FERN’s Friday Feed: Orange is the New Yolk

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

How the farm egg and its yolk became unlikely fetish objects


“As we have boomeranged back from the egg white omelet’s late-20th-century tyranny, the egg has become the poster child for all-natural, accessible, ‘whole’ foods ready to prove their virtue once you crack them open,” writes Marian Bull. “And as the last decade’s farm-to-table and locavore movements (and, importantly, their aesthetics) have gone mainstream, the ‘farm egg’ has become ubiquitous, its yolk an object of our undivided attention. We want it jammy, that sludgy midway between soft- and medium-boiled. We want it over easy, its yolk sploojing across the plate. And we want its color to convince us that it was not hatched in some animal welfare hellscape.”

Banana republics

Africa is a Country

“When Ugandans speak of our Banana Republic, it’s not with the same indignation that Pablo Neruda famously did,” writes Anselm Kizza-Besigye. “That’s not to say we don’t understand what life is like under the ‘dictatorship of flies,’ but the term doesn’t bring to mind the histories of plantation slavery, monopoly capitalism, and US-backed coups with which it is associated in the Americas. Uganda is a very different kind of Banana Republic because, while Uganda is one of the world’s largest producers of bananas, they account for a relatively insignificant portion of Ugandan exports. Indeed, for most of Uganda’s history, bananas escaped serious commodification and facilitated the conscription of Ugandans into the production of cash crops like coffee, tea, and cotton. In Uganda, then, bananas do not represent the vagaries of capitalism. Today, one could even say they are the closest thing we have to ecosocialism.”

The sea eagles that returned to mull

Hakai Magazine

“She comes winging in from behind us, looming into our field of vision, seeming almost too massive to be airborne. She is a white-tailed eagle, one of a species of sea eagles. Haliaeetus albicilla is a close cousin of the North American bald eagle, with its same dour expression, outsized muppety beak, and slightly ramshackle habit of motion, landing like a winter coat falling off a hook,” writes Emma Marris. “The wingspan of a big female can reach 2.5 meters. These are mythically big animals. Their size makes them bold. They lack the furtive elegance of so many other wild animals. They look casual, like they own the place.”

Farmed out

The Baffler

“[T]oday’s farming, what we call agriculture, is rarely about food,” writes Alan Guebert. “Even most dictionaries leave out the ‘f’ word when defining agriculture. Most just go with some variation of ‘the science and art of cultivating the soil; including the gathering in of crops and the rearing of livestock.’ The ‘farming-is-food’ construct is common, but it’s as far from the truth as Iowa is from Antarctica. For example, the number one crop grown in the United States is corn. And not sweet corn but ‘commercial’ corn used primarily for two purposes, animal feed and alternative fuels. In 2023, U.S. farmers, according to recent estimates by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), will plant ninety-four million acres of corn on land about equivalent to the size of California, or four Indianas combined. And, if Mother Nature is kind, farmers will harvest around 15.3 billion bushels of corn this year, a record. But you won’t see one kernel of this bounty—outside a bag of birdseed perhaps—in your local grocery store.”

The lies in your grocery store


“As climate change, agriculture, and urban development fuel the destruction of natural habitats, many conservationists have emphasized the need to protect endangered animals left without shelter,” writes Marta Zaraska. “But recreating natural habitats isn’t easy: For instance, tree hollows, where owls or bats nest, can take more than 100 years to develop. And while human-made options, from nest boxes to fake dens, have been a common conservation tool for decades, researchers have found that many older designs can actually be harmful — leaving animals vulnerable to predation, overheating, and parasites…Scientists have tried to address some of those problems using technologies such as 3D printing or, as Lennon did, virtual simulations…With ongoing threats to natural habitats, the question is: Will the substitute shelters — which require significantly more investment than their organic counterparts — really work?”