Fast Food Nation

From Academic Kids

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal (2001) is a book by Eric Schlosser which examines the fast food industry in the United States. Schlosser examines and discusses how the increasing dominance of fast food and the whole industry supporting it, have led to a number of changes in American society. In particular he argues that companies involved in the fast food industry have used their political influence to increase their own profits at the expense of the health of the nation and the social conditions of its workers. During the two years of researching for Fast Food Nation, Schlosser admits to eating fast food regularly; however, he does not mention if he continues to do so after the revelations of his research were completed.

In his brief introduction, Schlosser describes Cheyenne Mountain, a seemingly irrelevant military base in Colorado. Finally, after detailed description, he establishes a connection between fast food and the military base through a hypothetical nuclear war. After such a war, anthropologists of the future will discover remnants of our society: fast food wrappers from the base's employees, among other things. Schlosser argues that these discarded fast food wrappers might be more indicative of our society than much of our literature.

The book continues with an account of the evolution of fast food and how it coincided with advent of the automobile. He explains the transformation from countless independent restaurants into a few uniform franchises. The transformation lead to a production-line kitchen prototype, standardization, self-service and a shift in marketing demographics from being teenager-oriented to family-oriented.

The next topic Schlosser discusses is child-targeted marketing. He explains how the McDonald's Corporation modeled the marketing tactics of the Walt Disney Company towards children, which eventuated to creation of icons such as Ronald McDonald and his supporting characters. The theory behind this shift to child-targeted marketing was that it would not only attract children but also their parents and grandparents as well. Furthermore, it would instill brand loyalty in them, which would persist throughout adulthood through nostalgic associations to McDonald's. The tone towards this revolutionary marketing strategy quickly changes as its ills are discussed: the exploitation of children's naïve, trusting nature and that the average child watches 21 hours of television per week.

The tone continues to get bleaker as Schlosser states that corporate tax cuts that have compromised school funding have presented many corporations with the opportunity for sponsorship within those same schools. According to Schlosser, 80% percent of the sponsored textbooks contain material that is biased in favor of the sponsors, and 30% of high schools offer fast foods in their cafeterias. Furthermore, a student was suspended from school for an incident on "Coke day"; during a promotional event, the student exhibited a Pepsi t-shirt while he and other students clad in red and white formed the word 'Coke' in the football field that was to be photographed aerially.

In his examination of the meat packing industry Schlosser finds that it is now dominated by casual immigrant labor and that levels of injury are among the highest of any occupation in the United States. In his records, Schlosser mainly attacks Iowa Beef Packers and Ken Monfort.

Schlosser notes that there are more robberies at fast-food restaurants than at banks, gas stations or convenience stores.

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