FERN’s Friday Feed: Will the pandemic force a meat reckoning?

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

As workers are ‘sacrificed,’ will American consumers reconsider meat?

The Nation

“The Covid-19 pandemic has laid bare the fragility of American supply chains, and nothing demonstrates that more acutely than the price spikes, depleted meat aisles, and imposed rationing on a food that we’ve come to expect in limitless quantities,” writes Eamon Whalen. “The brutality of effectively sacrificing human beings to keep those aisles well stocked might be the breaking point in what was already the liveliest debate inside food: the future of beef in the American diet.”

As fallout from the Bon Appétit scandal shows, representation matters more than food

The Atlantic

“When articles defending so-called ethnic foods proliferate in response to racism, the focus is diverted from the food itself. What room is there to write about how to make soft idli or balance the spice profile of rista when ‘Indian food’ is mostly being discussed as an abstraction? … In tending, first and foremost, to concerns of representation, media coverage about inequity in food risks reproducing the industry’s disparities. Whether through litigating the behavior of individual white people at length or recommending nonwhite chefs and writers, publications frame interrogations of power around whiteness. Chefs of color answer countless questions about racism and discrimination before they can talk about … food.”

‘One bar. Twelve weeks. Seventeen lives on lockdown.’

The New York Times

“Shelter-in-place orders in the United States and beyond have forced millions of businesses to close, some for good,” writes Jack Nicas. “Amid that loss, there are countless stories of the places that people loved and that made their communities special — like my local watering hole, the Hatch. It’s a laid-back melting pot of a bar, where the art is abundant and the cans of Tecate are $3. The night before the lockdown, I persuaded the staff to share their finances and lives over the next three months.”

Meatpacking plants battled public health agencies over virus outbreaks


Relying on “tens of thousands of pages of emails, text messages, meeting notes and reports … obtained from dozens of public health agencies across the country,” Michael Grabell, Claire Perlman, and Bernice Yeung reveal the chaotic scenes that played out “[a]s the coronavirus swept through the nation’s meatpacking plants this spring … The candid, often emotional messages provide a real-time reckoning of how the companies responsible for a critical part of the food supply chain were hazardously unprepared and how a system that relied on tiny local public health agencies was quickly overwhelmed by the consequences.”

Virus forced craft brewers to invent ‘a supply chain from nothing’


As keg sales to bars and restaurants vanished, small brewers scrambled to repackage their beers and find new ways to get them to consumers. “‘As soon as we closed, we decided any drop of liquid that can go in a can needs to go in a can,’ says Josh Stylman, co-founder of Threes Brewing in Brooklyn. While Threes had already been canning its beer for a few years, the shift required recalculating the brewery’s entire operation, costing time and money. ‘We just ordered a million different kinds of boxes to find the best one. We never did this before. We’re inventing a supply chain from nothing.’”