FERN’s Friday Feed: A California crime ring is going nuts

Federal law officials are trying to crack this case in California’s nut fields


“In recent years, nut theft has ­exploded into a statewide problem [in California]. More than 35 loads, worth at least $10 million, have gone missing since 2013,” says Outside. “The number and style of the thefts—quick and professional, as if the characters from Ocean’s Eleven had descended on the Central Valley—have drawn the attention of federal organized-crime investigators and prompted the creation of a regional task force.” Investigators think that an Armenian crime ring, as sophisticated as a Mexican drug cartel, is potentially behind the heists. Why steal nuts? California pistachios alone brought in $1.6 billion in 2014. And the evidence is quickly eaten.

Fast-food joints are leading the automation trend


More than half of Domino’s Pizza and Pizza Hut orders are made from digital platforms, while Taco Bell, Dunkin’ Donuts and KFC all tout order-and-pay mobile apps. At places like California’s Eatsa, orders are made at kiosks, cash isn’t accepted and utensils are delivered through a hole in the wall. “According to a McKinsey & Company analysis, 73 percent of the activities workers perform in food service ‘have the potential for automation,'” says Entrepreneur. But rather than leaving people jobless, automation has often increased the need for employees. Technology makes it easier for people to order their meals, but that means that there are more meals to cook, tables to clean and chopped salads to deliver — all of which, at least for now, is still done by humans. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts food prep and service jobs will rise 11 percent between 2014 and 2024.

Power dynamics keep female farmworkers silent in the fields


“The dark side, the horrible side, of working in the fields is the abuse. To be afraid of the person who has power, the person who insults us, who threatens us, who can fire us whenever they want,” says Maricruz Ladino, who claims her supervisor at a lettuce packing plant in Salinas, Calif. raped her. Ladino was afraid she would lose her job and be deported if she filed a report, and, in the end, both happened. But her situation isn’t unusual. In a 2010 report by UC Santa Cruz of 150 female farmworkers in California, almost 40 percent said they were victims of sexual harassment — from lewd remarks to assault.

Why ranchers should stop shooting coyotes

New Food Economy

Last year, the USDA’s Wildlife Services killed 76,859 coyotes, mostly to protect livestock, especially sheep and calves. “To keep coyotes in check, [Wildlife Services] employees set neck snares and other traps, shoot coyotes on the ground and from planes and helicopters, arm sheep with collars containing liquid poison, and distribute M-44 ‘bombs’ that inject sodium cyanide into the mouths of animals that chew on them,” says New Food Economy. But all that killing may actually make the problem worse, because the death of a pack member sends females into breeding mode to make up for the loss. And with the pack in crisis, newcomers can infiltrate, including coyotes that don’t know better than to take down a lamb.

Food rocks


With songs about banana chips, ramen and hot chocolate, the Japanese band Shonen Knife might not seem like it would get much respect from hardcore rockers. But the all-female trio was a favorite of Kurt Cobain before he died, and after 35 years the group still has a cult following. Why sing about food? It’s universal — and love is just too embarrassing, says guitarist Naoko Yamano.

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