About 80% of the time I eat at a fast food restaurant (an average of once a month) I wonder how the establishment stays in business. A couple weeks ago I was talking with my dad and said something like, “I wonder if we were to offer some of the 'food' we gladly eat to a starving person in a developing country, if they would even be grateful to receive it.” Before I say the next bit I will say, I am not a healthnut, I eat a lot of sweets and really enjoy some candy that has nothing but artificial flavoring; but some of the junk we eat, if you stop to think about it, isn't really recognizable as food, doesn't taste remotely like anything occurring in nature (I'm thinking specifically about some frozen burritos I used to like while in college).
We want our food now, whether it's at a fast food joint or a sit down restaurant. Think for a moment, have you ever cooked? Don't most of the best things you prepare take time and quite a bit of it? If you're making a really good hamburger, is it done in 5 minutes? If you're making an excellent fajita, is it done in 10? If you're making a delicious southern meal is it done in 20?
Quality takes time and we have sacrificed it in the name of convenience. We have demanded food that is fast, cheap, and still tastes good (at least to some people) and to accomplish this the food is tinkered with a lot. What else should we expect?
Being a specialist takes time and a specific area of expertise but in our demand for convenience we first created supermarkets (which largely took away people specializing in baked goods, meat, cheese, etc.) and then went a step further and created the superstore (which took away people specializing in hardware, toys, clothing, etc.). Despite this, we criticize the employees of these establishments, complaining that they don't know where something is or they don't know something about a product. I know most people are assigned to a department and mostly work in that area (or at least I hope that is what happens), but even within that one department there's a very large variety of stuff (again, groceries have all sorts and electronics has everything from cellphones to tvs and dvds).
Within superstores our demand for convenience and cheap stuff has again done away with quality. I am not totally sure this is really the case, but someone who used to work in a John Deere factory told me that there was the line that made stuff for certain stores and then there was the line that made stuff for Wal-Mart (and I'm sure other superstores) and the quality wasn't the same. Also, if you talk to someone who knows jeans, they'll probably tell you even though you can get a pair of Levi's jeans at Wal-Mart for cheaper, you may not be getting the same quality as at some other stores.
About any of this, I can't really judge. Even though I hate Wal-Mart, I consider it a convenient evil and shop their anyway because, well, it's convenient and cheap.
I grew up in a home that didn't eat out much, my mom cooked from scratch almost every night. Yes, some of the meals were simple, but they were still good. As I've gotten older, I still don't eat out much and I enjoy cooking largely because I know I'll like what I make because I can control what goes into it.
Over the years we have learned to settle for less, we have made demands and they led to what we have today. So many are willing to settle for less that some things which are better quality have grown more expensive. A specific example is bread. Though I eat sliced bread and enjoy it decently for breakfast, I think it was one of the worst innovations to happen to America. Much of the rest of the world has really good, fresh bread for fairly cheap. While I was in Ukraine, one of the Americans I stayed with paid extra to get American-style sliced (frozen) bread instead of the fresh uncut bread you could get in every tiny store... and I thought they were a little insane for that.
I will end this by saying, when you can afford it buy fresh, buy local, buy from a small specialty store. Maybe someday our shouts for quality with drown out our demands for convenience and, in the process, maybe we will get to know our butcher, our grocer, our garden store owner, and computer specialist.