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

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Fast food has hastened the malling of our landscape, widened the chasm between rich and poor, fueled an epidemic of obesity, and propelled American cultural imperialism abroad. That's a lengthy list of charges, but here Eric Schlosser makes them stick with an artful mix of first-rate reportage, wry wit, and careful reasoning.

Schlosser's myth-shattering survey stretches from California's subdivisions where the business was born to the industrial corridor along the New Jersey Turnpike where many fast food's flavors are concocted. Along the way, he unearths a trove of fascinating, unsettling truths -- from the unholy alliance between fast food and Hollywood to the seismic changes the industry has wrought in food production, popular culture, and even real estate.
(back cover)

399 pages, Paperback

First published January 17, 2001

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About the author

Eric Schlosser

32 books840 followers
Eric Schlosser is an award-winning American journalist and author known for investigative journalism. A number of critics have compared his work to that of Upton Sinclair.

Schlosser was born in Manhattan, New York; he spent his childhood there and in Los Angeles, California. His father, Herbert Schlosser, a former Wall Street lawyer who turned to broadcasting later in his career, eventually became the President of NBC in 1974. Schlosser studied American History at Princeton University and earned a graduate degree in British Imperial History from Oxford.

Schlosser lives in California, and is working on a book about the prison system. He is married to Shauna Redford, daughter of Robert Redford, and has two children.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 5,576 reviews
Profile Image for fleegan.
266 reviews28 followers
August 14, 2007
I thought that this book was going to be like Super-size Me only in book form. Not that the author would eat McDonalds everyday but that he would talk mostly about the unhealthiness of fast food.

I was wrong.

The author barely touches the "fast food is full of fat and fattiness" deal. He mainly talks about the greed, power, and evilness of fast food companies. I would read this book in the mornings as i drank my coffee and I would get so mad at how only a few people can make so many people miserable. I would cry at the working conditions of the meat industry (and trust me, i'm not crying over the cows. it's the workers that have it so bad that i just want to take them all away from that horrible job and give them all sacks of money and comfortable chairs to sit on.)

He discusses the ranchers, the feedlots, the slaughter houses, and the packaging companies. He talks about the potato farms. He talks about minimum wage. He talks about how our government is supposed to regulate and keep us safe from unhealthy meat and that it not only doesn't do that, but CAN'T do that, legally. The USDA cannot recall meat that is unhealthy. It has no rights to do that. The meat companies can voluntarily recall meat, but they can't be forced to, even if the meat is infected with epidemic proportions of e. coli 0157:H7, which, as far as i can tell, is like ebola, it turns your organs into mush.

The meat industry is so corrupt and has bought so many republican congressmen that it has no watchdogs, no police. OSHA is not allowed to investigate a factory unless the injury records show above the national average. The meat companies hire doctors to lie about the severity of injuries and, and, and they keep two injury logs. the real one and the one they turn in to OSHA. This is illegal. And when the companies are caught they have to pay a piddly fine.
The FDA doesn't care about the food you eat. They only care about prescription drugs.
The USDA is not allowed to police the thing it was set up to police. (This is not new and it's also the reason i don't drink milk.) The author also says that the government will not change any of this. That the only way to make some change is if McDonalds will make the change. So if enough people complain and make bad press about McDonalds using nasty beef instead of clean, grass-fed cows...nothing will change.

He discusses the franchise/franchisee relationships.

He discusses the hisory of fast food and the american west. It's amazing.

This book was so interesting. If I were to become a vegetarian it would not be because I had a problem with the way cows are treated. Nay, it would be because of the treatment of humans.

Profile Image for Jeff.
49 reviews66 followers
August 12, 2007
"As God as my witness, I shall never eat another hamburger as long as I shall live!" That's what I said after reading this book. Then the phone rang. It was my friend who wanted to go grab a quick bite at Wendy's. I had a cheeseburger. I never looked back baby!
It's not that this book paints the fast food industry in a wicked horrible light. It doesn't become a witch hunt, this isn't "Hey, you know, Elie Wiesel is right, Nazi's are real sons of bitches!" (which is what I expect most people think after reading Night. I've never read it myself... I just expect people think that after reading said book... though to be honest, most people probably think that already, unless you're Mahmoud Ahmadinejad), but it's not all puppys and flowers either. Really, it's rich old white men looking out for themselves (and who else are they going to look out for?)
It's been a few years since I've read the book, so I could be wrong about this, but I'm going to say this book isn't even as harsh on the fast food industry as Supersize Me (A film which I refuse to see, because: Duh! Eat nothing but fast food for a month and you're going to get sick? Who was shocked by this movie? "No, but you don't get it... it's how sick he was, and how fast." That's usually the opposing argument I get. I still say "Duh!" I'm going to make a movie where I shoot up heroin three times a day for a month, or smoke seven packs of cigarettes a day for a month, or hit myself in the head with a hammer five times a day for a month, and see what happens. I really want people to say, "Man, I knew that hitting yourself in the head with a hammer was dangerous, but who knew how dangerous it could be. I mean he was brain damaged by the second day! I'm never hitting myself in the head with a hammer again!" But I digress, this isn't about film... this is about books).
It's a pretty good book for the history lesson on how fast food got started, and how the industry has done a good job screwing everyone from farmers, to fat kids, to illegal migrant workers, to small business owners, to who knows who else. And just when you start to think, "Man, screw fast food..." the author himself says he still eats fast food... then you think, "I sure do like them McDonalds fries." Then you hear about the newest Halo 3 tie in at Burger King, where not only will your fries be wrapped in a Halo 3 themed package, but your soda will come in a Halo 3 cup!?!?"
So what, so what if the meat might be tainted with the fingers of an illegal, or so what if the farmer who sold the slaughtered cow can barely aford new boots, dammit, I want it my way, and I want it my way now!
Plus there is this one part of the book that talks about how some fast food companies will donate money to schools in exchange for advertising space or a spot in the cafeteria... and let's be honest, what would you rather have fat smart kids, or fat dumb kids? (Smart thin kids isn't an option- this is public school we're talking about here).
It's a light romp through the dark underbelly of the fast food world. It'll learn you but good, and it certainly gave me pause, right before I went out and got a #4 supersized with a Dr. Pepper (cause Dr. Pepper rulz).
Profile Image for Bookshop.
148 reviews47 followers
May 18, 2008
I could easily give this book a 5 for its well-researched and informative content, its engaging pacing, its excellent mix of dry facts and gossipy tone. I literally couldn't put the book down since I picked it up from my sister's bookshelf.

I started reading with high hopes. I heard so much about the book and how it changes people's perception on fast food. I do not eat a lot of fast food but I enjoy my occasional burgers from Burger King, crave Chicken McNuggets from time to time and adore KFC with heaps of fries, rice and ketchup.

The book begins with the history of McDonalds which encompasses not only the corporate history but also the history of fast food and its supporting industries. So far so good. As I proceed, I find it hard to accept its two major themes: big corporations are the big bad wolf who feast on little people and the king of the pack is McDonalds.

Although the author writes that he doesn't say McDonald and the fast food corporations are the roots of all American problems, he essentially implies so throughout the book. That is not fair. The reason for finger pointing to McDonald and some unknown Carl Jr and Jack in the Box is not apparent in the book. Brand-wise, I wonder how KFC fare in all these debacle although tacobell, owned by the same company, gets an honorary mention. Consumerism-wise, what about those insatiable American appetites?

Another strong message is that the big corporations sell cheap food, by taking advantage of suppliers and their poor, illiterate workers, not from the goodness of their hearts but for humongous profits. Fair enough. But he goes on to argue that the marketing tactics employed, though necessary, are unethical. I am not comfortable with this statement. Since when have we all lost our cognitive power and freedom of choice? When an advertisement says that drinking insecticide is good for us, won't our instinct warn us otherwise? If the kids insist on eating McDonald to collect the latest figurine from Nemo, where are the parents with conscience who will firmly tell them no when a no is warranted?

I have no problem with presenting selected facts to support a theory or argument. But I have problem with authors who do not explore or conveniently neglect the other side of the equation. One particularly disturbing fact-massaging is his argument that fast food restaurants are favourite crime targets and the crimes are mostly inside jobs. On the same page, he mentions that fast food industries have high labour turnover and can afford only to hire people with questionable background. Now, is it chicken first? Or egg?

The author offers obvious solutions in the epilogue. One of the most irritating ones is proposing that free-roaming cattle rearing is the way to go. He conveniently avoids these questions: How can he reconcile the math of vast overhead to maintain the land, huge labour cost (we want our workers to be paid and insured well), and small customer base (transporting meat to all over the country is bad!) with affordable prices? Aren't these organic, grass-fed beef normally sold in chic upscale supermarkets? Is he suggesting no-child policy to curb the population and to make way for those healthy, happy cows?

The book doesn't stop me from anything. Prior to reading, I already know that these fried foods are not good for my health and moderation is key to all my eating activities. I enjoy reading the book but feel misled by its content. The problem with the fast food nation is not the cheap end-product at high social cost but the lack of common sense and excessive gluttony of its consumers.

I remember someone who wrote an email full of expletive because, after reading this book, he felt McDonalds caused his children's addiction to the Happy Meals. Now I understand why he, like countless fans, was so readily bought: the book's theme is David vs. Goliath, its tone straight from tabloids, its information tasty morsels from the dark side of an otherwise wholesome industry. The book provides ammunition for people who prefer to absolve personal responsibilities. In short, this book is served the way people like it, regardless of its content.
Profile Image for Riku Sayuj.
653 reviews6,922 followers
July 25, 2014

Written on May 29, 2012:

I am glad that I had a large Pizza and a KFC burger at the Delhi airport before I started this book. Adios fatty fries, triple-decker domes and cheesy discs, you will be missed. Ignorance is indeed bliss sometimes.

Update: June 22, 2014

I am happy to report that I have largely stuck to this. Ever since reading this I have virtually avoided this sort of trash and must have eaten a maximum of a couple of burgers and pizzas in the last two years (and that too most reluctantly, when unavoidable). Thanks, Schlosser.
Profile Image for carol..
1,504 reviews7,574 followers
June 8, 2017
Oh, America. When will you wise up?

In 1998, the seed of Fast Food Nation appeared in Rolling Stone Magazine. Schlosser's expose has since been expanded to a book and then a movie, and still international love affair with fast food continues. The latest edition also contains an afterword addressing 'mad cow disease,' or bovine spongiform encephalopathy. In it, Schlosser accomplishes the almost Herculean task of weaving together the birth of the fast food industry, the growing connection with car and highway culture, the growth of kid-targeted marketing (McDonalds and Disney were early leaders), the developing connection between the industrialization of our food and family farmers (particularly chicken, potato and beef), the anti-union connection and the development of the engineered food product. I liked it more than I thought it would; expecting a didactic cardboard entree, I was provided with a seven-course meal.

He shows true journalistic roots by beginning sections with a human-interest angle, from the beginning with Carl Karcher (Carl's Jr.) and Richard McDonald, to the potato kingpin J.R. Simplot, to a Colorado rancher fighting to protect his ranch against enroaching suburbs, to a union representative fighting for safer conditions in slaughterhouses. If there was any weakness in the book, it would be the challenge in bridging the stories from the individual to the larger philosophical and systemic issue. I understand the human face helps a reader create meaning, but for me it occasionally felt contrived, particularly in the international settings.

For me, there was an especially powerful moment of revelation when Schlosser points out the drawback of dealing with corporations, not local owners:
"The nation's meatpacking firms, on the other hand, have proven themselves to be far less committed to remaining in a particular community. They have successfully pitted one economically depressed region against another, using the threat of plant closures and the promise of future investment to obtain lucrative government subsidies. No longer locally owned, they feel no allegiance to any one place."

Doesn't that just about sums up the state of industry in the U.S.? The only times a corporation can't cut and run is when it depends on a highly skilled workforce. It's one reason the "create jobs" political platforms make me a little crazy.

I found myself wishing this was required reading. It's not that I'm opposed to fast food; I'm opposed to a lack of informed choice. Full disclosure should include understanding some important points from Fast Food Nation:

1) Flavor experts are utilized to create the optimal taste combination that hits our salty-fat-sweet spot. Thus chicken pieces contain an average of 30 different ingredients, of which salt has been added in at least three different steps and an artificial strawberry shake contains over 28 ingredients (http://nutrition.mcdonalds.com/getnut...)
2) the industry has been key in fighting against food regulation and testing, even when known outbreaks of E.coli in school lunches have killed children
3) the burger is sourced from cattle feedlots, where 75% of the pre-cooked meat contained microbes normally found in fecal material
4) companies specifically target children so that they can manipulate their parents into taking them against parents' better judgement
5) potatoes and chicken come from marginalized farmers who are basically one step up from indentured workers, buying raw ingredients from the company and selling the 'grown' product back to them, and insulating the company against risks such as weather, crop failure or disease
6) companies target teens and non-English speakers as workers because they are less liable to demand 'rights' or 'living wages,' and still the company gets a tax break for 'training'
7) absolutely, positively, there is no way to eat healthily at McDonald's with the exception of: a side salad (no dressing), fruit and yogurt parfait (5.2 oz), grilled premium chicken classic sandwich, apple slices and egg whites. (http://nutrition.mcdonalds.com/getnut...)
You may be healthy in spite of the food, but not because of the food.

Again, not saying I condone the choice--I have my once-a-year Shamrock shake, and an intermittent fry craving, proving just how great childhood marketing is and the lure of salty-sweet carb goodness. Less than 5 stars is because for me, the journalistic style over-reached, especially on the section on the German McDonald's, both in Eastern Germany and the one near Dachau as well as Gorbechev speaking at a Las Vegas convention of franchise owners. But overall, it was an excellent book, entertaining and insightful. Reading it gave voice to my intuitive feeling that there is something rotten in the system.

Cross posted at http://clsiewert.wordpress.com/2013/0...
Profile Image for Nancy.
557 reviews760 followers
March 19, 2011
Fast Food Nation is a fascinating and very readable book. In some ways it reminds me of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle. It's not only a critique of fast food, the chemicals we are ingesting and the health problems we are facing, it is also critical of a system that allows exploitation of young, old and immigrant workers, and of the suburban sprawl that resulted from the eradication of efficient and environmentally friendly public transportation by the auto industry. The author focuses his criticism on the states of California and Colorado when in reality the same strip malls with the same chain stores and miles of fast-food clusters and suburban sprawl exist all over the US.

I have always been particular about what I eat and rarely visit fast-food restaurants, so this book has not changed my eating habits drastically. It has, however, made me a wiser consumer.
Profile Image for 7jane.
671 reviews251 followers
May 19, 2018
This, I feel, is now a classic book in the 'wrongs going on in the food-making world'. Although this is from 2001, I feel many of the revelations are still true, unfortunately. It is US-centric, yet at least some of the facts appear worldwide, depending sometimes on the country. But it did make me feel wary about eating fast food if I was traveling in US.

This book of 3 years of research talks about the industry of fast food, and its consequences on people, animals, and nature. There are notes and a bibliography at the end, and two afterwords. The city of Colorado Springs, and some other places near it, are the example-centers for many stories within.

This is not a story merely of dangers within food, and on treatment of animals, but also on people suffering because of it. Some of the people are given here as examples of this, and one is left with great sadness after reading their fate. I will now go on to list the chapters. The book is divided in two: first part talk mostly about the business and people behind the counter, the second part focuses on food and global business.

The ending of the book shows the authors' optimistic views about the future of fast food industry; it might be different now. But anyway, this book did make me think, even if some points vary by country. I have some trust in my country's meat industry so that doesn't worry me here. Still, it did raise my awareness of workers' rights, what cautions I might use while traveling, and of favoring more my country own burger chains, I guess *lol*
This is a classic book, one that makes you think, one that might make you lose your appetite for a second, and maybe make you grateful for some things that you don't have (bad working conditions, ill health). It seemed first a bit frightening to read this, but I was glad in the end for the experience. Well worth it.
Profile Image for Emily.
16 reviews6 followers
June 12, 2007

By the time you finish reading this book, you will strongly consider becoming either a vegan or a hard-core local eater, or both. I took a tiny bit of comfort in knowing that I eat vegan about half the days in the year; still, the book really scared me. It's hard, factual journalism with a huge section of footnotes in the back. As much as I'd love to dispute some of Schlosser's claims, I look around me and see evidence to support what he says about the amount of cheap food we eat and what it's doing to us.

Contrary to popular opinion, this is not a book that vilifies fast food. Chains like In-N-Out Burger are extolled for using fresh, safe meat and peeling their own potatoes. Nor does it vilify carnivores. The gist of the book is that, in our relentless demand for a cheaper, more efficient system, we have neglected the human element of each phase of food preparation, from farm to plate. Something has gone horribly wrong.

The author avoids what could be a smug, glib attitude in favor of an urgent, prodding tone: it is clear he believes we are in a crisis, and he is probably right. It's hard to go back to your favorite restaurant and order a hamburger after reading "What's in the Meat," or to complain about work after finishing "The Most Dangerous Job." Serious stuff.

I do think Schlosser comes down way too hard on conservatives in the book, and he admits in the epilogue that to be fair, many liberals are guilty of the same sins. For instance, the Clinton family has close ties to the poultry industry in much the same was as the Bush family does to the beef industry (which is the primary subject of his research.)

Finally, I applaud his conclusion, which is a very pragmatist (and even capitalist) approach: in a free market, we vote in dollars spent. If, through our purchases, we demand safer meat, fresher produce, and fair pay for food service industry workers, we will get what we want. It's a simple matter of doing research before we buy, of supporting small farms who do things the old, slow, respectful way.

Well, I'd say "enjoy" . . . but I read it too! I gave it three stars only because I couldn't justify saying I "loved it" when it consistently made me want to skip dinner. But I'm glad I read it. You should read it too.

Kyrie eleison!
Profile Image for Kimber.
197 reviews61 followers
February 7, 2019
Schlosser takes us on a crash course in American history, and it all starts with McDonalds. At the same time that Ray Kroc was envisioning how McDonalds could change the world (and make him rich), Eisenhower was overseeing the construction of the superhighway system. Almost immediately, fast food restaurants began mushrooming on the edges of freeway entrances, and America was never the same.

Fast food isn't just unhealthy, its destroying our culture. Instead of looking around at our beautiful environment, we see mostly urban sprawl: gigantic neon signs, and cookie-cutter subdivisions. Not only does this loss of beauty affect our souls, our standard of living has gone down. Gone are many good jobs. Meatcutter jobs that were part of the middle classes are now mainly occupied by illegal immigrants who are so desperate they will risk losing their fingers (or their lives) in these dangerous, difficult jobs. And what has happened to the livelihood of farmers is a national shame.

Being that this book is 20 years old, there is reason for optimism. Slow food has become a movement. Organic foods are sold in every grocery store. But we still have to make the choice. The choice of what world we wish to live in. The temptations to stop for fast food are still there. But improvements that Schlosser was dreaming of are happening, more and more.

I recommend this book because these gory details and tragic histories could freeze into our brains and be a fit reminder to bypass these common and convenient foods and begin to make changes in our lives. The history of these companies is important to know. They cared about keeping their pockets lined, at the expense of their workers. At the expense of peoples lives.
Profile Image for George Bradford.
144 reviews
March 9, 2008
Another title for this entertaining book could have been "Our disposable society: How our utter disrespect for our selves, each other and our environment created the world we live in today."

The automobile's destructive force on American life was been well documented in other works. But Schlosser extends that work specifically as it relates to the food industry. Not just fast food. But the entire food industry. And it's scary stuff.

Bottom line: we're killing our selves. Yes, fast food is bad for you. But its not just the crap they serve at the chains. The influence of fast food is so pervasive that it effects all aspects of our nation's food supply. And it does so adversely.

Our nation's food supply is now a full blown public health crises. Food poisoning is epidemic. Food supply recalls from corporate farms, meat plants and canneries are a weekly occurrence. Each episode worse than the previous.

Schlosser doesn't offer solutions. He sounds the alarm.

Profile Image for Crystal Starr Light.
1,335 reviews810 followers
February 15, 2013
McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, and more...they all have the friendly, bright exterior, with the fast, cheap, addictive food. But behind the bright colors, the mascots, and the friendly clerk smile is a whole different world of fast food. Eric Schlosser peels back that wrapper to show the real world of fast food - big corporations using people and people's ignorance to rise in power, drive out the little guy, and make more and more money for themselves. Oh, yeah, and the food is gross too.

I think by this point most people have heard of this book or the "Super Size Me" movie or many of the other pieces that have swarmed the media mind in the past decade. (Yes, decade. God, I feel old.) That was what drove me to buy this book years ago - that, and it was used.

This year has been the year of non-fiction reads for me. Finally, almost five years after graduating college, I can read non-fiction again without tensing up and going into melt-down mode. One of the many non-fiction topics that has interested me is the fast food industry and the America meal. That is why I took this book off my shelf and finally read it.

I didn't really expect to learn much that was new. I had read the news articles about how bad fast food is for you. I saw "Super Size Me" and the McDonald's hamburger and fries that looked good after weeks of sitting out on a counter exposed to the elements. And I've experienced first hand the affects of fast food - how it makes you gain weight, become lethargic, etc. So I figured this book would be pretty much more of the same.

If you open this book expecting only to hear about how bad and unhealthy the fast food itself is, you will be surprised to find out that is only a small portion of what Schlosser focuses on. Sure, he does bring up the quality of food (SPOILERS: It's gross), but he focuses a lot more on other areas: how these seemingly cheery companies treat their workers, their competitors, and the food industry itself.

One of the images that stays with me is the life of a worker in a slaughterhouse - not because of seeing a cow gutted (though, admittedly, that sounds absolutely disgusting). But how these companies drive their employees like draft horses. Pushing through 40+ cattle an hour. Forcing employees to lie about injuries. Refusing to pay worker's comp. Letting employees work in terrible conditions, exposed to dangerous chemicals and gases. Not training the employees enough to do the job well. And then paying these employees the absolute lowest amount they can get away with.

All the while, these companies tightly grasp the curtain and shout to the government, "Nothing to see here! Everything's all good!" Even as employee after employee dies in a tragic, mostly preventable manner. Even as meat is exposed to dangerous diseases (E.Coli anyone?). You want to know what one company got fined after several people died of hydrogen sulfide poisoning? $480 PER PERSON. For a company making billions in profits per year?! That's absolutely ridiculous!!

There were moments that I found rather dry and pointless. The prologue introduces us to a military compound in Colorado to make us imagine how future explorers may find fast food wrappers in caves and wonder what these weird people from the 1990's are like. And that's pretty much the entire point of bringing up this base in intricate detail. A lot of time is spent detailing the background of Colorado's growth, key fast food giant's backstories, and more. And while a good portion of it does make sense (learning about Ray Kroc or Carl Karcher's background IS important to the "narrative"), sometimes it got long-winded and meandering.

The other "problem" with this book is how dated it already is. This book was written in 2001, with an updated forward in 2002. A lot has happened in the 10 years since this book was written. A lot of fast food companies aren't doing the "Super Size Me" thing anymore. McDonald's has included apples and milk to its Happy Meal menu; most of the fast food companies have hurriedly added coffee drinks to their menus to draw new customers. And that doesn't include how most menus have a lot more salad and chicken options (Okay, so they aren't all that healthy, but it's certainly better than it was before!). I personally would love to see a "sequel" that explores some of the changes that the fast food industry has been forced to make and how much farther they have to go.

A lot has changed in the world since the Mad Cow Disease and E.Coli outbreaks scared many people into reconsidering their food choices. This book lead the forefront into bringing awareness and change. And for that reason, this book has an important place in our history. Even if you think you know what this book says, I recommend picking it up and checking it out. You may learn a thing or two.
Profile Image for Corinne.
68 reviews185 followers
December 1, 2018

The last sentence of the book (that I appreciate a lot) : 'Despite all evidence to the contrary, I remain optimistic'.
Profile Image for Jason Koivu.
Author 7 books1,200 followers
August 8, 2010
I was surprised at how balanced this was! I'd heard about it and expected a start-to-finish diatribe against the fast food nation industry from top to bottom, but that wasn't the case. Schlosser's approach is more soft-touch than ham-fist, which is good, because I prefer my medicine to go down easy, not taste like acid.
Profile Image for Paul.
2,306 reviews20 followers
August 12, 2016
Well, I finished that considerably sooner than I expected to. Mainly because the last 44% of the book (I read it on my Kindle) is taken up entirely by an enormous bibliography, photograph credits section and an incredibly in-depth index.

I wasn't sad; by the 56% mark I'd had enough, to be honest. I'm not saying it's a bad book by any means but it's not the kind of book one enjoys.

The book held few surprises for me, I'm sad to say. I already knew at least 50% of the information contained in it and another 40% I could have guessed, based on my knowledge of how big business works. Perhaps I'm just too cynical to be shocked by this stuff or perhaps I've just accepted the fact that large companies will do absolutely anything they think they can get away with to increase their profit margins as a basic fact of life in the twenty first century.

'What about the other 10%?' I hear the more attentive mathematicians amongst you cry! Well, the only part of this book I did find a bit shocking was the section that dealt with some of the horrific injuries suffered by employees in meat packing factories in the US. Injuries and deaths, I should say. Bone-chilling stuff, particularly the part about the meat packing employee who fell into a vat and was rendered into lard. Bad as that is, it's not the worst part (no sausage jokes, please); the lard was then SOLD AND EATEN!


Anyway, I'm not dwelling on that any longer than absolutely necessary... Let's just say that this is an informative book that everybody should read... probably... It might give you nightmares, though; don't say I didn't warn you! This being said, you probably won't get the desired effect from the book unless you're considerably less cynical than I am...

Right! That's that review written! Now... Burger King or KFC for dinner tonight? Decisions, decisions...
Profile Image for Trevor.
169 reviews124 followers
July 5, 2016
There are some shady rhetorical techniques used in this book. I particularly mean the chapter that begins with the little boy who dies after eating at a fast food restaurant. At the chapter's opening is a picture of the boy. It's sad. Then the chapter tells the story. Schlosser builds up a load of pathos to prove his point that fast food is so awful it kills children. Then, in a cursory statement, Schlosser divulges that the boy had other problems and died of a cause unrelated to the food he ate. What?! The book is loaded with these kinds of flaws. Which is sad because I think the thesis is important. That food is awful. And the situation must change.
I taught a research and writing class with this book, and most of my students were at first appalled by Schlosser's finding. Then, after we analyzed his rhetorical techniques, they were appalled by Schlosser. In the end, no student took Schlosser's thesis seriously. We didn't exactly throw a fast food party, but I think everyone would have eaten the food had we done it.
That does not mean the book has no value. It explains the fascinating history of the fast food industry. That, in itself, got this book three stars on my ratings.
Profile Image for Linda.
71 reviews
July 12, 2007
I heard such great things about this book, but I have to say that I really had a hard time digesting it. Sorry, that pun was intended. It had so much gloom and doom and I really lost interest. Plus, I felt like I already knew more than half of the gross-out, oppressive factoids it spewed at me. The only part I enjoyed was when it talked about In-N-Out Burger and what a great employer they are and that John 3:16 is printed on the bottom of the cups. When I went to an In-N-Out and the clerk handed me my cup, I immediately flipped it over and saw the John 3:16 and then showed my two friends. The worker behind the counter asked what I was looking at and I showed him. When he said that he had no idea that those words were under the cups, it made me happy to know that In-N-Out wasn't forcing their religious beliefs down their workers' throats. Mmmm... For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only a juicy In-N-Out burger. Amen!
Profile Image for TK421.
551 reviews256 followers
March 20, 2011
So I was eating a Big Mac at a McDonald's in the town where I was going to college, while reading this book, when a woman walked over to me and asked me what I was reading. I showed her the cover of the book. She asked me what it was about. I said it was about fat people in a fat nation. She was horrified with my response. (Let me tell you that I played football in college, and I've always had a few extra pounds on me: 5'10" 240lbs.; I was strong-side linebacker.) Anyways, she went on to ask why I would be reading this book in a McDonald's. I really didn't have an answer to her question; it just happened to be the one I grabbed before walking over for a burger. I should have asked her why she was so unsettled that I was reading this book while enjoying a Big Mac and chocolate shake, but I didn't. I shrugged and said it was a good book and she went away.

That was almost ten years ago; I've modified my eating habits. I guess as you get older the old metabolism decides to stop working at full capacity. I had all but forgotten about this book until I read a review of one of my GR friends, Nancy. After I read her review, I was reminded of how much I really like the book. Yes, it is sensationalistic journalism at its finest, but it does make some good points. And even with all the scare tactics thrown in the book for good measure, the book does raise awareness to exactly what we are putting in our bodies when we decide to eat fast food, and how the animals are treated before being slaughtered for our consumption.

(On a side note, there happens to be a section about meatpacking plants, and the one in the town I grew up in is mentioned by name. Hurrah Midwest!!)

Read the book. But make sure that you know just what exactly is be spotlighted. Like any piece of investigative journalism, the reader has a responsibility to think about the facts after being exposed to them.

Man, I'm kinda hungry.

Profile Image for Danine.
268 reviews29 followers
September 9, 2007
I grew up in Greeley, CO. It was interesting to read about how your hometown is a home base for slaughterhouses. At night the entire town smells bad. I could relate to this book because I lived in Greeley and I can relate to this book because I am not fond of fast food.

The book talks about the start of burger joints and how they grew to be such an influence in today's society. The author discusses the life of workers and the working conditions in the meat packing plants. This interests me as I believe all workers of any vocation should be entitled to a safe and healthy working environment.

I also learned about In and Out burger joint. I have never seen In and Out Burger here in Colorado. I was very impressed. In and Out Burger purchases meat from local farmers. They also pay their employees better than the popular burger joint.

I enjoyed taking the tour with the author into the food industry's practices. I knew a lot about the meat industry before reading this book and I learned even more about what constitutes "natural flavors." The book made me want to read "The Jungle" by Sinclair.

The book was informative. I might have a biased reason for liking this book as it was validation to why I didn't eat meat anyway. I live in Boulder County now so what can I say? Damn Hippies.
Profile Image for Bam cooks the books ;-).
1,792 reviews214 followers
September 23, 2016
Although a little dated, this book takes a good look at the fast-food industry and what effect it has had on people's lives--starting with the history of how it all began.

Some of the issues that Schlosser is concerned with here are: good nutrition, food safety, animal welfare, worker rights and sustainable agriculture. What also is of concern is the Americanization of food around the world, bringing food of questionable nutrition and its accompanying health issues, such as obesity and heart disease.

#2016-aty-reading-challenge-week-47: a book with a type of food/drink in the title.
Profile Image for Zach.
251 reviews91 followers
February 23, 2009
That this book, unlike its spiritual ancestor The Jungle, has failed to kindle any noticeable change in public policy towards the production of meat in America is a grim reminder that today's meatpacking villains are even more vile, and have much more powerful friends, than Sinclair's. Just like Sinclair's novel, this book has also failed to spark even the tiniest bit of rebellion against the inherent injustice of industrial capitalism. I can't say you should read it because it will probably just fill you with bland liberal outrage, but it's a very good primer on the myriad ways in which a fundamentally amoral system allowed to run wild has devastated the physical health and economic well-being of countless Americans. In that sense, it dovetails very nicely with No Logo, and can be read as a detailed case study of Klein's thesis as it applies to the fast food industry.
Profile Image for Eric.
392 reviews30 followers
November 19, 2017
This is one of those books that should open the eyes of most readers to the food and flavor industry in America.

As with so many aspects of American life, Schlosser deftly examines how humans are studied and then manipulated into following our drives, both conscious and subconscious, and how those that profit from learning about our behavior, continue to do so.

In reading this book, people will see food, production of food and the marketing and selling of food, in a new light.

Profile Image for Arun Divakar.
796 reviews368 followers
August 18, 2020
There was this flash of memory about this book as I stood in line to buy a pizza of late. With the tight social distancing protocols in place, the outlet was deserted and the energy of the place was subdued. The teenager taking my order (as is the norm) told me about the offers for the day and then typed away at the keyboard. While he was getting the order ready was when a lot of things from this book sprang to my mind. Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation could most easily be called a book long argument against fast food chains. While he trains his guns against the major American chain restaurants : McDonald’s (specifically)and KFC (peripherally), the topic he tackles almost extensively is the Americanization of the fast food industry. It is not just the chains that he gives a critical view of but also what goes on behind the scene including meatpacking, manual labour, aesthetics of the food items too. The homogenization of this industry is achieved through a chain of activities almost all of which are highly exploitative in nature. It is these acts of exploitation that really make the case against fast food stronger. Schlosser calls out the below :

Advertising : The core consumers for fast food remain children and focused advertising campaigns are now the norm for the industry. In the decades since this book, advertising has become for subtle and yet incredibly intelligent in the way it entrenches the idea of fast food into the psyche of children. With the way the internet has now become a necessity, focused ads have now become more personalized. Schlosser talks about how this is an area that is extensively researched and was ruthlessly exploited for monetary gain. This is a bizarre way of catching them young whereby a whole generation of children become addicted to fast food and thereby to health risks.

Labor : The section on labor exploitation covers almost 65% of the overall narrative of the book and that makes sense since these chains thrive on a cheap and unskilled labor force. For a big chunk of teenagers the fast food chain is a spring board into finding their career options later in life but they are literally squeezed dry for the time that they work with these outlets. To unearth the bigger problem areas, Schlosser widens the scope of his investigation and looks not only at the outlets but also at almost all the associated aspects of what powers a fast food restaurant. The meatpacking and french fry industries rely heavily on an illegal immigrant population to keep their systems going is something that Schlosser uncovers. Being a very dangerous type of work, the conditions on the job are next to unbearable as it treats employees like a replaceable asset. A few of the case studies that Schlosser calls out are heart wrenching examples of how individuals who are past their healthy phase of being able to work are discarded unceremoniously.

Food Hygiene : One thing that I have always liked about the chain fast food restaurants is how quickly they can turn around an order. Personally I am a to-go person when it comes to fast food and this happens only when I am travelling. Having said this though, the descriptions of how some of the food items are prepared and what the dish could probably include was enough to make me gag. Since this is a US-centric book, it also calls out some of the worst food related illnesses that fast food has been a cause for in the US. What really pricked my conscience was in understanding how vehemently the chains and their suppliers denied any form of accountability and went great lengths to do so. I shall look at burgers warily for a while now !

The author really has an axe to grind against the Republicans and never fails to hide that. The GOP gets the second best flak in the book and that did make me question the unbiased nature of the narrative. In the afterword, Schlosser clarifies this and also calls out some of the transgressions from the Democrats too. That makes it only slightly even !

Recommended. It is a very incisive work that helps you understood what goes on behind the counter in fast food chain restaurant.
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 28 books13.4k followers
March 21, 2011
There's a witty and disturbing satire by Stanislaw Lem called The Futurological Congress. It's one of those books where the hero gradually comes to understand that the world isn't as it seems. He's ended up in this future utopia, but there are some puzzling details that don't quite fit. For example, why do people often appear out of breath when they get out of the elevator?

In the end, all is revealed. He's sitting with a friend in a fancy restaurant, and

His friend looks at him in alarm.

"Was I... much changed?" he whispers.

Well, it's not quite as bad as that with Fast Food Nation, but, as Gulla says in the comment below, you won't want to eat a hamburger again. It will be much changed.
11 reviews1 follower
August 2, 2008
Oh my GOD. You will never eat fast food again (or any processed food for tht matter). It is incredulous what food comapanies are getting away with - what they allow to get into the food they rpocess, the unscrupulous way they handle employees, the calaous way they treat consumers. Please read this book. Save yourself, your kids, our small farmers, and our planet. Put your money somehwere else.
Profile Image for Laurie  (barksbooks).
1,696 reviews654 followers
February 1, 2010
This was a fascinating in depth read about how the fast food industry developed and how it has literally changed the landscape of our country and the health of its inhabitants.

I've read several books on the evils of the food industry but this one goes into incredible detail about many of the things only glanced over in other books (the source of "natural flavors" was more than a little shocking) and takes a look at both sides of the story. It goes in depth into the history of the industry and taps into the emotional human side of things by outlining the little guys who started it all with high hopes and lots of determination.

The one story that I can't seem to get out of my head is that of the illegal immigrant who went to work at a slaughterhouse in order to make a better life for his family. After giving his all to the company including charred lungs, a broken back that never healed correctly and countless other broken bones and horrifying health ailments he continued to support the company because he believed in them. His commitment left him with a completely broken and useless body and he was then fired when he had nothing left to give. But the greedy, heartless wusses couldn't even dredge up the nerve to tell him personally. He realized he was no longer an employee when they stopped cashing his health insurance checks and he called to inquire as to the reason. Awful, just awful that this kind of thing is allowed to happen.

The afterward goes into detail about Mad Cow disease in relation to the fast food industry. I already know way too much about BSE as it's a minor obsession of mine but I'm very glad he included the updated information in this version for those unaware of the ongoing problem. Agri-industry still has a firm hold on how animals are cared for and are still practicing dangerous feeding habits that endanger not only the animals (the "food" animals and our pets) but the future well being of our society.

I haven't eaten beef since reading Mad Cowboy and this book. Read the book and make up your own mind. I doubt you'll come away from it unaffected.
Profile Image for Nurul.
111 reviews29 followers
February 28, 2009
I started reading this book after having lunch at a fast food restaurant....

Have you ever been bored of cooking, would like to get away from stressful problem, trying to find a place where you can eat while your children can play, or trying to find a fast testable tasteful food? …..

I grew up in a country where rice is the staple food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. My first acquaintance with fast food was in mid 80’s. School and work have brought me to different culture and different countries which forced me to survive to various tastes and culinary culture. But this first touch of fast food has sometimes become a ‘get-away’ path for me.

After long hours of studying (or dance practice), I still remember of having late supper at “three letters” fast food restaurant down at College Station Road, Athens (GA) with friends. Years after that during Eid, some friends and I were having dinner again at this ‘three letters’ restaurant in Newcastle, UK., because we were too busy and couldn’t find time to have a proper Eid meals. I also recalled couple of visits in this restaurant chain in Menado or Kendari after long weeks of hiking and staying in remote places of Talaud or Buton.

This book was not just about the food, but the whole industry related to fast food, the franchise, the packaging, the workers and their welfare, and the lethal E.coli !!!. Ouch! How lucky I was surviving from the possibility of facing the impact of this industry, at least to my health. Trend is like virus, very contagious. I am wondering if we’re having the similar problems in my country. Malls are everywhere, face-to-face. When one food vendor becomes popular, everyone wants to be in the first queue of tasting it and the others build similar types of stores or sell similar types of food. The use of borax in meatballs or tofu has drawn our attention to be more careful in selecting or buying our food.

Indonesian meals particularly home-made meals are still my preference these days. It is healthier but is time consuming to prepare especially like me who put the same seriousness in cooking as in studying. One thing I could not avoid, the potato products… Chips and fries… sigh!
Profile Image for Andrew.
44 reviews12 followers
December 29, 2008
I expected this story to be the written version of Supersize Me, but it is actually much more comprehensive. Schlosser provdes a pretty in-depth history of the development of the cattlle, poultry, and potato industries and also fast-food chains. Schlosser has his moments of leftist, Republican-bashing arguments, but for the most part he tells a balanced story. The meatpacking industry comes off looking very malicious, but surprisingly Schlosser is somewhat light on his criticism fast food chains. He does not talk extensively on the obesity epidemic that is fueled by Big Fast Food.

I think the pertinent themes that resonate in this book are:
1) The drive for smaller government is far less benign than it sounds. Regulation of industries is an undertaking that only governments (and not individuals or self-policing businesses) are equipped to do. When governments are regulating effectively, OSHA is able to ensure safe work environments, small businesses are able to stay competitive thanks to anti-trust regulations, and food products are relatively uncontaminated. When budgets get slashed, all the above (and also apparently the financial markets) are compromised.
2) Some will argue that the ends justify the means and that our food is as cheap as it is only because of the objectionable practices of the meat and fast food corporations. Schlosser argues that in fact fast food chains like In-And-Out and other companies making organic products provide decently priced foods without squeezing workers to death or being lacksadaisical with safety. A point is also made that cheap food should not be our blind end goal.
3) Turnover and low skill sounds bad for employers, but in the meatpacking and fast food industries, quick turnover and low-skilled workers are ideal in order to prevent having to provide benefits and also to prevent successful unionization.

The writing style was very smooth and easy to fly through.

All in all, this is an exemplary work of investigative reporting that will hopefully one day be regarded similarly to Upton Sinclair's The Jungle.
Profile Image for Andrew Breslin.
Author 3 books66 followers
June 4, 2012
Of all the books that made me physically ill to read and filled me with a sense of utter and complete hopelessness, exacerbating my cynicism, despair, and suicidal tendencies, this was among the very best. Oh it's just so good, you'll want to slash your wrists. Or, depending on your personality and how you direct your rage, throw a brick through the window of the nearest McDonalds. Then climb through the broken window, retrieve the brick, and hurl it through an adjacent window. And then, when you run out of windows and realize your first instinct was a pretty good one, grab some of the broken glass and just go ahead and slash your wrists anyway. Because, really: what's the fucking point? If we live in a society in which our very sustenance is based on this horrific shit, why bother?

It's hard to fathom the mentality of people who live lives of hedonistic luxury at the top of the enormous mountain of greasy deep-fried suffering they cause. I'm not even talking about the animals, who obviously fare far worse than the slaughterhouse workers themselves. But those workers, as Schlosser illustrates with enough detail to make Uptain Sinclair ask him to maybe tone it down a little, are three times more likely to die on the job than a police officer, and many many times more likely to have a limb inadvertently turned into the precursor for some unsuspecting kid's happy meal. How do people sleep at night knowing their wealth is built upon such textbook examples of man's inhumanity to man, let alone his inhumanity (or inbovinity) to cow?

Earth's human headcount recently crossed the 7 billion mark, and this exploding population is a primary incentive for the wholesale mechanization of our food machine, the ruthless efficiency of production, discarding any and all concerns but quantity and profit. So really, go ahead and read this, and maybe lay off the Prozac first, just to see if you can handle it without reaching for the relief offered by that jagged piece of glass. If not, well, 6,999,999,999 to go.

Profile Image for Jen from Quebec :0).
404 reviews85 followers
November 15, 2019
This book opened my eyes and scared the shit out of me. Just the description of how meat is produced in slaughterhouses was enough to make me quiver and question our entire 'food system'.

This book answers questions that you didn't even know you needed to be asking. The glut of (disturbing) information is easily digestible (see what I did there?) and the knowledge contained here is important for *everyone* to know in our modern era of 'so called food' and 'nutrition'. -Jen from Quebec :0)
Profile Image for Praxedes.
406 reviews11 followers
June 8, 2016
A terrific non-fiction book about the overwhelming effect fast food has on our daily lives, including the national diet. Schlosser's impeccable research offers the reader insight into this startling phenomenon of corruption, deceit, and power.

It turns out a handful of companies control much more than fast food in the US...they are also responsible for drafting legislation, influencing industry oversight, and manipulating mass communication outlets to maximize gains.

The book, however, does not read like a conspiracy theory due to the detailed research, drawing greatly from primary sources.
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