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Fast Food Nation Book Summary

Introduction

Hi Success Titan reader, I’m Sal Damiata and that’s the book summary of “Fast Food Nation” by Eric Schlosser. 

Why this Book?

Would you like to know what hides beyond the tasty fast food business? Keep reading as that’s probably the right book summary for you.

Mystery Synopsis

“Fast Food Nation” by Eric Schlosser is a book aimed at examining the burden that the fast-food industry has been causing in the US in the latest years. The fast-food world seems to be an environment where everything is shiny and perfect but is it really like that? Let’s discover it together.

Who’s it for? 

  • Everybody that loves or is addicted to fast foods;
  • People that want to really know what hides behind the fast-food industry;
  • Everybody wanting to improve their health condition and eat more responsibly.

What You’ll Learn from it

  • The filthy lies we are fed by the fast-food corporations;
  • The health consequences that the fast-food phenomenon caused on people and the environment;
  • Other damages that the fast-food industry is causing for years.

In a Nutshell

  • The fast-food industry is cancer for our world because it is destroying our economy, our environment and the lives of many people and animals. Its business model is all based on profit, carried on through lies and through the manipulation of people’s minds.

3 Sentence Summary

  • More than 200.000 people every single day suffer from food poisoning derived from the consumption of fast food products. One of those causes is the artificial flavors that are added to products in the fast-food chains, another one is the presence of excrements in the fast-food meat.
  • The workforce of fast food companies is usually comprised of teenagers, immigrants and, generally speaking, poor people. This happens intentionally because they are temporary and low-cost resources that require low or even no training.
  • The recipient of their marketing is children that are lured into the shops by the colorful environment, the playgrounds and Ronald McDonald. The children, manipulated and used as a bait, push their parents to come with them to McDonald’s, making the company earn more profits.

Big Ideas

Those are the most relevant ideas expressed in the book that we’ll explore together.

  1. Fast Foods Exploit their Employees 
  2. Damage to the Farming & Meat Market
  3. Damage to the Health of People
  4. Health Risk of Employees
  5. Children and Teenagers are the Targets

Let’s explore them together now:

Big Idea #1: Fast Foods Exploit their Employees 

Mc Donalds has been the first company to start this fast-food phenomenon. At first, it started slow and as a normal restaurant but then the two founding brothers found a way to avoid restaurant routine issues like the management of the staff and of its tasks. 

That’s when they started to think of some ways with which they could avoid such complications. 

They started training employees with specific tasks and their business began to thrive. Later on, seeing the success that Mcdonald’s was achieving other industry giants like KFC, Burger King and many more followed.

A Relatable Example

The employee policy of those fast-food chains is very simple; they are temporary and at low cost by design. This means that they won’t be subjects of a great amount of investment from the companies and thus will be very easy to replace. 

This workforce is usually comprised of teenagers, immigrants and, generally speaking, poor people. From this evidence, we can realize that a high turnover rate is not a problem for those companies. 

Moreover, all the subsidiary money received from the federal government (that is supposed to be spent on employee training) is instead used on research and development of those fast-food companies.

Big Idea #2: Damage to the Farming & Meat Market

With the advent of those major companies that own huge lots of terrain, family farming basically becomes an anomaly. 

They are so powerful that influence the majority of industrial agriculture, favoring the use of preservatives, pesticides, herbicides, and other substances that protect crops from premature degeneration. 

This shows how big corporations rule everything and how the chemicals they use poison both the food and the water near their facilities. 

A Relatable Example

In the farming market, potatoes are generally controlled by huge multinational corporation. This is a great obstacle to individual farmers that have trouble keeping up financially. Like in the potato market, the meat market is also controlled by major companies, in this case, is 4. 

Few independent ranchers still remain but they have to accept the low prices proposed by the gigantic 4 and obey their rules. 

Big Idea #3: Damage to the Health of People

Apart from damaging local economies, one of the worst consequences of the fast-food phenomenon is the proliferation of food born illnesses amongst people. Those inborn illnesses are caused by various factors and are the cause of the food poisonings of more than 200.000 people every single day. One of those food poisoning causes is the artificial flavors that are added to sweet and other products in the fast-food chains.

Another cause is the contaminated meat that is produced and then sold in fast foods. This contamination usually happens because often in the meat sold in the fast foods there are deadly bacteria, derived from the contamination from cattle feces in the production factories. 

A Relatable Example

Sometimes the meat that consumers eat at fast food gets involuntarily mixed with animal excrements because of unsanitary working conditions, the too-high speed of assembly lines, and also when there are new or unskilled workers in the workplace. Companies like Mc Donalds also are aware of the possibility to contaminate their consumers because they feed cows with dead horses, pigs, and poultry, causing them to get bacteria that consumers later ingest.

Big Idea #4: Health Risk of Employees

Consumers aren’t the only ones to risk their health and lives when talking about the fast-food industry. The employment process promoted by those companies is one that foresees the exploitation of the weak in favor of higher profits and a high turnover rate.

Companies like McDonald’s do this by employing people under the age of 20 and creating an assembly line labor that requires short o no training at all. Workers in the factories spend more than 10 hours cutting meat and animal carcasses. 

Since their job is by its very nature very robotic, they suffer from long term muscle pain for the repeated movements they make. Sometimes they even get injured but if they lose their fingers while working are often paid less than 5 thousand dollars for the incident. 

A Relatable Example

Some employees have even riskier tasks like cleaning the working machines with 180 degrees water mixed with chlorine. Those generally are the poorest people that often suffer from headaches, while others even die during the cleaning process suffocated by the chemicals. The majority of those employees must use drugs to over-perform while they work to meet their demands. 

Big Idea #5: Children and Teenagers are on the Target

If you think that McDonald’s markets its products to adults, think again. Their marketing starts before each one of us even decide to consume a hamburger. 

Why? Because they target children that are in primary schools, middle schools (and sometimes even kindergartens). What’s most scary in my opinion is that McDonald’s also partnered with big companies like Disney, which helped them to create welcoming environments for children. 

A Relatable Example

Those children are attracted by characters like Ronald Mc Donald, along with the colorful environment of McDonald’s and the playgrounds that are installed in them. 

It’s all a trap as you can see because once children get to see those shiny toys, they push their parents to bring them there and, thus they also get lured into the trap. 

Try to think for a second the typical McDonald’s without the colors, the playgrounds, and the happy faces but think of them as slaughterhouses where children are lured in. 

Then imagine those children getting out of those evil places with some those health-destroying substances in their stomach, that give them food poisoning and make them obese. What do you really see now?

Conclusion & Takeaway

It seems like our world is crumbling down because of those corporations that only think about profit

It’s a bad situation. Better not to think about consequences but what legacy are we creating? Automation must be used well

My Advice For You

If you have family members or friends that consume fast foods, talk to them about what’s really going on below the surface. Show them the videos circulating on the internet, showing how those companies operate and why they operate this way (profit). 

Cut out on fast food for 30 days as a challenge and then see how you feel and if you can refuse to hang with your friends when they propose you fast food. 

See if they respect your healthy choice by telling them why you’re doing this and discover if they care about you or if they just want to drag you down to their unconscious eating habits. 

I’ve cut out fast foods from my life for about 7 years now and I feel better than ever. It won’t be easy at the beginning but trust me it will pay off in the long term.

About the Author

Eric Schlosser is an investigative writer and American journalist. He studied American history at Princeton University and later got a degree in British Imperial History at Oxford University. 

He has written other successful expose’s apart from “Fast Food Nation” like “Reefer Madness” and “Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident and the Illusion of Safety.” 

Apart from writing books he has been of help in the development of various documentaries and films as a producer. He almost won a Pulitzer Prize for history in 2014 and now is on his way to finishing another book on the American prison system.

Reading Suggestions

  • “Command and Control” – Eric Schlosser
  • “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” – Michael Pollan
  • “Freakonomics” – Steven Levitt
  • “Nickel and Dimed” – Barbara Ehrenreich
  • “The Jungle” – Uptown Sinclair

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