Fast Food Nation
By Eric Schlosser
My Rating: 5 Stars
WARNING: Go and buy your last burger and fries before you start reading this book. Once you finish you are going to run screaming in the opposite direction. And if, by chance, you don’t run in the opposite direction, you certainly won’t enjoy them as much as you did before. In this case, ignorance truly is bliss. That’s how I felt and frankly, I’m not sure I could get myself to buy a burger ever again at at a fast food joint like McDonalds or Burger King now that I’ve read this book. Thank you Eric Schlosser!!! But I have to admit I’d rather be well informed so that I can make my own decision and go from there. That’s why we read books like this. They are brutally honest and in many ways absolutely heart breaking. Books like this know how to kill your childhood love affair with fast food. As an adult, if it doesn’t make you angry I’d be surprised. However, it should probably be said that, while this book focuses mostly on the fast food industry and some of the agricultural and meat processing ventures that help to support the fast food industry, I’m certain that many big businesses have skeletons hiding in their closets that would equally enrage the average joe.
Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation is a wake up call to the American public about the fast food industry. This book is not like Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me, rather it’s a hard look at the fast food industry giants and their business practices, attitudes, decisions, political practices and how they have worked to define America today. Schlosser doesn’t focus much on the health aspects (though he does touch on how the fast food industry has huge sway in this area), instead he looks closely at how the American Fast Food Industry has grown to be a mammoth-sized industry that sets standards through it’s business practices and how how it influences other industries and often, politics. There is a large part of the book that centers on an exploration of the beef industry and to some extent poultry as well as the potato industry. He provides the gory details of what it means to have to process beef for such high consumption and what that means for the processing industry and ultimately the consumer.
Schlosser looks closely at how the fast food industry has helped make the poor poorer and the rich richer. How the land of opportunity that sprang up in post-war America paved the road for business geniuses who would ultimately reshape the landscape of America. He discusses how the fast food industry, while one of the most lucrative business ventures in the world, hires teen workers with little to no skills and pays them the absolute minimum required by law to keep their costs low, while executives take home millions. He talks about how high productivity is the key to the fast food business. How invention and streamlining processes has made the requirement for actual skills from workers minimal to non-existent. Not surprisingly he points out that the turnover rate at fast food establishments is an astounding 300%-400%. And how the crime rate in fast food establishments is one of the highest and most often the crimes are committed by former employees.
Sadly, Schlosser also discusses how the American fast food industry has spread around the world, taking with it the health issues that plague American society and spreading bad eating habits and ethically questionable business practices around the world. Fast Food Nation is not a witch hunt which has targeted the fast food industry in America, but rather it is an honest, hard look at an industry that has grown so big that they influence everything they are tied to, from cattle farming, poultry production, agricultural practices, employee rights and pay, the health and wellness of the American population and even politics at the highest levels. It’s sad to see that an industry which has such great influence doesn’t use their power to better the world. There is wasted opportunity by these companies and it certainly says something about the executives of the fast food industry by, too often taking the road that is the most profitable rather than the ethical and environmentally friendly route. Even decisions like changing to paper containers at McDonalds wasn’t a worldwide decision. Sadly, McDonalds still serves it’s sandwiches in styrofoam containers overseas despite the fact that it doesn’t cost anymore to serve paper containers.
Overall, this was a great book. I’d be interested in reading a new edition of this book with some new research and statistics since it’s almost a decade old now. I’m curious to know if the fast food industry has made any changes that are positive since this book was first published. I listened to the audio and it was well narrated and engaging but used the print book for writing this review. Check it out if you are interested in learning more about the fast food industry in America.