A lot of people gave me their opinions on this book, which ranged from ‘It will ruin fast food for you,” to, “Everyone should read this book so they know the truth!” I guess, in the end, I’m somewhere in the middle. I’ll continue to eat hot, greasy french fries (this book made me crave them, to be honest) but I’ll stay away from hamburgers, thank you very much.
Rather than focus exclusively on the health benefits (or lack there of) of fast food, Schlosser looks at the history of the industry first. He takes us back to the McDonald brothers churning out milkshakes as fast as they could and Ray Kroc seeing a future of golden arches across the country. Schlosser focuses on the economic impacts of the fast food industry as well as the health problems Americans face as a result of consumption. He does have to touch on the darker sides of fast food (as his title implies) such as the realities of working in a slaughter-house and the potential spread of E. Coli disease, but his tone is more to inform than to scare. After ‘Super Size Me,’ it’s a welcome change.
I wasn’t overly shocked by the content of this book because of the title. I was more shocked that it was milder than expected. I thought the information would be much more biased than it was. While there were several facts I could tell immediately were biased, they were much farther between than many other non-fiction exposes. I learned a lot about food production, especially beef, that I didn’t know before. I don’t eat beef for dietary reasons so I wasn’t as bothered by the information in this book as those who eat beef might be. I wish Schlosser had touched upon chicken as well and the ‘pink sludge’ substance that I’ve heard about in school lunches. There were a lot of topics unexplored that would have fit well under Schlosser’s thesis.
I thought the section on employment in the fast food industry was really insightful. Colorado Springs made for a very good case study. Schlosser concentrated on the appeal of fast food to an unskilled work force and how the industry will actually benefit from its high turn-over rates. From my time in retail, I remember having people answer questions to see if we qualified for the tax credit he mentions and I never thought about it encouraging high turn over. I was also shocked by the high violence in fast food and how at risk employees can be. Refusing to protect its workers was the biggest fault I found with the companies after reading Schlosser’s evidence.
The history of the industry at the beginning of the book was the most interesting to me. I like history and I think Schlosser did a good job of covering the industry instead of focusing on one company. I was fascinated that Carl Jr.’s, Mc Donalds, and Jack-In-The-Box had very common history, though I wish there was more about Burger King and Wendy’s.
The section on slaughterhouse practices could have been shorter. I think this is a point Schlosser could have written a separate book about but a lot of it ended up in this one. There’s a lot to say about the meatpacking industry and a lot of it is wroth hearing, but to me, it was repetitive. Here’s a summary: slaughterhouses are dirty and the jobs are dangerous. There’s a lot of ways for people to get hurt killing the cows and eating the beef. Done.
Writer’s Takeaway: This book doesn’t give a lot of advice for fiction writers, but it’s a great example of neutral voice (if not content) in a non-fiction book. The parts where Schlosser himself visited location are tinged with a bit more bias, but for the most part, I thought he kept it pretty neutral.
Good but not great, but I don’t think I am going to find something on this topic I like better. Three out of five stars.
Until next time, write on.
This book fulfills ‘Colorado’ for my Where Are You Reading? Challenge.