Fast Food Nation is a book written by Eric Scholsser which looks into Americas fast food culture. The book focuses on one region of the United States ; Front Range in Colorado which is comprised of Denver, Colorado springs and Fort Collins. This focus on a relatively small geographical region is aimed to intensively look into the effects and impact of fast food culture on the entire Americas populace since the fast food culture behavior cut crosses throughout the other states. The book critically analyses the attitude of a great number of Americans towards fast food. For instance, Scholsser notes that Cheyennone Mountain Airforce Station located around Front Range as being one of the worlds most technologically advanced military installations, whose operations are classified and known only by a few high ranking government employees. However, even so, such employees still order pizzas from Dominos and burgers from Burger King showing that their attitude towards fast food culture is similar to that of commoners down town. Scholsser looks into how the fast food industry shapes the economic and political powers which in turn shapes Americans lives. He notes that for instance, McDonalds being one of Americas largest corporations with franchises across all the states has purchasing power so huge that makes it yields substantial economic and political powers.
There is also the impact of fast food culture on Americans on matters such as health risks, labor problems and agricultural issues. He also notes how the rise of fast food culture has complemented the innovation of automation in the industry and the replacement of Democrats society ideals with individual autonomy, free market and corporate deregulation often associated by republicans.
Eric Scholssers Fast Food Nation thematic content has some significant relationship with various social theories. For instance, Karl Marx social theory rests on the premise of social struggles and how human action and activity influences formation of social structures (Torrance 37). In the book, Scholsser looks at history of fast food culture in the United States which started in post war era in Southern California. This period was also the advent of the popularity and spread of capitalism within the American society. Fast food culture was started by entrepreneurial individuals from humble backgrounds who created drive-in restaurants and burger stands along the streets. Their actions have gradually changed the eating habits of the American populace with the greatest change coming in the second half of the 20th century. The hitherto entrepreneurial spirit from which fast food culture evolved from has gradually been replaced by corporate monopoly where greed for supernormal profits leads to unethical standards in the industry.
According to Karl Marx, human societies started from primitive and undifferentiated state (Torrance 13). However, recent divisions into classes have been witnessed. Classes such as exploiters versus exploited, buyers versus sellers and the ruling class versus the subjects have evolved and rather than having functional collaboration of the whole society, such class distinctions have led to class conflicts within the society. In Scholssers book for instance, he notes how fast food culture has led to class distinctions. The lower middle class or rather the working class has been reported to be the largest consumers in the fast food industry. Owners of fast food chains are usually the rich individuals in the society who are aware of the conditions in the production factories in such firms. They keep this information away from the middle class and while they maintain healthy diet, the middle class continue devouring their unhealthy options. This has resulted to numerous law suits against these multinational fast food corporate retail chains.
Antonio Gramsci theory of social hegemony also has significant relationship with Scholssers themes in Fast Food Nation. It looks into how the state uses cultural institutions to maintain power in the capitalist society. Antonio Gramsci was influenced by Marxism. He was against capitalist form of governance and even started a communist party in Italy. He argued that the capitalist system exploited the working class where the aristocratic classes are the only ones that benefited (Dante). Looking at Scholssers book, we can argue that the fast food industry has greatly thrived in Americas capitalist system. There isnt enough corporate regulation that is necessary to ensure ethical practices within the industry. Driven by greed for supernormal profits, both the animals and laborers are treated unethically. For instance, McDonald prevents its workers from joining unions. Their wages are kept at minimum and training is such that they are easily replaceable. This makes it difficult for such workers to bargain for better working conditions. The fast food industry on the other hand profits from the low cost of production due to poor remuneration of a majority of its workers.
The government has also subsidized production of most of the entities that the fast food industry depends on. For instance, production of corn has greatly been subsidized such that cattle feeds have shifted from the traditional grass to corn. It is cheaper since it requires less land and the cattle get fat ready for the slaughter house faster. According to scientists, feeding corn to cattle results in occurrence of E. coli in the digestive system of the cattle. This leads to health risks to consumers of such meat products.
Food Inc. is a documentary film directed by Robert Kenner and its an expose on how the profit driven system of the fast food industry has failed to provide Americans with a healthy ethically produced food. The film exposes the reality behind food production unlike the catchy imagery usually depicted on packaging and advertisement. Using hidden cameras, the film captures behind the scenes realities of how giant firms are operating huge factories in bad conditions. An issue such sanitation is not even considered. In order to cut costs, McDonalds limited its chain menus to a few items that could be mass produced. Workers are trained do only one thing in order for their replacement to be easy. Being the largest purchaser of beef, the firm controls the prices and thus even the poor farmers are exploited since the meat industry is controlled by a monopoly. It chooses the market price (Box Office Information for Food.inc.)
With the help of government subsidies, these industries grasp much of the food industry creating an illusion of diversity. The working classes are left to choose between the healthy but expensive options and their unhealthy but cheaper options. Use of chemically produced flavor additives makes the fast food options addictive too, leaving the middle class who are often the largest consumers of fast food with no option.
Supersize Me is also another documentary film directed and starring Morgan Spurlock that aims to expose how the fast food industries have exposed Americans to unhealthy feeding habits. The film is comic experiment whereby Spurlock spends 30 days; February 1st to March 2nd only feeding on McDonalds food. This film shows this lifestyles drastic effect on both physical and psychological well being of Spurlock within that period. He eats Mc Donalds food three times a day and each item on the menu at least once a day. After the end of the experiment period, Spurlock recorded a 13% increase in his body mass. He had gained 24 pounds. His cholesterol levels also shot up significantly and he also experienced mood swings, sexual dysfunctions and fat accumulation in his liver. It should be noted that he had been consuming 5000kcal of food per day. This is what has been nutritionally recommended for an adult to maintain his weight when feeding on a balanced and healthy diet. However, on the fast food diet he still gained weight. It took Spurlock 14 months to lose the weight he had gain in that short period through a strict vegan diet
This goes to show that the fast food industry provides Americans with cheap but very unhealthy alternative. The rise in cases of obesity across Americas populace and also the type 2 diabetes which now catches even children could be blamed on the fast food industry (Lee and Christina).
Scholssers book is relevant to my life in that it gives an insightful and in-depth analysis of the fast food culture and the impact it has on our health. It explains why we are usually more susceptible to choose unhealthy fast food alternatives rather than healthy nutritional options by informing us that these foods are usually flavored to make them more addictive. Having known this, it will help me make the necessary judgment calls when it comes to choosing the healthy nutritional options even though the burgers and the pizzas may seem more attractive.
The book also helps me know the various health risks one is exposed to when consuming such fast foods, and just like the tobacco industry informs its customers the harmful health effect the cigarettes posses to them, I am also aware of the harmful health effects fast foods posses to me.
Conclusively, this knowledge into the fast food culture and industry can help us make important decisions in our societies. Those in leadership positions and have the societys best interests at heart could help in implementing laws aimed at normalizing the industry since majority of Americans are either directly or indirectly affected by the industry. The book notes that annually, Americans spend 110 billion on fast foods. A quarter of the population consumes fast food daily whilst an eighth of Americas population has at one point in their lives been employed by McDonalds-the symbol of Americas fast food culture. Thus there is need for regulation in the industry; especially on matters health and ethical issues such as abuse of animals and exploitation of the workers that work in these giant factories.
Box Office Information for Food. Inc. The Wrap. Retrieved April 24, 2016.
J. Torrance. (2008). Karl Marxs Theory Of Ideas, Oxford University Press
Lee, Christina (2004). "Super Size Me", The Film Journal.
L. Dante, Germino (1990). Antonio Gramsci: Architect of a New Politics, Louisiana Press University.
Schlosser. E. (2006) Fast Food Nation
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