Book Review: Fast Food Nation

Fast Food Nation: How the Birth of the Hamburger Drastically Changed the World

Fast Food Nation begins with the history behind the birth and subsequent thriving of the fast food movement. Schlosser begins his book by describing the history of the expansion of Southern California. He also describes the formation of two of the most recognizable and successful fast food chains, Carls Jr. and McDonalds. He then goes into more specific aspects of the McDonald’s corporation, including its relationship with Walt Disney.

Schlosser also explains the logistics of fast food business as well. These include the standardized assembly line production of fast food, coined the “Speedee Service System” invented by the McDonalds chain.

Fast Food Nation also focuses on several of the social concerns that are tied into the fast food business. For example, he discusses marketing and advertising and specifically refers to the marketing and advertising campaigns that were aimed at and affected children.

Another social concern that he discusses is related to the employee and employer relations that have long existed within the fast food industry. Many of the concerns that are discussed raise the discrepancies that are seen within what is earned by and given to employees by the employers that marginalize and abuse them. Schlosser also expresses an interest in the role that teenagers play in the fast food business, which is largely made up of teenage workers who in turn neglect their studies. He also focuses on the dangers of the many jobs within the fast food industry, such as those who work at the slaughterhouse.

Other facts discussed by Schlosser are the emergence of franchises, the production of frozen foods, the “american flavor industry” and artificial flavors. He also outlines the questionable approach to meat by fast food companies and the way in which this has affected ranchers. Other concerns outlined include: Food safety and the global effect of fast food.

Fast Food Nation is a very interesting read that pertains to a wide range of concerns surrounding the fast food industry. I believe that beginning the book with a history of the fast food industry is an interesting tactic to draw readers in. It was surprising to see all of the connections between fast food businesses and other businesses and practices. I was especially disappointed by what I learned about Disney, but that’s a different story. However, while I enjoyed this historical element of the novel, I did get confused because Schlosser discussed the issues, practices, and status of the fast food industry in the context of many different periods of times and it was difficult to dissect which of these stages of the fast food industry that he was referring to. I think that it might have been more beneficial if he had introduced the historical aspect of the industry in the beginning of the book as he did and then transition to the modern issues of the fast food industry and focus on those.

I found all of the issues and concerns that Schlosser raised about the fast food industry to be very interesting and often times, shocking. The sections on unsanitary meat practices and the artificial flavors utilized by these businesses to be especially revealing. He focused nicely not on just the food quality or employer practices, but he gleaned research and including information from a number of different areas that have all been and continue to be affected by the fast food business. Perhaps the section most closely related to our class is the section of meat, titled, “On the Range.” This section describes the changing conditions for ranchers and the meat market due to the fast food industry. Overall, this book was a good read that I recommend, especially to those in our class because there are very many interesting and important connections to so many different facets of life, including urban agriculture as mentioned above.

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