Fast food has grown to be a big part of American Society. According to Eric Schlosser, “Over the past few decades, fast food has infiltrated every nook and cranny of American Society” (3). In a sense, his statement about fast food is not too exaggerated. Today, we see fast food all over America, whether it is through television advertisements, billboards, and magazines. America has grown to be the number one fast food country in the world. The increase of fast food has resulted in good business for the fast food industry: “In 2000 Americans spent about $110 billion on fast food compared to $6 billion in 1970” (Schlosser).
Why are Americans spending huge amounts of money on fast food? How has the fast food industry grown to become a huge influence on American society? Seyhan Sipahi states, “Recent global economical crisis…had a crippling effect on almost all financial sectors in many countries. Surprisingly, the fast food industry had not be adversely affected…” What is keeping the fast food industry alive? Could it be that more families are turning to fast food because recent economic crisis? The fast food industry has grown to be more efficient than when it first started. Making food selling more convenient, fast and for a cheap price has attracted customers.
There are multiple ways the fast food industry has transformed American society and what it is to live in America. In this generation, more mothers are in the workforce than there were in the past. Since “Women’s labor force participation is significantly higher today than it was in the 1970s, particularly among women with children” (Labor Force Participation of Women and Mothers, 2008, The Editor’s Desk) ever since then the rate has been going up. Now that both parents are away from home working it makes it harder for them to make home cooked meals. Due to the lack of home cooked meals, many Americans families have turned to fast food.
According to Schlosser, “three generations ago more money was being spent on food in the United States to make meals at home” (3). Fast food has taken over the diet of many American families. It is more convenient to buy something that is near by, prepared fast, and is reasonably priced for its proportion. Another reason why people choose fast food is because frankly it is delicious. Nothing that is made at home can compare to something made at a fast food restaurant. It is hard to get sick of fast food because there are so many restaurants to choose from that each have their own tastes in foods.
The largest class in America is the middle class. Since middle class makes up the majority of the American population it is reasonable to say these families with lower income tend to buy fast food more often. Fast food restaurants have grown to be more efficient in the way that they produce their meals. On “Dec. 12, 1948, when Richard and Maurice transformed their barbecue joint into the first McDonalds restaurant, focusing on speed, value and high volume. ” (Hill). This helped build a kind of assembly line of workers, each worker in charge of one job.
For example, in order to make a hamburger, one would be in charge of getting the buns, another in charge of putting the patty, another in charge of putting the lettuce and tomato, and on. In doing this, production of the food becomes much faster. Food being frozen before preparing it is another way that fast food restaurants have grown more efficiently. Schlosser gives an example with guacamole that is made in Mexico, frozen, and shipped to the restaurant (40). Many fast food restaurants do this with the products they serve, although their advertisements may say fresh.
Drive-throughs and computerized cash registers have also helped fast food restaurants speed up time for their consumers. An example of how drive throughs are so successful is Victoria’s experience: There’s just one place that Victoria Vollaire stops every day. It’s not the supermarket. It’s not the ATM. It’s the drive-thru. This costs her $400 a month right out the drive-thru window. “I don’t like getting out of the car,” explains Vollaire, who lives in Ontario, Calif. , and works as a hotel guest service aide. More than half the money spent on fast food rolls in through the drive-thru lane. (Horovitz)
Drive-throughs give restaurants the ability to take multiple orders and give convenience for customers that are in a hurry. People like the conscience of not even having to get out of there cars to get their food. Computerized cash registers with buttons for every order possible help to make orders quick and precise. These days it is not surprising to see a fast food restaurant almost at every corner in America. A study was made on how fast food restaurants cluster around schools in America. Steven Gortmaker, in charge of this study, states, “78% of schools had at least one fast food restaurant within 800 meters.
Fast food restaurants tend to cluster near schools and offices because it is more convenient, with the idea to gain more business. Many fast food restaurants are close to places where children and adolescent are close by. They do this because these two age groups are the most targeted by the fast food industry (Fast Food Targeted Marketing). Another study, on a high school that sold fast food products concludes that fast food is 70% of all food sold at the school (Calderon. ) As the expansion of fast food companies continues to increase, more restaurants are seen closer together.
Before, companies use to stay away from competition, but now they are clustered all over the place. It seems as though fast food restaurant expansion has forced them to cluster even to the extent of having fast food shopping centers. Fast food has greatly transformed popular culture in America. By looking at McDonalds as an example, McDonalds has far surpassed any other fast food chain in America and possibly the world. McDonalds has grown very close to many children: “A survey for American schoolchildren found that 96 percent could identify Ronald McDonald” (Schlosser).
What makes fast food so popular in America? Many people appraise fast food industries for their products because they are delicious and affordable. Did affordability of fast food make it so popular? Fast food transforms popular culture in America mainly through advertising. Whether it is on television, sponsoring professional athletes, or even promoting events like the Olympics or the World Cup. It is said that “In 2009, teens saw 5 fast food ads each day” (Fast Food Targeted Marketing). The majority of the commercial on TV are based on fast food companies.
Fast food has become a trend in American society, eating it is in the norms of society today. Fast food advertisement has a monkey, see monkey do effect on people. If people see famous celebrities on TV eating or promoting the fast food company, it encourages them to go. The constant selling of fast food causes higher demands in agricultural resources. According to Schlosser, “The fast food chains now stand atop a huge food-industrial complex, taking control of American Agriculture” (59). It is getting harder for farmers outside of this “food industrial complex” to find business. Many times farmers and cattle ranchers become hired hands for the agribusiness giants” (Schlosser). Although the giant agriculture business may seem powerful, it is still on the bottom of the fast food companies because they are what make their business. “The fast-food industry changed the nation’s retail economy, eliminating small businesses, encouraging the spread of chains and uniformity, fast food has transformed American agriculture” (Schlosser). Apart from agriculture fast food, companies have also influenced how cattle should be raised, killed, and made into ground beef.
The influence of the fast food companies on slaughterhouses has made the work environment a dangerous place. These slaughterhouses sound dangerous for the workers as well as for those consuming the meat. Meatpacking as grown to be one of the most dangerous jobs in America (Gardner). There is a lot of equipment that is dangerous and can cause severe injuries to workers. According to Gardner, “at least 29. 3% of meat workers suffered injury or illness compared to 9. 7% for the rest of manufacturing…” (Working Conditions in American Slaughterhouses: Worse than You Thought).
Carl Karcher started his fast food business by buying one hot dog cart and then from there he bought another three hot dog carts in Los Angeles. Not too much time past before Karcher had some competition. Recently moved from New Hampshire, the McDonald brothers came to California to find jobs. They opened up a hamburger shop and became famous for their delicious hamburgers. The brothers strived in coming up with new ways to make more money until finally one day they closed down their shop. A few months later the McDonald brothers reopened their shop, with a bigger grill, and a whole new process to make hamburgers.
They would divide the food preparations into tasks. This is what started the whole assembly line style to preparing fast food and has been implemented by many fast food restaurants ever since. Two groups that fast food companies look to for hiring are teenagers and illegal immigrants. Having these two types of groups as a workforce allows fast food companies to spend less money on hired hands and more on advertising and expanding (Schlosser. ) Having workers that are not looking for a long-term job lets fast food companies have fewer benefits for their workers.
The wages for fast food employees is far too little in ratio to the work that is expected. Fast food companies hire teenagers because they can survive with low pay and most are dependent on their parents. The statistics from the ages, 16-20, alone makes up 25% of the fast food workforce (Food Services and Drinking Places). Immigrants, on the other hand, cannot complain if they get paid so little because they are illegal and will work under most circumstances. The expansion of fast food companies has created many jobs over the years.
Out of all food services and drinking places, fast food companies make up 47% (Food Services and Drinking Places). In the past few decades, food-related illness has increased (Schlosser). The way food is processed has affected its quality. Many of the livestock used to produce that typical hamburger patty are mistreated. The most common sickness that the livestock catch is E Coli. In December 2006 “71 people became sick with E. coli after eating at Taco Bell restaurants in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Delaware” (O’Shea). It is hard to know for sure what is in fast food because most of the time this side of the story is covered up.
Aside from meats getting pathogens, artificial flavoring is another key aspect of many fast food products. Many fast food companies injected their products with artificial flavoring. McDonalds for example “infuses its fries and chicken sandwiches with essences that mimic beef tallow” (Tamminen). Does the food taste that bad that places like McDonalds has turn to artificial flavoring? Can the chemicals being put in fast food be harmful to humans? Although there maybe some companies using artificial flavors, there many other companies that live up to natural flavors. What is the future of fast food industry in America?
Will the fast food industry just keep growing until one day it not only becomes a big part of American life but also other places around the world? Fast food companies are expanding at an increasing rate causing high demands for more food. At this rate, could it be possible that someday the fast food industry will control all of the food distribution in America? They practically do already because they are the greatest contributors in meats, corn, potatoes and more. What will be the future for fast food in America? At its grown rate, the fast food industry seems to be taking over many Americans highways.
Having many fast food chains by highways makes it all most impossible to not run into a fast food restaurant. Will the constant expansion of fast food restaurants bring down the big grocery stores and replace them? America has grown accustom to convenience when it comes to food. What do other countries think when they see America? Should America be proud because it is the number one fast food country in the world? It is hard to say where fast food will take America in the future, but one thing is certain: fast food and America can never be separated.
Courtney from Study Moose
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