It’s become fashionable to hate on fast food, and for the most part we’ve moved well beyond thinking it’s anything but a junk-laden comfort drug. But just in case, here are eight reasons to stop eating fast food that you may not already know – just in time for your New Year’s resolutions to kick in. You are making New Year’s resolutions, aren’t you?
1. A shitty way to wait for death
People know that animals are frequently kept in horrendous conditions, but what do these Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (known more commonly by critics as “factory farms”) really mean? Try this for size:
- Often, so many animals are kept in such a small space they are forced to stand in their own feces.
- Animals may experience osteoporosis and joint pain because of their confinement. Sometimes they are so crammed together they can’t even turn around.
- Confined chickens often go nuts, and attack and eat each other. The only way to stop this aggressive cannibalism is to chop their beaks off.
2. Pumped up on antibiotics
The crappy conditions the animals are kept in encourages bacteria to grow, and depress the animals’ immune systems. To stop them getting sick, the animals and their feed are pumped up on antibiotics.
- This glut of antibiotics shows up in food, animal waste, and ground water run-off from farms, and encourages the development of drug-resistant strains of bacteria.
- These drug-resistant strains are difficult to treat. It’s estimated that 18,000 people die in the US every year from infections resistant to drugs, and that these drug-proof bacteria raise health care costs by $4 billion annually.
- Some scientists are concerned the antibiotic levels in our food may be unsafe.
3. You put WHAT in my food?
As well as high levels of antibiotics and hormones, fast food contains some pretty whack stuff.
- Some chicken nuggets contain a chemical preservative called TBHQ (tertiary butylhydroquinone) – a butane derived from petroleum. Eating a gram of TBHQ can cause serious illness, and death can result from eating as little as five grams.
- Some nuggets contain dimethyl polysiloxane, which is an ingredient in Silly Putty. Sorry, but you did read that sentence correctly.
- Many fast food chicken products are now made from mechanically-separated chicken, which is the result of processing the chicken carcasses for scraps of meat that would normally go to waste. Although the FDA claims it’s safe to eat, it’s just gross.
- Most fast food ingredient lists also include beauties such as chemical preservatives, artificial coloring, monosodium glutamate, and more. A Big Mac at McDonald’s has dozens of leery ingredients, including one food additive banned in many parts of the world. While these substances are believed safe in small doses, it doesn’t seem right that we’re eating food chock full of artificial chemicals made in labs.
4. Immortalizing the burger
The last few years have seen a number of insane claims that McDonald’s burgers just don’t decay! Salon.com recently reported an experiment from a New York photographer who has been documenting a Happy Meal every few days until it spoils. At the time of the report, the meal had lasted 137 days and still looked pretty good. You can check out the Happy Meal Art Project here.
To be fair, this phenomenon is probably less about zombifying preservatives, and more to do with the large amounts of fat and salt – and the corresponding lack of nutrients – in the McDonald’s meals. In other words, it’s likely that many fast foods would decay – or, not decay – in the same manner.
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Megan Hill is a freelance writer from New Orleans. She recently finished a year of service with AmeriCorps NCCC and is seeking representation for her memoir of her service. Read more from her on her website.
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