Fast Food Nation
Eric Schlosser
 Major themes
 Problem with the nation’s diet
 ¼ of population on any day visit a fast food restaurant
Fast Food Growth Driven by
Societal Changes
 Many facets of life dominated by chains & franchises
 Rise in Dual earner families—less time to prepare food
 Life in a “workaholic” society
 Vast differences in diets via SES
Keys to Franchise Success
 Uniformity
 Cheap labor--typically teens
 High turn over
 Little room for pay increase or advancement
 Extensive & expensive marketing
 Direct appeals to young children
Influence of Multinationals
 Huge agribusiness & purchasing power
 Elimination of most small farms and ranches
 Demand for uniformity
 Meatpacking no longer a good paying job—now
dangerous & employees unskilled immigrant laborers
OSHA Regulations & Fast Food Industry
Nebraska's Meatpacking Industry
Immigrant workers hold 80% of jobs. Meat
processors at Farmland plant in Crete,
Drastic Societal Changes that
influenced Fast Food Industry
 Population growth especially during the baby boomer years
 Massive increase in highways across the nation
 Massive growth in the housing industry & move to the
Increased car ownership and driving (car culture)
Growth of drive-thru chains (food) & assembly line
production of food
Mass marketing efforts to children—toys, playgrounds,
school advertising, etc.
Increase in consumption of soda
Mc Donald’s Business Model
 McDonald's makes money by operating its own
restaurants and franchises to third parties.
 Of its 32,278 restaurants around the world (September
30, 2009), 25,975 (80%) were franchises and 6,303
(20%) were company-operated.
Fast Food Chains in the U.S.
Hamburger: A&W · Arctic Circle · Back Yard Burgers ·
Big Boy · Burger King · Burgerville · Carl's Jr. ·
Checkers/Rally's · Cook Out · Culver's · Fatburger ·
Five Guys · Freddy's Frozen Custard · George Webb ·
Hardee's · Hot 'n Now · In-N-Out Burger · Jack in the
Box · Johnny Rockets · Krystal · Maid-Rite ·
McDonald’s · Nation's Giant Hamburgers · Roy
Rogers · Spangles · Sonic Drive-In · Steak n Shake ·
Swensons · Original Tommy's · Wendy's ·
Whataburger · White Castle · Winstead's · Zippy's
Parody about the business
practices of McDonald’s
McDonald's International
 Geographic Region
% of Total Revenues
 US
 France, Germany, UK
 Rest of Europe
 Australia, China, Japan
 Rest of Asia, Mid East, Africa 8%
Growth in “Liquid Candy”
From 1977 to 2001, Americans doubled their
consumption of sweetened beverages—a trend
that was paralleled by a doubling of prevalence
of obesity
Influence of Suburban Sprawl
 Growth of suburban strip malls & large shopping malls
 Subsequent growth in fast food industry & strict
regimentation & standardization
 90% of workers paid an hourly wage (low wage), with
no benefits, scheduled to work only when needed
 Workers subjected to numerous abuses, e.g. paid with
food rather than wages for all hours worked
Fast Food Industry Strongly
 Penalized for union organizing activities
Website for union information
 Use youth & immigrants as workers—less likely to
unionize—More likely to be injured on the job
 Because of low pay & monotony of work most work
only a short time—leave & move on to other low
earning jobs
Worker Vunerabilities
 Injury rate of teens 2X rate of adults
 Subjected to workplace violence & victims of robberies
 May 2000, 5 Wendy’s employees murdered during a
robbery attempt
Craig Godineaux was sentenced to five life terms behind
bars for his part in the Wendy's Massacure of 2000
Most Popular Fast Food Item
Frozen fries—low cost, huge profits
 Typical American eats > 30 lbs. of frozen fries yearly
 ½ of potato farmers gone—now Corporate Farms
 Fries cooked in vegetable oil—taste like beef
 Aroma of food—90% of flavor—use of flavor additives,
Consolidation of Ranches
 Only 4 top meatpacking firms—ConAgra, IBP, Excel,
National Beef—allowing mergers without anti-trust
violations during Reagan era
 Slaughter 84% of the nation’s cattle
 Concentration reduces prices for independent
 Same thing happened to poultry growers—8 plants
control the poultry industry in only 4 states—
Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi > ½ of
poultry produced
Largest Purchases of Chicken
 KFC & McDonald’s
 McNuggets—resemble beef more than chicken
 2X per oz of fat than hamburger
 Popular among children
McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets
 McDonald's Chicken McNugget is 56% corn
 McNuggets also contain several synthetic ingredients,
quasiedible substances that ultimately come not from
a corn or soybean field but from a petroleum refinery
or chemical plant.
 Most alarming ingredient is TBHQ, tertiary
butylhydroquinone, an antioxidant derived from
petroleum that is either sprayed directly on the nugget
or the inside of the box it comes in to "help preserve
Status of Ranches
 Cheated by large meatpacking giants
 Traditional way of life of ranchers now destroyed
 Suicide 3X higher among ranchers & farmers
 Tangible connection to the past now lost
Industrialization of Cattle-raising
& Meatpacking
 Costs cut by meatpacking giants mainly wages
 Turned a best paying job to a low paying job
 Created rural ghettos—crime, poverty, drug abuse,
Meatpacking Industry:
From Urban to Rural
 Past: Cities like NY and Chicago
 History of abusive practices—book, “Jungle,” Upton
Sinclaire led to safety legislation in 1906
 After WWII most jobs union—good paying
 From 1970s onward one by one they closed down
 New meatpacking plants now in rural areas—Iowa,
Kansas, Texas, Colorado, Nebraska paying wages up to
50% less than union wages
Support from Reagan Adm
 Reagan administration did not oppose disappearance
of hundreds of small meatpacking firms
 Opposed using anti-trust laws to stop giant
 #1 producer of french fries & largest sheep & turkey
 Largest distributor of agricultural chemicals
 #2 manufacture of frozen food & flour miller
 #3 producer of chicken & pork
 Leading seed & feed producer
 Sells food under 100 consumer brand names
Growth of ConAgra
 Largest meatpacker in the world & foodservice
supplier in North America
Examples of ConAgra
Brand Names
 Healthy Choice
 Hebrew Nationl
 Swiss Miss
 Orville Redenbacher’s
 Armour
 Knott’s Berry Farm
County Pride
Taste O’Sea
Tax Shelters of Large Corporations
 ConAgra influenced re-writing of Nebraska’s tax code
 Lower taxes paid by large corporations & wealthy
 Provided tax deductions for ConAgra’s corporate jets
 Due to the 1987 legislation, IBP paid NO corporate
taxes in Nebraska for the next decade
 1997 IBP re-located to South Dakota with NO
corporate or personal income taxes
 From 1967 onward, IBP crushed labor unions
Changing Nature of Lexington
 1990, IBP opened new slaughterhouse, pop. 7,000
 1991, highest crime rate in Nebraska
 2000, # of serious crimes doubled & became a major
distributer of illegal drugs
 Gangs, drive-by shootings appeared
 Latino inhabitants increased ten-fold, now 50% of pop
 White inhabitants left
 1 slaughterhouse responsible for such sudden change,
hardship, and despair
Most Dangerous Job
 Common injuries: lacerations, tendinitis, back &
shoulder problems, “trigger-finger,” trauma, carpel
tunnel syndrome, accidential stabbings of self &
 Meatpacking industry—1/3 higher than national
average in industry
 IBP directly responsible for many of the hazards due to
the expectations of speed working the assembly line
 Widespread methamphetamine abuse
 Late-night cleaning crew jobs also very dangerous
Rise in Foodborne Illnesses
 Changes in how food is produced
 Industrialization & centralization of food processing
can lead to statewide or even national outbreaks
 Huge feedlots, slaughterhouses, hamburger grinders
allow for wide dispersal of food supply
 According to the CDC, > ¾ of food-related illnesses &
deaths caused by infectious agents NOT YET
E-Coli Bacteria
E-Coli Infection
 The result of an infection may be as little as a case
of diarrhea.
 From 5 to 10% of people infected develop a serious
condition known as haemolytic uraemic syndrome
(HUS), in which the kidneys are damaged.
 HUS can lead to permanent kidney damage,
requiring long-term dialysis treatment. Some
patients die, with the very young and very old
being most at risk.
Children becoming Ill & Dying
> 500,00, mainly children, made ill by E coli
Thousands hospitalized
Hundreds died
Herds of cattle became infected via being fed livestock
waste (dead sheep & cattle) until 1997 when the FDA
banned such practices
 However, allow cattle feed to contain dead pigs, horses
& chickens
 Also fed to cattle, waste products from poultry,
including sawdust & old newspapers
Spread of Pathogens
 Spread not only in feedlots but also at slaughterhouses
& hamburger grinders
 1 infected animal can contaminate 32,000 lbs of
ground beef
 1 fast food hamburger can contain meat from dozens or
even hundreds of different cattle
 Reagan & Bush administrations cut spending on public
health measures & staffed U.S. Dept of Agriculture
with officials more interested in deregulation than
food safety
Meatpacking Allies in Congress
 1990s Congressional support thwart modernization of
meat inspection system
 Even now, USDA cannot demand a recall—just suggest
that meat be withdrawn
 Company under no obligation to inform the public
that a recall is taking place
 Republicans in Congress failed to enact legislation that
would demand meat recalls & impose fines on
meatpackers (legislation introduced 1996, 1997, 1998,
Lexington, NE
Races in Lexington:
•Hispanic (51.2%)
•White Non-Hispanic (46.3%)
•Other race (30.8%)
•Two or more races (2.3%)
•American Indian (1.5%)
•Vietnamese (0.7%)
(Total can be greater than 100%
because Hispanics could be counted
in other races)
Dec. 2009 cost of living index in Lexington: 75.7 (low, U.S. average is 100)
Read more:
What Kids Eat
 In 1980s & 1990s, questionable beef served in school
 Typically sell the cheapest meat to schools
 1998, Georgia 11 year old seriously ill after eating a
hamburger at school
 Tests of ground beef found that the facility was so
filthy, USDA withdrew inspectors, a highly unusual
 Next day, company’s owner committed suicide
Major Chains Outside the U.S.
Obesity as Major Health
Fattest States in the U.S.
Obesity Statistics
 Obesity is the #2 cause of preventable death in U.S.
60 million Americans, 20 years and older are obese
 9 million children and teens ages 6-19 are overweight
 Being overweight or obese increases the risk of health
conditions and diseases including: Breast cancer,
Coronary heart disease, Type II diabetes, Sleep apnea,
Gallbladder disease, Osteoarthritis, Colon cancer,
Hypertension and Stroke
Obesity Among Children
 Diabetes, hypertension & other obesity-related
chronic diseases prevalent among adults, now more
common in youngsters.
 % of children & adolescents who are overweight &
obese is now higher than ever before. Poor dietary
habits and inactivity are reported to contribute to the
increase of obesity in youth.
 Today's youth are considered the most inactive
generation in history caused in part by reductions in
school phys ed programs & unavailable or unsafe
community recreational facilities.
Costs to Society
Obesity in America
Increase in Obesity
The Future Of Food
 See video at,

Fast Food Nation - LaGuardia Community College