A discussion of the best-selling Fast Food Nation book and food production in America.
Just prior to the initial release of Fast Food Nation: The
Dark Side of the All American Meal, a representative of the
book's publisher, Houghton Mifflin, told Publisher's Weekly
the company had ordered a large first printing of the book
(while declining to say exactly how big). Houghton Mifflin
seemed a little overly optimistic given Nation was Eric
Schlosser's first book attempt and the book was about an
industry whose success was based in blandness.
Then the first printing of the Fast Food Nation book sold out. And then the second
printing did, too. And then the third . . .
A year and a half and roughly 300,000 copies later, Nation
has been unanimously declared the biggest surprise
nonfiction bestseller of the century.
In the afterword to the paperback edition, Schlosser chalks
up Nation's popularity to timing. "Its success should not
be attributed to my literary style, my storytelling ability
or to the novelty of my arguments . . . Not just in the
United States but throughout Western Europe, people are
beginning to question the massive, homogenizing systems
that produce, distribute and market their food."
All humility aside, Schlosser's thorough reporting and
compelling narrative obviously made some difference. (After
all, he's not the first person to assert that consolidation
is bad for small farmers or that meatpacking plants abuse
their largely immigrant workforce.)
But what's really fueled the book's success has been its
careful examination of the process involved in making fast
food so unremarkable. No element of modern American culture
goes untouched. MOTHER EARTH NEws readers won't be
surprised (much) by Schlosser's description of how
agricultural land, food and meat quality are harmed by
industrial production. But even knowledgeable readers might
be surprised to learn how even the smallest children are
targeted in the plans to make fast food chains
indispensable to Americans.
— Sarah Beth Cavanah
To order Fast Food Nation, see MOTHER'S Bookshelf, page 104 of this issue.
Fast Food Facts:
One in eight American workers has worked
for McDonald's. McDonald's is the largest beef buyer in the
One in three meat processing plant workers is reported
injured on the job each year, more are unreported. — From
Fast Food Nation