Not just a great book, but a life-changing book. It’s been several years since I’ve read it, but I still cannot bring myself to eat at a McDonald’s-type fast food place, for health as well as moral reasons.
Schlosser describes in great detail just what it is you support every time you give your money to a corrupt company as influential as McDonald’s. They engage in a number of unhealthy and unethical practices to keep their profits at record highs. I don’t want to name all of the bad policies facilitated by the fast food industry, but here are a some of the most important ones we contribute to every time we eat fast food:
- The unhygienic and inhumane treatment of cows and chickens – Animals kept in tight, enclosed spaces don’t get the exercise or fresh air they need to be healthy. The natural food source of cattle is grass, yet they are fed a low quality corn meal mixed with hooves, horns, stomach lining and other cattle remains from previous slaughters. Similarly, chickens get fed some grain and the stuff left at the bottom of the cages of earlier chickens (shredded newspaper and feces) mixed with feathers, claws, beaks and other unused chicken parts. Schlosser notes that feeding animals feces and the remains of other animals have been linked to the spread of diseases like Mad Cow Disease and E. Coli.
- A substandard quality of food – Animals eating the trash mentioned above plus being pumped full of anti-biotics and hormones (to create the semblance of health) creates low quality food eaten by millions of Americans, which contributes to poor health, food poisoning and spread of disease. Not to mention that random tests at fast food places found that there are feces in your hamburger.
- Dangerous and unsanitary working conditions at meat factories and slaughterhouses – The safety standards and worker’s benefits are very low at the factories where meat is processed, creating an environment with a high number of work-related injuries and little help for the injured employees. A number of meat factories bus illegal immigrants in from Mexico to work in these factories, who are provided with even fewer benefits and compensation than American workers. These unskilled laborers are frequently injured and contribute to the contamination of meat because of their low training.
- Pressure from food corporations on Congress to keep worker wages down, and consequently, profits high – Fast food companies seek to make food preparation more and more automated, to be able to hire workers and train them as little as possible. This creates an “expendable worker” and nearly unlimited supply of employees who can be easily and cheaply replaced.
Reading this book made me realize how much damage I was causing in supporting fast food restaurants and the infrastructure that uses poor people and forces low-quality and unhealthy food on us. McDonald’s and the like will never get another dollar of my cash to damage this country further.
I haven’t given up on meat by any means, I just make sure that I’m eating animals that were treated well, fed real food, not pumped full of antibiotics, and handled properly when slaughtered to avoid contamination. To eat any other way is just too scary to comprehend.
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