FERN’s Friday Feed: Food-safety boondoggle

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

How restaurant workers help pay to keep their wages low

The New York Times

“For many cooks, waiters and bartenders, it is an annoying entrance fee to the food-service business: Before starting a new job, they pay around $15 to a company called ServSafe for an online class in food safety. That course is basic, with lessons like ‘bathe daily’ and ‘strawberries aren’t supposed to be white and fuzzy, that’s mold.’ In four of the largest states, this kind of training is required by law, and it is taken by workers nationwide,” write David A. Fahrenthold and Talmon Joseph Smith. “But in taking the class, the workers — largely unbeknown to them — are also helping to fund a nationwide lobbying campaign to keep their own wages from increasing.”

‘Largely worthless’ carbon-offsets

The Guardian

“The forest carbon offsets approved by the world’s leading provider and used by Disney, Shell, Gucci and other big corporations are largely worthless and could make global heating worse, according to a new investigation,” writes Patrick Greenfield. “The research into Verra, the world’s leading carbon standard for the rapidly growing $2bn (£1.6bn) voluntary offsets market, has found that, based on analysis of a significant percentage of the projects, more than 90% of their rainforest offset credits — among the most commonly used by companies — are likely to be ‘phantom credits’ and do not represent genuine carbon reductions.”

Why farmworker legalization failed

The Nation

“For farmworkers, real change requires a much larger base of organized workers. Today, less than 1 percent of the farm labor workforce belongs to unions or worker centers. But while pro-immigrant and pro-worker reforms may be blocked in Washington, D.C., in rural valleys throughout the country the political landscape is changing. Farmworker unions and workers centers are active in many states, including Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Hawaii, and others,” writes David Bacon. “Once organized, those workers will win, not just higher wages but also the means to engage in direct action, holding responsible those growers who have opposed their social and political rights.”

How U.S. corn fueled Asia’s rise to economic power and food security


“Maize is arguably the single most important crop in the world and is rivalled only by soybeans in terms of versatility. That said, it is, along with sugar cane and palm oil, among the most controversial crops, proving particularly so to critics of industrial agriculture,” writes Peter A. Coclanis. “Although maize is usually associated with the Western world, it has played a prominent role in Asia for a long time, and, in recent decades, its importance in Asia has soared. For better or worse, or more likely for better and worse, its role in Asia seems to be following the Western script.”

When the slaughterhouse was a tourist attraction

The Daily Yonder

“John O’Brien’s 1907 guidebook, Through the Chicago Stock Yards: A Handy Guide to the Great Packing Industry, captured the interest of a global audience in the varied activities that took place on a 475-acre expanse of land in the midst of a bustling, teeming metropolis. O’Brien goes on to compare the yards to such American wonders as Niagara Falls and the Rocky Mountains. Referred to as ‘Chicago’s Pride,’ the stockyards stood as the city’s leading tourist attraction for decades,” writes Anna Thompson Hajdik. “Today, in contrast, the average American consumer is sheltered from the meat production process.”