FERN’s Friday Feed: A new tool to track how far farm smells travel

Welcome to FERN’s Friday Feed (#FFF), where we share the stories from this week that made us stop and think.

The science behind the stench at giant hog farms

North Carolina Health News

Shane Rogers has been serving as an expert witness during North Carolina’s series of hog-waste-related lawsuits, using a new form of “feces forensics” to trace waste contamination via a gut microbe unique to hogs. “Laboratories detect Pig2Bac by finding sequences of its DNA, making it a biomarker fingerprint,” writes Catherine Clabby. “[Rogers] detected Pig2Bac everywhere on the farm they sampled and on all the sampled homes nearby, including the siding of one home about 930 feet from the [plaintiffs’] residence.”

What to do if you’re a food snob?

The Bitter Southerner

Don’t cook from scratch every night? Lazy. Don’t spend an inordinate amount of time each day planning meals and prepping ingredients? Bad mother. In this essay, Dee Thompson describes how she broke free from generations of food snobbery and judgments like these. Now she admits, proudly, to loving the lasagna from Costco and the fried chicken from Publix. “Most importantly,” she writes, “I don’t judge anyone else who chooses not to cook, or relies on convenience foods to feed their family. Everybody has to figure out what works for them.”

The queer-food movement


Queer food isn’t any one thing. It certainly isn’t a rainbow-striped cupcake. “Queer food,” writes Kyle Fitzpatrick, “is the food of a temporary utopia, one where unexpected eating styles and culinary creativity thrive, where things that seem too weird to work actually do.” And, he continues, “Just as the gay bar is only the tip of the queer-nightlife iceberg, the explicitly queer food business is only the most visible aspect of a much larger, often unseen universe of queer food, one that’s been evolving in and shaping American culture for decades.”

The promise of seaweed as cow feed

Yale Environment 360

On Prince Edward Island in Canada, a dairy farmer observed that his beach-paddocked cows who grazed on seaweed “got pregnant faster and produced more milk than his inland pastured cows.” Now, it turns out seaweed has another benefit as well: It cuts the methane that cows emit, which is significant because methane is 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. Added to cow feed, UC Davis researchers found that seaweed reduced cow methane emissions by more than 30 percent. And it had no impact on the taste of milk. With California, a leading dairy producer, planning to reduce methane pollutants sharply, the finding comes not a moment too soon.

A crime wave hits food trucks

The New Food Economy

In many cities where food trucks are a lunchtime staple, crime targeting those trucks is spiking. Truck owners report stolen generators, stolen cash, vandalism, and more. “It’s hard to do more to secure a mobile food truck than lock it behind gates in a lighted lot at night,” writes Tove Danovich. “And these locations, while they may be more affordable than some more central or high-traffic areas, also make food trucks particularly easy targets for crime waves in places like Seattle, Austin, Portland, and in other cities where the truck trend has proliferated.”