Food For Thought: Fast Food Nation

Fast Food Nation book cover 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?

5 Comments

  1. I don't normally comment on the foodie, healthy posts… because let's face it… commenting on how adorable Liam is – is well, a lot more fun! lol. I just wanted to say, though, that I resisted this whole anti-fast food trend for a LONG time. I resisted working out and in fact, was proud that I refused to compromise my own self desires. I often found myself saying things like, "this is who I am" or "I don't need to change who I am because everyone else is…"

    Then something changed. I don't know when or how. But, now I work out four times a week with Frank. I went from DREADING it, to looking forward to the energy it gave me. And trust me, I was one who did NOT believe in the whole "I feel so energetic after working out" philosophy. I have found that we eat healthier because we work out. I mean once you find out how hard it is to burn those calories you don't really want to put more in your body unless you're really hungry. I'm still a couch potato sometimes and I definitely have an addiction to ice cream, but I don't find fast food as appealing as I once did. It didn't really have anything to do with a book or a documentary, though. Just kinda happened gradually.

  2. Yeah this is a good book, and to answer one of your questions about what inspired a move away from fast food, it was this book. Not to say that right after reading it I went vegetarian, but it definitely made me think again about the low cost of fast food and the repercussions of buying it.

    Another note – didn't care for the movie version of this book 🙂

  3. Lots of things have changed regarding my opinions on fast food, but that hasn't stopped me. As a worker, student, father, and husband, I simply find it easier to "grab" a bite to eat and figure out the consequences later.

    It's sad, and I hate to admit it, but I'm one of "those" people.

  4. it is often easier for me to just go through the drive-thru instead of going home and making dinner…and yeah being honest i LOVE fast food, the unhealthier the better lol so it goes beyond convenience most of the time…

    often i hide behind the "im happy being who i am" too, but deep down its killing me physically and even if you don't think so, emotionally. you never really outgrow being 'the fat kid', no matter how old you are or what playground you're in.

  5. Really, te most unhealthy fast food items are SO STINKIN' YUMMY!!! LOL!! We eat fast food (drive-through type fast food, not including pizza or Starbuck of things like that) once a week. Thankfully, Micky D's introduced apple dippers just as my oldest was eatting his own meals when we ate out, so they're always accustomed to getting the fruit option. I really like Chickfil-a. Not sure if this book says anything about it, but at least it SEEMS to be a better bet health-wise. I LONG for more mom & pop places around here- we just don't have that many. :o( And we try to buy locally" whenever we can, so it's even more sad to me that we don't have that many options in this way.

Leave a Comment.