FERN’s Friday Feed: Will bats remain on the menu?

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

‘A cafeteria for animal pathogens’

The New York Times

“Six days a week, the butchers of Tomohon gather at Indonesia’s most notorious market and cut up bats, rats, snakes and lizards that were taken from the wilds of Sulawesi island,” write Richard C. Paddock and Dera Menra Sijabat. “For years, animal lovers and wildlife activists have urged officials to close the bazaar, boastfully known as the Tomohon Extreme Market. Now, the coronavirus pandemic is putting renewed pressure on the officials to finally take action.”

The virus has revealed our ‘misguided’ food system, from farm to table

The New York Review of Books

Covid-19 “has exposed weak links in our food chain that threaten to leave grocery shelves as patchy and unpredictable as those in the former Soviet bloc,” writes Michael Pollan. “The very system that made possible the bounty of the American supermarket—its vaunted efficiency and ability to ‘pile it high and sell it cheap’ — suddenly seems questionable, if not misguided.”

For a small Oregon meat processor, first came fear, then a plan

USA Today

One evening in March, just as Oregon officials were about to shut down the state’s restaurants and bars as the global pandemic spread, Geoff and Melody Latham realized their small meat-processing business in Portland, Nicky USA, would not survive with nowhere to sell their products. They called their 23-year-old son, Gerick, Nicky’s sustainability and efficiency director. “My parents have poured their lives and their savings into this,” Gerick says now. “I can’t let this, or them, fall apart.” Later that night, Gerick texted his mother: “I’ve got a plan.”

An unanticipated victim of Covid-19: Texas prison food.

The Marshall Project

Prison food has never been good. But in Texas, at least, the pandemic has resulted in the already low bar for inmate chow sinking even lower, reports Keri Blakinger. “Their food now arrives at odd hours in paper bags, cold, mushy and without a hint of green … An official manual outlines the recommended calories for ‘wholesome and nutritious’ meals,” but in photos sent by inmates “the sloppy joes look like peanut butter sandwiches, except for the corn kernels. The hot dogs are wrapped in smushed white bread, the milk comes in powdered form and any semblance of a fresh fruit or vegetable is utterly absent.”

The Roman-Teigen dustup betrays the rot in modern food culture

The Guardian

The social-media spat between New York Times food columnist Allison Roman and cookbook author Chrissy Teigen, after Roman dissed Teigen and organizing legend Marie Kondo for capitalizing on their fame by putting out a product line, has played out as the latest chapter in the argument over cultural appropriation in the food world. But, as Arwa Mahdawi writes, “The anger directed at Roman also detracts from the fact that … her disparagement of Teigen speaks to a larger truth about the hollow corporatization of modern food culture.”