Since the introduction of the fast food industry in the public, the traditional means of cooking is slowly fading. This is due to the importance given by people with the convenience provided by fast foods, as seen in its accessibility, cheap pricing and quick meal preparations.
Adding up to this is the said industry’s strong skill for adapting to the fast-paced movement of consumer lifestyles, making it relatively the solution for the conventional way of cooking that usually take lots of time and effort. However, regardless of the said benefits provided by this industry it should not be discounted that it is also a breeding ground for myriads of issues that affect mainly societal aspects such as economic as seen in their labor practices and ubiquity advertising, and health perspectives.
Investigative journalist Eric Schlosser, through his book “Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal,” strongly provided arguments that address the negative effects of fast food on the pertained societal aspects. Not only did he critiqued the existence of the fast food industry in an opinionated manner, he also backed up his claims with the support of vast accurate sources as well as two years of world travel to reinforce his findings regarding this controversial issue. As such, it could be agreed upon that the points made by Schlosser, in one way or another, could change some of the consumer behavior that are adopted by many since the introduction of fast foods.
Economically speaking, fast food created millions of job that benefited even the most disadvantaged individuals. As Schlosser even noted, out of every eight person in the United States, one person may have worked in a fast food chain once in their lifetime. Though it may sound good enough, such labor practice is not as altruistic as it may seem. It is important to note that majority of the operators of fast food chains adhere to the practice of laissez fare.
This process allows the operators to set their own wage standards. As such, instead of following the Fair Labor Standard Act that imposes additional fees for every additional working hours, the fast food industry take advantage of their laissez fare practice by allowing limited number of crew workers to qualify for overtime work, only to be paid by the hour even if their scheduled to work as often as needed, and just to be sent home during slow seasons.
From here, it is easy to point out that only few workers in this industry are paid accordingly (Schlosser, 2001). Given this perspective, Schlosser’s point are indeed right; former and current employees of this fast food franchises can attest to these unfair practices. There are already many instances that proved such unfair practice has been existent. While customers leave fast food establishment with a smile, crew members who serves as the backbone for the operations of the said industry are forced to work for longer hours just to add up to their basic hourly wages.
Such could be noticed during the closing time, wherein members are left behind in order to clean up the mess, while worrying about the dangers that lies ahead by the time they are about to go home. Such example is only a small margin of the original gravity of unfair labor practices that fast foods usually employ.
Alongside this unfair labor practices, fast foods are noteworthy for their ubiquitous nature. From cost to cost many fast food establishments incessantly appear even in the most unexpected places. For this reason, many independent businesses have faced foreclosures. According to Schlosser, such phenomenon was just once feared by Jim Hightower, a farm activist in 1970’s. However, the fear of Hightower already became a reality that has been feeding on various industries.
To prove such point, large fast food companies has now become the dominant force in the food supply aspects of many nations that have monopolized not only the consumers but also workers and small business. As Schlosser put it, fast foods are responsible for “wiping out small businesses, obliterating regional differences, and spreading identical stores throughout the country like a self-replicating code” (Schlosser 4-5). Such perspective has been evident from the time fast food become instant hits.
The practice of franchising has apparently become the standard method for many other businesses that it has now become the operating system of the retailing industry, thereby killing many small businesses that do not have the capability to compete with these powerful corporations. Today, it can be observed that main streets as well as malls boast various fast food franchises that are normally preferred by people instead of other ordinary restaurants.
“Fast Food Nation” also took time to shed light about fast food’s marketing prowess through its usage of strong advertising strategies that are directed not only towards the adult population but most especially those of the youth. As advertisements strongly create suggestions about what needs that people should satisfy, it is definitive that fast foods have spread globally because of their directive advertising. As Schlosser pointed out, people today are bombarded with various fast food advertisements, thereby inculcating within them a sense of brand loyalty, which affects consumer decision for future consumption. Similarly, fast foods are also known for their advertisements that are directly aimed to the children population.
This is apparent through their incorporation of toy products within some of their menu and at the same time they also mascots (Ronald McDonald, Grimace etc.) that has been widely recognized by majority of the children population. This straight forward approach of children advertising used by the fast food industry is considered by one marketer as a strategy to: “get kids to nag their parents and nag them well” (qtd. in Schlosser 43). Hence, it is safe to assume that the directive advertising used by the fast food industry invokes juvenile nagging that could affect a child’s future behavior and a process by which their immaturity are being exploited.
Schlosser also incorporated in his research the relationship of fast food consumption and obesity. As he contends “it seems wherever America’s fast food chains go, waistlines inevitably start to expand” (Sclosser 242). Several researches, other than that of Schlosser’s have consistently presented that fast foods are industrially produced foods that are packed with compounds that are high in cholesterol, which contribute to the escalating number of obese individuals.
Other than this, it has been reported that fast foods available today are micro-engineered or superficially enhanced hence they become more appealing to people. However, it is also important to take note that fast food, though it taste good, does not necessarily mean that they are safe and healthy to eat.
Many incidents of food poisoning as well as other foodborne diseases that may lead to long-term ailments such as heart diseases, neurological problems, kidney problems and many others have been reported and charged against many fast food chains. Although it may be true that there are many factors affecting the spread of foodborne diseases, the improper way of modern food processing practiced by this industry contribute to the rise of various medical conditions. Hence, it can be perceived that fast food chains are the primary agents for promoting changes in human eating habits that could negatively impact human health.
Eric Schlosser’s “Fast Food Nation” brought into the forefront the effects of fast food industry in the many aspects of human society. His findings concluded that fast food industry is indeed a host of myriads of issues to the extent that it transformed deeply embedded values and directly attack workers, human health, family values for the benefit of continuous consumption. In many ways, Schlosser’s book is truly an eye opener that could change consumer behavior. Nonetheless, it is an important literature that provides significant insights on an issue that should have been addressed a long time ago.
Schlosser, Eric. Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2001.
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