Fast Food Nation Movie Essays

Some films are created to do more than just entertain. Fast Food Nation is one of these films, produced with the goal of educating consumers and mobilizing them to make positive change in the food system. It was created by Participant Productions, and released along with a social action campaign that draws upon the expertise of Sustainable Table and other like-minded organizations. As part of this campaign, Sustainable Table created The Meatrix II ½, the third installment of the Meatrix series, which focuses on industrial meat processing. Additionally, the campaign’s first action (in a series of social actions surrounding Fast Food Nation’s release) features Eat Well Guide as a way of directing consumers to sustainable food sources.

Like the social action campaign, the film uses a combination of entertainment and information to draw in viewers, educate them about real-life issues, and mobilize them to act.

Based on Schlosser’s 2001 best-selling book of the same title, Fast Food Nation engages audiences in two hours of imagery and dialogue illustrating the complicated and often disturbing truth behind our burgers and fries. It brings us along on a journey across the US/Mexico border, where Mexicans risk their lives to reach the American dream: a minimum-wage job at an industrial cattle slaughterhouse. We are also escorted into the home and office of a major fast food chain marketing executive, and into the kitchen of one of the chain’s franchises, where teenagers run fryers and mix shakes.

Throughout Fast Food Nation, we're exposed to the complexities and power struggles that characterize the fast food industry – and perhaps our food system as a whole – but somehow we're spared the grueling experience of hearing a lecture. This isn’t a documentary, however, but a feature film that follows a fictional storyline and includes a cast that is chock-full of big names like Greg Kinnear, Bruce Willis and Patricia Arquette. This film tells a story and communicates a strong message without the use of preachy narration (thankfully), and instead relies on strong imagery and detailed dialogue.

But despite its fictional plot, the movie is glaringly real. It paints a graphic picture of the fast food industry and does not hesitate to expose us to some of the most gruesome realities involved in meat production (it features one scene where we see a cattle slaughter, and another where a factory worker’s leg is amputated by a meat grinder). The film has a powerful ability to educate audiences about the food system, and is liable to make even the most apathetic viewer start thinking about where their food comes from. 

Rated R, the film isn’t appropriate for children or the weak-of-stomach, but we at Sustainable Table hope that every American adult takes the time to watch Fast Food Nation.  

You can read more about factory farming slaughterhouses, and meat processing on our website.

Watch the Fast Food Nation trailerand check out Participant Productions' social action website, Take Action!


The world economy has become fast-paced, and this has forced people to transform their lifestyle in order to adapt to the changing pace. Family structures have evolved drastically with modern mothers having outside careers rather than being housewives. Granted such mothers get out of work worn out with little strength to prepare a proper meal for the family. They often opt for an easier way of preparing a meal for their families. This is the foundation for the thriving of fast food industry. A number of nations have been transformed to fast food nation with American society being on the lead followed by Britain. American hosts the largest fast food industry in the world with outlets in over 200 foreign nations. With conveniences around us and busy lifestyle, fast food industry has become more appealing. It is an undeniable fact that fast food industry is a real threat to health of a nation. Well, there are restaurants that offer healthy and organic foods. However, they are not the rule but exceptions. A majority of fast food restaurant offer junks to clients.

A larger proportion of fast food is made from sub-standard meats, which are taken from low quality animals. In short, the meat is not drawn from one common placed, but rather from a host of parts that are pounded together to make a whole burger. The likelihood of disease spread is very high since the meat is taken from different animals and animal parts. In his book ‘Fast Food Nation’, Schlosser presents a detailed account of the constituents of many fast foods. In chapter 9 of the book, he provides a case in which ground meat was recalled after E. Coli was identified. The worsening issue was that 25 million pounds of the meat had been consumed. In a nutshell, he warns that with fast foods, the possibility of nationwide food poisoning is inevitable. Besides, the distinctive flavors that are added to these foods to make them taste good are complex chemicals.

In the long run, people end up consuming astronomical amounts of calories, which only creates a longing for more and hence one becomes lethargic. This explains why most fast food nations are suffering from obese epidemic. As a matter of fact, America’s greatest health problem currently is children obesity. This is so as fast food companies such as McDonald are targeting children through the media by offering them free toys upon purchasing their foods. Children are not the only victims. Many adults are often not aware of the content of the foods they are served and how it has been prepared.


Even though fast food industry offers employment opportunities to many people, it is vital to put into account the detrimental effects of these restaurants to the well-being of the society at large. It is absurd that many people do not take time to think of the content and the mode of preparation of the foods they purchase.


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