Friday, April 29, 2011

Research Paper about Fast Food

Fast Food Research Paper

The book I chose to review is Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal. I do not think people can eat at fast food restaurants and not second-guess the quality and origin of their food after reading this book. Fast Food Nation is by Eric Schlosser and was published in January of 2001. The book goes into detail what consumers are really getting when they purchase a cheeseburger or other item from a fast food restaurant. The review that I formed some of my ideas from and also got another opinion comes from Andrew Roe, A journalist from the San Francisco Chronicle.

The book originally started out as a Rolling Stone magazine assignment. Eric was assigned to observe what goes on behind a fast food counter in the way food is prepared. He could not believe what he was about to find, and decided to inform the public in depth about it in this book.


Eric Schlosser studied the history of the fast food industry dating back to the 1950s. At that time it was not much of an industry at all, it was actually very small, but as it grew in the late 1970s and 80s it became more of a concern. The industry is responsible for changing how livestock are raised and how our food is produced. It is also not far fetched to believe that fast food industries are responsible for driving our other industries down. The low wage pay, and high turnover productivity has rubbed off on some other industries in our economy today. And usually the people accepting low wage are the people who are unqualified to be fit for the job at hand, resulting in lower quality products.

This book really makes you think what you could possible be eating when you order a value meal at McDonald's or Burger King. For me, I buy a cheeseburger at a local fast food place quite often not thinking that it is so unhealthy, just that I am not getting the "best quality meat." I don't think that my cheeseburger could contain E coli, or cow waste as I eat it. But after reading this book I may have different assumptions. As Schlosser describes the way the ground beef is processed, about one million pounds a day, the meat grinder could possible be containing manure from the cows.

The book not only talks about the food of these fast food places, but the employees as well. This industry can be thought of as the most dangerous, and unrewarding workplace ever. When you think of it, how many people do you know that work at McDonalds and has benefits? They don't, and the reason being is because they are usually scheduled to work less that the hours that would require McDonald's to provide benefits. Fast food restaurants are also very likely targets to get hit by robberies. They always have cash, and are usually always doing good business resulting in a good "spot" for criminals to hit. Also, an employee only getting paid minimum wage is kind of ridiculous when you think of how much profit these restaurants are making. Doing some further research, I found out that the average corporate bonus was $131,000 in 1997. Schlosser says that a dollar raise in employee's wages would only result in two cents raise in price of burgers. It goes to show you how these corporations have the best interest for their employees, and just how greedy they are. In my opinion, I feel they should be ashamed to sponsor events like the Olympics, and Ronald McDonald house when they can not even afford to give there employees above minimum wage. I highly doubt that a two cent raise in burger cost would affect there sales.

Something I found to be very interesting in the book is the target market of the fast food industry and how that might have an affect later in that markets life. Schlosser says how children are being targeted at as early as three with the "happy meals." There are advertisements in school, and billboards everywhere you look. In some studies, they have found that toddlers can recognize logos, such as the "golden arches" before they an recognize there own names written down on a piece of paper. What is dangerous about this, Schlosser says, is that your eating habits are developed very early in your life. When you grow older your still going to have these craves, and habits, it's just whether or not you give in to them. Obesity levels in the United States and fast food consumption go hand in hand for children over the past twenty years.

The flavors you taste for the most part in fast food restaurants are not natural, rather artificial. Flavorists, found right here on the New Jersey turnpike, make the flavors found in almost every processed food. The beef and chicken taste you recognize while eating is just an imitation made up in some laboratory. I mean how could a cheeseburger taste like ground beef when as Schlosser puts it "there is shit in the meat." Now I know artificial flavors should obviously make a food taste better, but how can I say that "shit" with any flavor taste good. Schlosser studied one of these flavor factories that made chemicals such as colognes, as well as simulations of bananas, cherries, and shrimp. In one instance Schlosser sampled one of the aromas in one of the testing bottles and was almost positive that someone was cooking up burgers. The additives make it so that when you chew the food or when you drink it, it releases the smells in the chemical that make you think that you are eating the food that you are eating. It is not dangerous, Schlosser states, but just interesting how what you are actually eating is covered up by scents of what you think you are eating.

Another thing that is hurting the American people besides their health is the way the fast food chains are altering the agriculture. Fast food chains are the largest purchasers of meats, but there are only select few companies that supply them with it. Private farmers and small business ranchers are disappearing (Roe 2).

After reading this book my opinion of fast food has changed dramatically. I came into reading this book thinking that I was just reading it for a grade. Now after completing it I have realized a lot about the fast food industry. I would recommend this Fast Food Nation to anyone thinking about having a fast food restaurant employ them. The findings in here might make you look elsewhere for your minimum starting salary. I would also strongly recommend this book to anyone in question of what they think they are eating at fast food restaurants. I do not think Eric Schlosser is trying to make you take a side either for or against fast food; he is just trying to inform you his findings through his research of the fast food industry. You can base your decision on his informative descriptions of what goes on in the fast food industry.

Eric Schlosser's studied polemic against the global fast food industry is a welcome contribution to many high profile issues currently being debated in the Western democracies. Its focus on the deleterious long-term impact of fast food on US society, health and working conditions is well written and symptomatic of the current public agnosticism over the benefits of unregulated corporatism and global capitalism in general.

Schlosser's narrative begins in developing California with an analysis of the dynamic impact of the McDonald brothers' new fast food preparation techniques and their rapid adoption throughout the US. His history of this much-maligned corporation moves on to cover its impact on the potato-growing, beef-grinding and slaughterhouse industries. However, he does not focus purely on the noxious habits of the Golden Arches but broadens his discussion to explain how the artificial flavoring industry ensures that much fast food actually tastes good, whatever the quality of its ingredients, and to debate the hotly talked about issue - at least in the UK - of public health and general food regulation.

The guilty parties in Schlosser's analysis are clearly identified. They are the corporations that lobby governments to loosen the regulatory framework against the public interest and that routinely practice unsafe and unfair employment policies. The laissez faire Reagan administrations are lambasted for their faith in the self-regulating industry they encouraged and for capitulating to the deep-pockets of the food company lobbyists who funded many a Republican campaign. It was the combination of these dynamics which, for example, allowed ground beef companies to distribute E. coli-infected produce across Central America and not inform the public when infected goods were withdrawn from sale. The law does not even require them to follow this withdrawal process, nor can they even be forced to do so by Federal authorities.

Schlosser's book is not an angry diatribe, but an analysis designed to aid informed consumer choices. This reviewer in particular has nothing against corporate profit-making and is not inherently concerned when small agricultural operators go out of business when no longer profitable. Production methods change and people must change with them. Moreover, if people want cheap and homogeneous fast food then there's nothing wrong with market responses to this demand. However, when the market is skewed in favor of the corporates such that the public cannot make informed decisions and health is threatened, then something is clearly wrong with public regulatory processes.

'Fast Food Nation' is a sweeping history of post-war US consumerism and offers a vision of a nightmare America juxtaposed against the traditional American dream. The flip sides of untrammelled prosperity are the slaughterhouse workers whose injury compensation claims are vetoed by their employers' 'independent' doctors and the numerous food poisoning cases caused partly by the lack of independent inspections of meat production facilities and partly by the lack of food tracking processes in the distribution firms. This book will be an eye-opener for anyone who wants to know why their lifestyle is what it is.

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