Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosse

February 9, 2009
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In Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser presents several convincing arguments that generally attack the business methods of the multi-billion dollar fast food companies His extensive research and powerful anecdotes provide strong support to his case. However, Schlosser leaves a lot to be desired. His focus on the cons of the industry, at times makes his argument seem one-sided and biased. Had Schlosser looked through the eyes of a McDonald's or Burger King CEO and made a few concessions, his argument would be more credible

Schlosser's continuous attacks on large corporations center around two main ideas'exploitation of employees and corporate greed. While Schlosser is correct to a certain degree in that not every company treats every employee like the Messiah and that companies often seek more and more money (after all that is the purpose of a business), much of his argument over exaggerates the current situation. For example, one of Schlosser's most powerful anecdotes describes the story of Kenny Dobbins who voluntarily dropped out of school, never learned to read or write, and wound up at an obviously dangerous job in a meatpacking plant. Schlosser throws out multiple pathos appeals to try to make the reader feel sorry for poor Kenny. However, doesn't the saying, 'every action has its consequence' apply in this situation? Should the reader feel sorry for someone who understood the results of dropping out of school? And doesn't someone have to make all the meat we consume? It is easy to see how an emotional person might react strongly after reading Fast Food Nation and all its similar stories like this one. But after emotions die down, and one thinks rationally and logically, the reader will probably ask these same sorts of questions.

Schlosser also made McDonald's the bad guy for discouraging unionization in its stores. Again, at first the reader may be emotionally charged, as Schlosser makes it seem like unions solve every problem known to man. Schlosser, however, forgets to mention the cons to organizing workers. If workers demand higher wages, then McDonald's has to cut costs somewhere and that usually means closing down stores and removing jobs. Look at the auto industry. Once auto workers began to unionize in masses, American car quality decreased and consumers began considering foreign cars. Today, the American auto industry is on life support. It's safe to say the same thing could happen with the fast food industry if its workers joined unions.

Lastly, Schlosser portrays companies as obsessively greedy, shown through his extensive research, which finds that large companies like to eliminate their smaller competition. Again, Schlosser does a masterful job at manipulating the reader's emotions. The average reader will feel sorry for Poor Ol' Joe who's losing his family business because the big, mean bullies from McDonald's are lowering the price of cattle so Joe can't make a profit. That's not exploitation or unfairness. That's business in a capitalist country. The goal of a business is ultimately to make a profit. So obviously, companies do as much as possible to keep their expenses low. So yes, this means that they will vehemently oppose minimum wage increases, drive down the cost of beef and chicken and other foods, and make it difficult to obtain health care. These things keep McDonalds and other fast food companies afloat. After all, as Schlosser said, over 10% of Americans have worked for the golden arches at point or another. So imagine, the unemployment rate if McDonalds went out of business.

Schlosser's manipulation of emotions fails to convince readers of his flawed argument. True, the industry is not perfect. But the pros of business clearly outweigh the cons. And as much as Schlosser would love every American to work for the government, the reality is that businesses provide the majority of jobs in this country, and that is going to stay that way for a long time.





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