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Fast-Food Nation: The True Cost Of America's Diet

By Eric Schlosser

After four decades, our o session !ith fast, chea" food has transformed our to!ns and flooded the la or mar#et !ith lo!-"ayin$, dead-end %o s& 's this a healthy menu( Cheyenne mountain sits on the eastern slope of Colorado's front range, rising steeply from the prairie and overlooking the city of Colorado Springs. From a distance, the mountain looks beautiful and serene, dotted with rocky outcroppings, scrub oak and ponderosa pine. And yet Cheyenne Mountain is hardly pristine. ne of the nation's most important military installations is located deep within it, housing operational units of the !orth American Aerospace "efense Command, the #nited States Space Command and the Air Force Space Command. $n the mid%&'()s, high%level officials at the *entagon worried that America's air defenses were vulnerable to sabotag and attack. Cheyenne Mountain was chosen as the site for a top%secret underground combat%operations center. +he mountain was hollowed out, and about ,)),))) tons of rock were removed. Fifteen buildings, most of them three stories high, were erected amid a ma-e of tunnels and passageways e.tending for miles. +he four%and%a%half%acre underground comple. was designed to survive a direct hit by a ten%kiloton atomic bomb. !ow officially called the Cheyenne Mountain perations Center, the facility is entered through massive steel blast doors that are three feet thick and weigh twenty tons each. *ressuri-ed air within the comple. prevents contamination by radioactive fallout or biological weapons. A heavily armed /uick%response team guards against intruders. +he place feels like the set of an early 0ames 1ond movie, with men in 2umpsuits driving little electric vans from one brightly lighted cavern to another.

A survey of American schoolchildren found that ninety-six percent could identify Ronald McDonald. The only fictional character with a higher degree of recognition was Santa Claus. The impact of McDonald s on the nation s culture! economy and diet is hard to overstate. "ts corporate sym#ol - the $olden Arches - is now more widely recognised than the Christian cross.

Fifteen hundred people work inside the mountain every day, maintaining the facility and collecting information from a worldwide network of radars, spy satellites, ground%based sensors, airplanes and blimps. +he perations Center tracks every man%made ob2ect that enters !orth American airspace or that orbits the earth. $t provides early warning of missile attacks. $t detects the firing of a long%range missile, anywhere in the world, before that missile has left the launch pad. Much of the work performed at the center is top% secret. +he hallways of its inner sanctum are painted slate gray, the ceilings are low and there are combination locks on every door. +he comple. was built to be self%sustaining for one month. $ts generators can produce enough electricity to power a medium%si-e city. $ts underground reservoirs hold 3 million gallons of water4 workers sometimes

traverse them in rowboats. $nside the mountain there is a fitness center, a chapel, a hospital, a dentist's office, a barber shop and a cafeteria. 5hen men and women stationed at Cheyenne Mountain are tired of the food in the cafeteria, they often send somebody over to the 1urger 6ing at Fort Carson, a nearby Army base. r they call the "omino's on South Academy 1oulevard in Colorado Springs. Almost every night of the week, a "omino's deliveryman winds his way up the lonely Cheyenne Mountain 7oad, past the stern no trespassing signs, past the security checkpoint at the entrance to the base, driving all the way up to the fortified !orth *ortal, tucked behind chain%link and barbed wire. At the spot where the road heads into the mountainside, the deliveryman drops off his pi--as and collects his tip. And should Armageddon come, should a foreign enemy someday shower the #nited States with nuclear warheads, laying waste to the continent, entombed within Cheyenne Mountain, along with the high%tech marvels, the pale%blue uniforms, comic books and 1ibles, future archeologists may find other clues to the nature of our civili-ation % 1ig 6ing wrappers, hardened crusts of Cheesy 1read, 1arbecue 5ing bones, and the red, white and blue of a "omino's pi--a bo.. "uring the last four decades, fast food has infiltrated every nook and cranny of American society. An industry that began with a handful of modest hot dog and hamburger stands in Southern California has spread to every corner of the nation, selling a broad range of foods wherever paying customers may be found. Fast food is now served not only at restaurants and drive%thrus but also at stadiums, airports, college campuses and elementary schools, on cruise ships, trains and airplanes, at 6marts, 5al%Marts, gas stations and even hospital cafeterias. $n &',), Americans spent about 83 billion on fast food. 9ast year they spent more than 8&)) billion on fast food.

Americans now spend more money on fast food than they do on higher education! personal computers! software or new cars. They spend more on fast food than on movies! #oo%s! maga&ines! newspapers! videos and recorded music - com#ined.

+he rapid growth of the fast%food industry has been driven by fundamental changes in the #.S. economy. +he hourly wage of the average American worker peaked in &',: and then steadily declined until last year. 5omen entered the work force in record numbers, often motivated less by feminism than by a need to help pay the bills. $n &',(, about a third of American mothers with young children worked outside the home4 today about two%thirds of such mothers are employed. As the sociologists Cameron 9ynne Macdonald and Carmen Sirianni have noted, the entry of women into the nation's work force has greatly increased demand for the types of services that housewives traditionally performed; cooking, cleaning and child care. +he fast%food industry has benefited from these demographic changes, supplying at low cost the meals no longer prepared in the home and hiring at low wages millions of young women in need of e.tra income.

+he Mc"onald's Corp. has become a powerful symbol of America's service economy, the sector now responsible for ninety percent of the country's new 2obs. $n &'3<, Mc"onald's operated about &,))) restaurants. +oday it has about =:,))) restaurants worldwide and opens roughly =,))) new ones each year. An estimated one of every eight Americans has worked at Mc"onald's. +he company annually trains more new workers than the #.S. Army. Mc"onald's is the nation's largest purchaser of beef and potatoes. $t is the second% largest purchaser of poultry. A whole new breed of chicken was developed to facilitate the production of Mc!uggets. +he Mc"onald's Corp. is the largest owner of retail property in the world. $ndeed, the company earns the ma2ority of its profits not from selling food but from collecting rent. Mc"onald's spends more money on advertising and marketing than does any other brand, much of it targeted at children. A survey of American schoolchildren found that ninety%si. percent could identify 7onald Mc"onald. +he only fictional character with a higher degree of recognition was Santa Claus. +he impact of Mc"onald's on the nation's culture, economy and diet is hard to overstate. $ts corporate symbol % the >olden Arches % is now more widely recogni-ed than the Christian cross. Almost twenty%five years ago, the farm activist 0im ?ightower warned of @the Mc"onaldi-ation of America.@ ?e viewed the emerging fast%food trade as a threat to independent businesses, as a step toward a food economy dominated by giant corporations and as a homogeni-ing influence on American life. Much of what he feared has come to pass. +he rise of the fast%food industry has been accompanied by important changes in how America's food is produced. +he centrali-ed purchasing decisions of large restaurant chains and their need for standardi-ed products have given a small number of corporations an unprecedented degree of power over the nation's food supply. Moreover, the success of the fast%food industry has encouraged other industries to adopt its business methods, filling America's main streets and malls with >aps and Coconuts, Maid 1rigades, *awn Marts and ?obby+own #SAs. Franchises and chain stores have in the last twenty%five years gained a forty percent share of all retail spending in the #nited States. Almost every facet of American life has now been franchised. From the maternity ward at a ColumbiaA?CA hospital to an embalming room owned by the ?ouston%based Service Corporation $nternational % @the world's largest provider of death%care services,@ which since &'3< has grown to include :,)&= funeral homes, :3( cemeteries and &(3 crematoriums, and which today handles the final remains of one of every nine Americans % a person can now go from the cradle to the grave without spending a nickel at an independently owned business.

Almost twenty-five years ago! the farm activist 'im (ightower warned of the McDonaldisation of America . (e viewed the emerging fast-food industry as a threat to independent #usinesses! as a sep toward a food economy domainated #y giant corporations and as a homogeni&ing influence on American life. Much of what he feared has come to pass.

+he key to a successful franchise, according to many te.ts on the sub2ect, can be e.pressed in a single word; uniformity. Franchises and chain stores must reliably offer the same product or service at numerous locations. Customers are drawn to familiar brands by an instinct to avoid the unknown. A brand offers a feeling of reassurance when its products are always and everywhere the same. @5e have found out . . . that we cannot trust some people who are nonconformists,@ declared 7ay 6roc, one of the founders of Mc"onald's, angered by some of his franchisees. @5e will make conformists out of them in a hurry. . . . +he organi-ation cannot trust the individual4 the individual must trust the organi-ation. . . .@ ne of the ironies of America's fast%food industry is that a business so dedicated to conformity was founded by iconoclasts and self%made men, by entrepreneurs willing to defy conventional opinion. Few of the people who built fast%food empires ever attended college, let alone business school. $n many respects, the fast%food industry embodies the best and the worst of American capitalism at century's end % its constant stream of new products, its innovative technology, its sophisticated mass%marketing techni/ues, its widening gulf between rich and poor. 5hile a handful of fast%food workers manage to rise up the corporate ladder, the vast ma2ority lack full%time employment, receive no benefits and constantly float from 2ob to 2ob. +he only Americans who earn lower wages today than fast%food workers are migrant farm workers. $n the fast%food restaurants of Colorado Springs, behind the counters, amid the plastic seats, in the changing landscape outside their windows, you can see all the virtues and destructiveness of our fast%food nation. +he recent growth of Colorado Springs parallels that of the fast%food industry4 during the last three decades, the city's population has more than doubled. Subdivisions, malls and chain restaurants are appearing in the foothills of Cheyenne Mountain and in the plains rolling to the east. +he 7ocky Mountain region as a whole has the fastest%growing economy in the #nited States, mi.ing high%tech and service industries in a way that may define America's work force in the century to come. And new restaurants are opening there at a faster rate than anywhere else in the country, an onslaught of new Subways, Schlot-ky's, 5affle ?ouses, *opeye's and +aco 0ohn's. +he sociologist >eorge 7it-er has attacked the fast%food industry for celebrating efficiency ahead of every other human value, calling the triumph of Mc"onald's @the irrationality of rationality.@ thers consider the industry proof of the nation's continued economic vitality, a /uintessentially American institution that appeals worldwide to millions who admire our way of life. As Mc"onald's loses market share to competitors like 5endy's, Carl's 0r. and 0ack in the 1o., more is at stake than stock options and dividends. *erhaps no other industry offers, both literally and figuratively, so much insight into the nature of mass consumption. +he typical American consumes about three hamburgers and four orders of french fries every week. 7oughly a /uarter of the nation's population buys fast food every day % and yet few people give the slightest thought to who makes it or where it comes from. +he changes prompted by fast food have occurred so /uickly and have been so all% encompassing that it is now hard to conceive of a world without hamburgers served in

brightly colored paper bo.es, without drive%thru windows, without the same restaurants making the same food the same way in almost every American city and town. +he basic thinking behind fast food has become the operating system of today's service economy, spreading identical retail environments throughout the country like a self%replicating code. +he value meals, two%for%one deals and low prices on the menu disguise the real costs of fast food. As the old saying goes; Bou are what you eat.

The Foundin$ Fathers


Carl !. 6archer is one of the fast%food industry's pioneers and, at age eighty%one, perhaps the last of its founding fathers. ?is career e.tends from the industry's modest origins in postwar Southern California to its current dominance of the American diet. ?is life story seems at once to be an old%fashioned tale by ?oratio Alger, a fulfillment of the American dream and a warning about unintended conse/uences. 6archer was born in &'&, on a farm near #pper Sandusky, hio. ?is father was a sharecropper. Carl had si. brothers and a sister. +heir father always told them, @+he harder you work, the luckier you become.@ Carl dropped out of school after the eighth grade, working twelve to fourteen hours a day on the farm. $n &':,, an uncle offered him a 2ob in Anaheim, California. ?e was twenty years old and si. feet four, a big, strong farm boy who had never set foot outside northern hio. +he drive to California took a week. 5hen he arrived in Anaheim % a small town surrounded by orange groves, lemon groves, ranches and modest farms % Carl said to himself, @+his is heaven.@ ?is uncle's business, 6archer's Feed and Seed Store, was located in the middle of downtown Anaheim. Carl worked there seventy%two hours a week, delivering goods to the local farmers who raised chickens, cattle and hogs. "uring Sunday services at St. 1oniface Catholic Church, he met an attractive young woman named Margaret ?ein-, who had grown up on a local farm. Carl became a fre/uent visitor to the ?ein- farm, which had ten acres of orange trees and a Spanish%style house. After returning briefly to hio, Carl went to work for the Armstrong 1akery in 9os Angeles. +he 2ob soon paid twenty%four dollars a week, si. dollars more than he had earned at the feed store. Carl and Margaret were married in &':' and had their first child within a year. Carl drove a truck for the bakery, delivering bread to restaurants and markets in 5est 9.A. ?e was ama-ed by the number of hot dog stands that were opening and by the number of buns they went through each week. 5hen Carl heard that a hot dog cart was for sale on Florence Avenue, across from the >oodyear factory, he decided to buy it. Margaret strongly opposed the idea and wondered where he'd find the money. Carl borrowed 8:&& from the 1ank of America, using his car as collateral, and persuaded his wife to give him fifteen dollars in cash from her purse. @$'m in business for myself now,@ he thought after buying the cart. @$'m on my way.@ Five months after Carl bought the cart, the #nited States entered 5orld 5ar $$ and the >oodyear plant became very busy. ?e soon had enough money to buy a second hot dog cart, which Margaret often ran by herself while their daughter slept nearby in the car.

)rom the maternity ward at a Colum#ia* (CA hospital to an em#alming room owned #y Service Corporation "nternational - the world s largest provider of deathcare services! which since +,-. /as grown to inlude 0!1+2 funeral homes! 0-3 cemeteries and +3- crematoriums - a person can now go from cradle to the grave without spending a nic%el at an independently owned #usiness.

Southern California in the &':)s and &'C)s gave birth to a new lifestyle that revolved around the automobile. @*eople with cars are so la-y, they don't want to get out of them to eatD@ said 0esse >. 6irby, the founder of an early drive%in restaurant chain. 6irby's first @*ig Stand@ was in +e.as, but the chain soon thrived in 9os Angeles alongside countless other food stands offering @curb service.@ "rive%ins like Stan's, *aul's, +iny !aylor's and 1ob's 1ig 1oy featured waitresses carrying trays of food to customers in their parked cars. +he waitresses, known as car hops, often wore short skirts and skimpy uniforms. +he drive%ins fit perfectly with the youth culture emerging in 9os Angeles; +hey offered a combination of girls and cars and late%night food. 1y the end of &'C:, Carl 6archer owned four hot dog carts in 9os Angeles. $n addition to running the carts, he still worked full time for the Armstrong 1akery. 5hen a restaurant across the street from the ?ein- farm went on sale, Carl decided to buy it. ?e /uit the bakery, bought the restaurant, fi.ed it up and spent a few weeks learning how to cook. n 0anuary &3th, &'C(, his twenty%eighth birthday, Carl's "rive%in 1arbe/ue opened its doors. +he restaurant was small and rectangular, with red tiles on the roof. "uring business hours, Carl cooked, Margaret worked behind the cash register and car hops served most of the food. After closing time, Carl cleaned the bathrooms and mopped the floors. 5hen 5orld 5ar $$ ended, business at Carl's "rive%in 1arbe/ue boomed, along with the economy of Southern California. Carl soon added grills to his hot dog carts and began serving hamburgers topped with a @special sauce.@ Every week, Carl made the sauce on his back porch, stirring it in huge kettles and pouring it into one%gallon 2ugs. Carl and Margaret bought a house in Anaheim five blocks from the restaurant, adding new rooms as the family grew. +hey eventually had twelve children. Anaheim slowly became less rural and more suburban. 5alt "isney bought up thousands of acres of local orange groves and started to build "isneyland. Carl's "rive%in 1arbe/ue prospered. And then Carl heard about a restaurant in the @$nland Empire,@ fifty miles east of 9os Angeles, that was selling high%/uality hamburgers for fifteen cents % twenty cents less than what Carl charged. ?e drove to E Street in San 1ernardino, a working%class, largely agricultural town, and saw the shape of things to come. 1rothers 7ichard and @Mac@ Mc"onald had run a successful San 1ernardino drive%in for years. 1y the end of the &'C)s, however, 7ichard and @Mac@ had grown dissatisfied with the drive%in business. +hey were tired of constantly looking for new car hops and short% order cooks as the old ones left for higher%paying 2obs elsewhere. +hey were tired of replacing the dishes and silverware their teenage customers broke or ripped off. +he brothers thought about selling the restaurant. $nstead, they tried something new.

+he Mc"onalds fired all their car hops in &'C<, closed their restaurant, installed a larger grill and reopened three months later with a radically new method of preparing food. +hey eliminated almost two%thirds of the items on the menu. +hey got rid of every item that had to be eaten with a knife, spoon or fork. +he only sandwiches now sold were hamburgers and cheeseburgers. +he brothers got rid of their dishes and glassware, replacing them with paper cups, bags and plates. +hey divided the food preparation into separate tasks performed by different workers. +he guiding principles of the factory assembly line were applied to the workings of a commercial kitchen. +he new division of labor meant that a worker had to be taught how to perform only one task. Skilled and e.pensive short%order cooks were no longer necessary. All of the burgers were sold with the same condiments; ketchup, onions, mustard and two pickles. !o substitutions were allowed. +he Mc"onald brothers now aimed for a family crowd, refusing to hire any female employees, who might attract teenage males. $n 1ehind the Arches F&''(G, a history of Mc"onald's, 0ohn F. 9ove notes the real significance of the new self%service system; @5orking%class families could finally afford to feed their kids restaurant food.@ After visiting San 1ernardino, Carl 6archer decided to open his own self%service restaurant. +he first Carl's 0r. 7estaurant opened in &'(3 % the same year that Mc"onald's launched its first ma2or franchising drive and America got its first shopping mall. Carl instinctively grasped that the car culture would change America4 he saw what was coming. +he star atop his drive%in sign became the mascot of his fast%food chain; a smiling star in little booties, holding a burger and a drink. ther entrepreneurs across the country were starting their own fast%food chains. +he fast% food business seemed risky, but the start%up costs were low. Anyone willing to work hard had a shot. 5illiam 7osenberg was an eighth%grade dropout who delivered messages for 5estern #nion, drove an ice cream truck and then in &'C3 opened a doughnut shop in Huincy, Massachusetts, that he would call "unkin' "onuts F@Bou pluck a chicken,@ he said, @you dunk a doughnut@G. >len 1ell was a former Marine in San 1ernardino who ate at the new Mc"onald's and decided to copy it, using the assembly%line system to make Me.ican food. ?is first +aco 1ell opened in &'3=. +homas S. Monaghan, the founder of "omino's *i--a, spent his childhood in a Catholic orphanage and in a series of foster homes, got kicked out of school in the tenth grade, 2oined the Marines, bought a pi--eria for 8')) in Bpsilanti, Michigan, in the early &'3)s, and met his wife while delivering a pi--a to her college dorm room. For every fast%food idea that swept the nation, there were countless others that never caught on. +here were chains with homey names like Sandy's, Carroll's, ?enry's and 5inky's. +here were chains with futuristic names like the Satellite ?amburger System and 6elly's 0et System. Most of all, there were chains named after their main dish; 1urger Chefs, 1urger Hueens, 1urgerville #SAs, Bumy 1urgers, +witty 1urgers, "undee 1urgers, 1iff 1urgers, .6. 1ig 1urgers and 1urger 1oy Food% %7amas. 1iff 1urgers were @roto%broiled@ beneath glowing /uart- tubes that worked 2ust like a space heater. "uring the &'3)s and early &',)s, the fast%food chains spread nationwide, opening near strip malls in the new commercial districts of the suburbs. 1etween &'3< and &',C, the

number of Mc"onald's restaurants tripled. 5all Street began to invest heavily in the business, and many of the early fast%food pioneers gave way to corporate management. +he hamburger wars in Southern California were especially fierce. ne by one, the old drive%ins closed, unable to compete against ine.pensive fast%food 2oints. Carl 6archer opened Carl's 0r. restaurants up and down the state of California, locating them near freeway offramps. $n &',3, the new corporate head/uarters of Carl 6archer Enterprises were built on the same land in Anaheim where the ?ein- farm had once stood. Carl 6archer now controlled the largest privately owned fast%food chain in the #nited States. ?is nickname was Mr. range County. ?e considered many notable Americans to be his friends, including 7onald 7eagan, 7ichard !i.on, Art 9inkletter, 9awrence 5elk and *at 1oone. ?e was a benefactor of Catholic charities, a 6night of Malta, a strong supporter of pro%life causes. ?e attended private masses at the Iatican with the pope. And then, despite all the hard work, Carl's luck began to change. "uring the &'<)s, C6E went public and opened Carl's 0r. restaurants in +e.as. +he new restaurants fared poorly, and the value of C6E's stock fell. $n &'<<, Carl was charged with insider trading by the Securities and E.change Commission. ?e had sold large blocks of C6E stock right before its price tumbled. ?e vehemently denied the charges but agreed to a settlement with the SEC and paid almost 8& million in fines. A few years later, some of Carl's real estate investments proved unwise. 5hen new subdivisions in Anaheim and the $nland Empire went bankrupt, Carl was saddled with many of their debts. ?e suddenly owed more than 8,) million to various banks. +he falling price of C6E stock hampered his ability to repay those loans. Carl searched for ways to save his company. ?e proposed selling Me.ican food at Carl's 0r. restaurants, but a number of top e.ecutives at C6E opposed the plan. Carl thought that C6E was being run into the ground. $t now felt like a much different company from the one he founded. A new management team had ended the longtime practice of starting every e.ecutive meeting with the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi and the pledge of allegiance. Carl insisted that his Me.ican%food idea would work and demanded that the board of directors vote on it. 5hen the board re2ected the plan, Carl tried to fire its members.

Customers are drawn to familiar #rands #y an instinct to avoid the un%nown. 4e cannot trust some people who are noncomformists ! declared Ray 5roc! a founder of McDonald s. 4e will ma%e conformists out of them in a hurry... The organisation cannot trust the individual6 the individual must trust the organi&ation....

$nstead, on ctober &st, &'':, the board voted ( to = to fire him. nly Carl and his son Carl 9eo opposed the firing. Carl felt deeply betrayed. ?e had known many of the board members for years4 he had made them rich. $n a statement released after his dismissal, Carl described the board as @a bunch of turncoats@ and called it @one of the saddest days@ of his life. At the age of seventy%si., after more than five decades in the business, Carl !.

6archer was prevented from entering his own office, and new locks were put on the doors. +he head/uarters of C6E are still located on the property where Margaret ?ein-'s family once grew oranges. +oday there are no orange groves in sight. +he population of Anaheim is now about =,(,))), almost thirty times larger than it was in the years before 5orld 5ar $$. n the corner where Carl's "rive%in 1arbe/ue once stood, there's a strip mall. !ear the C6E head/uarters there's an E..on station, a discount mattress store, a Shoe City, a 9as Iegas Auto Sales store and an offramp of the 7iverside Freeway. +he C6E building has a modern, Spanish design, with white columns, red%brick arches and dark plate%glass windows. 5hen $ visited recently, it was cool and /uiet inside. After passing a si.%foot wooden statue of St. Francis of Assisi on a stairway landing, $ was greeted at the top of the stairs by Carl !. 6archer. Carl looked like a stylish figure from the big%band era, wearing a brown checked 2acket, a brown tie and 2aunty two%tone shoes. ?e was tall and strong, and seemed in remarkably good shape. +he walls of his office were covered with pla/ues and mementos. ?e removed a framed ob2ect from the wall and handed it to me. $t was the original receipt for 8:=3 confirming the purchase of Carl's first hot dog cart. Eight weeks after being locked out of his office in &'':, Carl engineered a takeover of the company. +hrough a comple. series of transactions, a partnership headed by financier 5illiam *. Foley $$ assumed some of Carl's debts, received much of his stock in return and took control of C6E. Foley became the new chairman of the board. Carl was named chairman emeritus and got his old office back. Almost all of the e.ecutives who opposed him left the company. ?is Me.ican%food plan was adopted and has proved a tremendous success. "uring the past few years, Carl's 0r. has become one of the nation's most profitable fast%food chains. +he value of its stock has risen from about 8, a share to 8C3 a share. $n 0uly &'',, C6E purchased ?ardee's for 8:=, million, thereby becoming the nation's fourth%largest hamburger chain. Carl's 0r. restaurants will soon open all over the country, and the little star in booties may become a national icon. Carl seemed ama-ed by his own life story as he told it. ?e has been married to Margaret for fifty%eight years. ?e has lived in the same Anaheim house for forty%eight years. ?e has twenty granddaughters and twenty grandsons. ?e shares the genial optimism and good humor of his old friend 7onald 7eagan. @My whole philosophy is; !ever give up,@ he told me. @+he word can't should not e.ist. . . . ?ave a great attitude. . . . 5atch the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves. . . . 9ife is beautiful, life is fantastic.@ "espite the recent growth of C6E, Carl remains millions of dollars in debt. ?e has secured new loans to pay off the old ones. "uring the worst of his financial troubles, advisers pleaded with him to declare bankruptcy. Carl refused4 he'd borrowed more than 8< million from family and friends, and he would not walk away from his obligations. Every weekday he attends Mass at 3 a.m. and gets to the office by seven. @My goal in the ne.t two years,@ he said, @is to pay off all my debts.@

$ looked out the window and asked how he felt driving through Anaheim today, with all of its fast%food restaurants and malls. @5ell, to be frank about it,@ he answered, @$ couldn't be happier.@ +hinking that he'd misunderstood the /uestion, $ rephrased it, asking if he ever missed the old Anaheim, the ranches and farms. @!o,@ he said. Carl grew up on a farm without running water or electricity, and he had escaped a hard rural life. +he view out his window was not disturbing to him, $ reali-ed. $t was a mark of success. @*rogress,@ Carl said. @$ believe in progress. 5hen $ first met my wife, this road here was gravel . . . and now it's blacktop.@

The )inimum
"riving through the neighborhoods of Colorado Springs often seems like passing through layers of sediment in rock, each one providing a snapshot of a different era. "owntown Colorado Springs still has an old%fashioned, independent spirit. An eclectic mi.ture of locally owned businesses lines +e2on Street, the main drag. +he Chinook 1ookshop is as independent as they come % the sort of literate and civili-ed bookstore being forced out of business nationwide. An old movie palace that locals call the *eak, refurbished with lots of neon, has a funky charm that could never be mass produced. 5hen you leave downtown and drive northeast, however, you head toward a whole new world. +he north end of the city, near Colorado College, is full of old Iictorian houses and mission%style bungalows from the early part of this century. +hen come Spanish%style and adobe houses, which were popular between the world wars. +hen come split%level colonials and ranch%style houses from the golden age of suburbia. nce you cross Academy 1oulevard, you're engulfed by the hard, tangible evidence of what America became in the &'<)s and &'')s. $mmense subdivisions with names like Sagewood, Summerfield and Fairfa. 7idge blanket the land, thousands upon thousands of nearly identical houses % the architectural e/uivalent of fast food % covering the prairie without any respect for its natural forms, built on hilltops and ridge tops, 2ust begging for a lightning strike, ringed by gates and brick walls and puny, newly planted trees that bend in the wind. +he houses seem not to have been constructed by hand but manufactured by some gigantic machine. 7oads end without warning, and sidewalks run straight into the prairie. 1oth the physical and the cultural landscape of Colorado Springs seem up for grabs4 it is the fastest%growing city in one of the nation's fastest%growing states. Since &',), the population of the metropolitan area has increased from about =:),))) to about ()),))). Many of the people who have moved to the city once lived in Southern California. 9ongtime residents of Colorado Springs often complain that the town is being @Californicated.@ +hey blame recent arrivals for the new subdivisions, the rush%hour traffic and the fledgling youth gangs. ?ewlett%*ackard has come to the city from California, and so has Focus on the Family, one of the nation's richest conservative

Christian groups. All of the wild, contradictory impulses of the American 5est are on display in this modern boomtown. +he city has old hippies, environmentalists, a large gay community % and the head/uarters of the state's anti%gay movement. $t has twenty%nine Charismatic Christian churches and almost twice as many pawnbrokers4 a 9ord's Iineyard bookstore and a First Amendment adult bookstore4 a Christian Medical and "ental Society, and a ?oley 7ollers tattoo and body%piercing parlor. A century ago, Colorado Springs was a playground for the wealthy, nicknamed 9ittle 9ondon, populated by the offspring of Eastern financiers, penniless aristocrats and miners who'd struck it rich in nearby Cripple Creek. #ntil recently the local economy was for the most part dependent upon tourism and the military. $n addition to the Cheyenne Mountain perations Center, Colorado Springs is surrounded by installations belonging to the Air Force, the Army and the #.S. Space Command. +he advanced communication networks installed to serve the military and the high%tech nature of the local air bases have encouraged computer manufacturers, telemarketers and software companies to locate in the city. +he /uality of life is a big draw, as is the local attitude toward labor. A publication distributed by the chamber of commerce notes that among the city's private% sector manufacturing and office workers, the rate of union membership is ).) percent. +he restaurant industry is now the largest private employer in the state of Colorado % as it is in the rest of the country. $n Colorado Springs, the restaurant industry has grown at a much faster rate than the city's population. $n &'3<, Colorado Springs had a total of twenty chain restaurants. +oday it has twenty *i--a ?uts and twenty%one Mc"onald's. +he Mc"onald's Corp. has used Colorado Springs as a test site for some of its latest restaurant technology. Steve 1igari, who owns five Mc"onald's restaurants in town, showed me the new contraptions at his place on Constitution Avenue. $t is a rounded, postmodern Mc"onald's in a year%old shopping center on the eastern edge of the city. +he drive%thru lanes have automatic sensors buried in the concrete to monitor the progress of traffic. 7obotic drink dispensers select the proper%si-e cups, fill them with ice and then fill them with soda. 6etchup dispensers powered by compressed carbon%dio.ide gas shoot out uniform spurts of red li/uid. An elaborate machine empties fro-en french fries from a white plastic bin into wire%mesh containers for frying, dumps the containers into hot oil, lifts them a few minutes later, shakes them, lowers them back into the oil until the potatoes are perfectly cooked, and then dumps them under heat lamps, ready to be served. Computer screens in the kitchen instantly display the customer's order. And advanced computer software not only assigns food orders to various workers in order to ma.imi-e efficiency but also predicts future orders on the basis of ongoing customer flow. 1igari was cordial, good%natured, passionate about his work, proud of the new devices. ?e told me the new software brought the @2ust in time@ production philosophy of 0apanese automobile plants to the fast%food business % a philosophy that Mc"onald's has renamed Made for Bou. As he demonstrated one contraption after another % including a wireless, handheld menu that uses radio waves to transmit hamburger orders % a group of construction workers across the street put the finishing touches on a new subdivision called Constitution ?ills. Streets in the subdivision have patriotic names, and the cattle ranch down the road was for sale.

+he business historian Alfred ". Chandler believed that a high rate of @throughput@ is the most important aspect of a mass%production system. A factory's throughput is the speed and volume of its flow % a much more important measurement, Chandler argued, than the number of workers it employed or the value of its machinery. 5ith innovative technology and the proper organi-ation, a small number of workers could produce an enormous amount of goods ine.pensively. +hroughput is all about velocity and speed, about doing things faster in order to make more. Although the Mc"onald brothers had never encountered the term or studied @scientific management,@ they grasped the underlying principles. +he fast%food industry's obsession with throughput has turned kitchens into small factories, changed the way millions of Americans work and transformed familiar foods into commodities that are manufactured. At 1urger 6ing restaurants, fro-en hamburger patties are placed on a conveyor belt and emerge from a broiler ninety seconds later, fully cooked. +he ovens at *i--a ?ut and at "omino's also use conveyor belts to ensure a standardi-ed cooking time. +he ovens at Mc"onald's look like commercial laundry presses, with big steel hoods that swing down and grill hamburgers on both sides at once. +he only fresh ingredients at most fast%food restaurants are the salad greens, the tomatoes and some toppings. At +aco 1ell, the beef arrives fro-en and precooked in vacuum%sealed plastic bags. +he beans are dehydrated and look like brownish cornflakes. +he cooking process is simple. @Everything's 'add water,' @ a +aco 1ell employee told me. @0ust add hot water.@ Although 7ichard and @Mac@ Mc"onald introduced the division of labor to the restaurant business, it was a Mc"onald's e.ecutive named Fred +urner who created an operating system of unusual thoroughness and attention to detail. $n &'(<, +urner put together an operations%and%training manual for the company that was seventy%five pages long, specifying how almost everything should be done. ?amburgers were always to be placed on the grill in si. neat rows4 french fries had to be e.actly ).=< inches thick. +he Mc"onald's operations manual today has ten times the number of pages and weighs about four pounds. 6nown within the company as @the 1ible,@ it contains precise instructions on how various appliances should be used, how each item on the menu should look and how employees should greet customers. perators who disobey these rules can lose their franchises. +he regimentation and standardi-ation at fast%food restaurants gives managers an enormous amount of power over their employees. @5hen management determines e.actly how every task is to be done . . . and can impose its own rules about pace, output, /uality and techni/ue,@ the sociologist 7obin 9eidner has noted, @JitK makes workers increasingly interchangeable.@ +he management no longer relies upon the talents or skills of its workers % those things are built into the operating system and machines. 0obs that have been @de%skilled@ can be filled cheaply. +he need to retain any individual worker is greatly diminished by the ease with which he or she can be replaced. Fast%food employees are the largest group of low%paid workers in the #nited States today. +he nation has about a million farm workers, who earn an average of 8(.(< an hour % and =.( million fast%food workers, who earn an average of 8(.,C an hour. Although picking strawberries is far more difficult than cooking french fries, both 2obs are filled by people

who are generally young and unskilled. Moreover, the turnover rates for both 2obs are among the highest in the American economy. +he annual turnover rates in the fast%food industry now range from =)) percent to C)) percent, meaning that the typical fast%food worker /uits or is fired in three to si. months. +eenagers have long provided the fast%food industry with most of its work force. +he industry's rapid growth coincided with the baby%boom e.pansion of that age group. +eenagers were in many ways the ideal candidates for such 2obs. Since most teenagers still lived at home, they could afford to work for wages too low to support an adult, and until recently their limited skills attracted few other employers. A 2ob at a fast%food restaurant became an American rite of passage, a first 2ob soon left behind for better things. +he fle.ible terms of employment in the fast%food industry also attracted many housewives who needed e.tra income. As the number of baby boomers declined, the fast% food companies began to recruit other marginali-ed workers; recent immigrants, the elderly and the handicapped. +he fast%food industry has created millions of new 2obs at a time when other businesses have been firing workers. $t now employs some of the poorest, most disadvantaged members of American society. $t often teaches basic 2ob skills to people who can barely read, whose lives have been chaotic or shut off from the mainstream. 1ut the fast%food industry's attitude toward unions, overtime pay and the minimum wage suggests that its motives in employing the poor and the handicapped are not entirely altruistic. +he Mc"onald's Corp. insists that its operators follow directives on food preparation, purchasing, store design and countless other minute details. 5hen it comes to labor practices, however, the company's policy is strongly laisse- faire. +his allows operators to set wages according to local labor markets % and it absolves the Mc"onald's Corp. of direct responsibility for roughly three%/uarters of the company's work force. Mc"onald's' decentrali-ed hiring practices and the high turnover rate at its restaurants have helped thwart efforts to organi-e the company's workers. 5henever unions have threatened to overcome these obstacles, the Mc"onald's Corp. has suddenly shown tremendous interest in the well%being of these workers.

The restaurant industry is now the largest private employer in the state of Colorado - as it is in the rest of the country. "n Colorado Springs! the restaurant industry has grown at a much faster rate than the city s population. "n +,-,! it had a total of twenty chain restaurants. Today it has twenty 7i&&a (its and twenty-one McDonald s.

"uring the late &'3)s and early &',)s, Mc"onald's organi-ed a @flying s/uad@ of e.perienced managers who were sent to a restaurant the moment that the company suspected union activity. +he group was led by 0ohn Cooke, Mc"onald's' head of labor relations. According to author 0ohn F. 9ove, @Cooke's 2ob was to keep the unions out.@ Some employees were forced to take lie%detector tests, allegedly to root out union

sympathi-ers. Cooke confronted union organi-ers on C)) separate occasions and defeated them every time. 7obert 1eavers, a longtime Mc"onald's e.ecutive and board member, acknowledged that the flying s/uad's efforts in the early &',)s prevented unions from gaining a foothold at the company. $n April of this year, workers at a Mc"onald's in Macedonia, hio, went on strike for five days. 9ed by 1ryan "rapp and 0amal !ickens, two college students employed at the restaurant, the workers demanded better pay and protested the behavior of an assistant manager with a banner that read, @"id Somebody Say #n/ualified ManagementL@ After the leader of a +eamsters union in Cleveland e.pressed support for the strikers, the owner of the Mc"onald's agreed to most of the workers' demands. "rapp and !ickens later attempted to help unioni-e the restaurant, without success. +he two were fired in 0une after arriving for work with the word union painted on their faces. +he federal Fair 9abor Standards Act mandates that employees who work forty hours a week must be paid overtime for any additional hours. Few employees in the fast%food industry /ualify for overtime % and even fewer are paid it. 7oughly ninety percent of all fast%food workers are crew members. +hey are paid an hourly wage, scheduled to work as needed and often sent home during slow periods. Managers try hard to make sure that crew members work less than forty hours a week, thereby avoiding overtime payments. A small number of fast%food employees are paid regular salaries. At a hamburger restaurant with si.ty%five workers, perhaps four or five have a contract and fi.ed terms of employment. +hey usually receive medical benefits and participate in some form of profit sharing. +hey have an opportunity to rise up the corporate ladder. 1ut they also work long hours for low pay. A little%known provision of the Fair 9abor Standards Act e.cludes @e.ecutives@ from receiving overtime. Fast%food assistant managers have for years been classified as e.ecutives, despite the fact that much of their work involves preparing food, serving customers and mopping the floors alongside their employees. According to Marc 9inder, a professor at the #niversity of $owa 9aw School who speciali-es in labor%law issues, fast%food assistant managers working si.ty to seventy hours a week may actually earn a lower hourly wage than some of their own crew members. A promotion may be the eventual reward for such hard work4 yet most assistant managers will never receive that promotion. A class%action suit was filed against +aco 1ell in ctober &''3 by <)) of its former and present restaurant managers in California. +he suit contended that managers were routinely forced to perform nonsupervisory tasks, to work fifty to seventy hours a week without overtime and to destroy employment records as a matter of company policy. $t also alleged that +aco 1ell threatened to fire managers who sought to be paid for their overtime hours and encouraged the hiring of illegal aliens to control costs. $n &'',, +aco 1ell agreed to pay eligible managers for any uncompensated work. Alan 1. 6rueger, a professor of economics and public affairs at *rinceton #niversity, estimates that one%/uarter of the workers in the restaurant industry are paid the minimum wage % a higher proportion than in any other American industry. 1etween &'3< and &''), the years of the fast%food industry's rapid e.pansion, the real value of the federal

minimum wage declined by almost fifty percent. "espite the #.S. minimum wage's recent increase to 8(.&( an hour, its real value is still twenty%seven percent lower than it was in &'3<. !evertheless, the !ational 7estaurant Association strongly opposes any increase of the minimum wage at the federal, state or local level. +he organi-ation has 2oined with other business groups, such as the #.S. Chamber of Commerce, to fight against any new minimum%wage legislation in Congress. According to a survey in !ation's 7estaurant !ews, an industry trade publication, the average corporate%e.ecutive salary in the restaurant industry increased by roughly nine percent last year, while the average corporate%e.ecutive bonus rose by twenty percent to reach 8&:&,))). 7estoring the federal minimum wage to its &'3< level would add less than a dime to the cost of a fast%food hamburger. $n southern Colorado, the average worker earns about 8=(,))) a year4 the average restaurant worker earns about a third of that amount. Almost every fast%food restaurant in Colorado Springs has a banner or a sign that says, now hiring. +he competition between chains has led to price wars. Fast%food operators have little control over their fi.ed costs; their leases, franchise fees and purchases from company%approved suppliers. As a result, they are under constant pressure to keep wages as low as possible. From opening time until early afternoon, most of the fast%food workers appear to be immigrants, high school dropouts, middle%aged housewives and senior citi-ens. After that the work force behind the counter seems entirely adolescent, with teenagers taking orders, manning the grills and collecting plastic trays late into the night. 0ane +rogdon is a guidance counselor at ?arrison ?igh School, which is located near the interstate on the south side of town. She has worked at ?arrison since &'3< and has observed some significant changes in the daily lives of its students. +hey are much poorer today and much more likely to be employed for long hours after school, mainly at fast% food restaurants. About si.ty percent of the students at ?arrison ?igh come from low% income families. @More of our students now feel that they need to work in order to help their families and to help themselves,@ +rogdon said, @buying clothes, a car or things for their younger sisters and brothers.@ Although much has been written about the entry of women into the work force during the &'<)s, less attention has been paid to the effects of declining American wages on the nation's young people. +rogdon worries about the conse/uences of working si.% or seven%hour shifts after school. +he academic performance of these kids is bound to suffer. About a third of the students at ?arrison ?igh now attend trade school, college or beauty school after graduation4 the other two% thirds 2oin the military or go to work. +here is also the issue of workplace safety. +he most common workplace in2uries at fast% food restaurants are minor burns from the fryers, broilers and grills. +he industry's e.pansion, however, has coincided with a rising incidence of workplace violence in the #nited States. $n &''3, more than twice as many salesclerks, cashiers and retail managers were killed on the 2ob than police officers. Many of the features that make fast%food restaurants so convenient % such as their locations near highway offramps % also make them attractive targets for armed robbery. +he same demographic group that is widely employed at fast%food restaurants is also responsible for much of the nation's violent

crime. A robbery is most likely to occur early in the morning when the restaurant is empty or late at night near closing time. Employees are usually herded into the free-er4 then robbers empty the cash registers and the safe, and hit the road. +he &'<C massacre at a Mc"onald's restaurant in San Bsidro, California, received nationwide attention. +wenty%one people were killed by a lone gunman, and Mc"onald's later donated the property to the local community. 1ut crime and fast food have become so ubi/uitous in American society that their all%too%fre/uent combination often goes unnoticed. $n 2ust the past couple of years; Armed robbers struck nineteen Mc"onald's and 1urger 6ing restaurants along $nterstate Eighty%five in Iirginia and !orth Carolina. A former cook at Shoney's was arrested in !ashville, suspected of being a fast%food serial killer who had murdered as many as fifteen people, including employees at Mc"onald's, Shoney's, 1askin%7obbins, Captain "'s and 1rown's Chicken M *asta. A dean at +e.as Southern #niversity was shot and killed during a car2acking in the drive%thru lane of a 6entucky Fried Chicken in ?ouston. +he manager of a 5al%Mart Mc"onald's in "urham, !orth Carolina, was shot during a robbery by two masked assailants. A nine% year%old girl was killed during a shootout between a robber and an off%duty police officer waiting in line at a Mc"onald's in 1arstow, California. A twenty%year%old manager was killed during an armed robbery at a Sacramento, California, Mc"onald's. +he manager had recogni-ed one of the robbers, a former Mc"onald's employee4 it was the manager's first day in the 2ob. After being re2ected for a new 2ob at a Mc"onald's in Ialle2o, California, a former employee shot three women who worked at the restaurant4 one of the women was killed4 the murderer left the restaurant laughing. And in Colorado Springs, a 2ury convicted a former employee of first%degree murder for the e.ecution%style slayings of three teenage workers and a female manager at a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant. +he killings took place in Aurora, Colorado, at closing time, and police later arrived to find a macabre scene. +he bodies lay in an empty restaurant as burglar alarms rang, game lights flashed, a vacuum cleaner ran and Chuck E. Cheese mechanical animals continued to perform children's songs. +he American restaurant industry is now preoccupied with labor issues. Surveys of owners and managers consistently find that workers are their greatest source of worry. At the thirty%eighth annual Multi%#nit Food%Service perators Conference, held last ctober in 9os Angeles, the theme was @*eople; +he Single *oint of "ifference.@ Most of the &,C)) attendees were chain%restaurant operators and e.ecutives. +he ballroom at the Century *la-a ?otel was filled with men and women in e.pensive business suits, a well% to%do group whose members looked as though they hadn't grilled a burger or mopped a floor in a while. +he conference workshops had names like @"ual 1randing; Case Studies From the Field@ and @Segment Marketing; +he 7ight Message for the 7ight Market.@ Awards were given for the best television and radio ads. A restaurant chain was selected perator of the Bear. Food%service companies filled a nearby e.hibition space with their latest products; dips, toppings, condiments, high%tech ovens, breaded cheese sticks, the latest in pest control. +he leading topic of conversation in the meeting rooms, hallways and hotel bars was how to find ine.pensive workers in an American economy in which unemployment had fallen to a twenty%four%year low.

0ames C. "oherty, publisher of !ation's 7estaurant !ews and the organi-er of the event, gave a speech urging the restaurant industry to move away from a reliance on a low%wage work force with high levels of turnover and to promote labor policies that would create long%term careers in food service. ?ow can workers look to this industry for a career, he asked, when it pays them the minimum wage and provides them no health benefitsL "oherty's suggestions received polite applause. +he keynote speech was given by "avid !ovak, vice chairman and president of +ricon >lobal 7estaurants. ?is company operates more restaurants than any other company in the world % :),))) *i--a ?uts, +aco 1ells and 6entucky Fried Chickens. A former advertising e.ecutive with a boyish face and the earnest delivery style of a motivational speaker, !ovak charmed the crowd. ?e talked about the sort of recognition his company tries to give its employees; the pep talks, the pri-es, the special awards of plastic chili peppers and rubber chickens. ?e believed the best way to motivate people is to have fun. @Cynics need to be in some other industry,@ he said. Employee awards create a sense of pride and esteem, they show that management is watching, and they do not cost a lot of money. @5e want to be a great company for the people who make it great,@ !ovak announced. ther speakers talked about teamwork, empowering workers and making it @fun.@ "uring the *resident's *anel, the real sentiments of the assembled restaurant operators and e.ecutives became clear. !orman 1rinker % a legend in the industry, the founder of 1ennigan's and Steak and Ale, and the current owner of Chili's % spoke to the conference in language that was simple, direct and free of platitudes. @$ see the possibility of unions,@ he warned. +he thought @chilled@ him. ?e asked his listeners to support the industry's lobbying groups, the !ational 7estaurant Association and the Employment *olicy $nstitute. @And JSenatorK 6ennedy's pushing hard on a 8,.=( minimum wage,@ he continued. @+hat'll be fun, won't itL $ love the idea of that. $ sure do % strike me deadD@ As the crowd applauded 1rinker's call to fight against unions and the government, the talk about teamwork fell into the proper perspective.

*our Trusted Friend


7ay 6roc was the man who took the Mc"onald brothers' Speedee Service System and turned it into a fast%food empire. 6roc was not a button%down corporate e.ecutive. ?e was a high school dropout and 2a-- musician who played the piano at speakeasies and, on one occasion, at a bordello. ?e was funny, charismatic and indefatigable. Most of all, he was a brilliant salesman and promoter. 1orn in &')= and raised in ak *ark, $llinois, 6roc worked at his uncle's soda fountain as a high school freshman. +he 2ob taught him the 2oy of selling. @+hat was where $ learned you could influence people with a smile and enthusiasm,@ he recalled in his autobiography, >rinding $t ut, @and sell them a sundae when what they'd come for was a cup of coffee.@ ?e left school a year later, served in a 5orld 5ar $ ambulance corps with 5alt "isney, returned home and became a traveling

salesman. ver the years, 6roc sold ribbon novelties, paper cups, Florida real estate, low% fat malted%milk powder and a table%and%bench combination that folded into the wall like an ironing board. ?e used the same basic techni/ue to sell all of these products; @$'d learn what the buyer's taste was and sell to it.@ ?e was selling milkshake mi.ers in &'(C when he first visited the Mc"onalds' San 1ernardino restaurant. +he brothers were two of his best customers. +hey were satisfied with their wealth and had little ambition to work harder for more. 6roc saw their restaurant @through the eyes of a salesman@ and dreamed of putting a Mc"onald's at intersections across the country. 9ike his friend and fellow Midwesterner 5alt "isney, 7ay 6roc had an obsessive concern for cleanliness and control, created an American institution out of the optimistic ethos of postwar Southern California and brilliantly marketed products to the parents of young children. $n the early years of Mc"onald's, the company could not afford national advertising. 6roc used his talents as a promoter to charm reporters. ?is feelings about Mc"onald's developed an almost religious intensity, helping to convey a powerful, well%defined sense of the brand. Mc"onald's was to remain a place for children and families. 6roc soon discovered an effective way of bolstering Mc"onald's' family image and simultaneously getting free publicity. +he company began to link itself with various charities, especially those involving children. Fred +urner, the e.ecutive who put together the Mc"onald's operations manual, later admitted that the company's early charitable work had a hidden agenda. @5e got into it for very selfish reasons,@ +urner said to author 0ohn F. 9ove. @$t was an ine.pensive, imaginative way of getting your name before the public and building a reputation to offset the image of selling fifteen%cent hamburgers. $t was probably ninety%nine percent commercial.@ ver the last three decades, the well%known 7onald Mc"onald ?ouse Charities have provided housing for more than = million families of seriously ill children. +he concept was developed by a *hiladelphia advertising agency in &',C. 7ay 6roc innately understood that the marketing of his company was as important as the food it sold. @A child who loves our +I commercials,@ he e.plained, @and brings her grandparents to a Mc"onald's gives us two more customers.@ Mc"onald's now runs do-ens of radio and television ads every day in ma2or American markets. +he fast%food industry as a whole spends about 8C billion a year on advertising. $n addition to children, companies today aim many of their ads at @heavy users@ % men between the ages of eighteen and twenty%four, who often eat fast food three or four times a week. +he wry and ironic 0ack in the 1o. ads featuring 0ack, the violent "el +aco ads and the Carl's 0r. ads with sauce dripping onto a beautiful woman's dress have been e.tremely popular within this key demographic group. Companies are also increasing the si-e of their portions to attract heavy users. ?ardee's offers the Monster 1urger, 1urger 6ing sells the 1ig 6ing, Mc"onald's is introducing the 1ig Ntra, and 9ittle Caesar's gets right to the point, describing its pi--as as @1igD 1igD@ +he Monster 1urger contains a half pound of beef, three slices of cheese and eight strips of bacon. +he competition for young customers among the fast%food chains has led to a wide range of marketing alliances. Mc"onald's has 2oint promotions with the !ational 1asketball

Association and the lympics. +ricon >lobal 7estaurants has a three%year deal with the !ational Collegiate Athletic Association. *i--a ?ut has linked with "iscovery Oone, a chain of children's play centers. 1urger 6ing and the children's network !ickelodeon, Subway and +he Simpsons, "enny's and Ma2or 9eague 1aseball, Mc"onald's and the Fo. 6ids !etwork have all signed agreements that will mi. fast%food advertising with children's entertainment. America's fast%food culture has become indistinguishable from the popular culture of its children. $n May &''3, the 5alt "isney Co. signed a ten%year global%marketing agreement with the Mc"onald's Corp. A few months later, "isney hired a former 1urger 6ing e.ecutive to run its film%marketing division. +he deal with Mc"onald's followed a decade in which toys inspired by "isney films proved e.traordinarily successful at attracting children to fast%food restaurants. +he target audience for these promotions is children between the ages of two and seven. According to the 9os Angeles +imes, the budget for the "isney film >eorge of the 0ungle doubled after the alliance with Mc"onald's was signed. +he script was rewritten to include a scene in which the lead character eats a 1ig Mac, and a representative from Mc"onald's visited the set to ensure that the hamburger was properly displayed. Confidential documents from a recent Mc"onald's advertising campaign reveal some of the thinking behind fast%food marketing today. +he Mc"onald's Corp. was facing a long list of problems. @Sales are decreasing,@ one memo notes. @*eople are telling us 1urger 6ing and 5endy's are doing a better 2ob of giving . . . better food at the best price,@ another warns. Consumer research indicated that future sales were at risk. @More customers are telling us,@ an e.ecutive wrote, @that Mc"onald's is a big company that 2ust wants to sell . . . sell as much as it can.@ An emotional connection to Mc"onald's that customers had formed @as toddlers@ was now eroding. +he new advertising had to make people feel that Mc"onald's still cared about them. @+he challenge of the campaign,@ wrote a company vice president, @is to make customers believe that Mc"onald's is their '+rusted Friend.' @ According to these documents, the marketing alliances with other brands are intended to create positive feelings about Mc"onald's, making consumers associate one thing they like with another. Ads would link the company's french fries @to the e.citement and fanaticism people feel about the !1A.@ +he feelings of pride inspired by the lympics would be used in ads to help launch a new hamburger with more meat than the 1ig Mac. +he link with the 5alt "isney Co. is considered by far the most important, designed to @enhance perceptions of 1rand Mc"onald's.@ A memo seeks to e.plain the underlying psychology behind many visits to Mc"onald's; *arents take their children to Mc"onald's because they @want the kids to love them. . . . $t makes them feel like a good parent.@ *urchasing something from "isney is the @ultimate@ way to make kids happy, but it is too e.pensive to do every day. +he advertising needed to capitali-e on these feelings, letting parents know that @only Mc"onald's makes it easy to get a bit of "isney magic.@ +he ads would be aimed at @minivan parents@ and would carry an unspoken message about taking your children to Mc"onald's; @$t's an easy way to feel like a good parent.@

+he fundamental goal of the @My Mc"onald's@ campaign stemming from these proposals is to make a customer feel that Mc"onald's @cares about me@ and @knows about me.@ A corporate memo introducing the campaign e.plains; @+he essence Mc"onald's is embracing is '+rusted Friend.' . . . '+rusted Friend' captures all the goodwill and uni/ue emotional connection customers have with the Mc"onald's e.perience. . . . J ur goal is to makeK customers believe Mc"onald's is their '+rusted Friend.' !ote; +his should be done without using the words '+rusted Friend.' . . . Every commercial Jshould beK honest. . . . Every message will be in good taste and feel like it comes from a trusted friend.@ +he words trusted friend were never to be mentioned in the ads because doing so might prematurely @wear out a brand essence@ that could prove valuable in the future for use among different national, ethnic and age groups. "espite Mc"onald's' faith in its trusted friends, the opening page of this memo says in bold red letters; @Any unauthori-ed use or copying may lead to civil or criminal prosecution.@

Success
Matthew 6abong glides his '<: 1uick 9eSabre through the streets of *ueblo, Colorado, at night, looking for a trailer park called Meadowbrook. +wo 9ittle Caesar's pi--as and a bag of Cra-y 1read sit in the back seat. @5elcome to my office,@ he says, reaching down, turning up the radio and playing some mellow rhythm M blues. 6abong delivers pi--as four or five nights a week and earns the minimum wage, plus a dollar for each delivery, plus tips. n a good night he makes about fifty bucks. 5e cruise past block after block of humble little houses, whitewashed and stucco, built decades ago, with pickup trucks in the driveways and children's toys on the lawns. *ueblo is the southernmost city along the front range, forty miles from Colorado Springs, but for generations a world apart, largely working%class and 9atino, a union town with steel mills that was never chic like 1oulder, bustling like "enver or aristocratic like Colorado Springs. !o one ever built a polo field in *ueblo, and snobs up north still like to call it @the asshole of Colorado.@6abong was born in !igeria and raised in Atlanta. ?e's twenty%nine years old, studies electrical engineering at a local college and hopes to own a 7adio Shack someday. 5e turn a corner and find Meadowbrook. All the trailers look the same, slightly ragged around the edges, lined up in neat rows. 6abong parks the car, and when the headlights and radio shut off, the street feels empty and dark. +hen somewhere a dog barks, the door of a nearby trailer opens, and light spills onto the gravel driveway. A little white girl with blond hair, about seven years old, smiles at this big !igerian bringing pi--a, hands him fifteen dollars, takes the food and tells him to keep the change. 1ehind her there's movement in the trailer, a glimpse of a tidy kitchen, the flickering shadows of a television. +he wide gulf between Colorado Springs and *ueblo % a long%standing social, cultural, political and economic division % is starting to narrow. As you drive around the streets of *ueblo, you can feel the change coming, something palpable in the air. +hroughout the &'<)s, the unemployment rate in *ueblo hovered at about twelve percent, steel mills closed and nothing new was built. !ew things now seem to appear every month; an Applebee's, a 9one Star Steakhouse M Saloon, an live >arden, movie theaters, a ?ome

"epot. +he subdivisions are creeping south from Colorado Springs along the interstate, turning cattle ranches into acres of ranch%style homes. *ueblo has not boomed yet4 it seems right on the verge, about to become more like the rest, to be remolded. A recent strike at the city's last steel mill ended with all the strikers being fired and then replaced by scabs from out of state. +he regon Steel Co. broke the local union, once and for all. ut of about &,()) steel workers who went on strike in *ueblo, less than &() got their old 2obs back. +he rest are out of work, out of luck, and the scabs are doing 2ust fine. +he 9ittle Caesar's where 6abong works is in the 1elmont section of town, across the street from a "unkin' "onuts and not far from the #niversity of Southern Colorado campus. +he small s/uare building that the 9ittle Caesar's occupies used to house a >odfather's *i--a and, before that, a "airy 1ar. +he restaurant has half a do-en brown Formica tables, red%brick walls, a gumball machine near the counter, white%and%brown% flecked linoleum floors. +he place is clean but has not been redecorated for years. +he customers who drop by or call for pi--a are students, people with large families, ordinary working people and the poor. 9ittle Caesar's pi--as are large and ine.pensive, often providing enough food for a few meals. Five crew members work in the kitchen, putting toppings on pi--as, putting the pi--as in the oven, getting drinks, taking orders over the phone. Marisio, a nineteen%year%old kid with two kids of his own, slides a pi--a off the old 1lodgett oven's conveyor belt. ?e makes 83.() an hour. Adam, another driver, waits for his ne.t delivery, wearing a yellow 9ittle Caesar's shirt that says think bigD "ave Feamster, the owner of the restaurant, seems completely at ease behind the counter, hanging out with his 9atino employees and customers % but at the same time he seems completely out of place here. Feamster was born and raised in a working%class neighborhood of "etroit. ?e grew up playing in youth%hockey leagues and later attended college in Colorado Springs on an athletic scholarship. ?e was an all%American during his senior year, a defenseman picked by the Chicago 1lack ?awks in the college draft. After graduating from Colorado College with a degree in business, Feamster played in the !ational ?ockey 9eague. +he 1lack ?awks reached the playoffs during his first three years on the team, and Feamster got to play against some of his idols, like 5ayne >ret-ky and Mark Messier. n March &Cth, &'<C, Feamster was struck from behind by *aul ?olmgren during a game with the Minnesota !orth Stars. Feamster never saw the hit coming and slammed into the boards headfirst. ?e felt da-ed but played the rest of the game. 9ater, in the shower, his back started to hurt. An N%ray revealed a stress fracture of a bone in his lower back. For the ne.t three months, Feamster wore a brace that e.tended from his chest to his waist. +he cracked bone didn't heal. At practice sessions the following autumn, he didn't feel right. +he 1lack ?awks wanted him to play, but a physician at the Mayo Clinic e.amined him and said, @$f you were my son, $'d say, 'Find another 2ob4 move on. . . .' @ Feamster worked out for hours at the gym every day, trying to strengthen his back. ?e lived with two other 1lack ?awks players. Every morning the three of them would eat breakfast together, then his friends would leave for practice and Feamster would find himself 2ust sitting there at the kitchen table.

+he 1lack ?awks never gave him a goodbye handshake or wished him good luck. ?e wasn't even invited to the team Christmas party. +hey paid off the remainder of his contract, and that was it. ?e floundered for a year, feeling totally lost. ?e had a business degree but had spent most of his time in college playing hockey. ?e didn't know anything about business. ?e enrolled in a course to become a travel agent. ?e was the only man in a classroom full of eighteen% and nineteen%year%old women. After three weeks, the teacher asked to see him after class. ?e went to her office, and she said; @5hat are you doing hereL Bou seem like a sharp guy. +his isn't for you.@ ?e dropped out of travel% agent school that day. ?e drove around aimlessly, listening to a 1ruce Springsteen tape and wondering what the hell to do. At a college reunion in Colorado Springs, an old friend suggested that he become a 9ittle Caesar's franchisee. Feamster had played on youth%hockey teams in "etroit with the sons of the company's founder. ?e was too embarrassed to call them and ask for help. ?is friend dialed the phone. 5ithin weeks, Feamster was washing dishes and making pi--as at 9ittle Caesar's restaurants in Chicago and "enver. $t felt a long, long way from the !?9. 1efore gaining the chance to own a franchise, he had to spend months learning every aspect of the business. At first he wondered whether this was a good idea. +he 9ittle Caesar's franchise fee was 8&(,))), almost all the money he had left in the bank. 1ecoming a franchisee is an odd combination of starting your own business and going to work for someone else. Franchising schemes have been around in one form or another for more than a century. $t was the fast%food industry, however, that turned franchising into a business model that would transform the retail economy of the #nited States. At the heart of a franchise arrangement is the desire by two parties to make money while avoiding risk. +he franchiser wants to e.pand an e.isting business without spending its own funds. +he franchisee wants to run a business without going it alone and risking everything on a new idea. ne provides a brand name, a business plan, e.pertise, access to e/uipment and supplies. +he other puts up the money and does the work. "uring the &'()s, franchising provided an effective means for fast%food chains % an entirely new form of business % to /uickly e.pand using other people's money. +raditional methods of raising capital were not easily available to the founders of these chains, the dropouts and drive%in owners who lacked @proper@ business credentials. +he relationship has its built%in tensions. +he franchiser gives up some control by not wholly owning each operation4 the franchisee sacrifices a great deal of independence by obeying the company rules. Everyone is happy when the profits are rolling in, but when revenues fall, the arrangement often degenerates into a mismatched battle for power. +he franchiser almost always wins. +he franchise agreement that "ave Feamster signed gave him the right to open 9ittle Caesar's restaurants in the *ueblo, Colorado, area. $n addition to the franchise fee, he had to promise the company five percent of his revenues and contribute an additional four percent to an advertising pool. Most 9ittle Caesar's franchisees have to supply the capital for the purchase or construction of their own restaurants. Since Feamster did not have the

money, the company gave him a loan. 1efore ever selling a single pi--a, he was 8=)),))) in debt. Although Feamster had spent four years in college at Colorado Springs, less than an hour away, he'd never visited *ueblo. ?e rented a small house near his new restaurant, in a neighborhood full of steelworkers, the sort of neighborhood where he'd grown up. ?e e.pected to stay there for 2ust a few months but wound up living there alone for si. years, pouring all his energy into his business. ?e opened the restaurant every morning and closed it at night, delivered pi--as, took the receipts to the bank. ?is lack of e.perience in the restaurant business was balanced by his skill at getting along with all sorts of different people. 5hen an elderly customer phoned him and complained about the /uality of a pi--a, Feamster listened patiently, appreciated her concern and hired her to handle future customer complaints. $t took Feamster three years to pay off his initial debt. +oday he owns five 9ittle Caesar's restaurants, three in *ueblo and two in the nearby small towns of 9a 0unta and 9amar. ?is annual revenues are about 8=.( million. ?e employs fifty%three people, five of them full time. ?e earns a good income but lives modestly and without pretension. 5hen $ visited a restaurant operated by a rival pi--a chain, the company flew a publicist from !ew Bork to Colorado Springs to accompany me at all times. Feamster gave me free rein to interview his employees in private and to poke around his business for as long as $ liked. ?e said there was nothing to hide. ?is small office behind the 1elmont store, however, is in an advanced state of disarray, crammed with stacks of sagging banker's bo.es. 5hile his competitors use computeri-ed operating systems that take a customer's order and instantaneously display it on television monitors in the kitchen, Feamster's restaurants remain firmly planted in the era of ballpoint pens and yellow paper receipts. ?e worries that *apa 0ohn's will soon enter his area. *apa 0ohn's is one of the fastest% growing fast%food chains in the country, selling delu.e pi--as from shiny new stores. +he 9ittle Caesar's chain has been losing market share for the past few years. Feamster's continued success now depends largely on how his employees treat his customers every day. Feamster has established roots in the local community. ?is girlfriend is a fifth%generation native of *ueblo, a schoolteacher. ?e's coached local youth%hockey leagues for years. And he recently helped to organi-e the city's first high school hockey team, which is composed of players from all the schools in the district. Feamster paid for their uniforms and e/uipment, and serves as assistant coach. +he ma2ority of the players are 9atino, from the sort of backgrounds that do not have a long and illustrious tradition on the ice. +he team's record last year against Colorado Springs high schools, which have popular and well%established hockey programs, was &)%3. Fourteen of Feamster's employees meet at the 1elmont store around seven o'clock on a +uesday morning. Feamster has tickets to an event called *eter 9owe's Success at the Mc!ichols Sports Arena, in "enver. $t starts at <;&( in the morning, runs until si. in the evening and features a do-en guest speakers, including ?enry 6issinger, 1arbara 1ush and former 1ritish *rime Minister 0ohn Ma2or. +he event is being sponsored by a group

called *eter 9owe $nternational, the Success Authority. +he tickets cost Feamster ninety dollars each. ?e's rented a van and given these employees the day off. ?e doesn't know e.actly what to e.pect from the event but hopes to provide a day to remember. Feamster wants his young workers to see that @there's a world out there beyond the south side of *ueblo.@ +he parking lot at the Mc!ichols Arena is 2ammed. +he event has been sold out for days. Men and women leave their cars and walk briskly toward the arena. +here's a bu-- of anticipation. *ublic figures of this stature don't appear in "enver every week. +he arena is filled with &<,))) people, and almost every single one of them is white, clean%cut and prosperous. +hey are small%business owners, salespeople, middle managers. $n the hallways and corridors where you'd normally buy hot dogs and "enver !uggets memorabilia, *eter 9owe's Success Bearbook is being sold for 8&'.'(, American Sales 9eads on C"%7 M are available for 8:,(, and Oig Oiglar is offering Secrets of Closing the Sale Fa twelve%tape collectionG for 8&=) and Everything of Oig's Fforty%seven tapes, five books and eleven videosG for the discount price of 8''(. *eter 9owe has been staging these large%scale events since &''&. ?e's a thirty%nine%year% old Canadian @success authority@ with a home in +ampa, Florida. ?is parents were Anglican missionaries who gave up the material comforts of middle%class life in Iancouver to work among the poor of $ndia and *akistan. 9owe was raised in Mussoorie, $ndia, but he chose a different path. $n &'<&, he /uit his 2ob as a computer salesman and organi-ed his first @success seminars.@ +he appearance of 7onald 7eagan at one of these events soon encouraged other celebrities to endorse *eter 9owe's work. $n return he pays them a fee of between 8:),))) to 8(),))) for a speech % for about half an hour of work. Among those who've recently 2oined 9owe onstage are >eorge 1ush, liver !orth, 1arbara 5alters, Mikhail >orbachev, Colin *owell, Charlton ?eston, "r. 0oyce 1rothers and Mario Cuomo. 7achel Ias/ue-, the manager of the 1elmont 9ittle Caesar's, can hardly believe that she's sitting among so many people who own their own businesses, among so many e.ecutives in suits and ties. +he 9ittle Caesar's employees have seats 2ust a few yards from the stage. +hey've never seen anything like this. Although the arena is huge, it seems as though these fourteen fast%food workers from *ueblo can almost reach out and touch the famous people onstage. @Bou are the elite of America,@ 1rian +racy, author of +he *sychology of Selling, tells the crowd. @Say to yourself; '$ like meD $ like meD $ like meD' @ ?e is followed by ?enry 6issinger, who tells some foreign%policy anecdotes. And then *eter 9owe's attractive wife, +amara, leads the audience in a dance contest4 the winner gets a free trip to "isneyland. Four contestants climb onstage and do-ens of beach balls are tossed into the crowd as the sound system blasts the 1each 1oys' @Surfin' #SA.@ +housands of people start dancing and bouncing the striped balls into the air. 1arbara 1ush is ne.t, arriving to @Fanfare for the Common Man,@ her smile pro2ected onto two gigantic television screens. She tells a story that begins, @5e had the whole gang at 6ennebunkport. . . .@

5hen *eter 9owe arrives, fireworks go off and multicolored confetti drops from the ceiling. ?e is a slender, red%headed man in a gray double%breasted suit. ?e advises the audience to be cheerful, to train themselves for courage, to feed themselves with optimism and never /uit. ?e recommends his tape series, Success +alk, on sale at the arena, which promises a monthly interview with @one of the most successful people of our time.@ After a short break, he reveals what is ultimately necessary to achieve success. @9ord 0esus, $ need you,@ *eter 9owe asks the crowd to pray. @$ want you to come into my life and forgive me for the things $'ve done.@ As the loudspeakers play the theme song from Chariots of Fire, 9owe wheels Christopher 7eeve onstage. +he crowd applauds wildly. 7eeve's handsome face is framed by longish gray hair. A respirator tube e.tends from the neck of his blue sweat shirt to a s/uare bo. on the back of his wheelchair. 7eeve describes how it once felt to lie in a hospital bed at two o'clock in the morning, alone and unable to move and thinking that daylight would never come. ?e thanks the crowd for its support and confesses that the applause is one reason he appears at these events4 it helps to keep his spirits up. ?e donates the speaking fees to groups that conduct spinal%cord research. ?e has a strong voice but needs to pause for breath after every few words. @$'ve had to leave the physical world,@ he says. A stillness falls upon the huge arena. @1y the time $ was twenty%four, $ was making millions,@ he continues. @$ was pretty pleased with myself. . . . $ was selfish and neglected my family. . . . Since my accident, $'ve been reali-ing . . . success means something /uite different.@ Members of the audience start to weep. @$ see people achieve these conventional goals,@ he says in a mild, even tone. @!one of it matters.@ ?is words cut through all the snake oil of the last few hours, calmly and with great precision. All of those in the arena, no matter how greedy or eager for promotion, all &<,))) of them, know deep in their hearts that what 7eeve has 2ust said is true % too true. +heir latest schemes, their plans to market and subdivide and franchise their way up, the whole spirit now gripping Colorado, seem to vanish in an instant. Men and women up and down the aisles wipe away tears, touched not only by what this famous man has been through but also by a sudden awareness of something hollow in their own lives, something gnawing and unfulfilled. Moments after 7eeve is wheeled off the stage, nutritionist 0ack >roppel, the ne.t speaker, walks up to the microphone and starts his pitch; @+ell me, friends, in your lifetime, have you ever been on a dietL@

McDonald's feeling the heat


October 23, 2002 BY SANDRA GUY BUSINESS REPORTER McDonald's Corp., hit by declining U.S. sales and weak earnings, said Tuesday it will slash nearly in half its planned restaurant openings next year, re a!p old restaurants and cut costs through layoffs. Skeptical analysts say the "ak #rook co!pany's spending plans fall far short of what's needed to turn around sluggish sales, and they $uestion how $uickly McDonald's can i!pro e its restaurants' ser ice and $uality to fend off growing co!petition. %ndeed, McDonald's third&$uarter earnings dropped '' percent fro! a year ago, to ()*+., !illion, !arking the se enth ti!e in the last eight $uarters the co!pany fell short of year&earlier results. Sales at restaurants open at least a year declined - percent in the $uarter, including a ..* percent drop in the United States. /xecuti es conceded the co!pany needs 0significant i!pro e!ent0 in sales to achie e its full& year earnings target of ('.)- a share, excluding unusual ite!s. 1inancial analysts also are pu22led by McDonald's plan to tighten the corporation's already considerable grip on its franchisees by ending a policy that let franchisees in the United States own their own restaurants. The !o e suggests the franchisees are balking at taking on !ore debt fro! McDonald's lending ar! to open new restaurants, especially when profit !argins are ra2or thin, financial obser ers said Tuesday. 3s a result, McDonald's will buy back an undisclosed nu!ber of existing U.S. franchisee&owned buildings, and shoulder the (,45 !illion cost of building +55 new McDonald's restaurants worldwide in .55-&&)45 fewer than in .55. and 4'5 fewer than in .55'. "nly '55 of the new McDonald's restaurants will be built in the United States, co!pared with .'5 in /urope, .55 in 3sia&6acific, ,5 in Canada and fewer than .5 in econo!ically turbulent 7atin 3!erica. /xecuti es said the policy re ersal will enable the strongest McDonald's franchisees to run !ore restaurants, and will free up franchisees to rein est in their stores. McDonald's will weed out weak restaurants by red&flagging those that consistently score lower than *5 percent on McDonald's internal e aluations of $uality, ser ice and cleanliness, or those that recei e scores in the botto! .5 percent during 0!ystery shops,0 in which third&party e!ployees isit restaurants unannounced. The co!pany also is re iewing franchisee operations o erseas to deter!ine whether they, too, need restructuring, said McDonald's C/" 8ack 9reenberg. 3bout *5 percent of McDonald's -5,555 restaurants worldwide are run by franchisees.

The renewed focus on i!pro ing existing stores will result in re!odeling, relocating or rebuilding !ore than .,555 U.S. McDonald's restaurants o er the next year at a cost of (-55 !illion to ()55 !illion. :e!odeling will include updated !enu boards, enhanced dri e&through ser ice, refurbished eating areas and bathroo!s, expanded front&counter areas and self&ser ice be erage islands. %f franchisees fail to show a '4 percent co!bined sales increase in the first two years after a re!odeling or rebuilding, McDonald's will increase their rent. Since McDonald's won't reali2e a return on its reno ated restaurants for '5 years, executi es are pinning their hopes for $uick growth on new technology, non&ha!burger restaurants and new store concepts. 1or exa!ple, McDonald's will double the nu!ber of Chipotle Mexican restaurants it will open next year, to ')5. Chipotle had .'. restaurants as of Sept. -5. 3sked about reports McDonald's plans to lay off se eral hundred ad!inistrati e e!ployees, 9reenberg said ''it is likely there will be so!e ;ob loss'' once a re iew of worldwide expenses is co!pleted. ''<e hope it won't be significant, but we don't know yet.'' The layoff news co!es at the sa!e ti!e as re elations, first reported by Crain's Chicago #usiness, that 9reenberg and fi e other top executi es will retain so!e or all of their salaries in the for! of consulting contracts for !ore than six years after they retire. 9reenberg $ualifies for the plan in 3pril, when he could retire with a consulting deal worth (=.4 !illion, plus benefits, according to the report. 3nother beneficiary is 8a!es 3. Skinner, president and C/" of McDonald's <orldwide :estaurant 9roup, who could recei e !ore than (..= !illion if he lea es at year's end, Crain's reported. Two for!er executi es already are reaping the plan's benefits> 1or!er McDonald's Corp. 6resident 8a!es :. Cantalupo will recei e (4.= !illion, and 3lan D. 1eld!an, for!er president and chief operating officer for the 3!ericas who resigned March ', recei ed a (- !illion se erance, according to the report. McDonald's shares ;u!ped as high as = percent Tuesday before closing at ('*.=4, up -.+ percent. The shares ha e tu!bled -* percent in the third $uarter, the fourth&biggest decline a!ong the -5&!e!ber Dow 8ones %ndustrial 3 erage, and hit a se en&year low of ('4.,4 on "ct. '5. Contributing> AP, Bloomberg News +ollin$ Stone ma$a,ine -.SA/, 'ssue 012, Se"tem er 3rd 4115

Fast-Food Nation: )eat and 6otatoes


By National )a$a,ine A!ard !inner Eric Schlosser
6art T!o. 6art One

From slau$hterhouse to Styrofoam, the dar# side of the American diet A generation ago, three%/uarters of the meals consumed in the #nited States were made at home. +oday, most of the meals that Americans eat are prepared outside the home, mainly at fast%food restaurants. +he rise of the fast%food industry has changed not only what Americans eat but also how their meals are made % at every step, from the farm to the ovens in a commercial kitchen. Aside from the salad greens, tomatoes and some toppings, most fast food arrives at the restaurant fro-en, canned, dehydrated or free-e% dried. A fast%food kitchen is merely the final stage in a vast system of mass production. America's favorite foods, like its automobiles and television sets, are now manufactured by computeri-ed, highly automated machines. $n much the same way that 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. +he centrali-ed purchasing decisions of large restaurant chains and their demand for standardi-ed products have given a handful of multinational corporations an unprecedented degree of power over the nation's food supply. "uring the &'<)s, while the virtues of the free market were being proclaimed, giant agribusiness companies % such as Cargill, ConAgra and $1* % gained control of one agricultural market after another. +he concentration of power in the food%processing industry has driven down the prices offered to American farmers. $n &'<), about thirty% seven cents of every consumer dollar spent on food went to the farmer. +oday, only twenty%three cents goes to the farmer % a decline of forty percent. Family farms are now being replaced by gigantic corporate farms with absentee owners. 7ural communities are losing their middle class and becoming socially stratified, divided among a small wealthy elite and large numbers of the working poor. +he hardy, independent farmers whom +homas 0efferson considered the bedrock of democracy are truly a vanishing breed. +he #nited States now has more prison inmates than full%time farmers. $n the potato fields and processing plants of $daho, in the ranch lands of Colorado, in the feedlots and slaughterhouses of the high plains, you can see the effects of fast food on the nation's rural life, its environment, its workers % and its health. Farmers and ranchers, the icons of the American 5est, are losing their independence, essentially becoming hired hands for the giant multinationals, or being forced off the land entirely. 7ecent changes in the beef industry have made meatpacking the most dangerous 2ob in the #nited States and

have introduced a deadly pathogen, E. coli &(,;?,, into hamburger meat, a food mass% marketed to children. And the values, the culture and the industrial arrangements of our fast%food nation are more and more being e.ported to the rest of the world. A hamburger and french fries are an ine.pensive, convenient meal. 1ut the real cost of America's love affair with fast food is not always reflected in the price on the menu. After all, you are what you eat.

)r& S6.D
+o reach the 0.7. Simplot plant in Aberdeen, $daho, you drive through downtown Aberdeen Fpopulation &,C))G, past the modest shops on Main Street. +hen turn right at the +iger ?ut, a hamburger stand named for the local high school football team, cross the railroad tracks where the freight cars are loaded with sugar beets, drive about a /uarter of a mile and you're there. $t smells like someone is cooking potatoes. +he Simplot plant is low and s/uare, clean and neat, with a big American flag flying out front. Steam rises from a narrow chimney on the roof. Aberdeen sits in the heart of 1ingham County, which grows more potatoes than any other county in the #nited States4 the Simplot plant runs twenty%four hours a day, :&) days a year, turning potatoes into french fries. $t's a small facility by industry standards, built in the late &'()s. $t processes about a half%million pounds of potatoes a day.

"n much the same way that the fast-food industry changed our retail economy! eliminating small #usinesses and encouraging the spread of uniformity! fast food has transformed American agriculture.

$nside the building, a ma-e of red conveyor belts crisscrosses in and out of machines that wash, sort, peel, slice, blanch, blow%dry, fry and flash free-e potatoes. 5orkers in white coats and hard hats keep everything running smoothly, monitoring the controls, checking the fries for imperfections. +he place has a cheery, Eisenhower%era feeling, as though a fantasy of technological progress, of better living through fro-en food, has come to life. 9ooming over the whole enterprise is the spirit of one man; 0ohn 7ichard Simplot, America's great potato baron, whose willingness to take risks and seemingly ine.haustible energy built an empire based on french fries. $n many ways, Simplot embodies the contradictory traits that have guided the development of the American 5est, an odd mi. of rugged individualism and dependence on public land and resources. $n a portrait that hangs above the reception desk at the Aberdeen plant, 0.7. Simplot has the sly grin of a gambler who has scored big. Simplot was born in &')'. ?is family left "ubu/ue, $owa, the following year and eventually settled in $daho. +he Snake 7iver 7eclamation *ro2ect promised cheap water for irrigation, funded by the government, that would convert the desert of southern $daho into lush farmland. Simplot's father became a homesteader, obtaining land for free and clearing it with a steel rail dragged between two teams of horses. Simplot grew up

working hard on the farm. ?e rebelled against his domineering father, dropped out of school at the age of fifteen and left home. ?e found work at a potato warehouse in the small town of "eclo, $daho. ?e sorted potatoes with a @shaker sorter,@ a hand%held device, nine to ten hours a day for thirty cents an hour. At the boardinghouse where he rented a room, Simplot met a group of public%school teachers who were being paid not in cash but in interest%bearing scrip. Simplot bought the scrip from the teachers for fifty cents on the dollar % and then sold the scrip to a local bank for ninety cents on the dollar. 5ith his earnings, Simplot bought a rifle, an old truck and 3)) hogs for one dollar a head. ?e built a cooker in the desert, stoked it with sagebrush, shot wild horses, skinned them, sold their hides for two dollars each, cooked their meat and fed it to his hogs through the winter. +hat spring, 0.7. Simplot sold the hogs for 8,,()) and became a potato farmer. +he $daho potato industry was 2ust getting started in the &'=)s. +he state's altitude, warm days, cool nights, light volcanic soil and abundance of irrigated water made it an ideal setting to grow 7ussett 1urbank potatoes. Simplot leased &3) acres, then bought farm e/uipment and a team of horses. ?e learned how to grow potatoes from his landlord, 9indsey Maggert. $n &'=<, Simplot and Maggert purchased an electric potato sorter, a remarkable new labor%saving device. Simplot began sorting potatoes for his friends and neighbors, but Maggert did not want to share the new sorter with anyone else. +he two men fought over the machine and then agreed to settle who owned it with the flip of a silver dollar. 0.7. Simplot won the coin toss, got to keep the sorter, sold all his farm e/uipment and started his own business in a "eclo potato cellar. ?e traveled the countryside, sorting potatoes for farmers, plugging the rudimentary machine into the nearest available light socket. Soon he was buying and selling potatoes, opening warehouses and forming relationships with commodities brokers nationwide. 5hen 0.7. Simplot needed timber for a new warehouse, he and his men would head to Bellowstone *ark and chop down some trees. 5ithin a decade, Simplot was the largest shipper of potatoes in the 5est, maintaining thirty%three warehouses in regon and $daho. Simplot also shipped onions. $n &'C&, he started to wonder why a company in California, the 1urbank Corp., was ordering so many of his onions. Simplot went to California and followed one of the company's trucks to a prune orchard in Iacaville, where the 1urbank Corp. was using prune dryers to make dehydrated onions. Simplot immediately bought a si.%tunnel prune dryer and set up his own dehydration plant west of Caldwell, $daho. +hree months later, the #nited States entered 5orld 5ar $$. Simplot's company sold dehydrated onions to the #.S. Army and then perfected a techni/ue for drying potatoes. +he Simplot "ehydrating Co. /uickly became one of the principal suppliers of food to the American military, operating the largest dehydration plant in the world. 0.7. Simplot used the profits earned in wartime to buy potato farms and cattle ranches, to build fertili-er plants and lumber mills, to stake mining claims and open a huge phosphate mine on the Fort ?all $ndian 7eservation. 1y the end of 5orld 5ar $$, Simplot was growing his own potatoes, fertili-ing them with his own phosphate, processing them at his factories, shipping them in bo.es from his lumberyards and feeding the leftover potato waste to his cattle. ?e was thirty%si. years old.

8ast year! the typical American ate a#out thirty pounds of french fries! mostly at fast-food restaurants. "ndeed! french fries are ordered more fre9uently at American restaurants than any other dish.

After the war, Simplot invested heavily in fro-en%food technology. ?e assembled a team of chemists to develop a product that seemed to have enormous commercial potential; the fro-en french fry. Americans were eating more fries than ever before, and the 7ussett 1urbank, with its large si-e and high starch content, was the perfect potato for frying. Simplot wanted to create a fro-en fry that was ine.pensive and that tasted 2ust as good as a fresh one. Although +homas 0efferson brought the *arisian recipe for pommes frites to the #nited States in &<)=, french fries did not become well known in this country until the &'=)s. According to the food historian Elisabeth 7o-in, Americans had traditionally eaten their potatoes boiled, mashed or baked. +he french fry was populari-ed in the #nited States by 5orld 5ar $ veterans who had en2oyed the dish in Europe and by the drive%in restaurants that subse/uently arose in the &':)s and &'C)s. Fries could be served without a fork or a knife4 they were easy to eat behind the wheel. 1ut they were e.tremely time%consuming to prepare. Simplot's chemists e.perimented with various techni/ues for the mass production of french fries. +he technical problems were solved in &'(:, and 0.7. Simplot earned the first patent for fro-en french fries. Sales of the product were initially disappointing. Although the fro-en fries were precooked and could be baked in an oven, they tasted best when reheated in hot oil, which limited their appeal to busy housewives. Simplot needed to find institutional customers, restaurant owners who would recogni-e the tremendous advantages of using his fro-en fries. @+he french fry FwasG . . . almost sacrosanct for me,@ 7ay 6roc, the founder of Mc"onald's Corp., wrote in his memoirs, @its preparation a ritual to be followed religiously.@ +he success of 7ichard and Mac Mc"onald's hamburger stand had been based as much on the /uality of their french fries as on the taste of their burgers. +he Mc"onald brothers had devised an elaborate system for making crisp french fries, one that was later perfected by the restaurant chain. Mc"onald's cooked thinly sliced 7ussett 1urbanks in a mi.ture of vegetable oil and beef tallow, using special fryers designed to keep the oil temperature above :=( degrees. As their restaurant chain e.panded, it became more difficult % and yet all the more important % to maintain the consistency and /uality of the fries. 0.7. Simplot met with 7ay 6roc in &'3(. Switching to fro-en french fries appealed to 6roc, as a way to ensure uniformity and cut labor costs. Mc"onald's obtained its fresh potatoes from almost =)) different local suppliers, and its employees spent a great deal of their time peeling potatoes. Simplot offered to build a new factory solely for the production of Mc"onald's french fries. 6roc agreed to try Simplot's fries but made no long%term commitment. +he deal was finali-ed with a handshake. Mc"onald's began to sell 0.7. Simplot's fro-en french fries the following year. Customers didn't notice any difference in taste. And the reduced cost of using fro-en product made french fries one of the most profitable items on the menu % far more profitable than hamburgers. Simplot /uickly became the main supplier of french fries to Mc"onald's. At the time, Mc"onald's had about ,=( restaurants in the #nited States. 5ithin a decade, it

had more than :,))). Simplot sold his fro-en fries to other restaurant chains, accelerating the growth of the fast%food industry and changing the nation's eating habits. Americans have long consumed more potatoes than any other food e.cept dairy products and wheat flour. $n &'3), the typical American ate about three and a half pounds of fro-en french fries. 9ast year, the typical American ate about thirty pounds of fro-en french fries. Most of these fries were purchased at fast%food restaurants. $ndeed, french fries are ordered more fre/uently at American restaurants than any other dish. +oday, 0.7. Simplot, an eighth%grade dropout, is one of the richest men in the #nited States. +he privately held company that he founded grows and processes corn, peas, broccoli, avocados and carrots, as well as potatoes4 feeds and processes cattle4 manufactures and distributes fertili-er4 mines phosphate and silica4 and produces oil, ethanol and natural gas. $n &'<), Simplot provided 8& million in start%up funds to a couple of engineers working in the basement of a dentist's office in 1oise, $daho. Fifteen years later,that investment in Micron Electronics % a manufacturer of computer memory chips % was worth about 8C billion. Simplot is also one of the nation's biggest landowners. @$'ve been a land hog all my life,@ Simplot told me, laughing. 5hile still in his teens, he bought &<,))) acres along the Snake 7iver in $daho. ?e now owns <(,))) acres of irrigated farmland, more than twice that amount of ranch land and much of downtown 1oise. ?is ON 7anch in southern regon is the largest cattle ranch in the #nited States, measuring 3( miles wide and &3: miles long. +hough he is a multibillionaire, 0.7. Simplot has few pretensions. ?e wears cowboy boots and blue2eans, holds business meetings at Elmer's *ancake ?ouse in 1oise and drives his own car, a 9incoln Continental with license plates that say mr. spud. ?e seems to have little patience for abstractions, describing his empire with a mi.ture of pride and awe; @$t's big, and it's real % it ain't bullshit.@ 1ad hips forced him to give up 2ogging at the age of seventy%five, and a bad fall made him give up horseback riding five years later. !evertheless, at eighty%nine, 0.7. Simplot still skis. ?e stepped down as the chief e.ecutive of his company in &''C, but he keeps buying more land and more livestock. @?ell, $'m 2ust an old farmer got some luck,@ Simplot said when $ asked him about the key to his success. @+he only thing $ did smart, remember this % ninety%nine percent of people would have sold out when they got their first =( or :) million. $ didn't sell out. $ 2ust hung on. . . .@ in recent years, the production of fro-en french fries has become an intensely competitive business. Although the 0.7. Simplot Co. supplies about half of the french fries that Mc"onald's sells in the #nited States, two other fry companies are now larger; 9amb 5eston, the nation's leading producer of fries, and McCain, a Canadian firm that became the second%largest fry company after buying re%$da last year. Simplot, 9amb 5eston and McCain now control about eighty percent of the American market for fro-en french fries, having eliminated or ac/uired most of their smaller rivals. +he three french%fry giants compete for valuable contracts to supply the fast%food chains. Fro-en french fries have become a bulk commodity, manufactured in high volumes at a low profit margin. *rice differences of 2ust a few pennies a pound can mean the difference between winning or losing a ma2or contract. All of this has greatly benefited the fast%food chains, lowering

their wholesale costs and making their retail sales of french fries ever more profitable. +he fast%food companies purchase fro-en fries for about thirty cents a pound, reheat them in oil and then sell them for about si. dollars a pound. "uring the &'3)s, $daho's potato output surpassed that of Maine, the previous leader, due to the rise of the french%fry industry and the productivity gains made by $daho farmers. Since &'<), the tonnage of potatoes grown in $daho has almost doubled, while the average yield per acre has risen by thirty percent. 1ut the e.traordinary profits being made through the sale of french fries have hardly trickled down to the farmers. *aul *atterson, an e.tension professor of agricultural economics at the #niversity of $daho, describes the current market for potatoes as an @oligopsony@ % a market in which a small number of buyers e.ert power over a large number of sellers. +he giant processing companies do their best to drive down the prices offered to potato farmers. +he increased productivity of $daho farmers has lowered prices even further, shifting more of the profits to the processors and the fast%food chains. ut of every 8&.() spent on a large order of fries at a fast%food restaurant, perhaps two cents goes to the farmer who grew the potatoes. $n the past twenty%five years, $daho has lost half of its potato farmers. "uring the same period, the amount of $daho land devoted to potatoes has increased by one%third. Family farms are giving way to corporate farms that stretch for thousands of acres. +hese immense corporate farms are divided into smaller holdings for administrative purposes, and farmers who have been driven off the land are often hired to manage them. +he patterns of land ownership in the American 5est are beginning to resemble those of rural England. @5e're coming full circle,@ says *atterson. @ ne day you may find two classes of people in rural $daho; the people who run the farms and the people who own them.@ 9ong regarded as the aristocrats of rural $daho, potato farmers remain stubbornly independent and unwilling to 2oin forces. @Some of them are independent to the point of poverty,@ says 1ert Moulton, a staff member at the *otato >rowers of $daho. +he multinational food companies operate french%fry plants in a number of different regions, constantly shifting production to take advantage of the lowest potato prices, pitting one group of farmers against another. +he economic fortunes of individual farmers and local communities matter little in the grand scheme. +oday there are only &,=)) independent potato farmers left in $daho % few enough to fit in a high school auditorium. +he *>$ recently tried to organi-e potato farmers into a cooperative, hoping to gain them more bargaining power. +he effort was undermined by the big processors, who signed long% term deals with a handful of growers. +he @2oint ventures@ being offered by french%fry companies provide farmers with the potato seed and financing for their crop, an arrangement that should dispel any illusions about their independence. @$f potato farmers don't band together,@ Moulton warns, @they'll wind up sharecroppers.@ At the peak of the fall harvest, $ visited the 9amb 5eston plant in American Falls, $daho. $t's one of the biggest fry factories in the nation and produces french fries for Mc"onald's. $t has a production capacity nearly si. times larger than that of the Simplot plant in Aberdeen. 9amb 5eston was founded in &'() by F. >ilbert 9amb, the inventor

of a crucial piece of french%fry%making technology. +he 9amb 5ater >un 6nife uses a high%pressure system to shoot potatoes at a speed of &&, feet per second through a grid of sharpened steel blades, thereby creating perfectly sliced french fries. After coming up with the idea, >ilbert 9amb tested the first 5ater >un 6nife in a company parking lot, shooting potatoes out of a fire hose. +he company was bought by ConAgra in &'<3. 9amb 5eston now manufactures more than &:) different types of french fries, including Steak ?ouse Fries, CrissCut Fries, ?i%Fries, Mor%Fries, 1urger Fries, +aterboy Crispy HHH Fries, +ater1abies, Mini 1akers, MunchSkins, +wister Fries, 7us%ettes and Special "ry Fry Shoestrings. 1ud Mandeville, the production manager, led me up a narrow wooden staircase inside one of theplant's storage buildings. n the top floor, the staircase led to a catwalk, and beneath my feet $ saw a mound of potatoes that was twenty feet deep, a hundred feet wide, and almost as long as two football fields. +he building was kept at forty%si. degrees year%round. $n the dim light, the potatoes looked like grains of sand on a beach. +his was one of seven storage buildings on the property. utside, tractor%trailers arrived from the fields, carrying potatoes that had 2ust been harvested. +he trucks dumped their loads onto spinning rods that brought the larger potatoes into the building and let the small potatoes, dirt and rocks fall to the ground. +he rods led to a rock trap, a tank of water in which the potatoes floated and the rocks sank to the bottom. +he plant used water systems to float potatoes gently this way and that way, guiding different si-es out of different holding bays, then flushing them into a three%foot% deep stream that ran beneath the cement floor. +he interior of the processing plant was gray, massive and well%lighted, with huge pipes running along walls, steel catwalks, workers in hard hats and plenty of loud machinery. $f there weren't potatoes bobbing and floating past, you might think the place was an oil refinery. Conveyor belts took the wet, clean potatoes into a machine that blasted them with steam for twelve seconds, boiled the water under their skins and e.ploded the skins off. +hen the potatoes were pumped into a preheat tank and shot through a 9amb 5ater >un 6nife. +hey emerged as shoestring fries. Four video cameras scrutini-ed them from different angles, looking for flaws. 5hen a french fry with a blemish was detected, an optical sorting machine time%se/uenced a single burst of compressed air that knocked the bad fry off the production line and onto a separate conveyor belt, which carried it to a machine with tiny automated knives that precisely removed the blemish. And then the fry was returned to the main production line.

4e re coming full circle ! says 7aul 7atterson! a professor of agricultural economics. :ne day you may find two classes of people in rural "daho; the people who run the farms and the people who own them.

Sprays of hot water blanched the fries, gusts of hot air dried them, and =(,))) pounds of boiling oil fried them to a slight crisp. Air cooled by compressed ammonia gas /uickly

fro-e them, a computeri-ed sorter divided them into si.%pound batches, and a device that spun like an out%of%control 9a-y Susan used centrifugal force to align the french fries so that they all pointed in the same direction. +he fries were sealed in brown bags, then the bags were loaded by robots into cardboard bo.es, and the bo.es were stacked by robots onto wooden pallets. Forklifts driven by human beings took the pallets to a free-er for storage. $nside that free-er $ saw =) million pounds of french fries, most of them destined for Mc"onald's, the bo.es of fries stacked thirty feet high, the stacks e.tending for roughly forty yards. And the free-er was half empty. Every day about a do-en railway cars and about two do-en tractor%trailers pulled up to the free-er, loaded up with french fries and departed for Mc"onald's restaurants all over the 5est. !ear the free-er was a laboratory where men and women in white coats analy-ed french fries day and night, measuring their sugar content, their starch content, their color. "uring the fall, 9amb 5eston adds sugar to the fries4 in the spring, it leaches sugar out of them4 the goal is to maintain a uniform appearance throughout the year. Every half hour, a new batch of fries was cooked in fryers identical to those installed in fast%food kitchens. A middle%aged woman in a lab coat handed me a paper plate full of premium e.tra longs, the type of french fries sold at Mc"onald's, and a salt shaker and some ketchup. +he fries on the plate looked so familiar yet wildly out of place in this laboratory setting, this food factory with its computer screens, digital readouts, shiny steel platforms and evacuation plans in case of ammonia%gas leaks. "espite all that, the french fries were delicious % crisp and golden brown, made from potatoes that had been in the ground that morning. $ finished them and asked for some more.

7here the Beef has Been


Bou can smell greeley, Colorado, long before you can see it. +he smell is hard to forget but not easy to describe, a combination of live animals, manure and dead animals being rendered into dog food. +he smell is worst during the summer months, hanging heavy in the warm air, almost assuming a physical presence, blanketing >reeley day and night. Some people who live there no longer notice the smell4 it recedes into the background, present but not present, like the sound of traffic for most !ew Borkers. thers can't stop thinking about the smell, even after years4 it permeates everything, sickens them, interferes with their sleep. >reeley is a factory town, one where cattle are the units of production. Monfort $nc., @+he Complete Meat Company,@ runs a beef slaughterhouse, a sheep slaughterhouse and processing plants a few miles north of >reeley. +o supply the beef slaughterhouse, Monfort operates two of the nation's largest feedlots, which together hold up to =)),))) head of cattle. ne of the feedlots stretches for almost two miles along ?ighway :(. At times, the animals are crowded so closely together that it looks like a 5oodstock Festival for cattle, a moving mass of animals that goes on for acres. At feeding time, the cattle don't eat blue grama and buffalo grass off the prairie4 during the three months before slaughter, they eat surplus grain dumped into long concrete troughs

that resemble highway dividers. +he grain fattens the cattle more rapidly than grass would. Almost two%thirds of the grain produced in the #.S. is now used to feed livestock, mainly cattle. A typical steer will consume about two tons of grain during its stay at a feedlot, 2ust to gain C)) pounds in weight. +he process involves a fair amount of waste. Each steer deposits about fifty pounds of manure every day. +he two feedlots outside >reeley produced more e.crement last year than the populations of "enver, 1oston, Atlanta and St. 9ouis % combined. More than ninety percent of American cattle were grass%fed, not grain%fed, until the years after 5orld 5ar $$. +hey roamed the range, eating native grasses, or lived on farms and ate hay. 5arren Monfort, who owned a farm north of >reeley, became one of the nation's first large%scale cattle feeders, buying cheap corn, sugar beets and alfalfa from local farmers during the "epression. Monfort's feedlot business e.panded after the war. 1y feeding cattle year%round, he could control the timing of his livestock sales and wait for the best prices at the Chicago stockyards. +he meat of grain%fed beef was fatty and tender. #nlike grass%fed beef, it did not need to be aged for a few weeks4 it could be eaten within days of the slaughter. Feedlots sprang up throughout the Midwest during the &',)s. +he huge American grain surpluses, largely caused by government price supports, provided cheap food for livestock and made cattle feeding a standard practice in the nation's beef industry. +he annual capacity of 5arren Monfort's feedlots in the &'()s was about =),))) head of cattle. +he three Colorado feedlots operated by Monfort $nc. now fatten almost a million cattle a year. A generation ago, meatpacking plants were located in cities across the #nited States. +he plants were staffed by skilled union workers. Meatpacking was a difficult 2ob but a highly paid and desirable one. $t provided a stable middle%class income % a career. 9ive cattle were shipped from the high plains to urban packing houses, where they were slaughtered, cut into sides of beef and then sold to wholesalers. Skilled, unioni-ed butchers reduced the sides of beef to marketable cuts or ground them into hamburger meat. 1ut in &'33, a new company, $owa 1eef *rocessors Flater known as $1*G, launched a new meatpacking system that soon made the traditional slaughterhouse obsolete. $1* opened slaughterhouses in the high plains, placing them near the feedlots. $nstead of shipping full sides of beef, $1* @fabricated@ carcasses into smaller cuts within the plant and sold them as @bo.ed beef.@ $t changed production methods in order to take advantage of a deskilled work force % much like the fast%food chains % simplifying each 2ob into a single task that could be performed again and again. And it waged a ruthless campaign against labor unions, an effort made easier by the placement of its slaughterhouses in rural states such as $owa and !ebraska that were hostile to unions. $n the mid%&',)s, the average meatpacker's wage was about fifteen dollars an hour Fin today's dollarsG. +he workers at $1* plants were paid about half that amount.

"n the past twenty fie years! "daho has lost half of its potato farmers. "n the same period! state land devoted to potatoes has increased #y one third. )amily farms are

giving way to corporate farms. 7atterns of land ownershiop in the 4est may soon resem#le those of rural <ngland.

As $1* opened a series of slaughterhouses in small rural towns, becoming the nation's largest beef%processing company, its competitors were forced to adopt the same system of production or risk going out of business. +he Monfort family had established a slaughterhouse near its feedlots in >reeley during the early &'3)s, later becoming one of the leading meatpackers in the industry. +he workers at Monfort belonged to a union and earned good wages. +here was a waiting list for 2obs at the plant. 1ut the changes in the meatpacking industry soon reached Colorado. $n &'<), Monfort shut down its slaughterhouse in >reeley and fired all the workers. 5hen the beef plant reopened two years later, union members were not rehired and wages were cut by forty percent. +he same production system that enabled meatpacking companies to get rid of their union workers allowed supermarket chains and wholesalers to fire their skilled, highly paid butchers. More and more beef processing took place within slaughterhouses. >rinders were installed to make hamburger meat. And the growing purchasing power of the supermarket chains and the fast%food chains encouraged concentration in the meatpacking industry. $n &'3<, Mc"onald's bought ground beef from &,( local suppliers around the country4 a few years later, seeking to achieve uniformity as it e.panded, Mc"onald's reduced the number of its beef suppliers to five. 7ival meatpackers 2oined forces to cut costs and wipe out their competition. $n &'&<, the five largest meatpackers controlled fifty%five percent of the American market. *resident 5oodrow 5ilson's administration curtailed the power of these companies, known as the 1eef +rust, using a consent decree. $n &',,, the four largest meatpacking companies controlled only twenty% five percent of the market. 1y the end of the &'<)s, however, three multinational corporations controlled more than seventy percent of the beef slaughter in the #nited States % the greatest degree of market concentration in the beef industry since record% keeping began in the late nineteenth century. +he 0ustice "epartment during the 7eagan administration did not oppose the disappearance of hundreds of small meatpacking firms. n the contrary, the 0ustice "epartment opposed using antitrust laws to stop the giant meatpackers. $n &'<:, Monfort sued E.cel % the nation's second%largest beef processor, owned by Cargill % to prevent it from ac/uiring Spencer 1eef, the nation's third%largest beef processor. 9awyers for Monfort argued that the ac/uisition would allow E.cel to engage in predatory pricing and to reduce competition. A panel of federal 2udges ruled in favor of Monfort, but E.cel appealed their decision to the #.S. Supreme Court. 7eagan's 0ustice "epartment submitted a brief in the case, arguing on behalf of E.cel, claiming it had every right to buy a rival company. $n &'<3, the Supreme Court approved the merger of America's second% and third%largest meatpacking companies. +he following year, Monfort gave up its independence and agreed to a takeover by the ConAgra Corp. @$t seemed to me that if the industry was going to be concentrated,@ 6en Monfort said, e.plaining the sale of the company founded by his father, @there should be at least three large players instead of 2ust two.@

1y purchasing Monfort, ConAgra became the largest meatpacker in the world. $t is now the biggest food company in the #nited States. $n addition to being the top producer of french fries, ConAgra is the largest manufacturer of fro-en food, the largest sheep processor and turkey processor, the largest flour miller, the largest distributor of agricultural chemicals, the third%largest pork processor, as well as a leading chicken processor, seed producer, feed producer and commodity%futures trader. ConAgra sells its food under do-ens of retail brand names, including ?unt's, Chun 6ing, Swiss Miss, rville 7edenbacher's, 7eddi%wip, 6nott's 1erry Farm and ?ealthy Choice. +wenty years ago, ConAgra % a combination of two 9atin words whose intended meaning is @partnership with the land@ % was an obscure !ebraska flour company with annual revenues of less than 83)) million. 9ast year, ConAgra's revenues were nearly 8=C billion. +he company's phenomenal growth in the &'<)s was driven by a vow to increase its earnings per share by at least fourteen percent every year. +op managers who fail to reach their targeted profit levels are often fired. +he workers at ConAgra plants are viewed as being e/ually e.pendable. $n April &''3, ConAgra closed a meatpacking plant in "es Moines, terminating the employment of &,:== workers with 2ust a day's notice. ConAgra's president once sought changes in the !ebraska ta. code by warning the state legislature, @Some Friday night we FmayG turn out the lights, click, click, click . . . back up the trucks, and we'll be gone by Monday morning.@ +he unprecedented degree of concentration in the meatpacking industry has helped depress the prices that ranchers receive for their cattle. $n the last two decades, the rancher's share of every retail dollar spent on beef has fallen from si.ty%four cents to forty%nine cents. @$f ConAgra's my only buyer,@ asked "ave Carter, head of the 7ocky Mountain Farmers #nion, @and on the day $ need to be selling, they're not buying, what kind of a market is thatL@ A &''3 #nited States "epartment of Agriculture investigation of packer concentration found that many ranchers were afraid to testify against the meatpacking companies, fearing retaliation and @economic ruin.@ +he four largest meatpackers now control perhaps twenty percent of the live cattle in the #nited States. 5hen the price of cattle starts to rise, the meatpacking companies can flood the market with their own animals, driving the prices down. +hey can also obtain cattle through confidential agreements with large producers, never revealing the true prices being paid. @A free market re/uires many buyers as well as many sellers, all with e/ual access to accurate information, all entitled to trade on the same terms and none with a big enough share of the market to influence price,@ a report by !ebraska's Center for 7ural Affairs concluded. @!othing close to those conditions now e.ists in the cattle market.@

The french fry =was>... almost sacrosanct for me! Ray 5roc! the founder of McDonald s Corp! wrote in his memoirs! its preparation a ritual to #e followed religiously.

$n Meatpackers and 1eef 1arons, sociologist Carol Andreas calls >reeley a @modern%day company town@ and describes the changes in its work force during the &'<)s. 5hen Monfort reopened its beef plant there in &'<=, after breaking the union, it began to hire

recent immigrants % some of them illegal % from Me.ico, Central America and Southeast Asia. 0obs that had once provided a solid middle%class life now trapped workers in rural poverty. $nstead of a waiting list, the meatpacking plant soon had a turnover rate that approached &)) percent a year, as the company churned through its workers. Andreas suggests that the high turnover rate improved the company's bottom line. A worker needed si. months to a year of employment at the plant to get health insurance, two years of employment to earn vacation pay. @+here are some economies, frankly,@ one meat% industry e.ecutive admitted in &'<C, @that result from hiring new employees.@ Monfort's influence e.tended throughout 5eld County and the city of >reeley. +he director for environmental protection of 5eld County's ?ealth "epartment later became the vice president of ConAgra 7ed Meats, taking charge of its environmental operations. +he doctor at the >reeley Medical Clinic who evaluated the severity of many workplace in2uries % Andreas calls him @the one doctor who was most despised by workers@ % later became the corporate medical director for ConAgra 7ed Meats. And when workers at the Monfort *ortion Foods plant went on strike in &'<,, inmates at a local halfway house were hired to do those 2obs. $n &''=, the !ational 9abor 7elations 1oard found that Monfort had committed @numerous, pervasive and outrageous@ violations of labor laws, including @unlawful termination of union supporters, interrogations, threats of plant closings . . . unilateral changes in working conditions FandG threats of discharge.@ Employees who had been unfairly dismissed were awarded a 8&) million settlement, and workers at the Monfort beef plant voted to 2oin the #nited Food and Commercial 5orkers union. A list of the slaughterhouse 2ob categories in the latest union contract evokes a world unfamiliar to most people, with a nomenclature all its own; knocker, sticker, shackler, rumper, tub dumper, knuckle dropper, splitter topAbottom butt, feed kill chain. +oday, Monfort is still the largest employer in 5eld County, with about C,))) workers at its feedlots, slaughterhouses and processing facilities. +he ma2ority of the workers at Monfort's beef plant cannot speak English. Most of them are Me.ican immigrants who live in places like the 7iver *ark Mobile Court, a collection of battered old trailers 2ust down the road from the slaughterhouse. +he basic pay at the beef plant is now 8'.=) an hour4 health insurance is offered after si. months4 vacation pay after a year. Monfort refuses to disclose the current rate of turnover4 a union official told me that roughly seventy percent of the workers /uit or are fired every year. +he high turnover rate at the slaughterhouse is made possible by the steady flow into >reeley of poor immigrants desperate for work. 0avier 7amire- is president of the #nited Food and Commercial 5orkers, 9ocal ''), which represents employees at the Monfort beef plant in >reeley. 7amire- is in his late twenties and knows a fair amount about beef. ?is father is a #FC5 leader in Chicago. 7amire- grew up around slaughterhouses and watched the beef industry abandon his hometown for rural plants in 6ansas, !ebraska, +e.as and Colorado. +he #FC5 has given workers in >reeley the ability to challenge unfair dismissals and to file grievances against supervisors. +he return of the union has led to pay raises and better working conditions. 1ut the union's power has been limited by the high turnover rate among

Monfort workers and the aging e/uipment at the beef plant. "emands for higher pay could prompt ConAgra to shut the plant down. Monfort has lately tried in good faith to screen out illegal immigrants and improve the safety record at the plant. !evertheless, one of the most pressing issues for 0avier 7amire- is the danger that slaughterhouse workers face every day; the risks to their health and their lives. +he in2ury rate among meatpackers is the highest of any occupation in the #nited States. 5orking in a slaughterhouse is three times more dangerous than working in an average American factory. Every year about one%third of all slaughterhouse workers % roughly (),))) men and women % suffer an in2ury or an illness that re/uires first aid on the 2ob. Aside from the automated production lines and a variety of power tools, most of the work in American slaughterhouses is still performed by hand. *oultry plants have been largely mechani-ed, thanks to the breeding of chickens that are uniform in si-e4 but cattle come in all si-es and shapes, varying in weight by hundreds of pounds and preventing the mechani-ation of beef plants. A sharp knife is still the most important tool in a slaughterhouse. 9acerations are the most common in2ury suffered by meatpackers, who often stab themselves or someone working nearby. +endinitis and Cumulative +rauma "isorders are also /uite common. Many slaughterhouse workers make a knife cut every three seconds, which adds up to about &),))) cuts during an eight%and%a%half%hour shift. $f the knife is not sharpened regularly and grows dull, additional pressure is placed on a worker's tendons, 2oints and nerves. A large number of meatpackers develop shoulder problems, carpal tunnel syndrome and @trigger finger@ Fa disorder in which fingers become fro-en in a curled positionG. +he slippery floors in slaughterhouses, the carcasses rapidly swinging past, and the cutting tools and heavy machinery are responsible for back in2uries, falls, broken bones, dismemberments and fatal accidents. *erhaps the leading determinant of the in2ury rate at a slaughterhouse is the speed of the production line. Meatpackers often work within inches of each other, wielding large knives. As the pace increases, so does the risk of accidental cuts and stabbings. About seventy%five cattle an hour were slaughtered in the old meatpacking plants in Chicago. +wenty years ago, the Monfort plant in >reeley slaughtered about &,( cattle an hour. 1y the early &'')s, the Monfort plant slaughtered as many as C)) cattle an hour, about half a do-en animals every minute, sent down a single production line, carved by workers under tremendous pressure not to fall behind. 1eef slaughterhouses now operate at a low profit margin. +he three giant meatpacking companies % Monfort, $1* and E.cel % try to increase earnings by ma.imi-ing the volume of production at their plants. A faster pace means higher profits. "eclining beef consumption in the #nited States has been prompted less by health concerns than by the price of beef compared with the prices of other meats. +he same factors that make beef slaughterhouses inefficient Fthe lack of mechani-ation, the reliance on human laborG also encourage companies to make them even more dangerous Fby speeding up the paceG. +he slaughterhouse workers $ met in >reeley talked about the difficulties of their 2obs, as well as a few of the rewards. Felipe Fnot his real nameG was originally from Chihuahua, Me.ico. ?e learned about 2ob openings at the Monfort plant in the late &'<)s from a

friend who was already in the #nited States. Felipe crossed the border illegally, made it to >reeley, applied for a 2ob at the plant and an.iously waited to see whether Monfort would hire him. For two weeks he lived outdoors in >reeley, sleeping under bridges and working at construction sites during the day. Monfort hired Felipe, not at all concerned about his lack of English, and asked whether he knew of other people back home who might want to work at the plant. ?is first day at the slaughterhouse was confusing. @!obody helped train me % no training how to use the knife,@ Felipe said. @So you see how the people on either side of you do the work, and then you do it.@ 0ose Fnot his real nameG had been employed at the slaughterhouse for more than ten years. "uring that time many workers had lost fingers, mainly while using power saws. ne man lost an arm in the bo.%making machine. *eople get cut all the time, trying to keep up with the pace. @+he knives don't know any difference between cow meat and human meat,@ he said. 0ose hurt one hand while operating a machine and badly in2ured a shoulder during a fall. A company doctor told him the shoulder was 2ust fine4 si. months later an orthopedist told him surgery was necessary4 years later, the shoulder still bothers him sometimes. ?is toughest stretch at the slaughterhouse was working a double shift. 0ose didn't want to do it but thought he'd be fired for refusing. And so he worked a double shift si. days a week. ?e would put in seventeen hours straight, drive forty miles home, sleep for a while and then return to the slaughterhouse. ?e did this for four months. @$'ll remember that till the day $ die,@ he says. 0ose now works forty%eight hours a week at the Monfort plant and about twenty%five hours a week at a local fast%food restaurant. ?is wife works fifty%si. hours a week at two different restaurants. +hey still have payments to make on their trailer home, and they have two teenage children. +hough he has worked at the Monfort beef plant for more than a decade, 0ose earns an hourly wage that is only twenty cents higher than the starting wage. @1ut the whole thing is,@ he tells me, as though revealing a dark secret, @if they'd 2ust pay a decent wage so $ didn't have to pull two 2obs, you know, it wouldn't be a bad place to work.@ +he speed of the production line at a slaughterhouse is largely responsible not only for the high in2ury rate but also for the contamination of the meat. +he problem starts in the feedlots. A government health official, who prefers not to be named, compares the sanitary conditions at a modern feedlot to those of a crowded European city during the Middle Ages, when people dumped their chamber pots out the windows, raw sewage ran in the streets and epidemics raged. +he cattle now packed into feedlots get little e.ercise and live amid pools of manure. Far removed from their natural habitats, the cattle become more prone to illnesses. And what they are fed often contributes to the spread of disease. +he rise in grain prices has encouraged the feeding of less%e.pensive materials to cattle, especially substances with a high protein content that can accelerate growth. About eighty percent of the cattle in the #nited States were routinely fed slaughterhouse wastes % the rendered remains of dead sheep and dead cattle % until August &'',. +he #S"A banned the practice, hoping to prevent a domestic outbreak of mad%cow disease. Millions of dead cats and dead dogs, purchased from animal shelters, are being fed to cattle each year, along with dead ducks, geese, elk and deer. Steven *. 12erklie, a former editor of the trade 2ournal Meat and *oultry, is appalled by what often winds up in cattle feed. @>oddamn it, these cattle are ruminants,@ 12erklie says. @+hey're designed to eat grass

and, maybe, grain. $ mean, they have four stomachs for a reason; to eat products that have a high cellulose content. +hey are not designed to eat other animals.@ +he slaughterhouse tasks most likely to contaminate meat are the removal of an animal's hide and the evisceration of its digestive system. +he hides are now removed by machine4 but if a hide has not been ade/uately cleaned first, pieces of dirt and manure may fall from it onto the meat. Stomachs and intestines are still pulled out of cattle by hand4 if the 2ob is not performed carefully, the contents of the digestive system may spill everywhere. 5orkers being rushed are bound to make mistakes. +he conse/uences of one error are /uickly multiplied. 6nives are supposed to be cleaned and disinfected every few minutes, something that workers in a hurry tend to forget. @$f a knife gets contaminated,@ 12erklie says, @then it's 2ust going to spread that contamination to everything it touches.@ +he literature on the causes of food poisoning is full of euphemisms and dry scientific terms; fecal coliform levels, food%borne pathogens, total plate counts, et al. 1ehind them all lies a simple e.planation for why most people get sick; +here is shit on the meat. one night i visit a slaughterhouse somewhere in the high plains. +he slaughterhouse is one of the nation's largest. About (,))) head of cattle enter it every day, single file, and leave in a different form. Someone who has access to the plant, who is upset by its working conditions, offers to give me a tour. +he slaughterhouse is an immense building, gray and s/uare, about three stories high with no windows on the front and no architectural clues to what's happening inside. My friend gives me a chain%mail apron and gloves, suggesting $ try them on. 5orkers on the line wear about eight pounds of chain mail beneath their white coats % shiny steel armor that covers their hands, wrists, stomach and back. +he chain mail is designed to protect workers from cutting themselves and from being cut by other workers. 1ut knives somehow manage to get around it. My host hands me some 5ellingtons, the kind of knee%high rubber boots that English gentlemen wear in the countryside. @+uck your pants into the boots,@ he says. @5e'll be walking through some blood.@ $ put on a hard hat and climb a stairway. +he sounds get louder % factory sounds, the noise of power tools and machinery, bursts of compressed air. 5e start at the end of the line, the fabricating room. 5orkers call it @fab.@ 5hen we step inside, fab seems familiar; steel catwalks, pipes along the walls, a vast room, a ma-e of conveyor belts. +his could be the 9amb 5eston plant, e.cept hunks of red meat ride the belts instead of french fries. Some machines assemble cardboard bo.es, others vacuum%seal subprimals of beef in clear plastic. +he workers look e.tremely busy, but there's nothing unsettling about this part of the plant. Bou see meat like this all the time in the back of your local supermarket. +he fab room is refrigerated, kept at about forty degrees. As you head up the line, the feel of the place starts to change. +he pieces of meat get bigger. 5orkers % about half of them women, almost all of them young and 9atino % slice meat with long, slender knives. +hey stand at a table that is chest high, grab meat off a conveyor belt, trim away fat, throw meat back on the belt, toss the scraps onto a conveyor belt above them and then grab more meat, all in a matter of seconds. $'m now struck by how many workers there are, hundreds of them, pressed close together, constantly moving, slicing. Bou see hard hats,

white coats, flashes of steel. !obody is smiling or chatting4 they're too busy, an.iously trying not to fall behind. An old man walks past me, pushing a blue plastic barrel filled with scraps. A few workers carve the meat with 5hi--ards, small electric knives that have spinning round blades. +he 5hi--ards look like the !orelco ra-ors that Santa rides in the +I ads. $ notice that a few of the women near me are sweating, even though the place is free-ing cold.

Twenty years ago! the Monfort plant in $reeley! Colorado! slaughtered a#out +?3 cattle an hour. @y the early +,,1s! the plant slaughtered as many as A11 an hour! a#out half a do&en animals every minute.

Sides of beef suspended from an overhead trolley swing toward a group of men. Each worker has a large knife in one hand and a steel hook in the other. +hey grab the meat with their hooks and attack it fiercely with their knives. As they hack away, using all their strength, grunting, the place suddenly feels different, primordial. +he machinery seems beside the point, and what's going on here has been going on for thousands of years % the meat, the hook, the knife, men straining to cut more meat. n the kill floor, what $ see no longer unfolds in a logical manner. $t's one surreal image after another. A worker with a power saw slices cattle into halves as though they were two%by%fours, and then the halves swing by me into the cooler. "o-ens of cattle, stripped of their skins, dangle on chains from their hind legs. My host stops and asks how $ feel, whether $ want to go any farther. +his is where some people get sick. +he kill floor is hot and humid. Cattle have a body temperature of about &)& degrees, and there are a lot of them in the room. $t stinks of manure. Carcasses swing so fast along the rail that you have to keep an eye on them constantly, dodge them, watch your step, or one will slam you and throw you onto the bloody concrete floor. $t happens to workers all the time. $ see; a man reach inside cattle and pull out their kidneys with his bare hands, then drop the kidneys down a metal chute, over and over again, as each animal passes by him4 a stainless%steel rack of tongues4 5hi--ards peeling meat off decapitated heads, picking them almost as clean as the white skulls painted by >eorgia '6eeffe. 5e wade through blood that's ankle deep and that pours down drains into vats below us. As we approach the start of the line, for the first time $ hear the steady pop, pop, pop of live animals being stunned. +he cattle suspended above me look 2ust like the cattle $'ve seen on ranches for years, but these ones are upside down, swinging on hooks. For a moment, the sight seems unreal4 there are so many of them, a herd of them, lifeless. And then $ see a few hind legs still kicking, a final refle. action, and the reality comes hard and clear. For eight and a half hours, a worker called a sticker does nothing but stand in a river of blood, being drenched in blood, slitting the neck of a steer every ten seconds or so, severing its carotid artery. ?e uses a long knife and must hit e.actly the right spot to kill

the animal humanely. ?e hits that spot again and again. 5e walk up a slippery metal stairway and reach a small platform, where the production line begins. A man turns and smiles at me. ?e wears safety goggles and a hard hat. ?is face is splattered with gray matter and blood. ?e is the knocker, the man who welcomes cattle to the building. Cattle walk down a narrow chute and pause in front of him, blocked by a gate, and then he shoots them in the head with a captive bolt stunner % a gun attached to the ceiling by a long hose % which fires a column of compressed air that knocks the cattle unconscious. +he animals keep strolling up, oblivious to what comes ne.t, and he stands over them and shoots. For eight and a half hours, he 2ust shoots. As $ stand there, he misses a few times and shoots the same animal twice. As soon as the steer falls, a worker grabs one of its hind legs and shackles it to a chain, and the chain lifts the huge animal into the air. $ watch the knocker knock cattle for a couple of minutes. +he animals are powerful and strong one moment and then gone in an instant, suspended from a rail, ready to have their necks slit. A steer slips from its chain, falls to the ground, and gets its head caught in a conveyor belt. +he line stops as workers struggle to free the steer, stunned but alive, from the machinery. $'ve seen enough. $ step out of the building into the cool night air and follow the path that leads cattle into the slaughterhouse. +hey pass me, driven toward the building by workers with long white sticks that seem to glow in the dark. ne steer turns and tries to run. 1ut workers drive him back to 2oin the rest. +he cattle la-ily walk single file toward the muffled sounds, pop, pop, pop, coming from the open door. +he path has hairpin turns that prevent cattle from seeing what's in store, keeping them rela.ed. As the ramp gently slopes upward, the animals may think they're headed for another truck, another road trip % and they are, in une.pected ways. +he ramp widens as it reaches ground level and then leads to a large cattle pen with wooden fences, a corral that belongs in a meadow, not here. As $ walk along the fence, a group of cattle approaches me, looking me straight in the eye, like dogs hoping for a treat, and follow me, out of some mysterious impulse. $ stop and try to absorb the whole scene; the cool bree-e, the cattle and their gentle lowing, a cloudless sky, steam rising from the plant in the moonlight. And then $ notice that the building does have one window, a small s/uare of light on the second floor. $t offers a glimpse of what's hidden behind this huge, blank faPade. +hrough the little window you can see bright%red carcasses on hooks, going round and round. in the early part of this century, hamburgers had a bad reputation. According to the historian "avid >erard ?ogan, the hamburger was considered @a food for the poor,@ tainted, unsafe to eat. 7estaurants rarely served hamburgers4 they were sold at lunch carts parked near factories, at circuses, carnivals and state fairs. >round beef was rumored to contain old, putrid meat heavily laced with chemical preservatives. @+he hamburger habit is 2ust about as safe,@ one food critic warned, @as getting your meat out of a garbage can. . . .@ 5hite Castle, the nation's first hamburger chain, worked hard in the &'=)s to dispel the hamburger's tawdry image. As ?ogan notes in his history of the chain, Selling 'em by the Sack, the founders of 5hite Castle placed their grills in the direct view of customers,

claimed that fresh ground beef was delivered two to four times a day, chose a name with connotations of purity and even sponsored an e.periment in which a #niversity of Minnesota medical student lived for thirteen weeks on @nothing but 5hite Castle hamburgers and water.@ +he success of 5hite Castle in the East and the Midwest helped to populari-e hamburgers and to remove much of their social stigma. +he chain did not attract a broad range of people, however4 most of its customers were urban, working%class and male. +he rise of drive%ins and fast%food restaurants in Southern California elevated the once%lowly hamburger to the status of America's national dish during the &'()s. 7ay 6roc set out to attract families to Mc"onald's. ?amburgers seemed an ideal food for children; convenient, ine.pensive, hand%held and easy to chew. *rior to 5orld 5ar $$, pork was the most widely consumed meat in the #nited States. 7ising incomes, the growth of the fast%food industry and the mass appeal of the hamburger pushed American consumption of beef higher than that of pork. 1y the early &'')s, beef production was responsible for almost half of the employment in American agriculture, and the annual revenues generated by beef, nearly 8() billion, were the highest of any agricultural commodity in the #nited States. Every day, about one%third of the American people ate a hamburger. 7oughly seventy percent of those hamburgers were bought at fast%food restaurants. And children between the ages of seven and thirteen ate more hamburgers than anyone else % an average of si. a week. $n 0anuary &'':, doctors at a hospital in Seattle noticed that a large number of children were being admitted with bloody diarrhea. Some were suffering from hemolytic uremic syndrome, a disorder that often causes kidney failure. ?ealth officials soon traced the outbreak of food poisoning to under%cooked hamburgers served at 0ack in the 1o. restaurants. +he hamburgers contained a potentially lethal microbe; Escherichia coli &(,;?,. 0ack in the 1o. issued an immediate recall of the contaminated ground beef, which had been supplied by the Ions Co. in 9os Angeles. !evertheless, more than ,)) people in five different states were sickened by 0ack in the 1o. hamburgers, about &'( were hospitali-ed, and four died. Most of the victims were children4 0ack in the 1o. accepted responsibility for their medical costs, and the chain was nearly destroyed by the publicity surrounding the outbreak. 1ut this was not the first outbreak of E. coli &(,;?, linked to fast%food hamburgers. As !ichols Fo. reveals in her book on food%borne pathogens, Spoiled, do-ens of children were sickened in &'<= by contaminated Mc"onald's hamburgers in regon and Michigan. Mc"onald's had /uietly cooperated with investigators from the Centers for "isease Control and *revention, providing ground%beef samples that proved to be tainted with E. coli &(,;?,. $n public, however, the Mc"onald's Corp. denied that its hamburgers were responsible for any illnesses. 7eports on the outbreak never mentioned Mc"onald's, referring to the chain simply as @7estaurant A.@ $n the five years since the 0ack in the 1o. outbreak, perhaps &)),))) Americans, the ma2ority of them children, have been made seriously ill by E. coli &(,;?,. Every week, on the average, a few Americans die from eating hamburgers. E. coli &(,;?, is a mutated version of a bacterium found abundantly in the human digestive system. +he E.

coli bacteria in our digestive system help the body synthesi-e vitamins and ward off dangerous organisms. E. coli &(,;?,, on the other hand, releases a powerful to.in that can destroy the lining of the intestine. $n most cases, the ensuing bloody diarrhea subsides within a week or so. $n about si. percent of the cases, however, the to.ins produced by E. coli &(,;?, enter the bloodstream, interfering with kidney function and causing hemolytic uremic syndrome. Children and the elderly are the most vulnerable to developing ?#S % although perfectly healthy adults can develop it, as well. +he illness can cause kidney failure, anemia, internal bleeding and the destruction of vital organs. $t can cause anyone to suffer sei-ures or strokes, or to lapse into a coma. +he painful and debilitating symptoms of the illness may last for weeks. About five percent of the people who develop ?#S are killed by it. +hose who survive often have permanent disabilities, such as blindness or brain damage. E. coli &(,;?, is now the leading cause of kidney failure among American children. Antibiotics have proven ineffective in treating illnesses caused by E. coli &(,;?,. Some evidence indicates that treatment with antibiotics actually makes these illnesses worse. At the moment, little can be done for people with ?#S, aside from the provision of fluids, transfusions and dialysis. E. coli &(,;?, infections are e.traordinarily easy to transmit. +o be infected by most food%borne pathogens, such as salmonella, you have to consume a fairly large dose % thousands or even millions of organisms. An infection with E. coli &(,;?, can be caused by as few as ten organisms. +he microbe can survive on counter tops for days and in moist environments for weeks. Children have been infected by hand% to%mouth contact, by swimming in a contaminated water park and by crawling on contaminated carpeting at a day%care center. A microscopic particle of uncooked hamburger tainted with the bug is enough to kill you. Although outbreaks of E. coli &(,;?, have been linked to lettuce, alfalfa sprouts and apple cider, cattle manure has ultimately been the cause of most infections. Cattle seem to be the primary host for the microbe4 it thrives in their digestive systems without making the animals sick. A recent study of cattle manure at one feedlot found that about &.3 percent of the samples carried E. coli &(,;?,. >iven that rate of infection, perhaps five cattle bearing the microbe are eviscerated at a large slaughterhouse every hour. +he centrali-ation and concentration of beef processing has spread E. coli &(,;?, far and wide. Steven *. 12erklie, the former editor of Meat and *oultry, believes that @the structure of this industry is 2ust beautifully conducive to massive contamination of ground beef.@ A single large plant can produce <)),))) pounds of hamburger meat daily % and 2ust one animal infected with E. coli &(,;?, can contaminate :=,))) pounds of that meat because of the way ground beef is made today. A single fast%food hamburger now contains the meat of anywhere from forty to one hundred different cattle, raised in as many as half a do-en different countries. "uring the &'<)s, as changes in the meatpacking industry increased the risk of widespread contamination, the federal government cut funding for meat inspections and largely dismantled the public%health infrastructure that tracked the spread of infectious diseases. +he 7eagan and 1ush administrations staffed the #S"A % the agency responsible for meat safety % with officials who were more interested in deregulation than

in careful oversight. *resident 7eagan's first secretary of agriculture was a hog farmer4 his second was a former president of the American Meat $nstitute Fan industry lobbying groupG. "uring those same years, the !ational Academy of Sciences issued three reports warning that the nation's meat supply could be spreading a variety of dangerous microbes undetected. 5ithin days of the 0ack in the 1o. outbreak, the chain hired "avid M. +heno to investigate what had gone wrong and then to fi. it. +heno was a scientist who had helped Foster Farms, a family%owned poultry processor in California, eliminate most of the salmonella from its chicken. ?e was a strong advocate of ?a-ard Analysis and Critical Control *oints programs, embracing a food%safety philosophy that tried to combine rigorous scientific analysis with common sense. +he essence of ?ACC* plans is prevention4 the most vulnerable steps in a food%production system are identified and monitored4 stacks of records are kept in order to follow what goes where. +heno created the fast%food industry's first ?ACC* plan, a @farm to fork@ policy at 0ack in the 1o. that e.amined the threat to food safety at every level of production and distribution. +he company gave him a mandate to do whatever was necessary, whatever the cost. Five years after the outbreak, +heno has emerged as a maverick in the fast%food business, applauded by consumer groups but considered @the Antichrist,@ he says, by many people in the beef industry. +heno wants the meatpacking industry to adopt a system of @performance%based grading.@ 7egular microbial testing would encourage slaughterhouses to install the latest meat%safety e/uipment, the acid washes and steam vacuums. Slaughterhouses that produced consistently clean meat would receive a grade of A. *lants that performed moderately well would receive a 1, and so on. *lants that earn only a C or a " would have to do better or stick to making dog food. +he meatpacking industry has not rushed to endorse a grading system based on the cleanliness of meat. +heno thinks the industry's resistance to microbial testing is a form of denial. @$f you don't know about a problem,@ he says, @then you don't have to deal with it.@ ?e has an optimistic faith that science and reason can halt the spread of E. coli &(,;?,. +he companies that manufacture hamburger patties for 0ack in the 1o. have to test their beef every fifteen minutes for a wide range of dangerous microbes. @Bou can fi. this problem,@ +heno contends. @Bou can actually fi. the whole industry in si. months. . . . +his is a matter of will, not technology.@ +he entire 0ack in the 1o. food%safety program increases the cost of the company's ground beef by less than one penny per pound. +he Food Safety Act, passed in &''3 by Congress, re/uires that slaughterhouses develop some form of ?ACC* plan and regularly conduct microbial testing. +hose tests, however, will be performed by company inspectors % not federal inspectors % and the results will not be made available to the public. Many #S"A inspectors argue that the meatpacking firms have essentially been given the power to regulate themselves. +hese inspectors warn that under the new privately run schemes, ?ACC* will stand for @have a cup of coffee and pray.@ Ever since the 0ack in the 1o. outbreak, the Clinton administration has sought the legal authority to issue a recall of contaminated beef and to fine the meatpacking company responsible for it. +he 7epublican%dominated Congress, with the support of the American Meat $nstitute, has consistently refused to grant such

powers. @5e can fine circuses for mistreating elephants,@ Secretary of Agriculture "an >lickman said earlier this year, @but we can't fine companies that violate food%safety standards.@

4hen Conagra purchased Monfort! it #ecame the largest metapac%er in the world. "t sells its food under do&ens of #rand names including (unt s! Chun 5ing! Swiss Miss! Reddi-4ip and (ealthy Choice.

!ichols Fo., the author of Spoiled, has studied the recent outbreaks of E. coli &(,;?, and interviewed the parents of its victims. Fo.'s research has left her @a reluctant vegetarian.@ She regards the rising incidence of food poisoning in the #nited States as a form of @2ust deserts,@ the payback for a system that allows a narrow measure of efficiency % the cheapness of food % to override much more important human values, such as a respect for animals, workers and the environment. Steven *. 12erklie still en2oys a good steak every now and then. 1ut he no longer eats hamburgers. +he risks of E. coli &(,;?, were bad enough4 the final straw for 12erklie was learning that the Advanced Meat 7ecovery Systems % machines that scrape off every last piece of meat % now used at slaughterhouses have introduced pieces of spinal cord and bone marrow into ground beef. ?e was outraged by the health implications Fspinal cord can transmit mad%cow diseaseG and by the greed Fspinal cord should not be sold as ground beefG. +he meat industry has placed its faith in irradiation as a solution to many of the problems associated with contaminated meat. 12erklie, however, says irradiation is a means to avoid dealing with the real flaws in the process; @$ don't want to be served irradiated feces along with my meat.@ +oday, the safest hamburgers in the #nited States are probably the ones being sold at fast%food restaurants. All of the ma2or fast%food companies have recently adopted some sort of microbial testing. More important, the buying power of the fast%food giants gives them access to the cleanest meat. 0ack in the 1o. now has the ability to trace a shipment of beef all the way back to its source4 the #S"A does not. Mc"onald's will not purchase ground beef that has been made with Advanced Meat 7ecovery machines % and yet that meat is now routinely sold, unlabeled, at supermarkets throughout the country. 9ast year, ?udson 1eef voluntarily recalled =( million pounds of ground beef that was potentially contaminated with E. coli &(,;?,. ?udson 1eef was one of 1urger 6ing's largest suppliers, but an investigation later revealed that none of the contaminated meat was shipped to the fast%food company4 it was shipped to supermarkets nationwide. *eople who bring ground beef into their kitchens must now regard it as a potential bioha-ard, one that may carry an e.tremely dangerous microbe, infectious at an e.tremely low dose.

A list of the slaughterhouse /o# categories evo%es a world unfamiliar to most people; %noc%er! stic%er! shac%ler! rumper! tu# dumper! %nuc%le dropper! splitter top* #ottom #utt! feed %ill chain.

Still, no matter how many steps fast%food chains take to ensure meat safety, no matter how highly automated the grills, the safety of the food at any restaurant ultimately depends on the workers in its kitchen. "r. *atricia >riffin, the C"C's leading e.pert on E. coli &(,;?,, believes that education in food safety should be mandatory for people who work in commercial kitchens. @5e place our lives in their hands,@ she says, @in the same way we entrust our lives to the training of airline pilots.@ >riffin worries that a low%paid, unskilled work force composed of teenagers and recent immigrants may not always be familiar with proper food%handling procedures. She has reason to worry. $n an undercover investigation last year, reporters from 6C1S%+I in 9os Angeles videotaped local kitchen employees snee-ing into their hands while preparing food, licking salad dressing off their fingers, picking their noses and smoking while cooking. +he teenage fast%food workers $ met in Colorado Springs told me similar stories. Many workers would not eat the food unless they prepared it themselves. A +aco 1ell employee said that food dropped on the floor was often picked up and served. An Arby's employee told me that one kitchen worker never washed his hands at work after doing engine repairs on his car. And several employees at the same Mc"onald's told me about a cockroach infestation in the milkshake machine and about armies of mice that urinated and defecated on hamburger rolls left out to thaw in the kitchen every night.

!orld domination
the reunification of germany took place on ctober :rd, &''), eliminating the last traces of the communist regime that built the 1erlin 5all. +wo months later, eastern >ermany had its first Mc"onald's. +he coming of the American fast%food chain was not universally applauded. "uring one of the East >erman *arliament's last sessions, Ernst "oerfler, chairman of the environment committee, demanded a ban on @Mc"onald's and similar abnormal garbage%makers.@ +he ban was never imposed. Mc"onald's chose the town of *lauen, located in rural Sa.ony, about halfway between Munich and 1erlin, as the site of its first restaurant in the east. +he town had been heavily bombed by the Allies during 5orld 5ar $$, losing about seventy%five percent of its buildings. "ecades after the war, une.ploded bombs were still being found. *lauen seemed the /uintessential East >erman town; sad and dreary, dirty and run%down, with aging factories, warehouses and te.tile mills. +he Mc"onald's restaurant was the first new building erected there after the collapse of the Eastern bloc. +oday, hundreds of Mc"onald's restaurants dot the landscape of eastern >ermany. $n town after town, statues of 9enin have been torn down, and statues of 7onald Mc"onald have popped up. ne of the largest is in 1itterfeld, where a three%story%high illuminated 7onald Mc"onald can be seen from the autobahn for miles. 5hen $ visited *lauen last month, Mc"onald's was the only business open in the central market s/uare. $t was 7eunification "ay, a national holiday, and everything else was closed % the small shops selling used clothing and furniture, the pseudo%$rish pub on one corner, the pi--eria on another. Mc"onald's was packed, filled not 2ust with children and their parents but with teenagers, seniors, young couples % a cross%section of the town. Across the street stood an abandoned building once occupied by a branch of the East >erman army4 a few blocks

away, the houses were dilapidated and covered in graffiti, looking as though the 1erlin 5all had never fallen. +he Mc"onald's was the nicest, cleanest, brightest place in all of *lauen. Children played with the ?ot 5heels and 1arbies that came with their ?appy Meals, and smiling workers poured free refills of coffee. utside the window, three bright%red flags bearing the golden arches fluttered in the wind. +hroughout the world, American fast%food chains have become symbols of 5estern economic development, opening everywhere from 1ulgaria to 5estern Samoa. +hey are often the first multinational corporations to enter a new market. As the fast%food industry has grown much more competitive in the #nited States, the ma2or chains have looked to overseas markets as the source of their future growth. $n &'(', Mc"onald's had about &)) restaurants in the #nited States. +oday, Mc"onald's has about =(,))) restaurants in more than &)) countries. $t now ranks as the most widely recogni-ed brand in the world, more familiar than Coca%Cola. 9ast year Mc"onald's opened appro.imately five new restaurants every day4 eighty%five percent of them were located outside the #nited States. Mc"onald's now earns the ma2ority of its profits overseas, as does 6FC. A Mc"onald's e.ecutive told Forbes maga-ine a few years ago that the company hoped to @dominate@ the fast%food industry worldwide. Mc"onald's recently used a new phrase to describe its push into foreign markets; @global reali-ation.@ +he e.pansion of American fast%food companies overseas has been accompanied by the growth of the food processors that supply them. $n the last decade, Cargill, ConAgra and $1* have gained control of about eighty percent of the beef industry in Canada. ConAgra owns Australia Meat ?oldings, the largest beef company in a country that e.ports more beef than any other in the world. +oday, ConAgra, Cargill and a 0apanese firm, Mitsubishi, control about three%/uarters of the beef industry in Australia. ConAgra's 9amb 5eston division now manufactures fro-en french fries in ?olland, $ndia and +urkey. McCain, the world's biggest french%fry producer, operates more than fifty processing plants scattered across four continents. $n order to supply Mc"onald's, 0.7. Simplot began to grow $daho potatoes in China ten years ago and opened that nation's first french%fry factory in &'':. Simplot recently bought eleven processing plants in Australia, aiming to increase sales in the east%Asian market. ?e also purchased a :% million%acre ranch in Australia, where he hopes to run cattle, raise vegetables and grow potatoes. @$t's a great little country,@ 0.7. Simplot says, @and there's nobody in it.@ $n a recent essay on Mc"onald's in China, the anthropologist Bun.iang Ban notes that in the eyes of 1ei2ing consumers, the fast%food chain represents @Americana and the promise of moderni-ation.@ As in the #.S., the fast%food companies have targeted those consumers with the fewest attachments to tradition; young children. A few years ago, the #.6. director of marketing for Mc"onald's acknowledged that its advertising was aimed at children ages two to eight, the age group most likely to become brand loyal. At a primary school in 1ei2ing, Bun.iang Ban found that all of the children recogni-ed 7onald Mc"onald. +he children told Ban they liked @#ncle Mc"onald@ because he was @funny, gentle, kind, and . . . he understood children's hearts.@

#nlike movies, blue2eans and pop music, fast food is the only form of American mass culture that people literally consume. 1y embracing an American diet, other countries are bound to e.perience many of the health problems that go with it. *erhaps a third of the American people are now overweight, a proportion that has greatly increased over the last /uarter%century along with the consumption of fast food. Since &'<), the rate of obesity among American children has risen by forty%two percent. 1elated attempts by fast%food companies to introduce healthy meals % such as the Mc9ean "elu.e, a hamburger partly composed of seaweed % have proved unsuccessful. A taste for fat that is developed in childhood is difficult to lose as an adult. +he typical fast%food meal is low in fiber and high in saturated fats. An order of CrissCut Fries and a "ouble 5estern 1acon Cheeseburger at Carl's 0r. boasts ninety%one grams of fat % more fat than a do-en milkshakes. "iets low in fiber and high in animal fat have been linked to heart disease, obesity, diabetes, colon cancer and breast cancer. +hese @diseases of affluence@ are now commonplace in the #nited States, but until recently they were rare in Asia. +he growing popularity of American fast food in China, 0apan and ?ong 6ong will no doubt affect their morbidity rates. A study of 0apanese men who moved to the #nited States and switched to an American diet found that in doing so, the men tripled their consumption of fat and doubled their rate of heart disease. +he dishes served at traditional >erman restaurants % schnit-el, bratwurst, knackwurst and sauerbraten % are hardly the stuff of a heart%healthy diet. +he rapid disappearance of such restaurants, however, has been prompted more by their high labor costs than by their menus. >erman restaurants now account for only about thirty percent of the food%service market in >ermany. Mc"onald's "eutschland is by far the largest restaurant company in the nation. $t opened the first >erman Mc"onald's in &',&4 twenty years later, it had C)) restaurants4 today it has about <(). +he company's main dish happens to be named after a >erman city, ?amburg, where ground%beef steaks were popular in the early nineteenth century4 the hamburger was born when Americans added the bun. For years, >ermany has been Mc"onald's' most profitable market outside the #nited States. 1ut there are signs that the >erman infatuation with American fast food may have peaked. Mc"onald's' annual revenues per restaurant have slowly been declining in >ermany since &'':. +he rapid e.pansion of fast%food chains there coincided with the conservative rule of ?elmut 6ohl, a period that celebrated order, discipline and a narrow vision of who could be considered >erman. +he Social "emocrats were voted into power in September for the first time in si.teen years4 the new government vows to strengthen environmental laws, reduce unemployment, broaden the rights of immigrants and restore a sense of community. +he mood of the nation seems to have shifted, and the move of the >erman capital to 1erlin, a city renowned for its diversity and nonconformity, may signify that a new, progressive era has begun. +he opposition to American fast%food chains voiced by >erman environmentalists and left%wing groups is not always shared by organi-ations on the far right. About a third of the young people in eastern >ermany now e.press support for various nationalist and neo%!a-i groups. +he unemployment rate in the east e.ceeds twenty percent, and recent immigrants are being blamed for the 2oblessness. E.tremist groups have declared large parts of eastern >ermany to be @foreigner%free@ -ones where immigrants are not

welcome. +he roads leading to *lauen are decorated with signs posted by the "eutsche Iolksunion, the nation's leading neo%!a-i party. @>ermany for the >ermans,@ the signs say4 @0obs for >ermans, !ot Foreigners.@ 5hen $ asked one of the employees at the local Mc"onald's whether the restaurant had ever been the target of neo%!a-is, she said there hadn't been any problems or threats of that kind. *eople in the area did not consider Mc"onald's to be @foreign.@ ne of the most controversial Mc"onald's restaurants in >ermany is on a nondescript street in a new shopping comple. not far from "achau, the first concentration camp opened by the !a-is. +he shopping comple. was built on fields where inmates once did forced labor. Although the architecture of the buildings looks >erman and futuristic, their hapha-ard placement on the land seems distinctly American. +he comple. would not seem out of place near an interstate offramp in +ucson, Ari-ona. +he Mc"onald's is across the street from a discount supermarket4 an auto%parts store stands some distance from the other buildings, separated by fields that have not yet vanished beneath concrete. 9ast year, a ?olocaust group staged protests against the opening of a Mc"onald's so close to a concentration camp where !a-i scientists performed medical e.periments on living people and at least :),))) inmates died. +he Mc"onald's Corp. denied that it was trying to profit from the ?olocaust and said that the restaurant was at least a mile away from the camp. After the curator of the "achau Museum complained that Mc"onald's was distributing leaflets among tourists in the camp's parking lot, giving them directions to the restaurant, the company halted the practice. +he first inmates at "achau were political prisoners; socialists, communists, religious opponents of the !a-i regime. $n later years, 0ews, >ypsies, homose.uals, 0ehovah's 5itnesses % people considered abnormal and @degenerate@ % were sent there. #pon arriving at "achau, new inmates were greeted by a sign painted in huge white letters on the roof. $t said, @+he way to freedom is to follow one's orders. . . .@ +he Mc"onald's at "achau is one%third of a mile from the entrance to the camp. +he day $ went there, the restaurant was staging a 5estern 1ig Mac promotion. $t was decorated in a 5ild 5est theme, with paper place mats featuring a wanted poster of butch essidy. +he Mc"onald's was full of mothers and small children. +eenagers in !ikes and 9evi's sat in groups smoking cigarettes. +urkish immigrants worked in the kitchen, disco music played, and the red paper cups on everyone's tray said, always coca%cola. +he most notable thing about the place was its total and utter banality. +his Mc"onald's was in "achau, but it could have been anywhere % anywhere in the #nited States, anywhere in the world. Millions of other people at that very moment were ordering the same food from the same menu in a hundred different languages, in almost every time -one, every longitude and latitude, food that tasted everywhere the same. in the demonology of vegetarians and environmentalists, cattle ranchers have long ranked near the top. As "ale 9asater stands in a corral full of huge bulls, feeding them treats from his hand, the stereotype doesn't /uite fit. 9asater is in his early fifties, with a handlebar mustache and wire%rim glasses. ?e wears worn%out 2eans and boots, and a well%ironed button%down shirt, looking part cowboy, part $vy 9eaguer. +he bulls that crowd around him seem almost sweet, acting more like a bunch of Ferdinands than like

fierce symbols of machismo. +hey were bred to be gentle, never dehorned and never roped. +he 9asater 7anch occupies about :),))) acres of short%grass prairie near the town of Matheson, Colorado, fifty miles northeast of Colorado Springs. $t is a profitable working ranch that for half a century has not used pesticides, herbicides, poison or commercial fertili-ers on the land, has not killed local predators such as coyotes, and has not administered growth hormones, anabolic steroids or antibiotics to the cattle. +he 9asaters are by no means typical, but they have worked hard to change how American beef is produced. "espite years of e.perimentation and careful refinement, the 9asater philosophy of cattle ranching relies on a simple faith; @!ature is smart as hell.@ 1efore taking over the family ranch, 9asater spent a year in Argentina as a Fulbright scholar, ran a feedlot company in 6ansas and managed cattle ranches in +e.as, Florida and !ew Me.ico. ?is e.periences persuaded him that the current system of agricultural production in the #nited States cannot be sustained. 7ising grain prices will someday hit ranches and feedlots hard. More important, 9asater finds it difficult to 2ustify feeding millions of tons of grain to American cattle, while elsewhere in the world millions of people starve. ?e respects a person's decision to become a vegetarian but has little patience for the air of moral superiority that often accompanies it. >rowing up on the prairie gave him a view of nature that is somewhat different from the "isney version. Cattle that are not eaten by people, that are simply allowed to grow old and weak, still get eaten % by coyotes and turkey bu--ards, and it's not a pretty sight. "ale 9asater recently set up a company to sell free%range, organic, grass%fed beef. !one of the cattle used in 9asater >rasslands 1eef spend any time at a feedlot. +he meat is much lower in fat than grain%fed beef and has a stronger, more distinctive flavor. 9asater says that most Americans have forgotten what real beef tastes like. Argentine beef is now considered a gourmet item, and almost all of the cattle in Argentina are grass%fed. +he current system of beef production, relying on huge feedlots, arose during a period of low%priced, government%subsidi-ed grain. 7ecent findings that E. coli &(,;?, may not survive in the intestines of grass%fed cattle have strengthened 9asater's determination to follow a different path. 9asater doesn't think that his little company will revolutioni-e the American beef industry4 but it's a start. Fifty miles away, on South !evada Avenue in Colorado Springs, 7ich Conway operates a family business that's also bucking the trend. Conway's 7ed +op 7estaurant occupies a modest brick building on a street full of funky old 5estern motels, the kind with animated neon $ndian chiefs on their signs, the kind where the # in the C%# Motel is a golden horseshoe. 7ich Conway has been through a lot. ?e has had a motorcycle accident and a bad car accident, and he later slipped on some ice and broke his back. !ow in his late forties, Conway walks slowly with a cane but has a handsome, weathered face, a Oen%like calm and a tough, independent streak that keeps him going against the odds, the sort of /ualities an American small%business man needs these days. ?e's a survivor. 5hen $ asked what made him provide health insurance to all his workers % a benefit fast% food restaurants rarely offer % Conway smiled politely, as though the answer was obvious, and said, @5e want healthy employees.@

7ich Conway's parents bought the restaurant in &'3= and began serving large oval hamburgers. ?e grew up working there alongside his nine brothers and sisters. Conway's 7ed +op % with a little spinning top on its yellow sign % became a local favorite, thanks to its burgers and fries. A few years ago, the food critics 0ane and Michael Stern, the authors of 7oad Food, wrote that Conway's 7ed +op sold some of the best hamburgers in the #.S. +he restaurant thrived during the &',)s, despite an invasion by national fast%food chains that landed up and down South !evada Avenue. 1ut Conway's almost shut down in the early &'<)s, after the death of 7ich's father. +he restaurant's local suppliers helped keep it afloat until new financing could be arranged. Conway's 7ed +op now has three locations in Colorado Springs. 7ich Conway's younger brother "an serves as finance director, and his sister Mary 6aye is the marketing director. $n the kitchen at Conway's, the hamburger patties are still formed every day by hand, using fresh ground beef. +he beef is obtained from a small, family%owned grinder in "enver4 7ich Conway hopes to offer 9asater beef soon. +he hamburger buns come from a family%owned bakery in nearby *ueblo. +wo hundred pounds of potatoes are peeled every morning in the kitchen and then are sliced into fries with an old contraption attached to the wall. +he burgers and fries are made to order by cooks who earn up to ten dollars an hour and wear baseball caps that say conway's red top; one's a meal. +he kitchen is not operated by fancy computer software, there's takeout but no drive%through, and the food is only slightly more e.pensive than what's served at the half%empty 5endy's across the street. $n a completely unstaged encounter, $ met a customer at Conway's who has regularly been having lunch there for fifty years. +he last hamburger $ ate was prepared at Conway's 7ed +op. $t arrived on a plate with a pile of crisp fries. And it looked so damn good % big and oval, smothered in mushrooms and cheese % that $ wanted to take a picture of it and keep the picture as proof. !ot everyone has bought into this fast%food nation4 there are still grounds for hope.