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In Fast Food Nation, Erik Schlosser addresses the fast food business and the revolutionary impact it has had on the American food industry in the past few decades. Schlosser discusses how fast food was integrated into American society to such an extreme that it has spread to every corner of the nation. The reasoning behind why fast food has so speedily dominated the diet of the American people is not hard to distinguish – people want a meal that is both easy and cheap, and these qualities are the foundation that the fast food industry was built on. However, fast food does have its drawbacks, ranging from its unhealthy impact on the body to its contribution of erasure of regional differences across America. Throughout his novel, Schlosser writes about the impact fast food has had on America, primarily questioning why it has been so successful, how it has come to shape America, and what consequences it has inflicted upon society today.
While a variety of fast food businesses have succeeded, an even greater number of unknown chains failed along the way, ones like “Sandy’s, Carrol’s, Henry’s, Winky’s, and Mr. Fifteen’s,” along with many others (22). So what was the distinction between failure and success for a fast food chain? When fast food was first discovered, people rushed to create their own businesses, going so far as to create intricate machines that traversed a series of steps in order to produce just one burger. Ultimately, the fast food chains that triumphed over the multitude of others all had three major traits in common: uniformity, inexpensiveness, and efficiency. As work in America has become more demanding, workers have acquiesced more hours and effort for their jobs, leaving little to no time to prepare a meal at home. For overworked employees, parents, or students allotted only a meager amount of free time, their only concerns lay with how quick and inexpensive a meal is – not the consequences it may have on America in the future.
Over the past decades, fast food has become an inescapable part of American society, and is unavoidable even to the minority of Americans who do not eat it. When regarding the foundations that shape modern America, the first thought that comes to mind after “freedom” is often “McDonald’s.” Consequently, fast food is so deeply ingrained into society that it is considered normal – the American people do not think twice about the millions of fast food chains littering the country. Not often is it seen as a vilification to America, a facet of society that should not be, unless one comes to think about and consciously acknowledge it. In a way, it has come to mold not only American culture, but business; in the provided passage, Schlosser states that “The basic thinking behind fast food has become the operating system of today’s retail economy” (5). The domination of larger corporations in American business today, along with many other problems in modern society, can inevitably be traced back to the start (and success) of the fast food industry.
Above all, the most prolific feature of fast food is the negative impact it has had on America and its people. A vast majority of America’s problems stem from – or are a direct result of – the fast food industry. Most obviously, fast food contributes directly to the already high and rising obesity problem in America. However, the problems stemming from fast food are not limited to physical – fast food also erases regional differences among the country, or even any differences. Whereas before there may have been a higher level of diversity in cuisine across America, the rapid spread of fast food ensures a certain culinary conformity regardless of location. Another complication that arises from the fast food industry is its exclusion of smaller industries in the business; since people want familiar brands and companies, smaller businesses are often ignored in favor of the more known one. By not allowing lesser known businesses to acclimate into the industry, consumers will perpetually favor the larger, and more popular, corporation.
Ultimately, the influence of fast food on American society extends far beyond the takeout window. From media to culture, fast food can be found ubiquitously across America – and no matter where it may be, people are likely to buy it. It may be beneficial on an individual level, but as a whole, fast food has a detrimental impact on America and its’ people. Although there may never be a replacement for fast food, there are alternatives, such as buying snacks or simply stopping by healthier restaurants. However, one fact remains: if consumers are willing to buy, then the fast food industry’s influence over modern American society will only continue to grow.
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