Eric Schlosser and Charles Wilson

Chew on This

  • 37-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features 8 chapter summaries and 5 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by a professional writer with a PhD
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Chew on This Summary & Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 37-page guide for “Chew on This” by Eric Schlosser and Charles Wilson includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 8 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Disruptive Entrepreneurship and Exploitation.

Plot Summary

Chew On This: Everything You Don’t Want To Know About Fast Food, co-written by Eric Schlosser and Charles Wilson, aims to show young readers “the ripple effect near and far” of the fast food industry (199). Schlosser and Wilson go on to show that fast food can affect consumers on the immediate level of their own bodies and on the less obvious level of destroying indigenous food cultures.

In the Introduction, Schlosser and Wilson describe the routine of entering a fast food restaurant and eating there. This is a routine familiar to nine out of ten American children, who eat at a McDonald’s every month. However, the young, who are often the target of the fast food industry’s advertising, seldom know the full story about the food they consume, hence the purpose of Schlosser and Wilson’s book.

In the first chapter, the reader is introduced to the pioneers of the fast food industry and to the idea that fast food became popular with the rise of new-style, automobile cities like Los Angeles. The new speed of road travel would seem to require a food production system to match it. Brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald developed a system of food production where the people had to queue up for their easily-assembled, standardized meals. The factory-like atmosphere of the kitchen meant that costs were kept down. When entrepreneur Ray Kroc got involved, he created a franchise for McDonald’s, which ensured that the same standardized method of low-cost food production could spread easily over the country.

In Chapter 2, Schlosser and Wilson show how the main customers of fast food advertising are children. Walt Disney, with his creation of Disneyland and film-associated merchandise, was a key inspiration for Ray Kroc. Kroc wanted to make McDonald’s into a place that would be attractive to children, who would in turn persuade their parents to go there frequently. Drawing upon extensive scientific research, McDonald’s learned that brand loyalty begins early, meaning that those who eat there as children will continue to support the brand as adults.

In Chapter 3, “McJobs,” focuses on fast-food employment, and the a low-skilled, low-waged jobs targeted at young people, who are often still in high school, comes under scrutiny. The writers show how young people who work long hours at fast food joints, gaining few skills there, actually sabotage their futures, because they have less energy for the schoolwork and extracurricular activities that will help them get ahead.

In Chapter 4, the book zooms in on the ever-popular McDonald’s fries. It shows how the brand’s penchant for sameness in taste and appearance has brought a factory-style approach to food production. The chapter also shows how only a few people in the potato industry have benefited financially from McDonald’s’ involvement, and that many smaller producers have been put out of business.

Chapter 5 exposes fast food drink companies’ concerted takeover of schools as they seek to create dependency among the young. In exchange for giving underfunded schools equipment, the drinks companies request that the machines should be turned on all day and be placed within easy access of classrooms. One result is tooth-decay on an unprecedented level.

Chapter 6 looks at the inhumane methods used to produce the standardized meat required for fast food. Animals, slaughterhouse workers and local residents all suffer extreme health problems. The poor conditions are then passed on to consumers, who often endure food poisoning as a result of fast food consumption.

Chapter 7 shows how fast food, both in terms of its content, its cheapness and abundance has directly contributed to America’s obesity crisis. While fast food companies would like to blame a lack of initiative among consumers, the evidence shows that the companies’ actions play a significant role in the crisis.

Chapter 8 describes McDonald’s’ worldwide takeover as a means of ensuring that they continue to make more money. Abroad, the brand has become directly associated with American culture and values; subsequently, the popularity of American foreign policy directly affects the brand. The book concludes by advising consumers that they have the power to “vote” for the fast food giants’ methods of operation or to veto them, simply by not spending their money there (197). Without the consumer’s blind loyalty, they will not be able to continue as they have begun.

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