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Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser is not just a book about food, but also a wide-ranging critique of American society. Schlosser begins his book by examining the history of fast food and how its underlying economic models made the fast food franchises which started in the 1950s and 1960s so successful. Schlosser then examines how the fast-food model created far-reaching changes in the American traditions of food consumption and production and affected American society as a whole.
Schlosser notes that the fast food industry makes Americans unhealthy in several ways. First, the most successful fast food franchises make their profits from foods that are high in saturated fats and sodium, and get their consistent uniform flavor from use of additives. Even worse, the development of takeout food and drive-throughs increases America's dependence on cars.
Next, the fast food industry is connected with large corporate agribusiness that provides cheap standardized inputs for its products in the form of factory-farmed animals fed antibiotic-laced feed. This leads to both health and environmental consequences. Also, factory farms create a meat-packing industry with unsafe working conditions.
Next are what are known popularly as "McJobs" after the iconic fast food franchise, McDonalds. The franchise model, and the necessity of cutting costs, cause a rise of income inequality, with unskilled laborers stuck in dead-end jobs, in which the prepare food by rigidly following fixed procedures rather than developing the skills and creativity of real chefs.
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