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“The Dark Side of the All-American Meal,” as stated on the cover of the book, is described in Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. While reading and analyzing the text, many themes are seen. Themes that include work and “the good life” as well as diet, nutrition, and food safety. The themes suggested in the nonfiction book are expressed by quotes, plot points, and symbols. Schlosser made points describing how America is encompassed in this industry and how it took over step by step, all while using quotes and symbols to exemplify these themes.
One of the themes expressed in Fast Food Nation was the topic of diet, nutrition, and safety. The fried and greasy meals consumed at these venues, are described as one of America’s iconic features, “Fast food has joined Hollywood movies, blue jeans, and pop music as one of America’s most prominent cultural exports”. As most people know fast food is not the healthiest option. The quote on page 262 exemplifies this idea, “Moreover, such a ban would encourage the fast food chains to alter the recipes for their children’s meals. Greatly reducing the fat content of Happy Meals, for example, could have an immediate effect on the diet of the nation’s kids.” Considering kids are a targeted consumer in this industry as stated many times throughout the book, “This is an industry that both feeds and feeds off the young”, it makes sense to focus on how these meals are made and what they consume. Because, as stated in the epilogue, “Every month more than 90 percent of the children in the United States eat at McDonald’s”, most of America’s young population could be at risk if something was unsafe in these meals. The food production and preparation used to bring ingredients, such as meat, are sometimes not handled correctly and harm those who consume the products.
The author described an event where an eleven-year-old boy got sick after eating a hamburger in his school cafeteria. The meat delivered to the school was from the Bauer Meat Company and had been tested with the confirmation of the presence of E. coli 0157:H7. The USDA had inspect the location where the meat packing occurred and found the venue to be grimy, so the USDA had to shut it down.
This theme seemed to be the more prominent theme of the whole book. This seems to be reflected today, as these food chains come out with these new items on their menu and people in America rush to get them, without a second thought of what might be in them.
The desire for money and power from the businesses who feed consumers, but also feed off of them is another theme represented in the book. The author explains how the industry practically uses its consumers to their own advantage. Corporations just wanted to make money and forced farmers to make ends meet or get tossed aside. A farmer eventually committed suicide after the whole debacle of working and working, but not getting very much from it. “The suicide rate among ranchers and farmers is about three times higher than the national average”. These farmers were reaching their “bottom line.” The greed does not only come from the green bills received in exchange for work or product desired, but in the forms of these ads, campaigns, TV shows, and toys. “In 1972, Kroc gave $250,000 to President Nixon’s reelection campaign, breaking the gift into smaller donations, funneling the money through various state and local Republican committees”. It seemed like he did this to help benefit the both of them and get their names/businesses out in the world. Greed, corporations, and “The Bottom Line” is a theme that describes one of the dark aspects of this industry. These aspects of the fast food corporations should not be known for these ideas. These corporations do not think twice about the producers in this country, they just want the green stack when it is all done. These people are giving it their all only for their own encouragement and confidence to chip away along with their time.
These corporations really try to highlight this supposed “good life,” while being a part of these businesses. But, is it really a good life for these employees or those who get to watch their bank account increase. Work and “the good life” was a theme that depicted some of the darkest parts of this industry. It took you behind the curtain of how America’s food is made and the fatalities that come along with it. These workers are losing limbs, losing morale for drugs, and are being treated like animals going through these plants. Some of the members work so hard only to be replaced when one thing goes wrong. Others are pushed until they cannot even bear to work through the turmoil any longer. A man worked in a meat-packing facility and was put through the wringer time and time again. His body physically could not handle it was he was done with his job. “‘They used me to the point where I had no body parts left to give,’ Kenny struggling to maintain his composure. ‘Then they just tossed me into the trash can.’ Once strong and powerfully built, he now works with difficulty, tires easily, and feels useless, as though his life were over. He is only forty-five years old”. His body was not only affected physically, but now he has this mental state where he feels as if he is not worthy, just from giving his all for something that did not give anything back to him but a crippled body and unsettling mindset. This “good life” does not only reach adults, but the families of these workers. Parents end up working multiple jobs just to put food on the table for their families. They work for companies that serve food, yet they are not given back very much for it. These families have to work so much that teens are having to help pay these bills. “… the kids today seem poorer than ever. It used to be, even in many low-income families, that the father worked and the mother stayed home to raise the children. Now it seems that no one’s home and that both parents work just to make ends meet, often holding down two or three jobs”. The effect of no one being home often leads to no restrictions or rules to follow causing more issues in other areas. Teens may try to find a way to cope in substances, such as drugs or alcohol. Not only are these kids that stay at home alone often get into things, but those who work long hours and want to find something to help keep them moving. As stated on page 80, the author states that “teenage boys who work longer hours are much more likely to develop substance abuse problems and commit petty crimes.” The work these employees have to endure from this industry are not achieving a “good life” from all of their hard work and it just does not pay off.
The author discussed many details to help explain the themes of his story, and how this industry affects our country in many ways. The diet of our nation is consisting of these fatty, greasy, easy-to-pick-up foods that are increasing are health risks. The greed for power and increases in their sales affect the health of those working in the industry. America’s workers are being put through the wringer to barely get a minimum of what they deserve. The Dark side of America’s fast food industry is a topic most are not informed of, but that should change as well as how controlling the industry can be over the country.
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