Example Response Essay
Assignment: Write a critical response to one topic from selected chapters of Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser, after giving your reader a brief summary of the text.
[Instructor comments appear in bold, italic font within brackets below.]
The Workforce of the Fast Food Nation
The Fast Food industry in some eyes has been one of the smartest inventions this world has seen since the invention of the wheel. It has been driven by our stomachs and our wallets for 40 to 50 years and it's still growing to this date. The man who invented it can be called the smartest person, or best business man, this country has ever seen. The Fast Food Industry is so big that it has affected our health, changed our culture, and distorted our land ever since day one. Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser is a book about lots of charges that are backed up by some great research and lots of facts. He shows how it has changed our country and the people living and working inside. The book is very against anything that has to do with Fast Food from the way it was invented to the way it is running now. I agree with everything Schlosser states and know what he is describing because he describes my job at Chucky Cheese. It’s amazing how the fast food industry became as successful and dominant as it did. Out of all the factors that do go into the success, I believe the workforce will always keep the fast food industry at the top. [Good – You make a clear “Yes, and” argument: You agree with the author about the dominance of the fast food industry and then go beyond the book by arguing that the biggest reason for the industry’s success is how it treats workers. This argument allows you to offer your own critical perspective, rather than simply summarizing and repackaging what the author has said.]
In my opinion the way they run their business has propelled them to where they are now. It all starts in the Workforce. They prefer unskilled workers that have absolutely no experience. In their case, teenagers become their ideal employees. Where I work I talked to about 80% of the workers and asked where they have worked and for whom. 37 out of the 48 co-workers that I talked to said they have no experience before our job at Chucky Cheese. The ones that did have experience are 50 years old and got laid off from their long term jobs, and have nowhere to go. [Great evidence. You effectively use your own experience in the fast food industry to comment on the issues raised by the book. Your interviews with coworkers – and the statistics you include from those interviews – are especially effective.] It amazes me how well run fast food is! They target us because we have no experience and we have no almost no choice in where and what jobs we can get. That way we go straight to fast food so we can get the so called experience that we need just to go one step further and work at the mall. “Teenagers have been the perfect candidates for these jobs, not only because they are less expensive to hire than adults, but also because their youthful inexperience makes them easier to control” (68) [You cite Schlosser effectively and appropriately, but this quote, like others in the essay, is stuck in with no introduction. Try to transition more smoothly into your quotes by telling readers whom you are about to quote and how the quote relates to the content you have been discussing in the paragraph so far]. Schlosser states that teenagers are willing to accept the low pay and work the high amount of hours and that way we are the “target” employees. The reason for working at Chucky Cheese was because I went all through high school looking for a job and all that was available to me was fast food. Eventually I gave in and this summer I applied and got the job.
Fast food is not a very hard job to do; everything is set up just for us so it won’t be a difficult job and that a person with a third of a brain or less can do it. The hard thing about fast food is the amount of work. Fast Food Nation describes how everything is set up like the assembly lines in Detroit. Everything is done in steps from start to finish; it has all been prepared so it won’t be time consuming and there is a lot of output in a small amount of time. Schlosser states how all fast food restaurants have manuals, explaining how everything should be done. Some manuals were as long as 75 pages explaining how the burgers should be cooked and how they should be placed. It was almost like he was describing my training because I had to almost completely memorize a 50 page manual describing how I should weigh things and how and for how long things should cook. Then we were tested just to show them that we did look over the manual and if we didn’t get a certain score we could have lost our job without even working a single second [Again, you effectively use personal examples and paraphrases from the book to explain your response].
The way we are treated is also exactly the way Schlosser states. Fast food managers spend more time motivating the members of the workforce than really running the store. They want to make them feel like they are doing something special and exciting. “In absence of good wages and secure employment, the chains inculcate “team spirit” in their young crews” (74). He explains how if in some way the workers relax they are disappointing the coworkers and in the end they are giving them more work. That way they can motivate the workers to always be on time and go to work every day. ”One of these techniques is called “stroking” – a form of positive reinforcement, deliberate praise, recognition that many teenagers don’t get at home.” I can easily say that I see this everyday. I never noticed it until I read that exact quote. It blew me away when I started to look back and I noticed how almost everyday if I did something wrong it was okay. All they would say is try not to do it next time or that eventually I won’t make those mistakes.
Fast food corporations employ more people than other corporations in the world. They are paying their workers minimum wage for long hours and a job that demands too much work in such a small amount of time. The hours can be really rough too. I’ve worked until 1 or 2 a.m. in the morning on some weekdays and weekends closing the store. I never knew that scrubbing and preparing the store for the next day could take so long. They will also try to cut hours for other workers and they put the whole shift on our shoulders and that makes even more work for us. Schlosser gives some great stats about how many people they employ and exploit just to run hundreds of thousands of fast food joints: “The three big corporations (known as: McDonald’s, Burger King, and Tricon Global Restaurants also known as taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and KFC) now employ 3.7 million people worldwide” (71). [This is a good way to incorporate statistics to demonstrate your point.] They have employed about 90 percent of people for the new jobs in the United States. Soon they will end up employing a whole country if everything pans out: “An estimated one out of every eight workers in the United States has at some point been employed by McDonalds” (4). The company hires about a million people each year. In a couple of years though, I think these figures should double.
There are thousands of fast food joints on every corner today; from every fast food restaurant it seems as though 5 more pop out. Imagine how many workers they go through in a year. While they are trying to force feed us fast food they are making money at the expense of teenagers and unskilled workers just to make a wad of dough. They attract us by the bright colors and manipulate our senses just to make them a buck, while Carlos is in the back, in the kitchen working his butt off for $7.25 an hour, trying to make it through another day of making pizza. The three big corporations open a new fast food restaurant every two hours, not counting Chucky Cheese. I could only hope that the working conditions change and we get paid more but I really know that that’s never going to happen. These companies are too smart and well run that only the consumer can stop it.
There are lots of factors that contributed to the rise of the fast food industry. From the way they market to kids as their target customer, to the way they sell their food. However, in my eyes the workforce is and will be what keeps these corporations making billions of dollars. I can now say that I’ve seen some of the factors myself over the last couple of months. Will this evil empire eventually fall and what will drive it to the ground? Will it be the workers trying to do something about the work conditions and the low pay? These are some of the things that we can’t tell until the future becomes the present. All I could do is hope that eventually it does get better. [Conclusion wraps up paper effectively].
Instructor end comment:
[This essay is very well organized, with a clear central thesis, focused paragraphs that develop the thesis, an effective introduction and conclusion, and good transitions between topics. As you move through the essay, you make it clear when you are summarizing something from the author and when you are offering your own commentary or examples. Areas for improvement: your opening summary of the book could have been a bit more specific, you could have used more statistics to demonstrate the dominance of the fast food industry, and you could have pushed your ideas further, such as exploring why this factor is more important than other factors. In terms of language, you also often use more words than you need, which makes your writing less powerful. In your editing process, try to focus on tightening up your sentences by being more direct and concise. You also need a “works cited” page (bibliography) at the end of the paper listing the sources used.]
** Minor mechanical errors/typos have been corrected by the creators of CHARLIE
This article is about the book. For the film, see Fast Food Nation (film).
Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal (2001) is a book by investigative journalistEric Schlosser that examines the local and global influence of the United States fast food industry.
First serialized by Rolling Stone in 1999, the book has drawn comparisons to Upton Sinclair's classic muckraking novel The Jungle (1906). The book was adapted into a 2006 film of the same name, directed by Richard Linklater.
The book is divided into two sections: "The American Way", which interrogates the beginnings of the Fast Food Nation within the context of post-World War II America; and "Meat and Potatoes", which examines the specific mechanisms of the fast-food industry, including the chemical flavoring of the food, the production of cattle and chickens, the working conditions in the beef industry, the dangers of eating meat, and the global context of fast food as an American cultural export.
Fast Food Nation opens with a discussion of Carl N. Karcher and the McDonald's brothers, examining their roles as pioneers of the fast-food industry in southern California. This discussion is followed by an examination of Ray Kroc and Walt Disney's complicated relationship, as well as each man's rise to fame. This chapter also considers the intricate, profitable methods of advertising to children. Next, Schlosser visits Colorado Springs, CO and investigates the life and working conditions of the typical fast-food industry employee: fast-food restaurants have among the highest employee turnover rates and pay minimum wage to a higher proportion of their employees than any other American industry.
The second section of the text begins with a discussion of the chemical components that make the food taste so good. Schlosser follows this with a discussion of the life of a typical rancher, considering the difficulties presented to the agricultural world in a new economy. Schlosser is perhaps most provocative when he critiques the meatpacking industry, which he tags as the most dangerous job in America. Moreover, the meat produced by slaughterhouses has become exponentially more hazardous since the centralization of the industry: the way cattle are raised, slaughtered, and processed provides an ideal setting for E coli to spread. Additionally, working conditions continue to grow worse. In the final chapter, Schlosser considers how fast food has matured as an American cultural export following the Cold War: the collapse of Soviet Communism has allowed the mass spread of American goods and services, especially fast food. As a result, the rest of the world is catching up with America's rising obesity rates.
Evolution of the fast food industry
The book continues with an account of the evolution of fast food and how it has coincided with the advent of the automobile. Schlosser explains the transformation from countless independent restaurants to a few uniform franchises. "The extraordinary growth of the fast food industry has been driven by fundamental changes in American society. During that period, women entered the workforce in record numbers, often motivated less by a feminist perspective than by a need to pay the bills. In 1975, about one-third of American mothers with young children worked outside the home; today almost two-thirds of such mothers are employed. As the sociologists Cameron Lynne Macdonald and Carmen Sirianni have noted, the entry of so many women into the workforce has greatly increased demand for the types of services that housewives traditionally perform: cooking, cleaning, and child care. A generation ago, three-quarters of the money used to buy food in the United States was spent to prepare meals at home. Today about half of the money used to buy food is spent at restaurants - mainly at fast food restaurants."
Marketing to children
Regarding the topic of child-targeted marketing, Schlosser explains how the McDonald's Corporation modeled its marketing tactics on The Walt Disney Company, which inspired the creation of advertising icons such as Ronald McDonald and his sidekicks. Marketing executives intended that this marketing shift would result not only in attracting children, but their parents and grandparents as well. More importantly, it would instill brand loyalty that would persist through adulthood, through nostalgic associations to McDonald's. Schlosser also discusses the tactic's ills: the exploitation of children's naïveté and their trusting nature.
In marketing to children, Schlosser suggests, corporations have infiltrated schools through sponsorship and quid pro quo. He sees that reductions in corporate taxation have come at the expense of school funding, thereby presenting many corporations with the opportunity for sponsorship with those same schools. According to his sources, 80% of sponsored textbooks contain material that is biased in favor of the sponsors, and 30% of high schools offer fast foods in their cafeterias.
In his examination of the meat packing industry, Schlosser finds that it is now dominated by casual, easily exploited immigrant labor and that levels of injury are among the highest of any occupation in the United States. Schlosser discusses his findings on meat packing companies, including ConAgra and IBP, Inc., and profiles former meatpacking employee Kenny Dobbins. Schlosser also recounts the steps involved in meat processing, and reveals several hazardous practices unknown to many consumers, such as the practice of rendering dead pigs, dead horses and chicken manure into cattle feed.
Schlosser notes that practices like these were responsible for the spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, aka Mad Cow Disease, p. 202-3), as well as for introducing harmful bacteria into the food supply, such as E. coli O157:H7 (ch. 9, "What's In The Meat"). A later section of the book discusses the fast food industry's role in globalization, linking increased obesity in China and Japan with the arrival of fast food. The book also includes a summary of the McLibel Case.
In later editions, Schlosser provided an additional section that included reviews of his book, counters to critics who emerged since its first edition, and discussion of the effect that the threat of BSE had on USDA policy towards cattle farming. He concluded that, given the swift, decisive and effective action that took place as a result of this interest and intervention, many of the problems documented in the book are solvable, given enough political will.
Young reader version
An adaptation of Fast Food Nation for younger readers titled Chew on This was published in May 2006 by Houghton Mifflin. It is co-authored by journalist Charles Wilson.
Rob Walker, writing for The New York Times, remarks that "Schlosser is a serious and diligent reporter"" and that "Fast Food Nation isn't an airy deconstruction but an avalanche of facts and observations as he examines the fast-food process from meat to marketing."
- ^"Fast Food Nation". Salon. 2002-05-03. Retrieved 2010-12-05.
- ^Sagon, Candy (2001-03-14). "The Hamburger Critic (and His Own Critics); 'Fast Food Nation" takes a scary look under the bun. But is it just fear-mongering?". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-12-05.
- ^Schlosser, Eric (2001-04-07). "The bitter truth about fast food". The Guardian. Retrieved 2012-05-09.
- ^Audio Interview: Eric Schlosser. The New York Times listen to audio file.
- ^Tichi, Cecilia (2004). "From the Jungle to Fast Food Nation: American Déjà Vu". Exposés and excess: muckraking in America, 1900-2000. University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 0-8122-3763-3.
- ^ abc"Fast Food Nation, Analysis Book Summary Online Chapter Notes". TheBestNotes.com. May 16, 2008. Archived from the original on June 15, 2013. Retrieved May 2, 2014.
- ^Schlosser, Eric (2001). Fast Food Nation. New York: Houghton Mifflin Co.
- ^Walker, Rob (21 January 2001). "No Accounting for Mouthfeel". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 February 2015.