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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not a Happy Meal in sight!
Once in a while, journalists do what journalists are supposed to do - look at the mundane in broader scope, changing our thinking on something. Eric Schlosser has accomplished that in this sweeping work. There is no way I can ever waltz into a Wendy's or McDonald's and enjoy a burger again. The cost of this cheap food is expensive beyond belief.
I had recently become...
Published on Dec 31 2004 by Dianne Worley

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Just OK
Well, the author did his homework. He ran around the country and did the interviews, so the book is very thorough. The problem is, it's just not very interesting. I thought it might be connected a little more to US cultural and social issues, but instead it's sort of an expose of the fast food industry. Not bad, I guess. Just OK>
Published on Nov. 23 2003 by Errol

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5.0 out of 5 stars McDonald's: The New Imperialism, June 28 2004
Christopher Hoyes (Washington, DC USA) - See all my reviews
Fast Food Nation's shocking tales of the fast food industry are genuinely unsettling, to say the least. From its humble beginnings in California to its gargantuan influence in the 21st century, the fast food industry has been modeling and remodeling global culture and the waistlines of its first victims, Americans. Eric Schlosser's careful chronicling of the industry's history makes it easy to follow how McDonald's, Burger King, KFC, and other fast food chains have systematically changed how Americans eat meals. Through alliances in the toy and cartoon industries, fast food companies have been targeting children since the birth of Ronald McDonald in 1963. And now we have parents who instinctively take their kids to McDonald's because they were raised on it themselves, which means for the first time we are seeing second-generation McDonald's addicts.
The fast food industry is also a strong political power. Because the fast food industry is the largest employer of minimum wage earners, it has used it's massive lobbying power to keep the federal minimum wage stagnant, which means that real wages have declined. This has forced minimum wage earners, in all industries, below the poverty line. Without health benefits or pensions, fast food workers are forced to take on second jobs, just to pay the rent. The fast food corporations are some of the largest in the world, and yet the majority of its employees are living in poverty. That is disgusting, but not as vile as the crap we've been innocently shoveling into our mouths over the last forty years.
The modern fast food burger and chicken nuggets is nothing but the reconstituted parts of what barely passes for cows and chickens. What makes Burger King's burgers taste great, and what make those chicken McNuggets taste great, are the chemicals added. The person preparing the food in the kitchen isn't adding anything special to our burgers, it's not the secret sauce they're adding, it's the chemist's careful mapping of our taste buds to give those items the tasty, universal appeal. One of the most putrid facts is that the chickens used are the old, wrinkled, non-egg producing chickens used. And the beef used in the burgers has barely been inspected for germs and disease, because inspections would slow down the production process. Our cattle ranchers aren't allowed to sell their beef in Europe because of our poor beef regulations, and it's all due to the fast food industry's political influence.
So thanks to the McDonald's corporation and all its cousins, we have a population that is 90% over weight. We have all minimum wage workers living below the poverty line. And we have an ecoli tainted meat industry that is unacceptable to the rest of the world. Thanks fast food industry!
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5.0 out of 5 stars fast food nation, June 28 2004
C Reza Ebrahimi (Washington, DC USA) - See all my reviews
In his first book, Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser takes the reader through countless numbers of anecdotes and shocking facts involving fast food and corporations. The book begins almost as a history text book describing in detail the actual creations of the many fast food chains we see every day. It guides the reader through the many events that took place by which these fast food companies turned from simple restaurants into world dominating corporations. From Ray Kroc of McDonalds to Harlan Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken to the introduction of the "Speedy System" which fast food was created, Schlosser somehow impresses the reader on every page with researched detail.
The book goes from interesting to almost disgusting when he describes in detail the meat content and sanitation. However, the book never loses its intrigue. He journeys the reader through the entire process, from the cow to your big mac. He describes, as well, the full process of and the history behind the potato suppliers for French fries.
Perhaps one of his most captivating sections involves what goes on "behind the counter." His description of the exploitation of labor and injustices that fast food company employees endure may make you not want to give them money more than the fact that you may not want to eat fast food again after hearing what the food is made of. Moreover, he is able to get inside the consumer's head and realize that most people are brainwashed and slaves to the fast food industry. Their marketing to children and adults alike is very impressive. The golden arches pop in your head whenever you feel like having a cheeseburger; this is because McDonalds, through its marketing, has programmed you to think so.
Schlosser does an amazing job in Fast Food Nation. He keeps the reader wanting more knowledge and combines interesting stories with massive factual evidence. The research he put together in making this book is commendable on its own. However, he guides the reader in a well planned out way. This New York Times best seller is one I encourage everyone who has ever eaten fast food to read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fast Food Nation, June 24 2004
BOB (Washington, DC, DC United States) - See all my reviews
Through Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser depicts the many obvious and many underlying issues involving the fast food industry and corporate America. He begins with anecdotes about how the fast food companies, most importantly McDonalds, came into being. However, his condemnation of fast food companies becomes most descriptive when he discusses the meatpacking industries and the manner in which the food is prepared and distributed. His brutally honest description of the unbelievable conditions in the meatpacking industries does great justice to his apparent dislike of fast food companies. Through his use of anecdotes, descriptions of the labor and health conditions in the meatpacking companies, and the many people's lives McDonald's has destroyed, Fast Food Nation shows just how dangerous the fast food companies are to America.
I thought that Eric Schlosser did a great job showing Americans the damages fast food is doing to our health and just as importantly, the environment. The food that is served in fast food restaurants is appalling. Not only are the meatpacking companies practicing completely unfair labor practices, much of the meat contains diseases such as Salmonella and E. coli. These companies are destroying the environment, whether it be polluting the air or ruining beautiful land. This book does a great job of depicting the many evils of McDonald's, and showcasing the effects on society. I thought that Eric Schlosser's argument was very relevant, and its compelling nature should make all fast food participants think twice.
In terms of his arguments and major points, I completely agree with just about everything that he is contending. The nature of the industry and the means through which the industry is run is unbelievable. The wages that the employees are paid and the unfair and unsafe conditions in which they work are just a few of the many evils of McDonalds. However, I think Schlosser's best point is the utter disregard McDonald's shows for the rest of the world, in particular farmers, employees and consumers. They have so much power that they have eliminated the need for farmers, costing many of them jobs and a decent living. McDonald's has blocked out all of the small businesses, and made the entire industry corporate. They have changed the landscape of all of America, in particular agriculture. When a corporation has become that powerful, the call for social responsibility has to be made.
Although I agree with just about all of what Eric Schlosser writes, I disagree with the fact that no blame is being put on Americans. I agree that some, if not most, of the blame should be on McDonalds. However, Americans are the ones who are purchasing the food and the ones that fuel this business with profits. Some of the blame for the state of our society has to be on the American people. Americans have to take some responsibility, although they cannot control many of the evil practices that McDonalds engages in. Also, as Schlosser eventually mentions in his afterword, I do feel that he was a bit biased against Republicans. He was a little too brash and critical of what the Republicans have been doing to encourage the creation and preservation of the McDonalds Corporation. I felt that his depiction of the Republican Party was a little one- sided, and he could have used some examples of Democrats supporting McDonalds' practices.
Overall, however, I thought that it was a great book that was very compelling. It definitely causes one to think twice about going to a fast food restaurant, and makes one wonder just how good that 99 cent cheeseburger really is.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Why we Americans are so fat!, June 21 2004
Elizabeth (Metairie, LA) - See all my reviews
FAST FOOD NATION brings you through the history of fast food restaurants and how the fast food mentality became such a big part of American life. There are many interesting facts about why we love fast food. Schlosser points out that McDonalds markets to children with playgrounds, the clown, and toys. If a child wants to go to McDonalds, then the parents will bring the child, giving McDonalds two more customers. Also, a psychologist interviewed said that the golden arches make us subconsciously think of motherly breasts! I know, very strange...I never thought of that! But we as Americans get bonded to fast food as kids and then have great memories and want to relive memories by eating the food. We also eat fast food for convenience, which contains too many calories, and we don't work it off because we drive cars instead of walking places like people used to.
The book also discusses the meat industry and how ranchers are having trouble because beef is so cheap now. All of the family-made businesses are disappearing. The little guys are being crushed by the big manufacturers. It's very sad. The book also discusses how immigrants are taken advantage of in the slaughter houses and how many people die and the deaths are not reported. The illegal immigrants can't complain about being treated unfairly, so they are injured every day and many die. Very sad!
This book is worth a read, it's interesting. But nothing is really new- you probably know about most of the things in this book- underpaid employees in fast food who are mistreated, e coli, salminela, etc.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I am a Citizen of a Fast Food Nation, June 18 2004
"baldphil" (Los Angeles, CA United States) - See all my reviews
Eric Schlosser's damning indictment of the fast food industry is a calmly reasoned, well documented polemic against the entire armada of interests that fall under the rubric of the corporate food industry, including fast food restaurants, suppliers, complicit politicians and their hamstrung government agencies, in addition to a culture of sprawl that has provided fertile hunting grounds for these predators.
The author carefully takes the reader through three years of his own research, clearly articulating what must have been quite a journey for him: from the roots of the fast food culture in Southern California, to its current standard bearer in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to the people who transformed french fries from hand cut, hand cooked potatoes to the robot-controlled frozen monstrosities now consumed by the ton at fast food outlets around the world. He even includes a graphic description of a tour he took of a real live meat packing plant.
This purports to be a book about food. It is also a book about the changing nature of our society, and Schlosser introduces a number of the new faces of that change. We meet some of this country's young, bright high school students too exhausted from 40 hour a week jobs to do their homework properly, we meet some old fashioned ranchers trying to return to a sustainable ranch culture, we even meet the pioneers of the fast food industry itself. These pioneers are, ironically, some of the most interesting characters of this tale; they are iconoclasts with high school educations (or less) who persevered with classic American hard work and gusto. Indeed, they probably have more in common with their lowest paid employees than they do with their own senior executives, who are largely guys with MBAs from privileged backgrounds.
"Fast Food Nation" has deservedly become a manifesto for those who blame corporate America for creating a food industry seemingly devoid of ethics and common decency, an industry which has aggressively thwarted even mild attempts at government regulation, even while accepting huge government subsidies for services not rendered to the American economy.
The most significant criticism of the book is its anecdotal style. There are a lot of anecdotes, but they are backed up with cold realities. There is one man, for example, who was asked to sign a liability waiver giving up the right to sue his meat packing plant employer after an accident. He had to sign the waiver with the pen in his mouth; the accident had destroyed his hands, and if he did not sign, his hospital bills could not be paid. This is a graphic anecdote to be sure, but it illustrates the concrete point that the industry has callously lobbied to gut workers' rights to fair compensation, a point Schlosser amply substantiates independently of this story.
I am a dieter, so I picked up this book for my health. What I discovered was an irrefutable link between the dangerous, addictive products that I have (stupidly) crammed down my throat for years, and a corporate culture of greed and cynicism. If you are overweight as I am, you can no longer separate your condition from the toxic food environment which this industry has deliberately foisted upon you. Our fast food nation did not arise organically; it did not arise by chance: it arose by design, and this book contains the proof.
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3.0 out of 5 stars good writing, bad ideology, June 9 2004
D. Friedman (New York, NY United States) - See all my reviews
I hate fast food. I look with pity and derision on those that consume it daily and those who find it to be their misfortune to work in such environments. But I am not a liberal. I do not buy into the idea that people are automatons without will, who can be controlled and manipulated by corporations in the way that a hunk of metal can be controlled and manipulated by a lathe.
But, that is the image Schlosser presents in this book: we are all doomed to be used like a child's toy at the hands of the big, bad, evil corporation.
Look, what Schlosser is arguing is that people are unable to make decisions for themselves, that they are duped into working at McDonald's because they think it glamorous or they think it a better route to fame and fortune than an education. It is a specious to assert that McDonald's forced anyone to make these decisions; rather, people decide, based on their own igorance or failings that time spent flipping burgers is a better use of one's time than time spent, say, reading Shakespeare or doing calculus. It is hardly McDonald's fault that it 'exploits' people's ignorance.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining Investigative Bestseller About the Industry, June 7 2004
When I bought this bestseller I thought it was mainly about McDonalds since it has a pictures of some McDonalds fries on the book cover, but this is not a book just about McDonald's per se, but about the industry as a whole including economics, food supplies, and the labor problems and working conditions at the restaurants and at the suppliers. The author Eric Schlosser is a journalist, an excellent writer, and does a good job at keeping our attention. Each chapter is entertaining, almost a page-turner, and he follows the 270 page main text with 100 pages of notes and comments.
There are some things that are a bit unfair about the book. I think the author goes into many issues in great detail that are only marginally related to fast food. The author uses Colorado as a case study and for example the decline of small ranches in the western plains and the economics of beef producing is only marginally tied to fast food as is the issue of mad cow disease. Similarly the author takes us step by step through a cattle slaughter house and describes possible injuries to workers, and that has almost no relationship to fast food - in my opinion - but is a general problem of the meat industry.
Having said that, what the author does with great clarity is to describe fast food operations and how the food is produced. He presents a brief history of the national chains, and discusses (not in this order) franchising, SBA financing, profit margins on things like French fries, the structure of the corporations, marketing to children, television adds aimed at children, market penetration in schools and sports, influencing - believe it or not - the textbooks in the classroom, salaries, teen workers, intentional employer induced employee turnover, migrant labor, bussing in of illegal aliens, ghettoes of illegal workers on the high plains, federal and state government financial subsidies of worker "training", crime and violence in the workplace, child labor, automation and training, standardization, economics of food production, animal wastes, political lobbying and donations to politicians, the minimum wage, and the production problems of potatoes, beef, and chicken. Of course he discusses calories and fat content. There are many interesting passages along with lots of facts and figures on the fast food business. It is all a very worthwhile read and an eye opener with some very dramatic parts.
One of the things that sticks out for myself is the relationship between the franchiser and the franchisee. I had always been under the impression that there was a fair degree of security in the purchase of a national fast food franchise. But apparently, and according to the book, there is a high degree of financial risk involved, many hours of long hard work for the franchisee, and surprisingly a high percentage go bankrupt or lose their franchises. So if you are considering such an undertaking, do your research before entering a franchise contract even with a major national name brand, and do so with some caution. It is not so rosy and your fate is tied to the fate and often the whims of the franchiser. Also, some brand names cannot provide the owner with a living wage with single fast food outlet.
Great book
Jack in Toronto
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5.0 out of 5 stars Where do I begin., June 2 2004
Colleen A. Riggs (Lodi, CA) - See all my reviews
Well first of all, a while ago as a conscious decision to eat healthier, I cut down on my fast food consumption. When I do eat at a fast food place I opt for the healther items on the menu such as the Chicken McGrill (which McDonalds claims only has 4 grams of fat, but can I believe them anymore?).
I read this book because I was very interested in the fact that our nation as a whole is obese. And I found it really amusing after the boys in New York I think it was, sued Mc Donalds because they ate it everyday and got fat. I do not agree with this because EVERYONE knows that eating McDonalds on a regular basis is bad for you, let alone eating it every day. But I didnt not know however how bad it really is and how dangerous it is.
This book is a great book, it puts it all out there for the world to know. I think that this should be a manditory book to read in high school because it sure opened my eyes and made me think twice when I think about getting fast food. So maybe our kids will be making wiser choices if they knew the truth about what they were putting in their mounths. I also cannot believe the horrible meat that is being fed to our school children. I work for the local school district and I cannot believe the crap that they feed these kids, nothing healthing is being fed for lunch unless you think pizza and cheeseburgers are good almost every day.
So please read this book and learn more about the horrible conditions these workers are put through and the disgusting things the meat we eat is going through before it gets to our plates. I garuntee you will be disgusted and shocked at the same time.
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5.0 out of 5 stars They're not just big in Texas, May 30 2004
G. Latham (Austin, TX United States) - See all my reviews
A friend recently suggested Eric Schlosser's outstanding expose "Fast Food Nation." I clawed through it, but had to pause here and then to gain traction against the decades of deceit, graft, and cronyism that defined the food industry's rise in worship of the almighty dollar. Don't misunderstand: I'm a capitalist, no doubt, but the practices described in this text stretch well beyond that reasonable to fuel a healthy free market. One might be skeptical of the muckraking that is so carefully detailed, but that's exactly the rub: the devil is in those details. Schlosser does such a meticulous job of substantiating every morsel of data (62 pages of footnotes) that he leaves you full with the knowledge of system derailed by its own appetite. We want bigger meals, bigger cars, and bigger houses to what end? We spend >$110 billion each year on fast food, and another $30 billion to try to lose the weight we so carelessly invited? A recent report by the Centers from Disease Control (CDC) pinpoints the next two years as the turning point when obesity will overtake smoking as the #1 preventable cause of death in this county. The price tag? About $440 million dollars in public health costs. It's not just you who is affected when you supersize yourself. In an era of skyrocketing health care premiums, you'll smother all of us.
Some of the more intoxicating gems from Schlosser's book:
1) Americans spend more on fast food than new cars, and more than higher education and computers put together.
2) Fast food purchases outweigh book sales by about 4-fold.
3) Perhaps 2 cents out of every french fry purchase goes to the farmer who grew the potatoes.
4) The rate of obesity among American adults is twice as high now (>25%) as it was in the early 1960's.
5) The rate of obesity among American children is twice as high now as it was in the LATE 1970's.
6) In the UK, the number of fast food restaurants doubled between 1984 and 1993-- and so did the adult obesity rate.
7) A large Coke (32 oz) has 310 calories. A supersize order of fries has 29 g of fat and 610 calories. Note that 3600 calories is equivalent to one pound of fat.
8) A medium Coke at McDonald's in the 1950's (8 oz) was 33% smaller than a CHILD's Coke today (12 oz).
9) A medium Coke at McDonald's contains about 3.5 oz of Coke syrup, or about 10 cents worth. You pay about $1.29.
10) A 1996 USDA study revealed that 7.5% of all ground beef samples taken from processing plants were contaminated with Salmonella, 12% with Listeria monocytogenes, 30% with Staphylococcus aureus, and 53% with Cloistridium perfringens. All of these pathogens can make you ill; Listeria kills 20% of those it infects with food poisoning. You are what you eat: 79% of the contaminated beef contained microorganisms that spread primarily by fecal matter. You know what that means.
I could go on, but that point sums it up nicely. Personally, I working on more responsible carnivore habits, as a stepping stone to my ineluctable conversion to vegetarianism. There's just too much wrong-- with how the cattle are treated, how the workers are treated, and how the consumers are slipped a sometimes repulsive, if not downright dangerous product-- to continue to blindly order an "All-American Meal".
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4.0 out of 5 stars You want fries with that?, May 16 2004
J. S. Kaminski "j_s_k" (Aberdeen, NJ United States) - See all my reviews
Yeesh. Gross. Sick. Disgusting.
I think you get the point. "Fast Food Nation" tells it like it is - and some of it is not very pleasant to the ear. I've come to think that reading this book is a "necessary evil" - you don't really want to read it, but you have to. The revelations Eric Schlosser provides are too important to ignore.
It starts slowly with the dawn of the fast food era, but soon enough Schlosser is touching on many topics; globalization, the exploitation of fast food workers, how and why fast food companies focus their ad campaigns towards children, why the fast food companies don't like labor unions, and more.
Then it really gets interesting when Schlosser begins to talk about the food itself. The chemicals used, the procedures of the meat-packing plants, pathogens, mad cow disease, E coli,'s all here. It's not a pleasant story, but as mentioned, a story that needs to be told nonetheless.
Powerful and disturbing stuff. Would have been five stars if not for the slow start.
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Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal
Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser (Paperback - June 23 2005)
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