FERN’s Friday Feed: Octopus farming

FERN’s Friday Feed: Octopus farming

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

Opinion: Consider the octopus

The Globe and Mail

“Here is a creature, marvellously cunning and elegant, living in a space so vast and deep, so foreign to human experience, that we still mostly peer into the dark and wonder,” writes Erin Anderssen. “Surely, such a creature is worthy of careful consideration? ‘Yes, yes!’ Dr. Mather says. ‘A thousand times, yes.’ … And yet, no. We have plowed ahead, trying to tame the wildness of the octopus for our own ends. In many countries, including the United States … the octopus can be used in experiments without standards and procedures to ensure its care. A Spanish company is pushing forward with plans to open the first commercial octopus farm in the Canary Islands; research continues apace in places such as Japan and Mexico to raise and domesticate the animal for profit.”

Picking apart Costco’s inflation-proof $4.99 rotisserie chicken


“[T]he chicken isn’t cheap because of corporate benevolence,” writes Kenny Torrella. “In 2015, Costco said it was able to maintain its low price because the company considers the rotisserie chicken a ‘loss leader’ …  its purpose isn’t to bring in profits, but rather to bring in customers to buy more of the wholesale retailer’s bulk toilet paper and five-packs of deodorant. And it works. The item is so popular among Costco members that it has its own Facebook fan page with 19,000 followers. But there’s another reason the birds have remained so affordable. In 2019, Costco made an unprecedented move to source its chicken at even lower margins: It set up its own feed mill, hatchery, and slaughter plant in Nebraska, and contracted nearby farmers to raise over 100 million birds each year, all under the name Lincoln Premium Poultry …. It’s a classic example of ‘vertical integration.’”

A former Bracero’s ‘immigrant worker history class’

The Los Angeles Times

“Crouching for up to 10 hours between the furrows of a Nebraska field, Fausto Ríos, 17, could trim and separate 70 beets in a single minute with a small hoe. But he paid a steep price,” writes Selene Rivera. “[S]weat would bathe his entire body and blind him within minutes. When his legs began to weaken and the pain in his lower back felt as if he were being continuously stabbed, the Mexican immigrant … ‘walked’ on his knees, all the while thinking about getting paid at the end of the month … ‘I was a young man with many dreams. … But some dreams turn into nightmares that must become part of history so that we don’t repeat them.’ … [T]he 82-year-old has kept his experiences as a migrant farmworker in the bracero program a secret from all but close family members … [Now] he wants to play whatever role he can in exposing, and ending, the long history of racism, wage theft and mistreatment that many farmworkers experienced between the early 1940s and the mid-‘60s.”

A meat analog’s journey from a Yellowstone geyser to Le Bernardin

Bloomberg Businessweek

“It isn’t often that a niche food item will simultaneously appear on a SpaceX mission and at one of the world’s best restaurants. But that’s Fy for you,” writes Kate Krader. “The word is an acronym for ‘Fusarium of Yellowstone.’ It’s created from a microscopic fungus that NASA-backed scientists discovered at a Yellowstone National Park volcanic hot spring while taking samples in 2009 … The protein is grown quickly in cafeteria-size trays through fermentation-based technology … In less than four days, a tray of microbes develops into the protein equivalent of 20 to 25 chickens… ‘I want to prove that we can use it at a three-Michelin-star restaurant,’ says [Le Bernardin] chef and co-owner Eric Ripert … [H]e thinks the late Anthony Bourdain would’ve been a fan, too. ‘The tech burgers, he would hate them,’ he says of his former friend. ‘But this Fy—the idea that it comes from a geyser and that it could feed the world—Tony would love it.’”

Amid farmland consolidation, birds — and farmers — become rare in Saskatchewan

The Narwhal

“Lorne Scott is surrounded. His relatively small plot of farmland in southeast Saskatchewan is rich with wetlands, scrub and aspen forest in addition to the wheat and oats he cultivates. But all around him are fields that have been smoothed over — cleared and drained of anything that gets in the way of growing a crop,” writes Drew Anderson. “[T]he mountain bluebirds that used to nest in his bird boxes no longer return. Gone too are the familiar sights of killdeer and McCown’s and chestnut-collared longspur. The meadowlarks have dwindled …. It’s not just the birds that are disappearing. Around Scott’s farm and across Saskatchewan, the farmers are also becoming scarce. Land is increasingly in the hands of fewer people, according to the latest agricultural census — from large investors to farm families that have become significant corporations in their own right.”