Fast Food in Modern World

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Updated: Mar 03, 2020
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Fast food has only been around for 100 years, yet it seems like it has been here forever. Americans have become so reliant on having quick, tasty food at their fingertips in order to match their fast paced lifestyles. As convenient and delicious as fast food is, has it benefited America as a whole? What has it done for the economy? How has it affected health? To determine whether fast food has changed America for better or for worse, it is necessary to examine it’s origins, how it has grown, the financial impact on the food industry, and its effects on American health.

White Castle was the first fast food restaurant in the United States. It was a tiny shed on Douglas Avenue in Wichita, Kansas opened in 1921 by J. Walter Anderson. Anderson started out by selling hamburgers for five cents each. Most of his customers were middle class Americans, but he also had some wealthy customers. The business grew until it was so successful that three additional locations were opened.

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But White Castle was only the beginning of the reign of fast food in America. Not long after White Castle opened, the first McDonalds opened in Pasadena, California, in 1937. It was a small drive-in opened by two brothers, Richard and Maurice McDonald. Although it started out small, it grew tremendously fast in the matter of a few years. In “McDonalds: Behind the Arches”, John F Love says, “annual sales regularly topped $200,000.” By 1940 they brothers opened another McDonalds in San Bernardino. As fast food began to grow in America, businesses had to find ways to serve their food faster and faster to be able to continue catering to their busy customers.

There were many ways businesses approached this such as changes in service methods, food choices, and advertisement. Most restaurants started out as a drive-in. A drive-in allows a person to park their car, order, and have their food delivered to them by a carhop without having to ever get out of the car. Although this was a fast way to serve food, In-N-Out Burgers wanted something faster, so they used a drive-thru.

Drive-thru wasn’t only faster, it was more convenient than parking and waiting. What was unique about In-N-Out Burgers drive-thru was the intercom system. In-N-Out was the first restaurant ever to use an intercom system. Other restaurants copied In-N-Out’s drive-thru system which eventually lead to drive-thrus at nearly every fast food restaurant.

With all this growth in the fast food industry, businesses needed to obtain larger quantities of food. How could they do this without going broke? The solution was provided through a man named J.R. Simplot. J.R. Simplot was born in 1909 in Dubuque, Idaho. When he was fifteen, he dropped out of school to become a potato farmer. Once he got enough money he bought a large plot of land and some farming equipment.

He grew,processed, and sold potatoes and later added dried onions to his business. J.R. Simplot was very interested in the idea of frozen food. He did some research with the help of some scientists and came up with frozen french fries. McDonalds was the first business to try this new product. Their customers loved them and frozen fries became a huge source of revenue to people in the fast food industry. In “Fast Food Nation” the author says “The fast food companies purchase frozen fries for about 30 cents a pound, reheat them in oil, then sell them for about 6 dollars a pound.”

This large of a profit allowed restaurants to grow even faster than they already were. Just like restaurants were able to start buying french fries in bulk, they were beginning to be able to do the same with meat. One form of meat that was becoming very popular was chicken. Chicken consumption in the U.S. had grown significantly by the 70’s, so, naturally, McDonalds wanted to start serving chicken. However, they wanted it to be boneless. A group of scientists came up with a way to do just that.

They used different pieces of the chicken meat and packaged that instead of sending whole entire chickens. That was the beginning of Chicken McNuggets. Because of these McNuggets the poultry industry flourished. Other restaurants followed in McDonalds footsteps and started serving chicken as well. Soon even stores started to buy and sell boneless chicken. Now Americans eat more chicken than they do beef! According to the USDA Americans hit a record consumption amount of chicken in 2010.

There was one thing left to do that no fast food restaurant had done before. To attract more customers, McDonalds formed their own National Advertising Unit called “Operators National Advertising”, or OPNAD. Each McDonalds restaurant contributed one percent of their profit to OPNAD, which ended up providing three million dollars for their first advertising budget. Ten years later they had a twenty million dollar budget and it only grew from there.

By 1974, McDonalds had the largest advertising budget out of any fast food restaurants by far. McDonalds hired professional advertisers to help promote their brand. Although fast food has financially benefited the United States, has it been beneficial to the overall health of American citizens? Looking at what is in the food, how it is cooked, and how it has directly affected American health, it would seem not.

There was a meat processing plant called Cattle King Packing Company that was one of the main meat suppliers for school lunches. In 1983, Cattle King was accused with using already dead cows as part of the meat they were distributing. When inspected, there were also staples and insects found in the meat. The company was able to hide their illegal meat from federal inspectors up until 1983 when they were caught. Another meat incident happened at Jack in the Box in 1993. A disease called Escherichia Coli (E. Coli) was found in the meat. E. Coli is a bacteria in the intestine that usually helps maintain the digestive system.

But the strain of E. Coli found in Jack in the Box’s meat was one of the most dangerous. The health department found that Jack in the Box could have cooked out the disease if they had cooked their meat to the state’s required temperature of 155 degrees instead of only to 140 degrees, which is the federal required temperature. E. Coli is very deadly, especially to children. Two children died and hundreds were sick due to eating Jack in the Box’s undercooked burgers. Another failure in meat distribution was by Supreme Beef Processing Inc. Inspectors found a bacteria called Salmonella in the beef.

Salmonella is prevalent in meat. It is most commonly caused by feces contamination. Supreme Beef failed salmonella testing three times in a row! According to law, after three failures of salmonella testing the company no longer has inspection privileges. Without being inspected and approved, they are no longer able to sell meat. However, the USDA continued to buy meat from Supreme Beef for school lunches during the testings. They knew it was contaminated, but it cost them very little to use, saving them a fortune.

Even though there are deadly risks to fast food like E. Coli and Salmonella, there are also a lot of less noticeable side effects to eating fast food. According to regular consumption of fast food can lead to many problems in the human body. Headaches, acne, high cholesterol, swelling, and even a higher chance of depression!

From looking at the facts, fast food has proven to be financially beneficial for America. Those working in the fast food industry are highly benefited by the money brought in through sales and advertising. Food packaging industries also benefit from the high demand for cheap food in bulk. However, when it comes to the overall health of Americans, fast food has not helped at all. Those who consume fast food are at higher risk of disease and general health issues. Depending on which side of the business you are, fast food is either a huge benefit to people’s wallets, or a serious danger to their health.

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Fast Food In Modern World. (2020, Mar 03). Retrieved from