by Eric Schlosser is an in-depth look at how the fast food industry has revolutionized the landscape, culture, & health of America—and ultimately the entire world.
Not quite what you’d expect, Schlosser’s book doesn’t demonize fast food as it pertains to health—in fact, the author plainly states that his family still does eat some fast food —but rather, it’s more of an indictment of the corporate entities behind the drive-thrus.
This is a revealing look at sanitation & food safety that’s very often far from the primary concern of the big fast food chains. It’s also a disturbing investigation into some of the deplorable ways in which these companies commonly, almost criminally, (mis)treat their employees.
But as much as he slams many of the major fast food companies for their unethical practices, but I’ve got to commend Schlosser for also making a point to highlight the few that do it right, like In-N-Out Burger, for example.
This book is also packed with details and loads of interesting backstory, so it’s not an quick & easy weekend read. As broad a topic as fast food cultural is, Schlosser’s points wander appropriately across a very wide range. But “Fast Food Nation” is definitely well worth the time! Just a few of the persuasive nuggets:
- The fast food industry has aggressively lobbied against improved health and safety practices in the meat-packing industry, while pushing for lower product costs, faster production and more uniform product. One result of this is that any single hamburger patty may be comprised of ground bits from hundreds, sometimes thousands, of cattle rather than a single cow.
- The meatpacking industry has become totally industrialized. Cattle are fed a continuous diet of corn—something which cows would not naturally eat in volume—laced with massive amounts of antibiotics to counteract the devastating effects that solely eating grain has upon the bovine digestive system (resulting in ever more resistant pathogens). In addition to being unhealthy for the cows, corn-fed beef is comparably higher in unhealthy saturated fats than that of grass-fed.
- To comply with international standards, the quality of meat being processed for shipment to non-American locations of the big fast food chains is several times higher than that of the meat used domestically. That means that a Big Mac in Dubai has better, safer meat than the same burger at a McDonald’s in Dallas.
- Fast food has infiltrated every corner of American society and is now served at restaurants & drive-throughs, at stadiums, airports, zoos, public schools & universities, on cruise ships, trains, and airplanes, at retail stores, gas stations, and even in some hospital cafeterias. In 1970, Americans spent about $6 billion on fast food; in 2000, they spent more than $110 billion.
- To make a strawberry milkshake at home, you’d probably use ice cream, strawberries, milk, and maybe a touch of vanilla. But the ingredients in a typical fast-food version include milkfat & nonfat milk, sweet whey, high-fructose corn syrup, sugar, guar gum, monoglycerides & diglycerides, cellulose gum, sodium phosphate, carrageenan, citric acid, E129, and artificial strawberry flavor. That elusive “strawberry flavor” isn’t even derived from actual fruit, but rather an elaborate laboratory where “flavorists” perform wizardry with chemicals such as amyl acetate, butyric acid, dipropyl ketone, methyl heptine carbonate, and undecalactone.
This book has certainly changed the way I look at the food I’m putting on my family’s table. And it’s the second of the two books I’ll be drawing a name for at the end of this Food For Thought week, so be sure to leave a comment so that you’re entered to win!
Has there been anything that’s changed your opinions about fast food? Do you still eat fast food as often? Do you ever veer away from the big chain restaurants and instead get burgers & such from “Mom & Pop” fast food places?