Fast Food Facts

In 1970, Americans spent $6 billion on fast food. In 2001, we spent $110 billion. Americans spend more money on fast food than on higher education, new cars, personal computers, or computer software. We spend more on fast food than on movies, books, magazines, newspapers, videos, and music, combined. On any given day, about one-quarter of the adult population visits a fast food restaurant.

In 1968, McDonald’s had about 1,000 restaurants. Today it has over 31,000 and opens almost 2,000 new ones a year. An estimated one out of every eight workers in the US has at some point been employed by McDonald’s. The company hires 1 million people annually, more than any other American organization, private or public.

McDonald’s is the nation’s largest purchaser of beef, pork, and potatoes, and the second largest purchaser of chicken. The McDonald’s Corporation is the largest owner of retail property in the world. McDonald’s spends more money on advertising and marketing than any other brand and has replaced Coca-Cola as the world’s most famous brand. McDonald’s operates more playgrounds than any other private entity in the US and is one of the largest distributors of toys.

The restaurant industry is America’s largest private employer, yet it pays some of the lowest wages. The 3.5 million fast food workers are by far the largest group of minimum wage earners in the US. The only Americans who consistently earn lower hourly wages are migrant farm workers.

In 1975, about one-third of American mothers worked outside the home. Today about two-thirds are employed. The entry of so many women into the workforce has greatly increased the demand for “traditional housewife” services including cooking, cleaning, and child care. A generation ago, three-quarters of the money used to buy food in the US was spent to prepare meals at home. Today, half of the money used to buy food in the US is spent at restaurants(mainly fast food).

In the 1950’s, a hamburger and french fries became the quintessential American meal, thanks to the promotional efforts of the fast food industry. The typical American now consumes approximately three hamburgers and four orders of french fries every week. What we eat has changed more in the last forty years than in the previous forty thousand.

The steady barrage of fast food ads, full of thick, juicy burgers and long, golden fries, never mention where these foods come from or what they contain. Much of the taste and aroma of fast food is now manufactured at a series of large chemical plants off the New Jersey Turnpike. The potato fields, processing plants, ranches, and slaughterhouses show the effects of fast food on our nation’s rural life, environment, and workers.

The fast food chains stand on top of a huge food-industrial complex that has gained control of American agriculture. During the 1980’s, large corporations were allowed to dominate one commodity market after another, causing farmers and cattle ranchers to lose their independence and essentially become hired hands for these agribusiness giants, or else be forced off their land. Family farms are a thing of the past, replaced by gigantic corporate farms. The hardy, independent farmers, whom Thomas Jefferson considered the bedrock of American democracy, are a vanishing breed. The US now has more prison inmates than full-time farmers.

The fast food industry’s vast purchasing power and demand for uniform product caused fundamental changes in how cattle is raised, slaughtered, and processed into ground beef. These changes made meatpacking, once a highly skilled, highly paid occupation, the most dangerous job in the US, performed by armies of unskilled, poor, transient immigrants, whose injuries go unrecorded and uncompensated.

These changes also introduced deadly pathogens, such as E. coli, but the federal government lacks the power to recall contaminated, potentially lethal meat. Again and again, meat industry lobbyists have obstructed this authority with help from their allies in Congress.

Hundreds of millions of people buy fast food every day, unaware of the subtle and not so subtle ramifications of their purchases, because it has been so carefully designed to taste good, to be convenient, and to come cheap. But the real price never appears on the menu.
Breakfast: Egg McMuffin… JUST KIDDING! Bagel with veggie spread.
Lunch: Went to a BBQ & ate the sides: beans, potato salad, cole slaw, corn, salad, bread, and Blue Bell Ice Cream (yep, imported from Texas!!) mmm.
Dinner: Sandwich with broccoli rabe and provolone (from Taylor’s on H Street – delicious and Philly themed!)


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