”Fast Food Nation” by Eric Schlosser
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“This book is about fast food, the values it embodies, and the world it has made,” writes Eric Schlosser in the introduction of his book, Fast Food Nation. His argument against fast food is based on the premise that “the real price never appears on the menu.” The “real price,” according to Schlosser, ranges from obliterating small business, spreading pathogenic bacteria, exploiting workers, accelerating urban sprawl, to creating a generation that is fatter and less fit than ever.
Schlosser grounds these claims firmly with the myriad of facts, figures, and statistics he has compiled. He has exhaustively researched the deep-reaching effects of fast food, the surprising consequences. He paints a human face of the pain caused by the fast food industry. He recounts the agony of dozens of people who have died of infected meat, describes the sufferings of the illegal slaughterhouse workers, and details the sad fate of the independent business owners. His carefully reasoned arguments, combined with his moving narratives, evoke indignation and sympathy from his readers.
Schlosser’s book is also a call to action. In this effort, he enumerates the successes of the people against the corporations. Schlosser aims his book at the average consumer; he urges them to simply “stop buying it.” He is able to persuade the reader to join him in his indictment of the fast food industry with the nauseating details he presents. Although never directly stated, the book is permeated with the idea that you, too, will ultimately pay the “real price” of fast food.
Schlosser’s argument is objective, full of dry humor and brilliant logic and sprinkled with scathing comments. His writing is witty, clinical, and completely understandable. The readers are left to draw their own conclusions. Schlosser does not aim to change McDonald’s menu to “tofu bars with brown rice;” his aim is to make the consumers more conscious of what they are consuming and the producers more responsible for what they are producing.
Despite his articulate reasoning, however, Schlosser has failed to explore the possibility that fast food is shaped by, rather than shapes, American culture. One critic argues that the “the fast-fooding of America… owes its existence to factors ranging from the decline of the family… to the entrenchment of career-oriented feminism… to the wholesale rejection of the idea of a distinctive American culture.” In spite of this oversight, Schlosser has successfully proven most of his claims.
Schlosser has managed to compile a mountain of evidence to support his sometimes-extreme sounding claims. His journalistic acumen and sharp insight have made the book a thoroughly enjoyable, although stomach churning, read. He has exposed “the dark side of the all-American meal.” I, for one, will never again eat a hamburger.