Eric Schlosser, a journalist and muckraker went on the highway pursuit to discover the dark side of the All-American meal, the hamburger. In 2000, Schlosser published the novel Fast Food Nation aimed to find, and suggest ways to change how fast food franchises sculpt or influence the negative effects of American’s diet. He researched old history, observed how certain McDonald’s are managed, studied the places where frozen French fries are made, interviewed countless families affected by the fast food industry, and dived head first into the malignant treatment of workers in the meatpacking industry as well as the slaughterhouses.
The greatest corporate franchise McDonald’s was created in 1955 when a money tycoon Ray Kroc, received the rights from Dick and Maurice McDonald to use their idea to expand the restaurant 31,000 plus worldwide. In 1948, the McDonald brothers had a hamburger venue called “The Big M” while Kroc owned McDonalds. During this time another corporate genius and friend Walt Disney, explored his company to form Disneyland and by then Kroc wanted to become a sponsored leader. Since then McDonald’s has become the world’s largest monopoly spanning as far as Australia and influencing or imperializing the cultures of those countries. McDonald’s was a genius for persuading kids to eat hamburgers and fries and for adolescent youths to get easy low paying jobs. However, what truly lies beneath the surface of Ronald McDonalds clown induced play places and their famous golden arch slogan “I’m lovin’ it” is a lot more nightmarish.
When Schlosser entered the IBP meatpacking slaughterhouse he discovered its corruption. The entrance welcomed him into a white building, where he was told to put on a pair of high boots, a white apron and goggles. Walking through the narrow hallways, the facility began to remind him of a natural factory. The room which caught his eye was the killing room, where workers would stand in knee high soaked blood. The workers seemed dull and unenthused; as each pack of meat slid down the conveyor belts they would grapple them with large hooks and cut off other pieces with sharp knives. Since workers worked closely and in a quickly fashion, there would be a high rate of injury. The injuries were usually slash wounds from workers accidentally stabbing their co-workers or themselves. Knives and other sharp objects had to be sharpened each day when they went home in order to prevent them from rusting. Many of the workers were illegal immigrants working long hours with little pay and staying in mobile homes. Women usually worked the assembly line and at times were ridiculed, sexually harassed or raped by male co-workers or the boss himself. There were workers who brought in the herds of steer before shooting a tranquilizer that would render them unconscious. Then they would stab the steers with large hooks and carry them high up until manually slaughtering them by the massive knives and blades. There have been incidents where workers have lost limbs from cutting machines, received major cuts from blades, and been exposed to toxic gases that have either killed them instantly or on the way to the hospital. Arguably, the worst job in the horrendous environment could be the cleaning crew. Their responsible for cleaning out the pools of blood in the kill room, the dried up blood tanks, and the filthy air vents. It requires much time and effort and many of these workers get back pains, carpal tunnel syndrome or nerve damage.
With worker’s disregard for cleaning the blades, picking up meat that fell on the floor and mistreatment of the meat, the Center for Disease Control states that a quarter of the American population suffers from food poisoning each year. In the early 90s, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had to recall thousands of pounds of ground beef because it contained the disease Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Salmonella. These food borne pathogens that sickens 200,000 Americans, hospitalizes 900 and kills 14 each year is also responsible for causing long term heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease, neurological problems, autoimmune disorders and kidney damage. This outbreak of E. coli has infected tons of children and adults because it is easily transmitted, can replicate fast, and survive in manure for ninety days. The children of the United States have been eating shit inside their burgers.
Besides these gruesome plagues, what seemed to hit the United States the most was the increase in the obesity rate. Obesity in America has skyrocketed since the end of the 20th Century. McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, Hardy’s, KFC, Domino’s and Pizza Hut have ways of reaching their customers even though the food lacks a healthy diet that can leave the younger generation with long term health ailments. It hasn’t helped that cattle are bigger than they ever were today with administered growth hormones, anabolic steroids, and antibiotics. Pesticides, herbicides, poisons and commercialized fertilizers have increased the combination of chemicals in food that eventually trickle down to fast food burgers and fries. Although, customers think they know the smell of the wafting and juicy aroma of a hamburger or French fries, they don’t realize that those flavors and smells are not natural. Schlosser has discovered that in selected chemistry laboratories, scientists work with chemicals to create those magnificent flavors or smells that Americans easily cling to. These chemistry scientists or flavorists have a keen artistic talent in creating a chemical that enables a person to distinguish a French fry to a burger, or a pizza to a hot dog. The flavorists could be the secret ingredient which makes the fast food industries so prominent or recognizable with its consumers.
The globalization of the fast food industry has had a major impact on the world. It almost seems that everywhere you go you are reminded of America with an image of the golden arches, serving the same food and drinks. The increase of the American corporate influence is turning the world into a single place; as if you’ve never left you’re country. There has been a growing interest in McDonald’s within Asian culture that has impacted their level of acculturation within their traditional values. This rise in interest is believed to be a delusional thought that eating the American food will give Asian people similar American appearances for their future generations as growing taller, having lighter skin and being fluent in English. Colorado Springs, which used to be a prairie of endless grassy fields and mountain horizons, is now merely a suburban complex for fast food venues and company stores. Owner of Carl’s Jr., Carl Karcher in his 90s told Schlosser that he is satisfied that Colorado Springs has turned into a cornucopia of fast food.
I believe that Schlosser was trying to raise awareness in people about the horrors that come in making the American food. There are many things that people need to take into consideration before buying a Big Mac or Whopper. How many people have died or got hurt when making this? How many cattle have we killed over this? Although, individually it is difficult to make a difference to save the health of America, we need to start making a difference on a global level. Eric Schlosser went to the bare essentials to expose the truth that the meatpacking industry like from Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle is still in turmoil and needs to be dealt with on a large scale so that workers are treated fairly and so cattle aren’t brutally murdered. What’s most ironic is that I will still visit my local McDonald’s and order a Big Mac, eat a beefy Whooper at Burger King, or devour a Crunchwrap Supreme from Taco Bell because of the craving I get from the flavor and smell. No matter the history, when food is reasonable and abundant, it becomes more attractive.
If you enjoyed this and would like to read more from Anthony, check out his novel ‘Stay Awhile’ on Amazon amazon.com/Stay-Awhile.