And I’ve typed this many times before, but the relentless focus on food stamp “fraud,” that phantom that accounts for at most 1 percent of tax dollars spent on nourishing kids and olds, really would come to a sudden fizzle if the whole debate were reframed to make it clear the program is actually a federal subsidy for supermarkets. If it weren’t, beneficiaries would get cash benefits to spend wherever the hell they wanted, like the fruit cart outside our neighborhood Holy Foods selling produce for a pittance. No wonder drugstores have morphed into hypermarkets. Big Food is a bigger racket than Big Pharma. Now the Duane CVS Walgreen Reade lobbyists just have to get cracking on getting sushi included in the few allowed food groups. At least it’s not lobster. Or canned tuna.
Archive for the ‘big food’ Category
My cynical side also wonders about the aftermath of the Blue Bell listeria outbreak. Maybe the whole goal was just to trim the workforce, the same way Hostess sold itself off to do. Somehow smaller, less endowed Jeni’s managed to clean up its plant and get the cream freezing again with no bloodbath. Spin is everything, though: Look how airlines are learning to manipulate social media for praise whenever a pilot orders pizza for passengers trapped on the tarmac for hours. That’s not goodness of heart. That’s the law.
Apparently brown lives don’t matter much either — this story of a worker who was baked in a tuna oven, with a pittance charged as the fine, reminded me a construction worker was recently buried alive on the Pastis renovation site. And then I read another story about a day laborer in a hummus factory ground up like so many chickpeas. Upton Sinclair wrote in vain . . .
“Not the Onion” is the easiest joke in the lead-in book, but the news deemed fit to print on the new California cage law for laying hens really did need a disclaimer. The reporter (or editor) was working so hard to give what Jay Rosen calls “the view from nowhere” that the story nearly veered into parody. One Midwestern producer bitched that having to provide a few more inches of space for each bird would force him to install heaters “to replace the warmth provided by more closely packed chickens.” (Good thing the MTA never realized it could dispense with heat on the L train.) Then there was the faux concern that “low-income people who rely on eggs as a cheap source of protein” would be hurt the most. As the price goes up, on average, 27 cents a dozen — about 2 cents an egg. (Maybe the penny should not be phased out just yet.) But the real LOL was the whining from a lobbyist that “roomier pens” would “cause injuries” because “chickens are more likely to run, raising the risk of a broken leg or wing.” Cuz that’s how it works in nature, so teenagers must still be strapped into strollers. The view from somewhere is pretty clear: The losers in this six-year fight are full of manure.
And this is a great story on bacon mania that stops before it gets to the nasty bits: the shit lagoons and the piglet Ebola. Keep choking that drugged-up chicken, America.
I’m obviously behind in my typing, but the New Yorker’s look at how fast food is fueling the resurgence of the labor movement is well worth the read. And much more attention needs to be paid to this buried detail: A McD’s employee in Denmark makes $20+ an hour, and the Big Mess is only 35 cents more. Which puts the lie to one idiotic argument against paying people a living wage so taxpayers don’t have to subsidize their health care and housing and even food.
Relatedly, I got in quite an argument over a lovely dinner the other night about whether the picklers and uppity-mayo-makers are good or bad for America. My debater noted that franchisees ain’t getting rich in fast food, although the New Yorker makes it clear that the wealth is not all trickling up to the CEO’s gold-plated suite. Now comes this lovely revelation of how Cold Stone Creamery succeeded: the old-fashioned way, with gubmint help. To cap off the craziness, another CEO was in the Wacko Street Journal the other day opining that raising the minimum wage will hurt those poor franchisees. So I immediately Googled his annual compensation. I guess $4.5 million is too little wealth to share? The only consolation is knowing the jackboot on his workers’ neck came from Payless compared with what the real MOTU make.
Once upon a time the news that a huge fast food chain was engaging in legal but clearly unethical behavior would have gone unreported, or, even worse, have been covered with the usual obfuscatory biz-PRspeak. So I’m impressed that everyone got what it all meant from the get-go: The greedy fucks are getting and going to Canada in a “mailbox move” simply to cut their tax bill (evasion and inversion are so close). If there were a pink-slime God, this would at least mean employees could get that good, socialist, northwoods health care. But apparently America gets the shaft, covering food stamps and housing and Medicaid for those underpaid workers while the hope-there-are-shopping-malls-in-hell bosses plot their next gut-and-run. Youngs are gonna have to save us all.
I pay way too much attention to this mierda del toro, but the more I read about the kkkrazies attacking Mrs. O’s school lunch do-over, the more I realized the ol’ yellowcake/Whitewater media machine was getting spun on high yet again. And sure enough, after story after story of lunch ladies rebelling because healthy fud was being wasted, the real story comes out. Kids are indeed eating the healthy fud. And once again, a lie made its way around the world before the truth could get its apron on. Meanwhile, the “squirrel” distracted from another inconvenient truth: The new rules are just new marketing opportunities for Big Food. A sad thing I learned last winter is that factories are already churning out products designed solely to scarf up food bank dollars. Now I guess it’s all “let ‘em eat Whole Grain Hot Pockets” in school cafeterias.
And I forgot to post this in my last blast here, but I wanted to praise the hometown paper for running two important stories, a graphic one on the horrific pig virus pushing up the price of industrial bacon (you’ll notice sustainable is not affected yet) and down the quality of drinking water, and the other on how food chains actually do well by paying well (or at least better than minimum wage). But I also have to complain that both ran on a Saturday on a long holiday weekend. When virtually no one but an old print junkie who calls out the crazy price in the Chanel ad every morning was likely to see them.
File this trollbait under: Someone is wrong on the Internet. If we lived under a dictatorship, I would be the first to lay all the blame on the White House for the lack of huge progress (as opposed to “the fail”) in changing the way Big Ag forces America to eat. But it is impossible for one branch of government to push back hard enough when the two others have been bought off along with much of the media. (Even the so-called heroes among the latter are villains to dairy farmers, BTW. Lookin’ at you, Mr. Cream Cheese For Me, Not For Thee.) I do want to hope that one day, when all the black smoke has cleared, the country may see the bigger picture. But look at what’s happening with the fight over the minimum wage for fast-food workers. What the NRA (either of ‘em) don’t want, the country don’t get. The 10.10 bucks don’t stop in the Oval Office. But at least now it’s perfectly clear: Kale was brought in as the arugula assassin. Call it the Manchurian Crucifer.
Funny to see the tree-testicle industry stealing a page from the faux cheese playbook to drum up demand in advance of Big Biz’s brain-busting event this month. How gullible do they think consumers are? Since you can’t hoard this particular fruit, panic buying this far out is only going to result in guacamole negro. What’s next? A Coors shortage because the piss may be running dry?
Relatedly, I saw much hooraying over the return of Twinkies etc. but almost no awareness in the fud world that the whole brouhaha was yet another greedy/bogus “Mission Accomplished,” given that the goal was to destroy the unions, loot the company and let it be reincarnated as a Bangladesh-in-the-USA enterprise. Enjoy your fresh Ho Hos. Just don’t stop to wonder if there’s any blood in the Sno Balls.
In all seriousness, Harper’s cover story on beef by Ted Conover is a must-read (you have to either subscribe or buy a dead-tree copy, though). I don’t think I’ll be having a burger anytime soon, for sure. The piece is packed with revelations, but the most disturbing is that Eli Lilly has a rep standing by to gauge the impact of antibiotics. Not surprisingly, substances given to promote growth tend to, shall we say, promote growth. The whole thing is gripping. Since I’m shallow, though, one silly detail sticks with me: You can now get mortadella even in Schuyler, Nebraska?
I guess I have to weigh in on the hometown paper’s knockoff of the New Yorker’s food issue and note how amusing it was that the flack paid to promote it in the age of social media linkapalooza chose to highlight some of the lamest material. To me the best piece was, of course, the one on the politics of food, but it could been more explicit. As I learned 20 years ago as we were researching our ill-fated harvest book, money’s what buys you power in this country; even Vidalia onion farmers had to kick in like 5 cents a bushel to protect their AOC in DC. Until there’s an Occupy K Street, Big Food will rule. And it definitely will as long as any old bacon, even the industrial kind, will do in 50 recipes from a sermonizer.
Then again, bacon hysteria went viral instantly even though half a second of close reading would have made it clear there was about zero chance the scary crap was going to vanish from supermarkets, or that the small farmers who sell the good stuff were doomed. I responded by Tweeting that the only thing to worry about was that Americans would scrutinize other Americans and wonder: Hmmm. Where else might we find endless belly fat for cheap? It’s a little sad that we can tune out all evidence that we’re fast-rendering the only planet we have uninhabitable but lose our shit over phantom fears. We are all Chicken Little now. Although I have to say: If I ran a chain of restaurants dependent on ground-up cow butts and shoulders, I’d be feeling a little nervous these days. Or wondering how Soylent Green would go with fries.