Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser

General Description (from
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 exposé 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?

Why the President Should Read This Book
Not because it’s a great book–it’s isn’t. Nor because the fast food industry is in need of more government regulation, nor because kids are too fat, nor because there are feces in our ground beef. The President should read this book to better understand the mentality of those who favor greater government regulation of business, support unions, believe the minimum wage is a good thing, and generally view free markets as dangerous. Schlosser’s apparent ignorance of economics, how free markets work, and the contradictions in his own book border on astonishing, but by understanding where Schlosser is coming from it becomes easier to understand where others who may agree with his perspective are also coming from, the information they’ve been exposed to, and that which they haven’t yet understood.

Personal Notes
Despite my opinions differing so widely from those of the author, even after reading his book, he has convinced me of one thing–fast food is no better than I thought it was before.