Schlosser opens chapter 1: The Founding Fathers with the discussion of Carl N. Karcher being one of fast food’s pioneers. Karcher was born in Ohio in 1917 and quit school after eighth grade to help his father farm. His uncle offered him a job in his Feed and seed store in Anaheim, CA. when he was twenty years old. Carl moved to California where he met his wife Margaret and began his family. Carl and Margaret bought a hotdog cart where Margaret sold hotdogs across the street from a Goodyear factory while Carl worked at a bakery.
Karcher was eventually able to open a drive-in restaurant. In Chapter 2: Your Trusted Friends, Schlosser illustrates an additional side of the fast-food pioneer. With the comparison of the rise of McDonald’s with the Walt Disney Company, Schlosser is able to portray Ray Kroc as a perceptive businessman concerned primarily with expansion of his company. Schlosser demonstrates how various fast-food companies manipulate children in an effort sell their products. These companies represent themselves as “trusted friends” even though their meals serve little nutritional value.
Chapter 3: Behind The Counter examines the history of attempted unionization in fast-food restaurants. Schlosser illustrates how teens in Colorado Springs do not think about unions, often quit their jobs, and waste their money. If they did join unions, they would possibly be forced out of their jobs at fast-food restaurants, which would potentially become more attractive to individuals with better qualifications. In chapter 4: Success, Schlosser visits a Little Caesars that is owned by former NHL player Dave Feamster.
Feamster opened the restaurant after an injury and earned only $300. 00 a week while he was being trained. He had to pay a $15,000. 00 in order to open the franchise. Chapter 5: Why the Fries Taste So Good introduce the second part Meat and Potatoes. This chapter begins at the J. R. Simplot Plant in Aberdeen, Idaho. Simplot was born in 1909 and grew up working on his family’s farm in Idaho. He dropped out at fifteen and left home and found work in a potato house. He was a potato farmer by sixteen and was soon buying, selling, and sorting potatoes.
He became the largest shipper of potatoes in the West. Simplot made a fortune selling dried onions and potatoes to the military during World War II. Simplot later invested in frozen food technology and began selling frozen french fries to McDonalds in the 1950s. In the opening of Chapter 6: On the Range, Schlosser visits with Hank, a Colorado rancher. Hank gives Schlosser a tour of his ranch with the intent of showing him the difference between his form of ranching and “raping the land”.
Hank takes several safety precautions in raising his cattle so that the land remains lush and fertile. Chapter 7: Cogs in the Great Machine opens in Greeley, Colorado, a meatpacking town and home to a predominately migrant workforce. Greeley was founded in 1870 as a utopian community dedicated to agriculture, education, mutual aid, and high moral values. However, the IBP revolution destroyed Greeley’s prosperity and labor peace. The IBP revolution began in Denison, lowa when Currier J. Holman and A. D. Anderson began lowa Beef Packers (IBP).
Chapter 8: The Most Dangerous Job opens with a tour of a slaughterhouse. Schlosser is able to observe the crowded and bloody plant that processes live cattle into packaged meat. Meatpacking has become the most dangerous job in America and unlike poultry plants where most of the tasks are done by machines, most of the work in a slaughterhouse is done by hand. Hazards of the job include injuries from the various machines and knives and strain to the body from the poor working conditions. Additionally, women face the constant threat of sexual harassment.
Chapter 9: What’s in the Meat opens with the largest recall of food in the nation’s history where approximately 35 million pounds of ground beef was recalled by Hudson Foods in 1997 because a strain of E Coli was found in the food. However, 25 million pounds had already been eaten by the time the beef was recalled. Because meat is distributed all over the nation, an outbreak of food poisoning in one town could potentially indicate a nationwide pandemic. 200,000 people are sickened by a food borne disease in the United States every day.
Chapter 10: Global Realization opens with the history of Plauen, Germany. Schlosser states that everyone he talked with about Plauen was surprised to hear he wanted to visit the town. Schlosser describes the city’s history from 1923 to 1990 when it was the first town in East Germany to have a McDonald’s restaurant. Schlosser also states that the oddest experience of researching for his book happened in Las Vegas in 1999 and calls Vegas “the fulfillment of social and economic trends now sweeping from the American West to the farthest reaches of the globe”.