Fast food is used to refer to the food that is prepared and served within a short period which is sold in a restaurant or store. Furthermore, for food to be fully classified as fast food, it needs to be prepared using ready-made ingredients and supplied to the consumers in a packed form for taking out.
Integration of fast food in modern culture
Precooked or preheated foods such as French fries, kebabs, pizza, and hamburgers have increasingly become popular among members of the urban culture.
Stores such as MacDonald’s, KFC and burger king have recorded increasing returns through the fast food business, a potent indicator of the social reliance of fast foods (Smith 45).
The need for fast food has ensured that the business takes firm root in almost all metropolitan societies which have led to the integration of the product into the contemporary way of life (Ritzer 23).
Fast food stores and restaurants are usually located in industrial, business or academic vicinities where individuals in these areas have limited time to cook homemade meals.
Urban cities such as New York and London have a large working population which is usually active day and night (Ritzer 22).
Due to the time pressure within a working environment, most employees find it necessary to consume fast food to save on the time that would be needed to prepare a homemade meal.
The same applies to academic environments such as universities and colleges where students will usually prefer to have a quick meal between classes rather than risk missing a class while preparing home cooked meals which take long to prepare (Smith 46).
This has made fast food the best option for a large percentage of individuals who have limited free time available during working days (Spurlock 94).
The financial aspect of fast food has also attracted more consumers because these meals are relatively cheap when compared to the money spent on ingredients for a homemade meal.
Society has, therefore, embraced the lucrative fast food industry with an increasing number of families having regular fast food meals at home (Ritzer 24).
As a consequence, fast food has attracted a large number of consumers resulting in the emergence of several fast food stores and restaurants in cities and industrial towns with an eventual integration into the society’s way of life (Spurlock 95).
Fast foods have essentially become part of the urban population’s way of life and are therefore consumed daily.
According to Smith (53), every day, approximately 3 out of 5 American children visit a McDonald’s restaurant while 8 out of 10 adults living in urban areas have at least one meal composed of fast foods and 1 in 4 Americans visits a fast food restaurant every day.
This is the case with hundreds of urban residents who are generally attracted to the good taste of fast foods as well as the relatively low price.
With the emergence of fast food stores and restaurants in almost every building, the appeal for these foods has increased and so has the marketing campaigns.
Attractive advertisements have been launched to entice individuals to purchase more fast food products through special offers and gift packs.
Children between the ages of 7 to 16 have especially been targeted during recent campaigns, attracting these potential customers with gifts such as backpacks and toys (Smith 67).
Television has greatly empowered the advertisers for fast food companies to reach children to impact brand loyalty early in life.
As indicated by Ritzer, “Currently the average American child sees approximately three fast food commercials daily on television and more than 10,000 food commercials annually”(26).
With the current increase in profits for major fast food stores, it is evident that most people enjoy consuming fast foods. Most people think that fast foods are convenient since they are ready-made and the stores are located within the vicinity of where they work (Smith 51).
People also applaud the way the fast foods taste, citing that the flavors are prominent and appealing which is one of the reasons why fast food products have a high number of consumers.
Fast foods have however been linked to obesity which the World Health Organization now considers a global epidemic and will likely surpass smoking as the leading cause of preventable deaths.
40% of all American meals are eaten in fast food restaurants meaning that 60% of America’s population is either overweight or obese (Ritzer 30). This has led scientists to project that 1 in every three children born from the year 2000 has a high possibility to develop diabetes (Spurlock 99).
Doctors, therefore, recommend that individuals avoid fast foods and have them only once a month. Approximately a quarter of both America’s and British’s population currently have regular fast food meals, and the number is increasing by the day (Smith 49).
Advantages of Fast Food
The most apparent advantage of fast foods is that they are convenient in terms of time and energy. The modern, fast-paced life is quite demanding, and individuals are in most cases extremely exhausted and hungry at the end of a hard day at work to be able to prepare fresh food (Smith 64).
Fresh food also requires shopping for ingredients which consume time augmented with the time and effort required to wash and peel vegetables to prepare a meal (Ritzer 28). People with a tight work schedule, therefore, prefer fast foods for its simplicity and convenience.
The current trend in society is also revealing that an increasing number of individuals live alone, are divorced or are single parents. Due to the limited number of individuals in a household, fast food can be considered the cheapest option rather than cook a meal at home (Spurlock 96).
Most of the fast food products such as French-fry and burgers are relatively cheap and equally satisfying as a home-cooked meal (Smith 68).
Fast foods also offer consumers a wide range of alternatives, and therefore individuals concerned about their health can still consume fast foods.
Products such as salads, bread products made from brown bread, lean meat together with many other products are some of the healthy alternatives found in most fast food stores and restaurants (Ritzer 33).
One also has the option to consume some of the boiled products as well as fruit juice, sugar-free soda, low-fat milk, and other non-carbonic drinks.
Other stores offer customers the option to determine the ingredients of their meal, and hence one can prohibit the inclusion of unhealthy ingredients (Spurlock 98).
Disadvantages of Fast Food
The prominent drawback of fast food is the negative effect that they have on one’s health especially when consumed often. Fast foods contain higher amounts of salt, fats, and calories and have been scientifically proved to be a key contributor to obesity in the American population (Spurlock 92).
According to Smith, fast foods have in particular been linked to the growing rate of obesity in children which is a precursor to early diabetes.
Obesity is also associated with further health complications such as coronary heart disease, stroke, respiratory problems, hypertension, adult-onset diabetes, gall bladder disease, lower back pain, osteoarthritis, reproductive hormone abnormalities and colon cancers (68).
Fast food restaurants have been accused of playing a role in dividing the number of families where the family spends a decreasing amount of time together.
Households which were once bonded through conversation during meals are now not having meals together because an increasing number of individuals are having their meals at fast food restaurants (Spurlock 100-101).
Eventually, when they get home, they are full and have no need for another sitting and hence no time is shared between the family members at the end of the day.
Teenagers are especially prone to this behavior and have social gatherings at fast food restaurants and the meals they have there consequently alienated them from their family if not properly handled (Ritzer 35).
Though fast foods are cheaper to consume in a single day, regular consumption of the foods is financially costly (Spurlock 102). This is because fast foods need to be consumed in one or two sittings since they are easily perishable and their taste deteriorates after a short while (Smith 55).
Home cooked meals, on the other hand, are considered to last longer and can be eaten in more than one or two sittings as long as the meals are stored accordingly. Leftovers can be reheated and served as a normal meal, unlike fast foods which cannot be served after a relatively short period.
Fast foods are part of the urban culture, and a large number of individuals have regular fast food meals. The fast-food business has been built around the metropolitan way of life which holds the largest consumer market of almost all non-farm products.
Therefore, it is quite possible that the fast food industry will retain its dominance in the market unless there is an intervention by the government which is highly unlikely.
Children are being exposed to fast food early in life through televised commercials which boost the children’s appetite for fast food as the fast food companies lock in on future consumers.
Ritzer, George. The McDonaldization of Society 5. Los Angeles: Pine Forge Press, 2008. Print.
Smith, Andrew. Encyclopedia of Junk Food and Fast Food. Westport: Greenwood Press, 2006. Print.
Spurlock, Morgan. Fast Food and the Supersizing of America. New York: Penguin Group, 2005. Print.