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Maybe It’s Just Because I really Like French Fries

August 14, 2009

 

but I really didn’t like Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser.

 

 

I was surprised, because it seems to always get rave reviews! It was certainly very interesting. And eye-opening. But I didn’t think it was delivered in the best way.

 

Much of the book discusses Colorado Springs, and it’s development through the years. In excruciating details. While I understand that rampant urban development has occurred alongside with a Fast Food culture, I don’t feel that detailed descriptions of streets, housing, location, terrain etc etc etc add to the book. They accomplished the opposite, they were distracting.

 

I certainly agreed with the sentiments and messages of Fast Food Nation; both animals and workers endure horrible conditions at slaughterhouses. Things need to change! To me, however, the problems are more with the government, then the businesses themselves. The businesses follow the law… as skewed as it is. The law is what needs to change! We need higher standards, and less loop-holes, for the protection of the worker and animals.

 

Much of the distaste I got from Fast Food Nation came from the connotation that Corporations are EVIL. | strongly disagree with this idea – corporations are successful because of some brilliant business ideas, not by inherently evil businessmen. I don’t necessarily agree with the fact that just because Fast Food companies hire unskilled workers to do unskilled jobs, that this is a terrible thing. My first job was at a Fast Food restaurant. I made minimum wage. But I saved up enough money to pay for a portion of a school trip I wanted to take. I learnt a lot about earning and saving my money, dealing with coworkers and customers. Would I still want to work there today? No. But it’s my responsibility to get a better job, through networking or higher education, not for corporations to have the jobs available for me.

 

One of the most unfair, and thus striking sentences from Fast Food Nation was: “Workers who fail to work hard, who arrive late, or who are reluctant to stay late are made to feel that they’re making life harder for everyone else, letting their friends or coworkers down.”  The sentence was from a paragraph and chapter criticizing fast food work practices. I read that sentence and went, “wait. what? Workers who a) don’t work hard and b) arrive late ARE letting coworkers down. A worker SHOULD arrive for work on time, it’s part of having a job!”

 

Schlosser seems to frown upon any form of industrialization. Potatoes are cut into french fries through use of a “potato gun”. While Schlosser was horrified at this, I actually thought it was really cool. I want one. Potatoes don’t have feelings; I see no problem in a company developing an efficient method of cutting potatoes into pieces.

 

Some of the book reads like a scare tactic. Once the potatoes are cut, they are quickly frozen. Frozen with really cold air. The air may be cooled with compressed ammonia gas, but the potatoes are frozen with AIR not ammonia, and the fact that the air is cooled with ammonia is irrelevant, and used as a scare tactic to frighten those who wouldn’t really think about what it really meant… nothing.

 

I don’t mean to belittle the major issues discussed in Fast Food Nation; the treatment of animals in our food supply is truly horrifying. Maybe it’s just because I was already familiar with these issues, that I took the time to think about the other issues Schlosser discussed. I wonder if for most people, Fast Food Nation is an introduction to Ethical Eating, and they are blown away by the food supply facts, that some of these other topics pass by unnoticed?

 

Fast Food Nation talks almost exclusively about McDonald’s. The book blames the changes to chicken farming on McDonald’s but then concedes that while McDonald’s is the second largest purchaser of chicken, KFC is the largest. Wouldn’t KFC have some blame to take then as well? Regardless, it is all fast food, but I don’t feel that McDonald’s deserves all the blame.

 

One aspect of the book I found fascinating, and stomach-turning, was the tour through the slaughterhouse. Schlosser provided a very visual tour of the process that takes the meat from death forwards. I had not read an account of this before, and found it very eye-opening. However, Schlosser was not without his strange method of delivery for this, at one point he mentions that half of the workers slicing meat are half women. I’m not sure what the point of this is? Should men only cut meat? Personally, I would read it as a positive.

 

I’d recommend Fast Food Nation as an eye-opening read, if you can get over the delivery.

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