I have to admit that I stumbled on this book just recently, though it was published in 2001. But it is so disturbing that I had to write something about it. Eric Schlosser does a wonderful job in bringing out the implications of the way we eat food today in US. It is not only the story of the quality of food, but it is also one of the unfettered greed of giant corporations and hence of the murky side of market forces.
It gives a lot of other information along with the story of greedy corporations determining what you eat and how will it be made. For example, I did not know that one of the American car companies bought the rail network in the west and destroyed it completely to create demand for their cars. These companies were later tried for monopolistic practices but the damage was already done. It was also interesting to know how various corporations use the state to grow. For example, many franchisees of a well known fast food chain have been developed through concessional state financing meant for small business development. Corporations have threatened to leave a particular state and bargained for reduction in taxes. They have lobbied for least regulations by financing election campaigns and in the process have taken consumers for a ride.
If all this is not enough, some of them have been regularly hiring illegal immigrants as they are cheaper than US citizens. They also do not have any legal standing and hence the hiring companies do not have to worry about insurance and other legal benefits. Much of the description of how they handle the poor immigrants reminds us of barbaric industrial towns of Europe from the earlier times that reeked of anarchy, disease and filth. It is hard to believe that a significant number of workers here in US have to face such hardships amidst all the glitter and sanitized psycho babble of violation of human rights in the rest of the world.
Even more disgusting are the details of how the meat packing industry functions. The scale and speed with which it currently functions is overwhelming and I leave it to the readers to discover the details. Suffice here to note that the meat packing industry not only has resisted any food safety regulation up till now but is also responsible for mindless perversions and meddling with course of nature. Cattle which is by nature is meant to be herbivorous has been fed for decades with dead cattle, cats, dogs, horses, pigs and chicken. Even chicken is fed with dead cattle and of course dead chicken.
I do not have enough scientific knowledge to comment on the biological and environmental implications of these actions, but it certainly does not feel right. At least I know for sure that our bodies are designed to digest certain types of food and that’s certainly the case with animals. In a normal course will a dog or chicken eat beef? Will a cow eat a horse or a pig? More importantly will a cow eat cow or chicken eat chicken? If this is taken to its logical end will we ever consider it normal to eat dead humans? I am inclined to answer in negative but you are entitled to your opinion. At least after reading the description of what all goes in that burger patty, I am happy to recommend a glass of orange juice for lunch. With it you will only starve for a while but definitely not die!
The development of American capitalism thus raises far more fundamental questions than just the selfishness of corporations as evident in the brutal denial of basic human courtesy to fellow human beings. Corporations built to serve human beings seem to have grown so larger than life that they deem some human beings completely expendable. And this disease is spreading to other countries as well, as these corporations open shops there and more and more people around the world yearn for a fast life style.
What do I say more here? Read it for yourself. After all some body aptly said- read and be wiser!