The Evolution of Industrial Food Production: McDonaldization and Population Health


  • Andrew D Currey


This paper is an examination of modern food production and its consequences, and of how food production on a mass scale negatively affects health in the United States. The link between food and health at first seems obvious and simple, but the food industry itself affects our health in significant ways. What exists now is a food industrial complex, which focuses on efficiency, high volume production, and profitability. Many citizens, students, and policymakers are simply unaware of the inner workings of the food-industrial complex, along with the dangers inherent in
factory farms and other sites of production within this economic sector. We employ Ritzer’s theory of McDonaldization to analyze these processes. Emerging from Weber’s classic sociological work on rationality and bureaucracy, McDonaldization focuses on themes of profitability, efficiency,
calculability, and control. We first introduce the food industrial complex and then discuss the latent and manifest effects of McDonaldization on institutions and industries like agriculture. Finally, we explore the many ways that the food-industrial complex is affecting our health at the population and individual levels. This paper takes a critical look at how food production is affecting health across the United States. We also discuss other major consequences of these processes.