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James Darius Moshir

English 100 Class
Professor Dustin Hanvey
How Fast Food Has Shaped Our Nation
In the book Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser gives us a detailed study on how fast food
has shaped America. He reports on how much it has designed our landscape, influenced our
culture, and transformed our food production. The rise of fast food began over 8 decades ago –
before that, hamburgers “had a bad reputation” and were a poor man‟s food (Schlosser 197).
With the brains of people like Carl Karcher and Ray Kroc, everybody started eating burgers and
soon, food started being something manufactured in giant processing plants. Food is no longer in
its natural shape. In the process of making the menu items uniform throughout the country, the
food has lost its nutritional value. There are even food designers whose job it is to make up
chemicals that mimic the original flavors and trick our senses quite easily. Considering these
arguments about how fast food has changed our nation, is it possible that it is also the reason
behind the poor health and obesity of this country? Is our need for a quick bite changing our
overall lifestyle and wellbeing? Some people may think that it‟s not the fast food industry so
much, but the size of America that has shaped it into an industrialized country that is driven by
the car culture. The landscape naturally follows this trait, and we need accommodations like an
easy place to pull up and get a quick bite. Maybe the industry is filling a void, and not so much
creating the problem. Maybe the size of the country is partly to blame for the rise of the industry,
but the industry has also changed America. I‟m going to investigate how the industry has directly
affected the people.

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There are many chapters in Fast Food Nation in which Schlosser demonstrates how every
step in the fast food business had a huge impact on America. Colorado Springs is used as a prime
example of how a city‟s design and workforce can alter by the industry. Fast food is something
that is identical everywhere we go. The landscape of America consists of fast food joint after fast
food joint. It‟s like driving through a giant supermarket with an endless choice of the same
options. The billboards showing Carl‟s Jr.‟s star or McDonald‟s golden arches are seen from far
away and the population is drawn in by the attraction. The landscape in America is almost the
same everywhere we go. With all this fast food all around us, naturally our culture has changed
because we have become so used to it. When the options are right there and they are so fast and
easy and cheap, it has made it the way we want to eat. Fast food has also changed our nation in
the sense that food production has all become centralized and corporate. The fast food
restaurants all have their specific way of making their food and they follow that method for all
their locations nationally. Businessmen like Carl Karcher and Ray Kroc created specialized
equipment to make the food, and they made sure that franchises across the nation created
identical output. As Schlosser says, it was like the franchises had to be “devoted to a new
faith”(Schlosser 95). It used to be that the nation relied on local family farms, but with fast food,
the production of food completely changed and now everything comes from giant corporate
farms and processing plants. Food production is done on an assembly line in mass production.
The food is so drained of its natural flavor and nutrients that there are even food designers who
make up chemicals that supposedly taste like the original food. Fast food also shaped America in
the sense that it has gotten people addicted to the flavors and artificial ingredients of the food.
People have gotten used to the taste and are accustomed to the flavor being the same every time
they have it because they know that the quality never changes and stays neutral. Our diet has

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become one of a culture that consists of getting bigger and bigger portion sizes of fast food
whether we know what it does to our health or not.
Schlosser goes into great detail about the history and development of each of these
aspects of how fast food has shaped America. Colorado Springs exemplifies how little
economies are born from city to city and state to state across the U.S. where franchises pop up
and bring jobs to an area. The very nature of franchising is bringing the same, the familiar, a
system that has been perfected, to all over the states and abroad. By doing this, you eliminate the
need for expert employees, or veteran employees. When you have a system that anyone can
easily follow, your employees can be of the lowest echelon, and this determines the population
that makes up a city. It‟s not just that the landscape is affected by fast food, but businessmen like
Ray Kroc are even using equipment like satellite photography to decide where they should open
up the next fast food joint (Schlosser 66). Regarding the fact that family farms are giving way to
corporate farms and processing plants, farmers are desperate for work because they‟re losing
their jobs. One change that really set the ground was the invention of the Chicken McNugget.
This made it so that people would no longer have to carve chicken, but would be able to eat
chicken behind the wheel. Because of this, a farm product turned into a manufactured product,
and this set the basis for how all other foods started being made. It‟s not an accident that
Americans are addicted to fast food. Studies show that “a person‟s food preferences are formed
during the first few years of life” (Schlosser 123). Our strong sense of smell makes us want to go
back to our early years of life. Those Happy Meals we eat as kids make us want to be loyal
customers for good (Schlosser 123).
Fast food is the symbol of America. The fast food industry has changed our nation and so
many people are affected by what fast food does to the body and mind. My first reason is that
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America has become used to getting a quick bite and cheap meal because Americans use the
excuse that they don‟t have time. America also has become sick because when they consume the
fast food they don‟t realize what the long term effects on their health is, such as E.coli or
salmonella poisoning, and long term problems like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart
attacks. My final and most important argument is that America has become a nation that is obese
and people don‟t do anything about their weight problems because it seems out of their control,
especially emotionally. I will be backing up my points while talking about each one of these
subjects with proof from Schlosser, my own personal experiences, and from an article.
The first way fast food has changed our nation is it has changed the way we eat. People
wake up at the crack of dawn and have to commute one to two hours to their jobs where they
may be only earning minimum wage. Because there are such great distances between work and
home, you see people doing everything from putting on makeup, to shaving, to eating behind the
wheel. People do not have time to go shopping and prepare meals. Fast food is an easy solution.
It‟s fast, it‟s cheap, and it‟s everywhere. In a country where people are drained of their energy,
what can they do but resort to fast food? Clever businessmen like Ray Kroc created fast food
chains to meet this need in the market, and now our nation has become addicted to this type of
living. I know from personal experience of traveling in Europe and specifically in Switzerland,
the lifestyle is completely different. People enjoy sitting around with friends at a café or
boulangerie having lively conversations over nice long dinners. I remember once when my
family was at Buca di Beppo in Old Town Pasadena, the waiter was nudging us to hurry up even
though we informed them we were celebrating my father‟s birthday. In other cultures, people
seem to have more time to enjoy with family and friends. Here in America, we are constantly
reminded by the fast food chains all around us that eating is something quick you just have to do
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to get out of the way. Even now with people trying to eat healthy and go to the gym, people still
don‟t make time and grab a protein shake or bar.
Fast food is not only taking us away from quality time with our family and friends, but
it‟s also making us sick. People might know fast food is unhealthy, but they keep eating it
because it‟s so tasty. What they don‟t know is that it is „highly processed” and is like “a blank
palette: whatever chemicals you add to them will give them specific tastes” (Schlosser 126). This
is not real food. We‟re literally just eating additives and artificial flavors that have no nutritional
content. A diet of fast food which is known to be high in saturated fat, sugar, sodium, and
cholesterol, surely increases the likelihood of conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and
heart attacks. The little bit of protein we get from fast food comes from cattle that are pumped
with hormones and fed dead animals and “waste products from poultry plants, including the
sawdust and old newspapers used as litter” (Schlosser 202). Since the fast food industry has
grown so big and the food is manufactured and run through the same processing plants, if one
shipment is contaminated, disease can spread like wildfire. One of the most infamous cases of a
food poisoning outbreak in the U.S. was in 1993, when Jack in the Box hamburger patties were
contaminated with E. coli 0157:H7. “More than seven hundred people in at least four states were
sickened by the Jack in the Box hamburgers, more than two hundred people were hospitalized,
and four died” (Schlosser 198). This was a national disaster.
My last and final point about how the fast food industry has shaped America is that
people have also become morbidly obese. From my own personal experience, when I was a child
I was like everyone else in America because I would depend on eating fast food and wanted to
get the easiest meal. As a child, I struggled with being made fun of for my weight problems
because I would eat fast food so much that it caused me to have sickness and high body fat
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content. I was so used to pulling up to a McDonald‟s or an In-N-Out with my brother and mom
that it was almost like second nature. America is known generally as an obese nation. As
Schlosser writes, “the United States now has the highest obesity rate of any industrialized nation
in the world” (Schlosser 240). This is why Americans have become so consumed about how
much food they eat and eat until they are full even if unnecessary. In “Supersizing America,”
Courtney Bailey states that obesity in America is so bad that we are fighting it the same way that
we‟re fighting terrorism (Bailey 441). Bailey considers both of these as anxieties that Americans
have. In her analysis of Morgan Spurlock‟s movie “Supersize Me,” Bailey says that in some
ways we try to get a hold of some of the anxieties that we have by eating them away on fast food.
I know that for example myself in my own personal experience that when I‟ve been depressed or
upset I would depend on fast food and eat when I‟m not even hungry. America is known for their
aggressive foreign policies and for trying to exert power over other countries for their own good.
Bailey believes, “Fatness stands for the destructive ways in which America throws its weight
around running roughshod over the rest of the global community” (Bailey 443). America doesn‟t
realize that it is getting so out of hand that people are eating to the extent that they are becoming
morbidly obese and they don‟t know when to stop.
With America‟s tendency to get a quick bite, the poor health of Americans, and the high
rate of obesity in this country, it‟s clear that fast food has changed our nation just as Schlosser
says. I believe one possible solution for America to follow is to maybe have politicians tell
people to get out and walk more when they get home or even to and from work. Another solution
is if employers don‟t require overtime as much. Americans will be able to cook more and have
more family meals together. This will also give people more time so they can possibly get a gym
membership or be able to have time to go take a run. America can raise minimum wage so that
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people don‟t have to rely on fast food. The government can require companies to give regular
physical exams at work to check obesity and maybe propose a diet plan that is company-wide
with incentives. In these arguments this all leads to my final statement that if America is no
longer lazy, and they get up, put some effort, and try to make a change our nation will no longer
be shaped by the fast food industry and we can pull ourselves out of the hole of the fast food
nation. If we don‟t solve this problem possibly in 50 years from now the nation might have
people that might not even be able to exit their room, more and more of these people will exist
and people might die while they are middle aged and won‟t be able to enjoy having
grandchildren. In a summary, this is why I believe that our nation has been shaped so much by
the fast food industry, but it is not too late and can quickly be turned around if we make the
changes and initiatives before it‟s too late.

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Schlosser, Eric. Fast Food Nation. New York: Perennial, 2001. Print.
Bailey, Courtney. “Supersizing America: Fatness and Post-9/11 Cultural Anxieties.” The Journal
of Popular Culture, Vol. 43, No. 3 (2010) 441-462.

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