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Fast Food Nation: Death in the Fast Food Lane

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Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser, is a stark and unrelenting look into the fast food industry that has ingrained itself in not only American culture, but in many cultures around the world. There is almost no place on earth that the golden arches has not entered. Aside from Antarctica, there is a McDonalds on every continent, and the number of countries that have fast food restaurants is growing on a daily basis. Schlosser describes in detail what happens behind the scenes, before the hamburger and fries come wrapped in environmentally safe paper and are consumed by millions of people daily.

There are several stories that stick out in my mind. First is the one about a rancher in Colorado. He had resisted the idea of squeezing as many cows in an enclosed area as possible. Instead, he rotates where the cattle eat, what kinds of grasses they eat, and how often they eat it. His ranch was what cattle raising should be.

This is in contrast to how a majority of cattle are raised today. They stand in paddocks their whole life where they hardly have the ability to move, and they are fed things that cows aren’t designed to eat – corn, wheat, chicken parts, and even the leftovers of already slaughtered cattle. Then they are lead up a gangway, into a building where they are first shocked, then hung up by their hooves and have their necks slit, one after another. It harkens back to The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. After one hundred years, the conditions at the meat packing plants have not improved much. It is still the most dangerous job in America. Almost everyone who works there are injured at one point, be it from mechanical smashers or knives that had come too close to their arm. Hundreds of thousands of cattle are slaughtered every day, and that is to keep up with the demand from places like McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s.

It saddened me to read later that the Colorado rancher committed suicide because he could no longer compete with the large cattle-growers and he was going to lose his livelihood.

Another thing that stood out was they way these fast food places treat their workers. Their policy of automation has created a whole group of people that do not have to think to do their job. These people – usually teenagers – are paid minimum wage to push buttons and do all of the jobs that used to be done by hand. It gains governm...

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... McDonalds’s or Taco Bell or any other fast food restaurant. He then spent an hour trying to do just that. He said that people spend more time looking into buying a house than deciding what goes into our bodies. My first reaction was “Of course we do! A house costs tens of thousands of dollars, and a burger costs 99 cents.” I know what he meant by it, saying that the burger will be with us for the rest of our lives and will affect our health in both the short and long run, but it’s not seen that way. If we have high cholesterol, we cal take a pill. High blood pressure? There’s a pill for that, too. There are even pills to help people lose weight. The mentality is that we can eat what we want, and there will be a way to reverse it.

The bottom line is that I enjoyed the book and I did learn from it. I’m never eating at one of those places again, and not just because the food is terrible. I refuse to support their employment and food acquisition practices. I’m only sorry that it took me 26 years to get to this stage. Hopefully my children won’t support them either.

Works Cited:

Schlosser, Eric. Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal. New York: Perennial, 2002.
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