Health, Non-Fiction, Social Commentary

#472 Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser

Fast Food Nation by Eric SchlosserFast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser

Gosh, those French Fries look good. Who doesn’t love a good French Fry? Nobody, everyone loves French Fries. Despite the fact that French Fries taste delicious, there are some not so awesome things about their creation that are subversive and downright dishonest.

In this book Eric writes mainly about fast food restaurants that serve burgers and fries. This book isn’t really about Taco Bell or KFC, although some of the things in this book could be true of those restaurants as well. Mainly, we’re looking at McDonald’s. I don’t eat there by the way. I haven’t for years. Youtube a video of McDonald’s fries still being good after four years, gross.

This book is very much like the book Chew on This, also by Eric Schlosser, but this is the big Daddy version of that book. This book goes much more into detail about the world of fast food. We start off the same way. We learn about the beginnings of fast food and then we dig deeper into how fast food is made. Eric doesn’t only talk about the assembly line kitchens of McDonald’s, but also the places where McDonald’s gets their food from.

Eric talks of inhumane working conditions in slaughterhouses. He talks about the historical battles raged around slaughterhouse workers. It’s a battle which is being lost again. Cattle slaughter houses may sound awful, but Eric doesn’t even touch chicken houses, and they’re disgusting. Eric details the progress or lack of progress that lead to meatpacking facilities mainly hiring illegal immigrants and refusing to treat them, but also legal citizens, for injuries received on the job. There are terrible stories of body parts in the meat and being crushed by large machinery. It’s not the kind of job a person wants to have.

Eric also speaks of the economics of all of this of course. He speaks about how McDonald’s can pay low wages. He speaks of how meat-packing workers get paid little. He speaks of how cattle ranchers have gone out of business because McDonald’s wants meat that tastes the same.

That’s not all though, Eric speaks of health dangers of all of this. Eric does touch on obesity in this book, but that’s not all. He talks about E. coli, poisoning by BT corn, and mad cow disease, all of it being perpetuated by a broken food system.

McDonald’s has the buying power to change the way the industry is regulated, but it does not. On a few occasions McDonald’s has flexed its buying arm to slow down production lines and make meat safer, but that’s not often. Other countries have passed regulations for the safety of food production, but the United States is sadly and woefully far behind.

Legislation is always written in favor of the big food companies, not in favor of the people. In fact some of the changes made in the way meat is processed were only made because someone decided that meat was being processed better for animal feed, so it might as well be processed better for human consumption.

In the end, we’re still left with a broken food system.

What I liked

None of this is really news to me. I’ve heard most of this before. Our food system is screwed up. Just because I know all of this stuff doesn’t make this a bad book. It’s a good book. Pick it up; read it; learn where you food comes from.

Honestly, fast food is gross. I love French Fries, but don’t get near me with a nasty McDonald’s hamburger. I just can’t stand Taco Bell anymore. It’s just disgusting. People need to be aware of what’s in that food. It’s gross stuff ok? People like Eric are getting this information out to people, which is great. More people are saying that McDonald’s is gross. It’s not only McDonald’s, but all fast food which seems to be nasty.

The information about the workers of the meat plants was very informative. I actually know some of this from family stories. Many members of the family have had the chance to work at a chicken plant, a place where chicken meat is processed. The working conditions are bad. The lines move so fast that people get cut all the time. They cut themselves and they cut other people, none of it is on purpose. Often times these places will not provide adequate medical treatment for these on the job injuries. Isn’t it gross that the people cutting up your raw chicken meat are probably bleeding on it because the line moves so fast that they cut each other? Yes, it’s gross.

What I didn’t like

Eric presents all of this information, but none of this is changing. People are becoming more and more aware of what’s in their food, but legislation almost always sides with big food. This past election multiple states had legislation up for vote concerning labeling genetically engineered food, not a lot of those measures passed. People want their food to be better, but the government isn’t doing a whole heck of a lot about it even though it has two agencies the FDA and the USDA to regulate it. Basically, it’s up to you, as a person, to fight back against nasty food. You have to pick who you give your money to. You have to vote with your pocketbook. The only good measures made in the past twenty years or so in the food industry come as a result of McDonald’s telling food suppliers to straighten up their act and it only does that out of bad publicity; it doesn’t do it out of the good of its double-arched heart.

Our food is downright disgusting and it’s not changing any time soon. The more concerning thing is something like mad cow disease. Meat possibly containing the disease has been distributed all over, as with E. coli and other terrible things. There isn’t a lot of active testing for any of these things. The thing about mad cow disease is that we don’t know enough about it to know what the incubation period is. Maybe you suddenly get mad cow disease 30 years down the road and die from a hamburger you ate a long time ago. We could all be walking mad cow time bombs and not know it.

Money over health right?

This book is detailed and it is thorough, but it lacks some things. Eric talks about nasty meat that goes into your hamburgers, but he doesn’t even really begin to brush additives or dangerous chemical or radiation processes meat may be treated with. He doesn’t discuss the chemicals put into French Fries. He doesn’t discuss the high fructose corn syrup in the milkshakes. He doesn’t discuss the aspartame in your Diet Coke. He doesn’t talk about the arsenic injected into chicken, or rather, fed to chicken. While all of the information he does present is very pertinent, it’s just not enough. This book is  kind of a skimming off the top of the nasty grossness that is our food in the United States.


Ew–that’s what I have to say, gross.

eric schlosser, fast food, fast food nation, Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser, fda and usda regulations, feed lots, hamburgers, mcdonald’s, nasty hamburgers, slaughterhouses
Health, Non-Fiction, Schlosser-Eric, social commentary


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