Fast Food Nation
Eric Schlosser
Contributed by Katlyn Weinert

Author’s Biography

Eric Schlosser was born in 1959 in Manhattan; though, he spent his childhood in Los Angeles. Schlosser studied American history at Princeton and British imperialist history at Oxford University. In 1985 he wrote the musical Americans, treating American imperialism. Fast Food Nation was Schlosser’s first book, released in 2001. He followed this successful exposé with Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market in 2003. Reefer Madness considers important elements of the American black market--marijuana, immigrant labor, and pornography. Today, Schlosser works as a correspondent for Atlantic Monthly.


This book is divided into two sections, “The American Way,” which interrogates the beginnings of the Fast Food Nation within the context of post-World War II America; and “Meat and Potatoes,” which examines the specific mechanizations of the fast-food industry, including the chemical flavoring of the food, the production of cattle and chickens, the working conditions of beef industry, the dangers of eating meat, and the global context of fast food as an American cultural export. 

Fast Food Nation opens with discussion of Carl N. Karcher and the McDonalds brothers, examining their roles as pioneers of the fast-food industry in southern California. This discussion is followed by an examination of Ray Kroc and Walt Disney’s complicated relationship as well as each man’s rise to fame. This chapter also considers the intricate, profitable methods of advertising to children. Next, Schlosser visits Colorado Springs, CO and investigates the life and working conditions of the typical fast-food industry employee-- fast-food restaurants employ the highest rate of low-wage workers, have among the highest turnover rates, and pay minimum wage to a higher proportion of its employees than any other American industry.

The second section of the text begins with a discussion of the chemical components that make the food taste so good. Schlosser follows this with a discussion of the life of a typical rancher, considering the difficulties presented to the agriculture world in a new economy. Schlosser is perhaps most provocative when he critiques the meatpacking industry, which he tags as the most dangerous job in America. Moreover, the meat produced by slaughterhouses has become exponentially more hazardous since the centralization of the industry-- the way cattle are raised, slaughtered, and processed provides an ideal setting for E coli to spread. Additionally, working conditions continue to grow worse. In the final chapter, Schlosser considers how fast food has matured as an American cultural export following the Cold War-- the collapse of Soviet Communism has allowed the mass spread of American goods and services, especially fast food. As a result, the rest of the world is catching up with America’s rising obesity rates.

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