Fast food and slow food both play an important role in the lives of many people and it has an immense impact on world resource sharing. Both the fast food industry and slow food movement have major implications in relation to food production, food distribution, environmental impact, economic impact and social impact. The idea of taverns and coffee houses were popular for social gatherings and sharing of beverages in the 17th century, however the industry of eating outside of home did not launch into the Western Society until the late 18th Century.
The idea of eating outside of home was the beginning of the fast food industry, which refers to meals or foods which are readily available and can be prepared and served very quickly. These are generally packaged foods and involve businesses where food is eaten on the premises where there are no waiters or waitresses. For example, McDonald’s, KFC, Wendy’s or Fish and Chip shops. Fast foods are generally foods which are not prepared by the consumer; however the consumers may complete the cooking process by heating it up.
Consumers, shareholders and other stakeholders are beginning to look at the fast food industry and increase their demand for enhanced accountability of food production. As a result of this, fast food companies have been using cash crops. Cash crops reduce the land which the native people of the country can use for their personal benefit, through exploitation and reduction of food production. For example, McDonald’s may want a poor country to grow lettuce for them, rather than growing their original rice crops.
The problem with the lettuce is that it does not feed the farmers families as it is going to McDonald’s and the amount of land used to produce 1 tonne of lettuce could produce 2 tonnes of rice. The foods which are grown aren’t necessarily suited for the area for the soil type and yields aren’t necessarily as high compared to the original crops.
McDonald’s may offer higher profits in money; however the farmer cannot feed a family with lettuce as they can with rice. Once the food is produced, the distribution begins to raise complications. In the fast food industry, the food often has to travel some distance before it reaches the fast food industry. This will use up more fuel, energy for travel and use refrigeration and other methods of ensuring food is at its best quality. Although attempts are made, the nutritional content of the food is lower due to the transportation.
The distribution of food includes food miles which in turn increases pollution which goes into the atmosphere and damages the environment. There is also wastage due to the packaging, damaged and uneaten foods due to transportation methods. There is also wastage through other methods which are harmful to the environment. A major cause of deforestation in the Southern U.S. is the fast food industry as paper is consumed and wasted through packaging (For example, KFC uses paper boxes to contain food). Due to reasons like this, the fast food industry is increasing in its demand for environmental sustainability, the ability to maintain the qualities that are valued in the physical environment. As environmental sustainability is desired, hints have shown that the fast food industry is attempting to account for the desire of people for healthier choices and greener products. Although people purchase ‘healthy’ options, many wonder whether the fast food chains are doing enough to protect the environment.
The large affect of the fast food industry on the environment is summarised by Prince Charles through, “Fast food may appear to be cheap food and, in the literal sense it often is, but that is because huge social and environmental costs are being excluded from the calculations. Any analysis of the real cost would have to look at such things as the rise in food-borne illnesses, the advent of new pathogens, such as E.coli 0157, antibiotic resistance from the overuse of drugs in animal feed, extensive water pollution from intensive agricultural systems and many other factors. These costs are not reflected in the price of fast food.”
As the economy declines, the fast food industry continues to grow. Due to the economic downfall, people are choosing to go to fast food restaurants rather than going to more expensive options. This in turn results in the growth in the industry and provides many job opportunities. Economic impact is estimated to increase, however there are also challenges due to the increased food prices. “In the year ahead, the industry’s sales are projected to continue to increase, with a total economic impact that exceeds $1.5 trillion, yet at the same time, the industry is experiencing unprecedented challenges due to the economic recession and elevated food prices.” (Dawn Sweeney, National Restaurant Association president and CEO). The transportation of the fast food also impacts the economy and adds to the concern of elevated food prices, as shipping foods is significantly more costly than locally grown produce.