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Fast Food: The Real Deal
“Fast food chains annually spend about 3 billion on Television Advertising” most of this
advertising is reared toward Children (Schlosser 47). The nations growing popularity of the fast
food industry has sparked the interests of investors from around the world. The fast food
industries have formed marketing alliances with toy companies, sports leagues, and Hollywood
film producers. Schlosser shows their proven success by their annual turnover rate of 300 – 400
percent. Although there may be many causes for the franchises confirmed success, the most
important aspect of their marketing scheme is “obedience” (Schlosser 75). Schlosser’s goal is to
help change the way Americans think about what they eat. Many Americans are astonished at
the fact that those “who ate a fast food meal at least twice a week were at least 10 pounds fatter
than those who ate fast food less than once a week” in a 15 year long survey conducted by
Pereira and five other researchers (Scheck). Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the American
Meal is set up to help the typical American understand where their food comes from, and how it
can harm their health, and well-being. In the non-fictional work, Fast Food Nation: The Dark
Side of the All American Meal, Eric Schlosser in an informative and objective tone, counters the
vast amounts of fast food marketing geared at children, and shows how the food they eat affects
society, including how it’s made, and how it can harm their health, through his use of deductive
reasoning, logical persuasion, and structure.
Although Fast Food Nation is Eric Schlosser’s first book, his credentials and Ethos are
widely known by the journalist community. According to Houghton Mifflin, Eric Schlosser has
been the correspondent for the Atlantic monthly since 1996. Fast Food Nation began as a 2 part
article for a magazine, and turned into a widely known and ground breaking book. Due to its
wide popularity Schlosser’s book has been translated into 20 languages, and its wide
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international acceptance has contributed to Schlosser’s success. In order to successfully write
Fast Food Nation, Schlosser spent 2 years researching the fast food industry, contacting the head
of manufacturing of meatpacking factories, taking first had tours of cattle fields, factories, and
workers, and interviews with past and present fast food employees. In addition, Schlosser
changed his diet radically, consuming a large amount of fast food to truly understand the fast
food industries affect on the public at a personal level. While Schlosser’s first book showed
highly successful, his second and third book proved to be no different. Schlosser’s second book,
Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market, became a New
York Times best seller in 2003 following a similar writing style as Fast Food Nation. His third
book also became a best seller in 2006. Thus showing how Schlosser’s non-fiction writing style
demonstrates his credibility and effective ability to interpret large amounts of data and turn it
into readable material for the average American.
Schlosser begins Fast Food Nation, by setting up context on how the fast food empire
became what it is today. Schlosser points out that in 1937, Richard and Mawrice McDonald
opened a drive in restaurant, and that the automobile was the breakthrough in transportation
providing a convenience for the average American. Schlosser also describes how the Baby
boom worked alongside the automobile increase and the fast food franchise take-off. Schlosser
argues all the strategies used to put together a fast food franchise including, “the labor practices
of the fast food industry have their origins in the assembly line” (Schlosser 68). Also, Schlosser
argues that fast food employees from management to factory workers are treated poorly, and are
exposed to hazardous chemicals, and to unsanitary working conditions. Schlosser later moves
into the topic of safety, and how fast food workers deal with dangerous conditions. Schlosser
points out that “roughly 4 or 5 fast food workers are murdered on the job every month (Schlosser
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83). A different and more personal topic concerning fast food is its health. A majority of people
in the United States eat fast food at least once a week or several times a month. Although the
food may be tasty, it is harmful to your health and with an increase in saturated fat, and
preservatives, fast food in excess will lead to overweight and obesity. According to the US
surgeon general, “61% of adults in the United States were overweight or obese in 1999”, and
“Approximately 300,000 deaths each year in the United States may be attributable to obesity”. It
is believed that “it will take a massive public health effort” to help a nation in need (Scheck). In
addition, many people find humor in the matter of public Health. In Figure 1(Fast Food Cartoon
7 - Catalog Reference For0157), the artist is poking fun at how the American diet has become so
“junk” oriented, and that at the dentist’s office, the dentist pulled out an exhaust pipe
representing the filth the overweight patient has been eating.
According the Centers for Disease control, from 1991 to 2003 there has been a drastic rise in the
obesity levels of Americans. Based on figure 2 (Obesity Trends Among US Adults CDC’s
Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System 1991 – 2003), in 1991, about 10-14 percent of US
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adults are considered obese, and the rise continued in 1996 to the average of 15 – 19 percent
obese. Finally, the most drastic rise occurred when the survey was completed in 2003, revealing
that about 20-24 percent of US adults are obese, and the fast food industry can be held
accountable for this steep rise.
Schlosser also utilizes deductive reasoning through the entire book, and individually in
each chapter and topic, as he leads from a general premise to more and more specific examples.
Fast Food Nation for the most part starts off with general history, and leads to the later sections
of the book with more specific accounts of the industry. With each topic, Schlosser leads off
with general history, and then continues with specific examples. An example of this is when
Schlosser describes a slaughter house he visited during his research. The chapter starts off by
describing the journey to the factory, then leads into describing the slaughter house giving time
to detail in describing the temperature of 40 degrees. As Schlosser travels through the factory
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his amount of detail increases, where by the time he is on the kill flour, he describes the site as,
“I see: a man reach inside cattle and pull out their kidneys with his bare hands… we wade
through blood that’s ankle deep and that pours down drains…as we approach the start of the line,
for the first time I hear the steady pop, pop, pop of live animals being stunned” (Schlosser 170).
In addition, Schlosser goes into great detail and covers every aspect of marketing to
reveal the fast food franchises hidden motives. Schlosser uncovers that “the aroma of food can
be responsible for as much as 90 percent of its flavor” (Schlosser 122). This psychological play
is critical to the fast food industries continued success by bringing back the customer, and
Schlosser shows that. Also Schlosser makes historical references to a well known muckraker
book written by Upton Sinclair during progressivism. The Jungle (1906), describes the horrors
in many different types of factories including slaughter houses, amputations, exposure to
hazardous chemicals, and severe injuries to display how the food Americans eat is not clean.
Sinclair’s book caused congress to enact food and safety legislation. This Historical allusion,
which Schlosser creates, is very crucial and important to his argument, because The Jungle is
very similar to Fast Food Nation, and Schlosser showed the importance of speaking out against
the powerful fast food corporations by displaying the foods filth and contamination.
Further more, Schlosser’s use of logos is vast, and his applications of statistics and facts
are numerous. Through the book, hundreds of statistics are used to strengthen his argument.
When describing the high rate of injury in the slaughter houses, Schlosser mentions a startling
statistic; saying that every year, “roughly 40,000 men and women suffer an injury or work
related illness that requires medical attention beyond first aid” (Schlosser 172). The accounts
mentioned are brutal including arms taken off by machines, and workers being infected by
hurtful chemicals and bacteria. Schlosser uses multiple statistics to enhance the imagery of a
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toxic and unsanitary work area along with the dirty food which comes from it, and how the food
was handled improperly by underpaid illegal workers.
In opposition to Schlosser is the large number of people who will stand against him, and
argue whether or not his claims are valid. While these people may be in partial conflict, many
argue that the fast food corporations have brought convenience to the fast paced life of those all
over the world, and that numerous fast food franchises have lighter alternatives for the customer.
The fast food industry has saved precious time for all sorts of people, including those in the
workplace, school, and even in the car. The fast food industry has made their customers slowly
forget about the mess oriented with their kitchen, and the hassle it takes to prepare food, when
time is of the essence. The convenience of the fast food industry is one that the consumers don’t
mind, and are willing to give up the hassle of homemade meals, for the convenience of an easy
fast food chain. In addition, the fast food industry, due to some criticism of their unhealthy meal
plans, have offered lighter alternatives. Burger king offers “great new choices here include the
Whopper Junior Sandwich (290 calories) and a BK Veggie Burger with reduced-fat mayo (340
calories)”, all to bring in more customers and keep the existing customers (Hammock). All the
popular fast food chains offer meals which are healthier and have fewer calories, and less fat.
These chains have now added low-fat smoothies to the drink menu, in an attempt to keep all their
customers and make their restaurant feel as if no customer is left out. Thus the fast food
corporations have kept all their demographics in mind to ensure customer satisfaction.
In addition to the industries lighter menus and convenience, the franchises have now
improved working conditions, and have limited their marketing strategies toward children.
Schlosser himself notes the improved working conditions of factory workers in slaughter houses
since the opening of them decades ago. “Health insurance is now offered to workers after 6
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months on the job; vacation pay after a year” to help the factories keep their employees
(Schlosser 160). Also through federal legislation regarding the health of workers, all workers in
slaughter houses must be properly clothed and wear the necessary protective clothing.
Government agencies now inspect meat regularly for Escherichia Coli and other harmful
bacterium. In terms of marketing towards children, Schlosser runs into partial conflict, due to
the federal legislation which has been passed. From the Center for Science in the Public Interest
newsroom, the (CSPI) “released new Guidelines for Responsible Food Marketing to Children,
which call on food manufacturers, broadcasters, restaurants, movie studios, and schools to
reform the way drinks, snacks, fast-food meals, and other foods are marketed to kids”. This
legislation must be followed by the entirety of the fast food industry, and is designed to protect
the nation’s children from the strikingly vast reach of the fast food industry. Still, Schlosser
argues that there is little legislation done to protect children, and that the fast food industry has
too strong of a grip on children. Although there may be a partial dispute between whether or not
the fast food industry has a tight grip on children, the debate is endless, because one can truly
never evaluate the effectiveness of marketing strategies employed by powerful corporations on
Schlosser is 100 percent correct regarding the influence of the fast food industry on all
aspects of society around the world, from how and why people eat unhealthy food to how it will
affect our daily life. The argument that the meat in slaughter houses is not clean is relevant to
the speed at which the workers must work, and the commonality of dropping meat on the floor,
where “they [workers] sometimes forget that this meat will eventually be eaten. They drop the
meat on the floor and then place it right back on the conveyer belt” (Schlosser 203). Schlosser
also points out that the entire marketing strategies of the food corporations is to market as young
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as possible and carry on the “cradle-to-grave” advertising strategies along with brand loyalty
(Schlosser 43). In addition to brand loyalty, almost a monopoly of the fast food industry,
McDonalds has committed to their customers from the beginning, and as many people think of it,
the fifty white stars have been replaced by a pair of golden arches. Therefore, through the
United States rise in fast food consumption, “no other country in history has gotten so fat so fast”
(Schlosser 240).
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"Eric Schlosser." March 17, 2008
History and Bio of Eric Schlosser, offering a historical reference to his written works
starting with his first non-fiction work: Fast Food Nation. Schlosser’s Bio offers his
latest books written and his purpose for writing his non-fiction works.
"Fast Food Cartoon 7 - Catalog Reference For0157." Cartoon. Fast Food Cartoons. 17 Mar. 2008
Figure 1displays how the American Fast food industry has been feeding “junk”, and in
the cartoon, a man is at the dentists and the dentist comments " It's just as I've been eating too much junk food!"
Galson, Steven. "Overweight and Obesity: What You Can Do." March 17, 2008
Document offers a statistical analysis of Obesity in America, with the lack of physical
activity in the United States. In addition, the document offers possible options for
Americans gaining physical activity and its benefits.
"Guidelines for Marketing Food to Kids Proposed." 19, March, 2008
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) today released new Guidelines for
Responsible Food Marketing to Children, which call on food manufacturers,
broadcasters, restaurants, movie studios, and schools to reform the way drinks, snacks,
fast-food meals, and other foods are marketed to kids.
Hammock, Delia. "Finally...Fast Food That's Actually Good for You." March 17, 2008
Site offers information regarding healthy food offered at fast food chains around the
country. Hammock offers ways to eat healthier at fast food joints.
"Obesity Trends* Among US Adults CDC's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System 1991 2003." Chart. Obesity in America. 19 Mar. 2008
Figure 2 offers obesity statistics, displaying a chart showing the obesity increase in the
United States, from 1991 – 2003.
Scheck, Tom. "Study: Eat fast food, get fat and sick." March 17, 2008
Scientific study which proposes that fast food makes you fat, and sick. A study found
that a regular fast-food diet raised the risk factors for type two diabetes, which is linked
to obesity.
Schlosser, Eric. Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal. New York:
Houghton Mifflin, 2001.
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Fast Food Nation discussed the methods used by the fast food industry to lour their
customers in to buy their food. Schlosser described all the aspects that go into creating a
simple hamburger, from the slaughter houses to the actual fast food restaurant.