Fast Food Nation

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Ranchers Symbol Icon
But, more importantly, the Golden Arches reflected a uniform dining experience for customers; in any state, at any McDonald’s, one could expect the same fries, the same burgers, the same “speedee service.” Thus the Golden Arches have come to represent not only one restaurant chain, but an entire method of doing business, of producing food efficiently—and, as a consequence (as Schlosser notes), of radically altering the means by which Americans eat, farm, work, and live. The Golden Arches are today a symbol of an immensely powerful global conglomerate—a physical representation of that company’s economic impact on the nation.

Ranchers Quotes in Fast Food Nation

The Fast Food Nation quotes below all refer to the symbol of Ranchers. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Diet, Nutrition, and Food Safety Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Mariner edition of Fast Food Nation published in 2012.
Chapter 6: On the Range Quotes

Toward sunset we spotted a herd of antelope and roared after them. That damn minivan bounced over the prairie like a horse at full gallop, Hank wild behind the wheel . . . we had a Chrysler engine, power steering, and disk brakes, but the antelope had a much superior grace, making sharp and unexpected turns, bounding effortlessly . . . .

Related Characters: Eric Schlosser (speaker), Hank
Related Symbols: Ranchers
Page Number: 135
Explanation and Analysis:

In a book of economics and summarization, this is a scene of more or less pure description. Schlosser takes up Hank's story (and includes this scene of admiration for the natural beauty and power of the antelope) because Hank, he believes, is an exemplar of what he considers best in American farming: a sense of integrity, a willingness to work hard to make one's living, and a belief that ethical business practices are best for nature, the environment, and the consumer. Hank, however, is a rancher from the old guard, and most new factory farming ranch outfits do not care about the land the way he does. Factory farm companies are not invested in protecting the farms around Colorado Springs because they do not, largely, exist for the benefit of local communities. Instead, large factory farm companies are multinational, seemingly based nowhere, and they produce goods only to maximize profit and serve the bottom line.

As Schlosser will report, too, these large farming conglomerates are not kind to small business owners, and people like Hank, who try to work "the right way," are largely shut out of the industry before long - unable to provide for their families. 

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Many ranchers now fear that the beef industry is deliberately being restructured along the lines of the poultry industry. They do not want to wind up like chicken growers—who in recent years have become virtually powerless, trapped by debt and by onerous contracts written by the large processors.

Related Characters: Eric Schlosser (speaker)
Related Symbols: Ranchers
Page Number: 139
Explanation and Analysis:

The poultry industry, by Schlosser's logic, is an example of economic deregulation run amok. Farmers can barely make enough money selling chickens to larger distributors to cover the cost of feed and overhead for the next month, and high customer demand does not correlate with high profits for the initial chicken producer - the small farmer. Indeed, the worldwide craze for chicken nuggets, which Schlosser notes is an important part of the "second" boom in fast food sales in the decades following the Second World War, seems only to enrich those who run the franchises and purchase chicken meat in bulk. Local chicken farmers have little to no say over whom they wish to sell to, as only a small number of companies control the industry.

To the extent that the cattle ranchers are capable, then, they wish to work for themselves, and to maintain that independence that Schlosser views as so central to the American West, and to business ethics in general.

The suicide rate among ranchers and farmers in the US is now about three times higher than the national average. The issue briefly received attention during the 1980s farm crisis, but has been pretty much ignored ever since. Meanwhile, across rural America, a slow and steady death toll mounts. As the rancher’s traditional way of life is destroyed, so are many of the beliefs that go with it.

Related Characters: Eric Schlosser (speaker)
Related Symbols: Ranchers
Page Number: 146
Explanation and Analysis:

Schlosser is clearly affected by the death of Hank, who commits suicide in part over despair at his inability to make a living cattle ranching in Colorado. Schlosser does not necessarily hold large agricultural companies directly responsible for the upsurge in farmer suicides, but he does believe a wide variety of factors, including economic difficulties, put an incredible burden on farmers that is very, very difficult to lift. And without adequate public health services, including mental health services, many of these farmers' needs go unanswered.

Schlosser walks a fine line in the text between advocacy for the positions of disenfranchised farmers like Hank and for fast food workers continually bilked of their already meager pay by management. But he also wishes to report on things - not so much to editorialize as to make clear just how out-of-joint the fast food industry can be. Occasionally, however, this reporting becomes tinged with a personal anecdote, like the story of Hank - making that story all the more affecting. 

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Ranchers Symbol Timeline in Fast Food Nation

The timeline below shows where the symbol Ranchers appears in Fast Food Nation. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 6: On the Range
Greed, Corporations, and “The Bottom Line” Theme Icon
Independence vs. the Social Contract Theme Icon
Bureaucracy and Complex Systems Theme Icon
Work and “The Good Life” Theme Icon
Schlosser describes his first meeting with Hank, a rancher in Colorado Springs, who takes Schlosser on a tour of his property. The ranch lies... (full context)
Diet, Nutrition, and Food Safety Theme Icon
Greed, Corporations, and “The Bottom Line” Theme Icon
Independence vs. the Social Contract Theme Icon
Bureaucracy and Complex Systems Theme Icon
...for the federal government to dismantle the beef industry’s trust, and encourage open competition among ranchers, which improved their businesses and kept prices lower. This marketplace lasted for about fifty years... (full context)
Diet, Nutrition, and Food Safety Theme Icon
Greed, Corporations, and “The Bottom Line” Theme Icon
Independence vs. the Social Contract Theme Icon
Bureaucracy and Complex Systems Theme Icon
Work and “The Good Life” Theme Icon
...espoused mostly by Republicans—enabled large agricultural and food businesses (agribusinesses) to consolidate once again. Small ranchers now had relatively few places where they could sell their beef—their profits shrank, those of... (full context)
Diet, Nutrition, and Food Safety Theme Icon
Greed, Corporations, and “The Bottom Line” Theme Icon
Independence vs. the Social Contract Theme Icon
Bureaucracy and Complex Systems Theme Icon
Work and “The Good Life” Theme Icon
...any one time, to keep prices steady. This system makes it extremely difficult, however, for ranchers to make a profit per head of cattle, and though ranchers have sued large meatpackers... (full context)
Diet, Nutrition, and Food Safety Theme Icon
Greed, Corporations, and “The Bottom Line” Theme Icon
Independence vs. the Social Contract Theme Icon
Bureaucracy and Complex Systems Theme Icon
Work and “The Good Life” Theme Icon
...a means of feeding a family. In closing the chapter, Schlosser writes that Hank, the rancher whom he interviewed at the beginning of the chapter, wound up taking his own life,... (full context)
Epilogue: Have It Your Way
Diet, Nutrition, and Food Safety Theme Icon
Greed, Corporations, and “The Bottom Line” Theme Icon
Independence vs. the Social Contract Theme Icon
Bureaucracy and Complex Systems Theme Icon
Work and “The Good Life” Theme Icon
...fast-food industries behaves the way that the companies described earlier in the book have. One rancher in Matheson, Colorado, Dale Lasater, runs his cattle ranch in part as a wildlife preserve,... (full context)