Pull open the glass door and feel the rush of cool air. Step inside. Look at the
backlit color pictures of food above the counter, look at the cardboard ads for
the latest Disney movie, get in line, and place your order. Hand over some
money. Put the change back in your pocket. Watch teenagers in blue-and-
gold uniforms busy working in the kitchen. Moments later, grab the plastic
tray with your food, find an empty table, and sit down. Unwrap the burger,
squirt ketchup on the fries, stick the plastic straw through the hole in the lid
of your drink. Pick up the burger and dig in.
The whole experience of eating at a fast-food restaurant has
become so familiar, so routine, that we take it for granted. It has become just
another habit, like brushing your teeth before bed. We do it without even
thinking about itand thats the problem.
Every day about one out of fourteen Americans eats at a
McDonalds. Every month about nine out of ten American children visit one.
McDonalds has become the most popular fast-food chain in the worldand
by far the most powerful.
In 1968 there were about 1,000 McDonalds restaurants, all of them in the
United States. Now there are more than 31,000 McDonalds, selling Happy
Meals in 120 countries, from Istanbul, Turkey, to Papeete, Tahiti. In the
United States, McDonalds buys more processed beef, chicken, pork,
apples, and potatoes than any other company. It spends more money on
advertising and marketing than any other company that sells food. As a
result, it is Americas most famous food brand. The impact of McDonalds on
the way we live today is truly mind-boggling. The Golden Arches are now
more widely recognized than the Christian cross.
Despite McDonalds fame and all the money it spends on
advertising, every day the vast majority of its customers dont plan to eat
there. Most fast-food visits are impulsive. The decision to buy fast food is
usually made at the last minute, without much thought. People generally
dont leave the house in the morning saying, Im going to make sure to eat
some fast food today. Most of the time, theyre just walking down the
sidewalk or driving down the road, not thinking about anything in particular.
Maybe theyre hungry; maybe theyre not. Maybe theyre in a hurry and dont
have time to cook. And then they see a great big fast-food signthe Golden
Arches, the red-and-blue of a Dominos pizza box, the picture of Colonel
Sandersand they suddenly think, Hey, I want some of that. So they stop
to eat fast food. They do it because they feel like it. They just cant resist the
The point of this book is to take that strong impulse we all feel
our hunger for sweet, salty, fatty fast foodsand make you think about it.
Chew On This will tell you where fast food comes from, who makes it, whats
in it, and what happens when you eat it. This is a book about fast food and
the world it has made.
Food is one of the most important things youll ever buy. And yet
most people never bother to think about their food and where it comes from.
People spend a lot more time worrying about what kind of blue jeans to wear,
what kind of video games to play, what kind of computers to buy. They
compare the different models and styles, they talk to friends about the
various options, they read as much as they can before making a choice. But
those purchases dont really matter. When you get tired of old blue jeans,
video games, and computers, you can just give them away or throw them out.
The food you eat enters your body and literally becomes part of
you. It helps determine whether youll be short or tall, weak or strong, thin or
fat. It helps determine whether you will enjoy a long, healthy life or die young.
Food is of fundamental importance. So why is it that most people dont think
about fast food and dont know much about it?
CHEW ON THIS: EVERYTHING YOU DONT WANT TO KNOW ABOUT
FAST FOOD by Eric Schlosser and Charles Wilson. Copyright (c) 2006 by
Eric Schlosser. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All
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