The National Institutes of Health (NIH) defines Fast foods as quick, easily accessible and cheap alternatives to home-cooked meals. They also note that they tend to be high in salt, sugar,saturated fat and calories. Fast food has quickly gained preference in modern society becoming a major source of nutrition in many countries among different demographics and cultures across the world (Schlosser 95).
Schlosser emphasizes the fact that numerous elementary schools provide food from such restaurants as Subway, Pizza Hut, and McDonald’s on special days (Schlosser 21).
Typically fast food has referred to popular ‘junk food’ comprising of burgers, fries, fried chicken etc. but in the recent past, more and more ethnical cuisines have found their way into first food e.g. Chinese, Indian, Italian take out dishes.
Typically, commercial fast food has usually been significantly processed and cooked in an industrial manner where preparation is done on a big scale with pre-determined ingredients and standardized cooking as well as methods of preparation. The food is more often served in plastic wrapping, cartons or bags. These formats minimize their cost.
“In most fast food businesses, menu items are generally made from processed ingredients prepared at a central supply kitchen and then shipped to individual outlets where they are reheated, cooked (usually by microwave or deep frying) or assembled in a fairly short period of time” (Abdollah para 2). Due to this, a considerable level of the quality of any product is achieved with emphasis being on delivering to the consumer his or her order with utmost speed while eliminating excessive overhead labor and equipment costs in the individual establishments (Abdollah para 3).
Advantages of Fast Food
Fast food offers great convenience at meal times. In today’s fast paced life, one can easily grab a burger or chicken on the go. The greatest convenience that is accorded by fast food is in terms of time saving. One doesn’t need to spend time in the kitchen preparing ingredients, chopping them up cooking, washing utensils.
Besides saving time, it can also be cheaper to have fast food as opposed to cooking. This is especially true where one lives alone and has to cook for themselves. The costs associated with cooking for one person when compared to the cost of an average take out meal are significantly higher that fast food.
Looking at the advantages of fast food at a larger, micro and macro-economic level, several notable advantages emerge. Fast food businesses all over the world provide jobs to millions of people both directly working in these establishments as waiters, cooks, cashiers etc. but also indirectly to many more people working in farms that grow products for use in the fast food establishments and companies that provide services e.g. security, logistics, and many more small vendor businesses (Adams 156).
It can be seen that the fast food industry contributes significantly to the economy of the United States because it is one of the few sectors of the economy that continues to generate employment for its citizens in an ever shrinking job market.
Also, the taxes paid by the various fast food establishments to the government help ensure that the citizenry continue to enjoy social amenities paid for by taxes collected partially from the fast food industry.
Disadvantages of Fast Food
In the United States, people eat a lot of food due to its convenience and relative affordability across the board. However, several concerns have been raised as to the effects of the consumption of these fast foods frequently and in large quantities.
The Berkeley University study carried out in the year 2009 found out that the closer one lived to a fast food outlet, the higher their chances of getting obese. The study also found out that the more there is a number of fast food outlets within an easy reach to a person, the higher their chances of becoming obese. Obesity has been linked to fast food with the main culprit being that the cooking oil used in making the meals (it also acts as a preservative) is fattening. Obesity is increasingly becoming a big worry in the United States and as such fast food outlets are under increasing scrutiny for contributing to the increased cases of obesity especially but not limited to teenagers (Adams 155).
Fast food is highly processed and is cooked largely using standardized ingredients and production methods. A lot of fast food is deep-fried in partiallyhydrogenated oils (or Trans fats), which lead to high cholesterol rates, clogged arteries and eventually may lead to heart attacks in consumers. As these meals are usually consumed with starchy vegetables and sugary drinks e.g. soda, these foods have a high glycemic load, a factor that contributes to diabetes as well.
In conclusion, it is obvious that the fast food industry accords a number of very significant benefits to the economy and the country as well. Concentrations of fast food chain restaurants help to grow a trust on their price and conveniences they provide to their customers. However, on a personal level, fast foods can lead to many health complications and as such require caution in its consumption.
Abdollah, Tami. “A Strict Order for Fast Food,” Los Angeles Times. 2007: A1.
Adams, Catherine. “Reframing the obesity debate: McDonald’s role may surprise you.” Journal of Law, Medicine, and Ethics (2008): 154-157.
Schlosser, Eric. Fast food nation: The dark side of the all-American meal. New York: Houghton Mifflin Books, 2001.