food meat. Eric Schlosser’s purpose was to reduce the future obesity rates of the United States and suggest solutions to some of the fast-food industry’s problems. To support my inference, the quote “A ban on advertising unhealthy foods to children would discourage eating habits […]” (262) displays his suggestion of which is a ban on advertising unhealthy foods. Also, Schlosser addressed obesity because children become obese from consuming too much unhealthy foods that are constantly on TV with attracting toys and themes. Furthermore, the quote “Twenty years ago, teenage boys in the United States drank twice as much milk as soda; now they drink twice as much soda as milk.” (54) conveys the increasing rate of child obesity in the U.S because soda- a unhealthy beverage- consumption has increased drastically in the past two decades. Schlosser is attempting to stop this rate from growing since he shares the statistic with his readers. I really enjoyed learning the daily routine of fast-food employees. Elisa Zamot, a sixteen year old student of Harrison High School in Colorado Springs, wakes up every Saturday at 5:15 am to prepare the local McDonald’s and works there for seven hours (67). On the other hand, I disliked the slaughterhouse part because it was very gory and disturbing. For example, “[…] Richard Skala was beheaded by a dehiding machine.” (178) and Carlos Vincente- an employee of T and G Service Company […]- was pulled into the cogs of a conveyor belt […] and torn apart.” (178). Furthermore, I liked finding out why the fries tasted good and what was in the meat. At McDonald’s, the French fries are cooked with natural and artificial flavors, and the meat, in some cases, have contained E coli- Eschericha coli. I would totally recommend this to all my friends and family to share the dark side of fast-food. Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation- The Dark Side of the All-American Meal is a terrific non-fiction book that is informational, yet interesting unlike other boring informational texts.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago