Kevin Kirkhoff's Reviews > Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal

Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser
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M_50x66
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Feb 07, 09

bookshelves: societal, library

This book starts out as a history of the fast food restaurant. It concentrates specifically on McDonalds, but does touch on others as well. It explains how McDonalds captured the nation and became the prototype for a fast food restaurant. There's also good history on the french fry and how the franchise industry works. A lot of the rest of the book goes into great detail on the entire fast food industry and the meat processing industry. The crime, abuse, and the injuries. In my opinion, this book was a thinly veiled attempt to put down big business, the meat industry, and the fast food industry.

The most telling part of the book was the story of one slaughterhouse owner, Ken Monfort. He was described as a "liberal Democrat" who treated his employees very well, and he got along with the union. All the employees liked him. Then after a bad experience with the union over cost-cutting, he becomes a "conservative Republican" and starts acting like all the other slaughterhouse owners. Mr. Schlosser, you broke the number one rule of successful propoganda. Don't reveal the real purpose behind your book. Have faith that your readers will figure out your message that liberal Democrats are caring and compassionate while conservative Republicans are greedy and heartless.

McDonalds began marketing to kids. You get the kids to like your food, you've got a customer for life. The kids will also pester their parents into taking them to McDonalds. The parents will also eat there.
Translation: McDonalds lures unsuspecting children and gets them hooked on their processed food. They are a corporate drug addict.
Reality: Kids have no power. They can't make money or drive. It's up to parents to take them to the restaurant and buy the food. To make the corporation's marketing plan fail, don't buy them the food. It's an excellent marketing scheme though, but very risky.

McDonald's implemented assembly line technology taken from the auto industry in an effort to require less skilled restaurant workers. With less human intervention, a hamburger in New York tastes just like a hamburger in Montana. These workers would not have to be paid more than minimum wage, and could work part time to keep McDonalds from paying benefits. Who is the largest supplier of labor that doesn't require a lot of money to support families and pay bills? High schools. (In recent years retirees have also entered into that arena).
Translation: McDonalds wants unskilled labor unfamiliar with the real world. They can use and abuse them because the workers won't know any better.
Reality: McDonalds was a pioneer of the restaurant industry. They took a huge risk in finding a way to make food service fast, easy, and yes, require less skilled workers. There is a purpose for minimum wage jobs. To get people into the work force. Get them used to working for a living. Young people have no marketable skills. These jobs are stepping stones, not careers.

One of the truly fascinating parts of this book was the time spent describing flavors and scents. How artificial flavors were created and how restaurants (McDonalds) use certain types of scents to turn ordinary food into a mouth-watering, gotta-have-it creation.
Translation: Restaurants spend lots of time and money luring people into eating things that they otherwise would never eat.
Reality: Good marketing and capitilization on human behavior. Give the people what they want.

There was a detailed description of the inner-workings of the meatpacking industry. These plants usually hire unskilled, Mexican illegals to kill and slice up dead cows all day long. It's a dirty, smelly, dangerous job. Sharp objects are flailing away everywhere you look. It's presented to us as though it's slave labor. When a worker gets dismembered or killed they drag him off and stick someone else in his place. There is also a constant struggle between the corporations and unions.
Translation: This work environment is disgusting and dangerous and you should be repulsed any time you eat meat.
Reality: This work environment is disgusting and dangerous. So are a lot of other jobs. But, we are carnivores and they make our lives easier by not making us kill and process our own food. Plus, the workers don't seem to mind. They're happy to make more in a day that they used to make in a week back in Mexico.

There's also the obligatory section on E-Coli and how you take your life into your hands when you eat fast food. The caring, compassionate Democrats were on the verge of providing us with a safe, pleasant restaurant experience. But, alas, those evil, greedy Republicans wrestled control of Congress away and thwarted all the legislation meant to protect people. The big, evil corporations now continue to poision us with their test-tube food.
Translation: Processed food is filled with deadly poisions.
Reality: Everything is filled with deadly poisons.

As much as I ragged on this book, it was very interesting. The history of the industries, how the fast food industry works, the marketing, the competition. I'd recommend it to anyone interested in this industry. But be forwarned of what I thought was the author's true motive.
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