I really like and recommend the film Food Inc. which explores the American food industry from a variety of different angles. I found it really interesting/slightly terrifying as the industrialisation of agriculture has a really impact on the animals, workers, and consumers. That film ‘stars’ Eric Schlosser, who’s a writer and producer, and had previously written Fast Food Nation.
The film is from 2008, so it’s already pretty old, the book Fast Food Nation is from 2001 so positively ancient, but it’s still really interesting.
The leading fast food chains spread nationwide; between 1960 and 1973, the number of McDonald’s restaurants grew from roughly 250 to 3,000.
It also explores the American food industry; the treatment of works in fast food restaurants, the decline of the cattle industry, the ‘flavour’ industry, food poisoning etc. These are very similar topics to those in the film but the real theme of the book is how the rise of fast food has impacted the wider food industry and society.
…a fulfillment of the American dream, and a warning about unintended consequences…
The original fast food chains sprung up during the motoring boom years, after lobbyists from the automobile, oil, and tire industries convinced the federal government to pay for the building of roads in the 1920’s. It made driving cheaper than taking the train or trolley car.
Cue the arrival of drive ins, and then it evolved when the McDonald brothers looked to cut the costs and increased sales. They fired their carhops (who brought the food out to you) and got rid of most of the things on the menu. The remaining hamburgers could be eaten without cutlery and plates, and served them quickly. They broke down every stage of food production so one person grilled the burger, another wrapped it, another made the milkshake etc, meaning all the staff was extremely easy to replace as they only had to do one thing.
I thought the book would be more about the food and health impacts but it’s actually much more about the societal impacts of the the rise of fast food. Although I feel like much of the information is still relevant I did wish it was more up to date, as I wondered what had changed in the last 16yrs. But it is very similar to the film so I would recommend that people watch that.