NPR’s "Fresh Air" Interview with Eric "Fast Food Nation" Schlosser (Part 3 of the "Hamburgers" Series)

Here’s the last of my “Hamburgers” media posts. It’s the NPR Fresh Air

interview with Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal. (Yeah, this

interview’s old, but it’s still good.)

My quickie notes taken while listening to the interview:

  • The flavour industry: an offshoot of the fragrance industry, and how it became a big player in fast food
  • The Chicken McNugget and how it changed the food industry
  • Meatpacking — once one of the highest-paid industrial jobs in the US. Now it has

    become one of the lowest-paid, in spite of being one of the most


  • Fast food industry wages:
    • The lowest of any industry.
    • Fast food is the largest

      minimum-wage-paying industry in the US

    • Companies in the industry decided that it was better to have a large

      poorly-paid poorly-trained workforce than a small well-paid

      well-trained workforce.

    • It doesn’t have to be this way; Schlosser cites In-N-Out burger as the standout case, with an

      $8/hr starting wage, managers who get paid an $80K salary and full health and dental coverage for their employees.

    • Growth of the industry parallels the decline of minimum wage (in real terms) in the US. 

    • Fast food companies are biggest opponents to any

      rise in the minimum wage

  • Meat and disease:
    • The changes that the fast food industry have made to the meatpacking industry have made it “the

      perfect vehicle for Food-borne illnesses”. It used to be that your

      burger came from the meat of perhaps one or two cows — now a butger

      can come from a large number of cows, which means that one sick cow can

      contaminate the meat across the country.

    • After the Jack in the Box outbreaks, the FF companies have worked hard to prevent contamination in meat
    • Meat at Jack in the Box and McDonalds is the most tested; however this is done at the expense of the meat at your grocery
  • McDonalds operates more playgrounds than any other private entity


    the US. A lot of communities have local governments who are unwilling

    or unable to spend money building playgrounds; in those places,

    McDonald’s is the only alternative. The problem: McDonald’s marketing

    — they’re targeting kids and selling htem unhealthy food. The rise of

    childhood obesity parallels rise of fast food industry.

  • Fast food places are good targets for robbery — far better than

    places like 7-11, which have implemented practices to keepas much money

    as possible in a safe which employees cannot open. The average take

    from a 7-11 robbery is $37; you can make thousands if you rob a fast

    food place at the right time. Half of fast food robberies are inside jobs.

  • Schlosser “tried to write something that wasn’t black and white”.

    Most people

    in the fast food industry aren’t bad people but business people; give

    them business reasons to change their practices and they’ll do it.

  • Schlosser on fast food: “Most of it tastes pretty good”
  • He says that in the book, he didn’t talk much of fast food’s

    influences on the landscape of the industry. The McDonald’s model —

    the mass reproduction of a specific retail environment — has inspired

    other retailers : The Gap, Sunglass Hut, Banana

    Republic. The outskirts of one American community is pretty

    indistinguishable from


  • One of the most surreal moments in researching the book: at Las

    Vegas at a fast food convention. Mikhail Gorbachev was a keynote

    speaker. At his keynote, he praised McDonald’s entry into Russia and

    asked the fast food executives to invest in Russia. Schlosser says he

    was reminded of the old Roman practice of brining leaders of countries

    they conquered and putting them on display at circuses.

  • Schlosser: “If I were king of the world, I would really try to

    internalize the costs that they’re imposing left and right on society.”

The interview is in two parts:

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