Eric Schlosser is the gifted and talented writer behind the book Fast Food Nation. The film has been adapted and put into dramatic form in the new Richard Linklater movie. I had a chance to sit down with Eric and get his take on the meat packing industry, it was an informative and eye opening interview.
He first gave me the brutal facts on where our meat comes from, “There’s four meat packing companies that produce 80 to 85 percent of all the beef in the United States. It’s being served everywhere and I try not to eat it. If you don’t want to eat that beef you have to look for a few things. No antibiotics, no hormones, no animal products in the feed. That rules out the industrial meat right there. Ideally it would be grass fed. But if I came to your house and you served me a steak I wouldn’t put a flashlight on you and ask where it came from. It’s just that I don’t want to give these people my money. These companies can do a lot better job of food safety and food quality; they can do a lot better job on how they treat their workers.”
I wanted to know how meat packing companies got away with substandard wages, employee illegal immigrants and ignoring cleanliness standards. Eric was brutally honest in his take on the situation, “How do they get away with it? They give millions of dollars to the right wing of the Republican party. We’ll see what happens in the next couple years. I’m not a democrat, I’m registered independent but I find the way it works in politics is that the people who pay you money have a big influence over what you do. The meat packing plants and the fast food chains haven’t been giving much to the Democrats so they better up their contributions or they’re in trouble.”
Eric also had some thoughts on our current minimum wage. “This industry has prospered by giving a pay cut to the workers, almost a 50 percent pay cut.” Next I asked him about the difference between Fast Food Nation and Supersize Me. “This movie is about everything that happens up until you take that bite into the burger, his movie is about everything after. I’ve met Morgan a few times, he’s a great guy, but this is a different movie. It’s a big subject though and I wish more people would make movies about it.”
So is there anything we can do to help? Well, as Eric mentioned, you can stop buying beef from the big meat packing plants. He was even nice enough to provide the name of a reputable ranch, “Dale Lassiter, it’s called Lassiter Grasslands Beef. His family has refused to use herbicides, pesticides and hormones for 50 years now. The cattle are grass fed and it’s the real thing. We’ve forgotten what real meat tastes like. It’s better tasting and it’s better for you.”
Eric mentioned to me that all the actors involved in Fast Food Nation worked for scale because they believed in the project. Eric was also on set for most of the movie to help with lines if they needed him but he made it clear that the film is completely Linklater’s vision. So what’s Eric’s next project? It’s a book about America’s rising prison population. He explained, “When I was a kid there were 200,000 people behind bars. Now there are 2.2 million. It’s just amazing how the system developed. I don’t have a title yet but the subtitle is How the Land of the Free Became a Nation Behind Bars. But this isn’t a simplistic book, I’ve met some people that shouldn’t be living near anyone, but that’s a small subset. What’s amazing is how many mentally ill, poor, illiterate people are behind bars. It’s also two-thirds Black and Latino.”
So you can see why this would be an interesting topic for a new book eh? Perhaps we’llbe seeing another adaptation in the near future based on a Schlosser book? Only time will tell. Either way you should check out Fast Food Nation if you want to see the awful truth behind the meat packing industry.