The fact and fiction of fast food


America’s food industry, like the nation’s church leaders, spent much of May wringing its hands over, by all accounts, pieces of poorly written, poorly acted fiction.
For the churches, the concern was the premiere of The Da Vinci Code, the movie based on Dan Brown’s flight-of-religious-fantasy novel. The churches worried that their faithful would take a fictional version of the Gospel by Dan over the factual versions by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Similarly, the food industry got knotted up over the not-yet-released Fast Food Nation, a fictionalized film version of Eric Schlosser’s 2001 nonfiction book by the same name. (The film debuted at the Cannes Film Festival May 19 but won’t hit American screens and stomachs for another four months.)
Timing. In truth, the farm and food groups are not as worried about Schlosser’s film as its timing.
In mid-May, Schlosser’s second anti-burger book, Chew on This: Everything You Don’t Want to Know About Fast Food, was released.
Its targeted audience is the McDrive-through generation: teenagers.
Reviews. Initial reviews of the book suggest the farm groups’ worries are well-placed.
Writing on, a Kansan librarian recommends it “as an important addition to most libraries … that covers the history of the fast-food industry and delves into the agribusiness and animal husbandry methods that support it.”
A second Amazon review, this one from the American Library Association, reports the book offers “vivid tours through feedlots, abattoirs, and a chicken-processing plant … Readers may not lose their appetites for McFood from this compelling study, but they will definitely come away … more aware of the diet’s attendant McMedical problems.”
Opposition. So buzzed over Chew on This are the farm and food folks that many of their organizations have poured membership and checkoff money into an opposition Web site,, to chew on Schlosser.
The farm funders include the American Farm Bureau, the beef checkoff, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the pork checkoff and the National Pork Producers Council. Corporate cash comes from meatpackers, snack food makers and corn refiners.
The site’s homepage features the “happy faces” of 12 food producers and users: one farmer, two ranchers, a dietitian, a couple of food execs, two Cargill employees and three Tyson employees.
Most are “proud” of their firms, co-workers and products.
Accompanying links relate information on 10 subsets of the food sector –

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Alan Guebert was raised on an 800-acre, 100-cow southern Illinois dairy farm. After graduation from the University of Illinois in 1980, he served as a writer and editor at Professional Farmers of America, Successful Farming magazine and Farm Journal magazine. His syndicated agricultural column, The Farm and Food File, began in June, 1993, and now appears weekly in more than 70 publications throughout the U.S. and Canada. He and spouse Catherine, a social worker, have two adult children.