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Fast Food Nation | Quotes


The early Roman Republic was fed by its citizen-farmers; the Roman Empire, by its slaves.

Eric Schlosser, Epigraph and Introduction

Eric Schlosser shows how food reveals key aspects of a nation's history, character, and mindset. What people eat and how they're fed matters. Under a democratic government in Rome, citizens ate local food from "citizen-farmers." Under a dictatorial empire, citizens ate food prepared by slaves. The book demonstrates how America's fast food system resembles an empire more than a republic. The servers, farmers, ranchers, and factory workers have little power or control.


Almost every facet of American life has now been franchised or chained.

Eric Schlosser, Epigraph and Introduction

The dominance of fast food restaurants reveals how loyal Americans are to corporations. People buy recognizable brands and eat food from chains they know. Eric Schlosser argues that this focus on retail growth has spilled over into other aspects of life, such as what Americans wear, what they drive, what they learn in school, and even how they experience birth and death. The word "chained" can also mean trapped; consumers may be trapped in their lifestyles unless they deliberately make different choices.


I believe in Progress.

Carl N. Karcher, Part 1, Chapter 1

Although Eric Schlosser is dismayed by Anaheim's transformation from agricultural orange groves to familiar suburban strip malls, Carl N. Karcher sees industrialization as a sign of a better life for Americans. Karcher's rural working-class background and dogged pursuit of wealth resemble the image of the "self-made man" who has achieved the "American dream." Like many fast food industry executives, Karcher views technological innovations and business expansion as completely positive forces in the community.


People were being trained and fitted ... into a machine for the manufacture of entertainment.

Walt Disney, Part 1, Chapter 2

Walt Disney designs his creative business like an automobile plant, calling the company itself a "machine." The postwar emphasis on mass production means workers are valued for their ability to perform a single, mindless task, not for their unique skills. The individual is devalued.


This is rat eat rat, dog eat dog.

Ray A. Kroc, Part 1, Chapter 2

Ray A. Kroc's attitude toward business is relentlessly capitalist. He wants to overtake his competitors through strength and brutality, using visceral animal metaphors to show the unforgiving nature of business expansion. Many prominent fast food executives share this view of the industry. Eric Schlosser uses the phrase "dog eat dog" later in the book in an example of verbal irony, describing the disease-spreading practice of animals being fed other animals.


Now you can buy a Happy Meal at the Happiest Place on Earth.

Eric Schlosser, Part 1, Chapter 2

Eric Schlosser describes the "synergy" or cooperation of McDonald's and Disney. Both brands associate themselves with happiness, selling contentment and joy to America along with a more tangible product. Combining the brands' two recognizable tag lines in one sentence shows the power and force of their marketing and how it appeals to American desires.


The American West, [an] odd mixture of rugged individualism and a dependence upon public land.

Eric Schlosser, Part 2, Chapter 5

Introducing Idaho potato tycoon John Richard (J.R.) Simplot, Eric Schlosser shows how entrepreneurs have taken over the American West through what they believe to be grit and motivation. However, many entrepreneurs, like Simplot, have depended on government support. The entrepreneurs don't seem to acknowledge this and continue to think their success has come only from besting the competition.


The patterns of land ownership in the American West ... resemble those of rural England.

Eric Schlosser, Part 2, Chapter 5

Although many Americans consider that the United States is a place where anyone can make their own fortune through hard work, Eric Schlosser challenges this notion by pointing out economic patterns resembling feudalism and class inequality. Chicken farmers have become "little more than serfs," with a few dominant chicken processing corporations controlling hundreds of employees. The beef industry has begun to operate in the same way. Farmers and ranchers can't determine what their animals are worth, and they may not even own their land. Schlosser's comparison implies American exceptionalism is more myth than truth. The nation is more divided between rich and poor than readers may realize.


The land that has been lost ... is a tangible connection with the past.

Eric Schlosser, Part 2, Chapter 6

For ranchers like Hank who lose their land to suburban development or corporate takeover, it is not just a business loss—it's the loss of an identity and a legacy. Eric Schlosser considers how a career is often more than a career, especially for a rancher—and in this case, for the nation. As the United States destroys its independent agriculture, it destroys its own past.


Human beings ... had been made "cogs in the great packing machine."

Eric Schlosser, Part 2, Chapter 7

Eric Schlosser uses a quotation from Upton Sinclair's The Jungle to illustrate how little the meatpacking industry has changed since 1906. Factory workers are still treated like machine parts. Their injuries are downgraded, and they're considered dispensable. Until the industry sees its employees as people and not parts, reform won't happen.


There is shit in the meat.

Eric Schlosser, Part 2, Chapter 9

The abrupt use of profanity in this brief sentence is meant to startle and disgust readers. Foodborne pathogens may seem mysterious and complex, but Eric Schlosser boils them down to their causes and explains how easily methods of mass production can lead to the unthinkable.


It is the ultimate consumer technology, designed to manufacture ... a brief sense of hope.

Eric Schlosser, Part 2, Chapter 10

Describing slot machines in Las Vegas, Eric Schlosser gets to the heart of "consumer technology." Successful products, such as fast food, often represent hope and promise to consumers. Japanese fast food patrons may hope to become Westernized, and parents who buy fast food may hope for their child's approval. McDonald's advertising to children creates a fantasy world, "selling something intangible." The hope helps explain McDonald's restaurant's enduring appeal.


The dream of freedom without limits, self-reliance, and a wide-open frontier.

Eric Schlosser, Part 2, Chapter 10

As Eric Schlosser watches Germans enjoy an American West–themed bar, he leaves readers with a lingering image of the "American dream." This dream fueled settlement of the West and, later, the region's business expansion and sprawl. The book explores the limitations and pitfalls of this dream but also recognizes the dream's enduring power.


The twenty-first [century] will ... be marked by a struggle to curtail excessive corporate power.

Eric Schlosser, Epilogue

Fast Food Nation was published at the beginning of the 21st century. Eric Schlosser's investigation of the fast food industry has revealed the impact and damage of corporations. He also has discussed how different social movements and "totalitarian systems" have shaped the last half of the 20th century. Looking to the future, he imagines what citizens' struggles and responsibilities will be in the next century.


Whatever replaces the fast food industry should be regional, diverse, authentic, unpredictable, sustainable, profitable ... humble.

Eric Schlosser, Afterword

What would a lasting change in the way Americans eat look like? How can concerned readers change the world for the better? This quotation shows the new restaurant system Eric Schlosser envisions, marked by adjectives representing the opposite of the fast food industry. After studying what went wrong, he gives readers a blueprint to create a more effective system, rooted in celebration of individual talent and respect for the environment.

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