Friday, May 30, 2008

Fast Food Nation

I read the book "Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlosser this month for Green Bean's "Be A Bookworm" challenge. It was a very interesting read, with tons of facts, and was obviously very well documented. There is even an afterword where the author addresses some of the criticism the book received when it was first published. Every page I read convinced me of the wisdom of my decision to become a flexitarian!

It's sort of like Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle" for the twenty-first century - a book he discusses at some length early on. Like Sinclair, he looks at the often appalling conditions for the workers preparing and packing meat, as well as the meat itself and various issues surrounding it, such as disease and poor hygiene.

Actually, what was interesting about this book was that it was as much an indictment of the meat industry as it was the fast food industry. It was told with fast food as the focal point, but honestly, I can't say I ever have any desire to eat meat again - whether it's from Wendys or Safeway is of no interest to me right now. My cat, I promise you, has never eaten fast food in his life - but this book made me finally cave in and start buying him organic cat food. I can't even go into the reasons why without feeling nauseous, but trust me. There's some gross stuff out there in our food supply - and our pets'.

Schlosser examines how the fast food industry has changed virtually every aspect of life in this country, from how we farm, to how we fund education, and even how we buy clothes. He examines how large corporations are often able to ensure compliance with food safety guidelines much more effectively than federal agencies. He examines the correlation between fast food restaurants and violence. There is an extremely wide array of topics he covers. At times, I wanted a little more depth on some of these, but the "big" issues, such as pervasive dangerous working conditions in meat packing plants and the health risks associated with eating improperly handled meat, are dealt with in quite a lot of detail.

I highly recommend checking it out - unless you really love Big Macs and Whoppers (although good news - my favorite place ever for burgers, In N Out, got a pass from the author, so I know there is one "safe" place I can go if I really need a fast food fix).

I often felt like I would have liked this book even more if I'd read it when it was first published close to a decade ago - even if the information is still relevant, something about reading a book full of statistics that are ten plus years old makes me wonder what has changed (for better or worse) since the words were written.

Unless you feel like reading about meat with "visible fecal contamination" will make you physically ill, check this book out if you haven't already.

In June, I'm going to Still Be a Bookworm - I'm reading "The No-Nonsense Guide to Fair Trade" - I'll let you know my thoughts at the end of the month!


Green Bean said...

Thanks for the review! I do have this on my shelf and keep meaning to get to it at some point. It is interesting, isn't it, how quickly you can feel that a book is not as relevant as it might have been if it had come out say 2 years ago? I do wonder how things have changed in the meat and fast food industry. I can't believe it has been for the better in the past decade but we can only hope.

Heather @ SGF said...

I watched a movie with the same title about a year ago and it completely grossed me out on meat. Blah! I've eaten meat once since them. I just can't get past the ick factor and I haven't gotten around to ordering from local sources (we have tons here in Texas though). One day, I will but I don't exactly crave meat - cheese yes, but meat, not so much.

Donna said...

This was the first eco-book I read and I was so astounded that I then read everything else I could find about our food supply and eating local. I like your comparison to "The Jungle." That's what I thought, too.

There is actually a way to still eat meat after reading this book -read the section about humanely raised meat in Omnivore's Dilemna. I've found a local farm that is as wonderful as the farm he champions. The meat costs a fortune, but I can feel good about eating it.

kale for sale said...

I read this years ago and remember thinking if this stuff is really going on surely someone is doing something to correct it. Ummm. I wish I could go back to even half way believing that. More recently I've seen Eric Schlosser interviewed and he's even smarter than his most famous book. He's still watching the food industry and does fairly frequent op-ed pieces in the NY Times that are also illuminating. Good review. Thank you.

Melissa said...

I'll have to keep an eye out for his op-ed pieces. I just requested another one of his books, reefer madness, from paperback swap. hope it's even nearly as good! I heard about the tomato salmonella stuff going on a few weeks ago, and just thought to myself, wow, truly, nobody is doing anything about this stuff! unbelievable! I really can't bring myself to eat meat since reading it...