Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal Summary
by Eric Schlosser

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Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal Summary

Fast Food Nation is a book by Eric Schlosser, which uncovers the fast food industry's greed, unsanitary conditions, and almost criminally low wages.

  • Schlosser reveals that the giant profits reported by fast food companies like McDonald's are made possible by the exploitation of underpaid employees who work in increasingly unsanitary and dangerous conditions.

  • Fast food has been definitively linked to obesity, and Schlosser demonstrates exactly how unhealthy it is to eat these high-fat foods consistently.

  • Schlosser also uncovers the insidious methods fast food companies use to draw families into their restaurants: toys, playgrounds, and kids' meals.

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In his best-selling book Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser makes you feel like you might be a whole lot better off avoiding the drive-through and just going home to cook your own meal. Schlosser covers everything from how McDonald’s got started to how the hamburger giant has affected cultures all around the world. Along the way, Schlosser exposes the cockroaches and rats found in fast food kitchens, the overworked and underpaid employees behind the cash registers, the mauled laborers trying to keep up with an accident-prone speed rate in meatpacking houses, and then, of course, the corporate greed driving the entire industry. Fast Food Nation will open your eyes and possibly make you lose your appetite.

As obesity rates climb, the finger of blame is more and more consistently pointed in the direction of Americans’ addiction to fast food. The burgers and fries taste good, and so they are hard to resist. Schlosser insists that the fast food industry is making sure that Americans remain addicted. Children are lured to fast food chains in a number of ways. Playgrounds have been built around easy-to-access restaurants. Popular toys are handed out with meals. And more tempting yet, fast food is advertised both inside schools and on the sides of school buses. In some states, burgers are even the main item on schools’ cafeteria menus.

But it is not just waistbands that are being affected. Attempting to bring in the best profits possible, fast food corporations have taken over a large portion of the production of potatoes, cattle, and poultry in the United States. Huge corporate farms are swallowing up family-run farms. Although the corporate giants provide a lot of jobs, the wages offered are at extremely low, nonunion rates, and the working conditions are dangerous and sometimes lethal. Lobbyists who are employed by fast food corporations are even affecting U.S. labor laws. And in the past couple of decades, the golden arches and other logos of fast food restaurants have blanketed other countries around the world. There seems to be no limit to fast foods growth and influence.

Schlosser presents all the details he has uncovered in an easy-to-read style, suggests the problems that his findings have exposed, and then lets readers decide what they want to do about them. This is an eye-opening account by a very respected reporter, an account that has sparked scathing rebukes—though no explanations or denials—from the fast food industry.

Extended Summary

Part I: The American Way, the Beginning of the Fast Food Industry
The idea of fast food up until the 1950s meant food stands on the sidewalks of cities. And that was how Carl N. Karcher, one of the pioneers of the fast food industry, started out. He owned four hot dog carts in Los Angeles. He also owned a drive-in barbeque restaurant, which offered patrons the ability to drive up to outside stands and order meals from carhops (a wait staff who delivered food to people in the cars). China plates and real forks, spoons, knives, and glasses were part of the service. There was also the option of sitting down at a table inside the restaurant and placing orders with the wait staff. The drive-in part of the restaurant, though, was a novelty, and Karcher’s business thrived—at least until a new drive-in...

(The entire section is 2,012 words.)