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Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal
by Eric Schlosser [edit]

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal
********** 10 Stars!
Price: US$ 10.47, Available worldwide on Amazon.com
Check Availability from: Canada or from United Kingdom
ISBN: 0060938455

Description

Amazon.com's Best of 2001
On any given day, one out of four Americans opts for a quick and cheap meal at a fast-food restaurant, without giving either its speed or its thriftiness a second thought. Fast food is so ubiquitous that it now seems as American, and harmless, as apple pie. But the industry's drive for consolidation, homogenization, and speed has radically transformed America's diet, landscape, economy, and workforce, often in insidiously destructive ways. Eric Schlosser, an award-winning journalist, opens his ambitious and ultimately devastating exposť with an introduction to the iconoclasts and high school dropouts, such as Harlan Sanders and the McDonald brothers, who first applied the principles of a factory assembly line to a commercial kitchen. Quickly, however, he moves behind the counter with the overworked and underpaid teenage workers, onto the factory farms where the potatoes and beef are grown, and into the slaughterhouses run by giant meatpacking corporations. Schlosser wants you to know why those French fries taste so good (with a visit to the world's largest flavor company) and "what really lurks between those sesame-seed buns." Eater beware: forget your concerns about cholesterol, there is--literally--feces in your meat.

Schlosser's investigation reaches its frightening peak in the meatpacking plants as he reveals the almost complete lack of federal oversight of a seemingly lawless industry. His searing portrayal of the industry is disturbingly similar to Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, written in 1906: nightmare working conditions, union busting, and unsanitary practices that introduce E. coli and other pathogens into restaurants, public schools, and homes. Almost as disturbing is his description of how the industry "both feeds and feeds off the young," insinuating itself into all aspects of children's lives, even the pages of their school books, while leaving them prone to obesity and disease. Fortunately, Schlosser offers some eminently practical remedies. "Eating in the United States should no longer be a form of high-risk behavior," he writes. Where to begin? Ask yourself, is the true cost of having it "your way" really worth it? --Lesley Reed --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


From Publishers Weekly
In this fascinating sociocultural report, Schlosser digs into the deeper meaning of Burger King, Auggie's, The Chicken Shack, Jack-in-the-Box, Little Caesar's and myriad other examples of fast food in America. Frequently using McDonald's as a template, Schlosser, an Atlantic Monthly correspondent, explains how the development of fast-food restaurants has led to the standardization of American culture, widespread obesity, urban sprawl and more. In a perky, reportorial voice, Adamson tells of the history, economics, day-to-day dealings and broad and often negative cultural implications of franchised burger joints and pizza factories, delivering impressive snippets of information (e.g., two-thirds of America's fast-food restaurant employees are teenagers; Willard Scott posed as the first Ronald McDonald until higher-ups decided Scott was too round to represent a healthy restaurant like McDonald's). According to Schlosser, most visits to fast-food restaurants are the culinary equivalent of "impulse buys," i.e., someone is driving by and pulls over for a Big Mac. But anyone listening to this audiobook on a car trip and realizing that the Chicken McNugget turned "a bird that once had to be carved at a table" into "a manufactured, value-added product" will think twice about stopping for a snack at the highway rest stop. Based on the Houghton Mifflin hardcover.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.


From Library Journal
What McDonaldization has done to our health, economy, and culture; from a National Magazine Award winner.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


Rob Walker, New York Times Book Review 1/21/01
"...Schlosser is a serious and diligent reporter..." "[Fast Food Nation] is a fine piece of muckraking, alarming without beling alarmist." --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


From AudioFile
This is all-out attack on the fast food industry. With great passion, Schlosser takes on this new American icon and greets with bitter sarcasm the statements of the fast food executives who say they care about workers and consumers. This is a lively book written in journalistic fashion, and Rick Adamson captures the character of the book in his reading. He reads with a clear voice and an even pace, never stumbling over the complex names of bacteria found in meat. Sometimes the pace seems too slow and his reading overdramatic, but that may be due to the character of the text. Schlosser's description of those injured at meat-packing plants is the most compelling portion, and his description of a caring restaurant owner shows that the industry is not entirely run by cretins. M.L.C. © AudioFile 2002, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.


From Booklist
Everyone frets about the nutritional implications of excessive dining at America's fast-food emporia, but few grasp the significance of how fast-food restaurants have fundamentally changed the way Americans eat. Schlosser documents the effects of fast food on America's economy, its youth culture, and allied industries, such as meatpacking, that serve this vast food production empire. Starting with a young woman who makes minimum wage working at a Colorado fast-food restaurant, Schlosser relates the oft-told story of Ray Kroc's founding of McDonald's. The author also tells about the development of the franchise method of business ownership and the health and nutrition implications of fast-food consumption. In a striking chapter, Schlosser gives a glimpse into the little-known world of chemically engineered flavorings, both natural and artificial. The coming together of so many diverse social, scientific, and economic trends in a single industry makes this book a relevant, compelling read and a cautionary tale of the many risks generated by this ubiquitous industry. Mark Knoblauch
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


San Francisco Gate
Superb and wonderfully horrifying....


Boston Globe
"...reminiscent of Upton Sinclair's 'The Jungle'....." --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


Time Out New York
"Part cultural history, part investigative journalism and part polemic...intelligent and highly readable critique...." --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


Atlanta Journal Constitution
"'Fast Food Nation' should be another wake-up call, a super-size serving of common sense...." --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


The New York Times
"...Schlosser is a serious and diligent reporter..." "[Fast Food Nation] is a fine piece of muckraking, alarming without beling alarmist." - Rob Walker, NYTBR 1/21/01 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


Publishers Weekly, Starred
"Schlosser establishes a seminal argument for the true wrongs at the core of modern America." --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


Review
Praise for FAST FOOD NATION:

"...a fine piece of muckracking, alarming without being alarmist. . .Schlosser is a serious and deligent reporter." - The New York Times Book Review

"FAST FOOD NATION should be another wake-up call, a super-size serving of common sense..." - Atlanta Journal Constitution

"Schlosser is part essayist, part investigative journalist. His eye is sharp, his profiles perceptive, his prose thoughtful but spare; this is John McPhee behind the counter..." - The Washington Post --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.


Inside Flap Copy
Six Cassettes, 9 hrs.

Read by Rick Adamson

FAST FOOD NATION - the groundbreaking work of investigation and cultural history that has changed the way America thinks about the way it eats - and spent nearly four months on the New York Times bestseller list - now available on cassette!

Are we what we eat? To a degree both engrossing and alarming, the story of fast food is the story of postwar America. Though created by a handful of mavericks, the fast food industry has triggered the homogenization of our society. Fast food has hastened the malling of our landscape, widened the chasm between rich and poor, fueled an epidemic of obesity, and propelling the juggernaut of American cultural imperialism abroad. That's a lengthy list of charges, but Eric Schlosser makes them stick with an artful mix of first-rate reportage, wry wit, and careful reasoning.

Schlosser's myth-shattering survey stretches from the California subdivisions where the business was born to the industrial corridor along the New Jersey Turnpike where many of fast food's flavors are concocted. Along the way, he unearths a trove of fascinating, unsettling truths - from the unholy alliance between fast food and Hollywood to the seismic changes the industry has wrought in food production, popular culture, even real estate. He also uncovers the fast food chains' efforts to reel in the youngest, most susceptible consumers even while they hone their institutionalized exploitation of teenagers and minorities. Schlosser then turns a critical eye toward the hot topic of globalization - a phenomenon launched by fast food. --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.


From the Back Cover
Praise for FAST FOOD NATION:

"...a fine piece of muckracking, alarming without being alarmist. . .Schlosser is a serious and deligent reporter." - The New York Times Book Review

"FAST FOOD NATION should be another wake-up call, a super-size serving of common sense..." - Atlanta Journal Constitution

"Schlosser is part essayist, part investigative journalist. His eye is sharp, his profiles perceptive, his prose thoughtful but spare; this is John McPhee behind the counter..." - The Washington Post --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.


About the Author
Eric Schlosser is a correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly. He has received a number of journalistic honors, including a National Magazine Award for an Atlantic article he wrote about marijuana and the war on drugs. This is his first book.


Excerpted from Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. Copyright © 2001. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Introduction

CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN SITS on the eastern slope of Colorado's Front Range, rising steeply from the prairie and overlooking the city of Colorado Springs. From a distance, the mountain appears beautiful and serene, dotted with rocky outcroppings, scrub oak, and ponderosa pine. It looks like the backdrop of an old Hollywood western, just another gorgeous Rocky Mountain vista. And yet Cheyenne Mountain is hardly pristine. One of the nation's most important military installations lies deep within it, housing units of the North American Aerospace Command, the Air Force Space Command, and the United States Space Command. During the mid-1950s, high-level officials at the Pentagon worried that America's air defenses had become vulnerable to sabotage and attack. Cheyenne Mountain was chosen as the site for a top-secret, underground combat operations center. The mountain was hollowed out, and fifteen buildings, most of them three stories high, were erected amid a maze of tunnels and passageways extending for miles. The four-and-a-half-acre underground complex was designed to survive a direct hit by an atomic bomb. Now officially called the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, the facility is entered through steel blast doors that are three feet thick and weigh twenty-five tons each; they automatically swing shut in less than twenty seconds. The base is closed to the public, and a heavily armed quick response team guards against intruders. Pressurized air within the complex prevents contamination by radioactive fallout and biological weapons. The buildings are mounted on gigantic steel springs to ride out an earthquake or the blast wave of a thermonuclear strike. The hallways and staircases are painted slate gray, the ceilings are low, and there are combination locks on many of the doors. A narrow escape tunnel, entered through a metal hatch, twists and turns its way out of the mountain through solid rock. The place feels like the set of an early James Bond movie, with men in jumpsuits driving little electric vans from one brightly lit cavern to another.

Fifteen hundred people work inside the mountain, maintaining the facility and collecting information from a worldwide network of radars, spy satellites, ground-based sensors, airplanes, and blimps. The Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center tracks every manmade object that enters North American airspace or that orbits the earth. It is the heart of the nation's early warning system. It can detect the firing of a long-range missile, anywhere in the world, before that missile has left the launch pad.

This futuristic military base inside a mountain has the capability to be self-sustaining for at least one month. Its generators can produce enough electricity to power a city the size of Tampa, Florida. Its underground reservoirs hold millions of gallons of water; workers sometimes traverse them in rowboats. The complex has its own underground fitness center, a medical clinic, a dentist's office, a barbershop, a chapel, and a cafeteria. When the men and women stationed at Cheyenne Mountain get tired of the food in the cafeteria, they often send somebody over to the Burger King at Fort Carson, a nearby army base. Or they call Domino's.

Almost every night, a Domino's deliveryman winds his way up the lonely Cheyenne Mountain Road, past the ominous DEADLY FORCE AUTHORIZED signs, past the security checkpoint at the entrance of the base, driving toward the heavily guarded North Portal, tucked behind chain link and barbed wire. Near the spot where the road heads straight into the mountainside, the delivery man drops off his pizzas and collects his tip. And should Armageddon come, should a foreign enemy someday shower the United States with nuclear warheads, laying waste to the whole continent, entombed within Cheyenne Mountain, along with the high-tech marvels, the pale blue jumpsuits, comic books, and Bibles, future archeologists may find other clues to the nature of our civilization - Big King wrappers, hardened crusts of Cheesy Bread, Barbeque Wing bones, and the red, white, and blue of a Domino's pizza box.

what we eat

OVER THE LAST THREE DECADES, fast food has infiltrated every nook and cranny of American society. An industry that began with a handful of modest hot dog and hamburger stands in southern California has spread to every corner of the nation, selling a broad range of foods wherever paying customers may be found. Fast food is now served at restaurants and drive-throughs, at stadiums, airports, zoos, high schools, elementary schools, and universities, on cruise ships, trains, and airplanes, at K-Marts, Wal-Marts, gas stations, and even at hospital cafeterias. In 1970, Americans spent about $6 billion on fast food; in 2000, they spent more than $110 billion. Americans now spend more money on fast food than on higher education, personal computers, computer software, or new cars. They spend more on fast food than on movies, books, magazines, newspapers, videos, and recorded music - combined.

Pull open the glass door, feel the rush of cool air, walk in, get on line, study the backlit color photographs above the counter, place your order, hand over a few dollars, watch teenagers in uniforms pushing various buttons, and moments later take hold of a plastic tray full of food wrapped in colored paper and cardboard. The whole experience of buying fast food has become so routine, so thoroughly unexceptional and mundane, that it is now taken for granted, like brushing your teeth or stopping for a red light. It has become a social custom as American as a small, rectangular, hand- held, frozen, and reheated apple pie.

This is a book about fast food, the values it embodies, and the world it has made. Fast food has proven to be a revolutionary force in American life; I am interested in it both as a commodity and as a metaphor. What people eat (or don't eat) has always been determined by a complex interplay of social, economic, and technological forces. The early Roman Republic was fed by its citizen- farmers; the Roman Empire, by its slaves. A nation's diet can be more revealing than its art or literature. On any given day in the United States about one-quarter of the adult population visits a fast food restaurant. During a relatively brief period of time, the fast food industry has helped to transform not only the American diet, but also our landscape, economy, workforce, and popular culture. Fast food and its consequences have become inescapable, regardless of whether you eat it twice a day, try to avoid it, or have never taken a single bite.

The extraordinary growth of the fast food industry has been driven by fundamental changes in American society. Adjusted for inflation, the hourly wage of the average U.S. worker peaked in 1973 and then steadily declined for the next twenty-five years. During that period, women entered the workforce in record numbers, often motivated less by a feminist perspective than by a need to pay the bills. In 1975, about one-third of American mothers with young children worked outside the home; today almost two-thirds of such mothers are employed. As the sociologists Cameron Lynne Macdonald and Carmen Sirianni have noted, the entry of so many women into the workforce has greatly increased demand for the types of services that housewives traditionally perform: cooking, cleaning, and child care. A generation ago, three-quarters of the money used to buy food in the United States was spent to prepare meals at home. Today about half of the money used to buy food is spent at restaurants - mainly at fast food restaurants.

The McDonald's Corporation has become a powerful symbol of America's service economy, which is now responsible for 90 percent of the country's new jobs. In 1968, McDonald's operated about one thousand restaurants. Today it has about twenty-eight thousand restaurants worldwide and opens almost two thousand new ones each year. An estimated one out of every eight workers in the United States has at some point been employed by McDonald's. The company annually hires about one million people, more than any other American organization, public or private. McDonald's is the nation's largest purchaser of beef, pork, and potatoes - and the second largest purchaser of chicken. The McDonald's Corporation is the largest owner of retail property in the world. Indeed, the company earns the majority of its profits not from selling food but from collecting rent. McDonald's spends more money on advertising and marketing than any other brand. As a result it has replaced Coca-Cola as the world's most famous brand. McDonald's operates more playgrounds than any other private entity in the United States. It is one of the nation's largest distributors of toys. A survey of American schoolchildren found that 96 percent could identify Ronald McDonald. The only fictional character with a higher degree of recognition was Santa Claus. The impact of McDonald's on the way we live today is hard to overstate. The Golden Arches are now mo --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


Book Description
Fast food has hastened the malling of our landscape, widened the chasm between rich and poor, fueled an epidemic of obesity, and propelled American cultural imperialism abroad. That's a lengthy list of charges, but here Eric Schlosser makes them stick with an artful mix of first-rate reportage, wry wit, and careful reasoning.

Schlosser's myth-shattering survey stretches from California's subdivisions where the business was born to the industrial corridor along the New Jersey Turnpike where many fast food's flavors are concocted. Along the way, he unearths a trove of fascinating, unsettling truths -- from the unholy alliance between fast food and Hollywood to the seismic changes the industry has wrought in food production, popular culture, and even real estate. He also uncovers the fast food chains' disturbing efforts to reel in the youngest, most susceptible consumers even while they hone their institutionalized exploitation of teenagers and minorities.


Well documented facts and history -- you LEARN something!, September 11, 2002
Reviewer: Sohrab Ismail-Beigi (Oakland, CA United States) - See all my reviews

Frankly, this book is marvelous. Read it.

The book is centered on the fast food industry: how it works, where it came from, where it is going, what it has done to American society (and now increasingly the global one), etc. The book is full of documented facts. In addition, it is full of great and fascinating history: the growth of the West on the 20th century, transformation of agriculture, food processing, potatoes, beef ranchers and processors, advertising directed at children, Disney and anticommunist hysteria, fast food franchising, labor relations, exploitation of child/teenage labor, where the flavor of most foods comes from, and so on. Each chapter deal with particular aspects but all chapters hang together nicely.

I found two things to be quite impressive: (1) the clarity and depth of the factual documentation of what happened and is happening. This is simply a great book because you LEARN so many things. (2) The author is, in my opinion, balanced and not a whiner. This is particularly clear in his treatment of the historical aspects as the contradictions of US society are laid out in this particular case: the good and bad about private entrepreneurs, the pluses and minuses of a fast food system that provides unhealthy food and low wages but also provides playgrounds and toys and a social environment, the role of the government in subsidizing and/or regulating, etc.

I felt the author tended to show some anger and frustration on a few issues: he takes sides against the fast food companies on issues regarding SEVERE labor exploitation particularly of the poor and immigrants, easily avoidable and extremely dangerous work conditions in meat processing, and grave lack of food safety and sabotaging of the food safety system by the companies and their hired politicians. I was hard pressed to disagree.

Next time you go for a fast food hamburger, you'll ask yourself the questions whose answers are always hidden by corporations: where is the food coming from? How was it produced? Is the system humane or exploitative? How did it get to become the way it is? What are the costs and consequences of this system? The book provides excellently researched facts and an overall framework to address these questions.

Did I mention you have to read this book?



Enlightening, August 27, 2004
Reviewer: Shauna (Highlands Ranch, CO United States) - See all my reviews

Really? No one else has reviewed this book? I was wondering what others thought about it. It was very enlightening to know what goes on behind the scenes. I will definitely not be eating Fast Food again, and plan to buy only organic beef again, if possible. Very good book to gain a sense of what we are actually eating. Would've liked to read more about what a person can and should do to make sure they are eating safe food, and to help with safe working practices at large processing plants, etc...


Eric Schlosser (Biography)

Eric Schlosser is a correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly. He has received a number of journalistic honors, including a National Magazine Award for an Atlantic article he wrote about marijuana and the war on drugs. 

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