Friday, August 03, 2007

The evil of the fast food industry...

I pride myself in my ability to see things from both sides, all sides. I don't always agree but I try to see different points of view and understand them. For years I have disagreed that certain big businesses in America were actually hurting America and I believed it was true for some and not others. I've talked with normal, rational (not radical) people who have tried to explain to me that what was on the surface isn't how it REALLY is...

I think I see their point now.

After hearing a lot of interesting thing about the book "Fast Food Nation" I read it and I admit it wasn't what I expected. I expected it to be a book which grossed me out, detailing the nastiness of fast food kitchens (some of it does but not all of it). The one thing every single person I've talked to who has read this has told me is that regardless of my politics, this book will change me. All I can say is "wow" they were right. I have always known there is greed, corruption, dishonesty, and manipulation, but I never realized how pervasive they were...not until now. I now find myself very angry at the corporations I once defended. And above all, I had NO idea how deep the fast food industry permeated every facet of American culture.....

I couldn't even list everything in this book. You should read it for yourself...

the food is not as safe as we are led to believe.

much of the meat is not routinely tested as we are led to believe.

the four largest meatpacking firms which have most of the business are ConAgra, IBP, Excel and National Beef. They slaughter 84% of this nation's cattle.

the processing of the fast food prior to shipment to restaurants completely removes its flavor and something called the flavor industry which is primarily based in Jersey, spends billions formulating chemicals to give our food flavor.

the red dye in most red foods is made from insects collected in Peru and the Canary Islands (I'd read this before but wasn't sure).

fast food giant McDonald's takes advantage of teenage labor and people who are uneducated, unskilled and illiterate.

the fast food industry would have you and I believe their food is healthy. the reason McDonald's fries taste so good is that prior to the switch to vegetable oil, they were fried in a 7 percent sunflower oil and 93% beef tallow (that's beef FAT). The fries had and continue to have more fat per ounce than their burgers. (now i'm a proponent of personal responsibility so YES i believe that overeating fast food is dangerous BUT i'm beginning to wonder---eating it at all in ANY quantities may be a really bad idea, especially children!!).

Taco Bell has engaged in falsifying employee time cards by reducing the number of hours worked. this was done because the company policy dictated that reducing labor costs resulted in managers bonuses.

IBP, one of the nation's largest meatpackers engages in unsafe practices and intimidates employees. There are many occasions where knives are not sterilized and there is cross contamination of meat that is allowed to go through.

the fast food industry strives to simplify every process and task inside the restaurants so that no training need be required on ANY equipment. the less training needed, the lower skilled the worker, they less they have to pay.

Senator Phil Gramm who backed policies favoring the meat packing industry was the chair of the Senate Agriculture committee while his wife Wendy sat on the board of IBP, one of the nation's largest meat packing corporations.

McDonald's discriminates against employees who try to join unions. They have even gone so far as to close stores and fired all employees and then open new stores nearby refusing to hire any former employee who had backed the union.

in Britain, McDonalds employed spies to infiltrate greenpeace and other anti-McDonald's groups. They also utilized private investigators to follow these individuals in the course of their daily routine of their private lives.

the meatpacking companies have on more than one occasion conspired to manipulate market prices.

the USDA and federal government have absolutely NO authority to recall contaminated beef. also, any recall is strictly voluntary on the part of the beef industry and if it's done, the names of the brands and stores where located are protected, the USDA doesn't have to release the info and they don't.

poultry processors like Tyson manipulate and intimidate the growers they contract to raise the chickens for slaughter. if the grower joins a union, Tyson can and will terminate the contract, forcing the grower out of business.

the four major meatpacking companies have succeeded in keeping the real price of cattle a secret. small-mid size cattle ranchers have no idea the true price of cattle on any given day.

Archer Daniels Midland, engaged in price fixing and overcharging farmers by some $180 million.

when workers were killed at IBP meat packing plants due to unsafe practices, the company was only assessed a $480 fine per each person who died.

the fast food industry has a policy of firing or forcing out whistleblowers.

many ranchers are afraid to testify against the beef industry because the retaliation will result in the beef industry refusing the buy the ranchers product which in turn results in the ranchers losing their livelihood.

the food we eat in restaurants is only as safe as the people who make it. how well do you trust strangers?

90,000 of ranch land is being lost to suburban development in Colorado every year.

the small to mid size farmers have all but disappeared due to the few larger corporations buying them out or running them out of business by underbidding them or making under the table deals. these ranches also face huge inheritance taxes. many of these ranchers and farmers are land-rich and cash-poor and when a rancher dies and his estate passes to his heirs, many times parts of the property have to be sold off to pay the inheritace tax, thus reducing the size of the land.

mergers and acquisitions have greatly reduced the number of smaller to mid-size companies which can compete with the conglomerates.

the big four contract large ranchers to run feedlots which put the independent ranchers out of business.

ConAgra has participated in blackmail by forcing the state of Nebraska to give the company special tax breaks in exchange for staying in-state. The taxcode was revised in such a way that each new job at ConAgra and IBP was backed by a taxpayer subsidy of $13,000-$23,000.

The Big Four have worked tirelessly to crush labor unions.

ConAgra, the nation's largest meatpacking firm has engaged in deceitful practices such as falsifying accident logs, hiring illegal immigrants, and unsafe practices in their meatpacking facilities. ConAgra has also manipulated and intimidated ranchers.

former quaint small towns in the west where the largest meatpacking companies have established slaughterhouses have become riddled with extremely low wages, illiteracy, illegal immigrants, violent crime, drug and alcohol abuse.

the fast food industry spends millions on research in the form of spying on children at playgrounds and in the classroom, and in focus groups in an effort to target children in their advertising campaings. without a doubt, the fast food industry TARGETS children!!! they have even come up with names for the tactics children can use to persuade their parents to take them to McDonald's. their goal is to advertise to children in such a way the children use these tactics in an effort to get what they want.

McDonald's (as well as Disney) often promote advertising that makes you think if you take your child to their establishment, it makes you a good parent.

In the wake of school budget cuts, corporations like Coca Cola and McDonalds pay large amounts of money to several school systems around the country in exchange for being able to advertise their products in the schools. Some schools have names of products painted on their roofs, in their hallways, some have vending machines outside classrooms. Some fast food chains even have franchises inside the school cafeteria. there are times these schools are required to meet "sales quotas" in order to keep the money flowing in from the corporation. schools are forced by their administration to subtly encourage children to consume the products!

the soft drink and fast food industry are in bed with each other AND Disney.

large corporations often charge exorbitant fees to their franchises and force them to use corporate approved suppliers. the corporations raise the price of the products supplied to the franchises thus making more profit off their own franchise.

the small business administration, an entity of our federal government, which assists in the financing of small independent businesses has given MILLIONS in loans to fast food franchises. These franchises pay large franchise fees and a share of their revenues to the corporate entity thus helping to generate profit for the them. many franchises have gone under and we the taxpayers wind up footing the bill. and thanks to the SBA loans, we are also financing corporations like McDonald's and Burger King with our tax dollars.

there are only 1100 potato farmers left in Idaho. there are only three leading producers of fries in America, they are J.R. Simplot (the smallest of the three), Lamb Weston and McCain (out of Canada). These giants are able to outbid smaller companies and put them out of business or buy them.

the Potato Growers of Idaho known as PGI attempted to create an alliance with potato farmers in other states which are also large potato producers. One of the big three potato processors underminded it by creating a secret deal with a core group of potato farmers and thwarted the PGI efforts.

roughly every $1.50 spent on a large order of friends, about 2 cents goes to the farmer.

the beef, meatpacking and fast food industries have huge allies in Congress, preventing legislation which benefits consumers, from being passed.

America is being franchised to death.

I am not anti-beef, there are a lot of good and honest beef ranchers, and farmers of all sorts of crops! I am also not anti-business, I think there are a lot of good and honest business owners. But I hate monopolies and am distrustful of most multi-national corporations that specialize in "cheap" "discount" and "fast".

The author Eric Schlosser who did an enormous amount of research and interviewing over a period of years for this book proposes a simple solution:

"Congress should ban advertising that preys upon children, it should stop subsidizing dead-end jobs, it should pass tougher food safety laws, it should protect American workers from serious harm, it should fight against dangerous concentrations of economic power."

I agree. None of the above actions would infringe upon the civil liberties of Americans, so I'm all for it. He adds:

"Congress should do all those things but it isn't likely to do any of them soon. The political influence of the fast food indstury and its agribusines suppliers made a discussion of what Congress should do largely academic. The fast food industry spends millions of dollars every year on lobbying and billions on mass marketing. The wealth and power of the major chains make them seem impossible to defeat."

I agree. I suppose now I have to decide what I'm going to do about it.

1 comment:

  1. Jess, this is amazing information. I had no idea how down and dirty these corporations were. Anyone who reads this should realize that by supporting these fast food chains and buying meat from corp's like Con-Agra, we are just putting money in their pockets and taking it away from the farmers and cattlemen whose livelihoods are at stake. It such a rotten deal.