Local Stories, Events
Ref. : Civic Events
Ref. : Arts & Education Events
Ref. : Public Service Notices
Books, Films, Arts & Education
Ref. : Letters to the editor
Health Care & Environment
11.16 How pesticide bans can prevent tens of thousands of suicides a year [how many thousands more die early from eating pesticide-laced food?]
11.15 The long read: The plastic backlash: what's behind our sudden rage – and will it make a difference? [the world wants to throw-up...]
11.15 Claws out: crab fishermen sue 30 oil firms over climate change [workers are waking-up...]
11.12 This Land is Your Land: The Zinke effect: how the US interior department became a tool of industry [behaving ignorantly again...]
11.11 Trump responds to worst fires in California’s history by threatening to withhold federal aid [behaving ignorantly again...]
11.11 Interior department sued for ‘secretive process’ in at-risk species assessment [behaving ignorantly again...]
11.11 Keystone XL pipeline: judge rules government 'jumped the gun' and orders halt [behaving ignorantly again...]
News Media Matters
US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'
11.17 As Energy for Medicare for All Explodes, Steny Hoyer's Plan Includes Waiting for Trump to Help Make Obamacare Better [Another who is unfit to be Democrat leader]
11.17 'A Staggeringly Bad Idea': Outrage as Pelosi Pushes Tax Rule That Would 'Kneecap the Progressive Agenda' [Unfit to be Democrat leader]
11.16 As 'Green New Deal' Demand Grows, Democrats Have Choice: Confront and Defeat Fossil Fuel Industry or Take Credit for 'Doomed' Planet [Two choices: Save life-on-Earth or help Republicans let it die?]
11.15 Democrats Won Big. Can They Go Bold, Too? [it's about suppressing the influence and leadership by Republican-like Democrats who counsel 'íncremental' (no) change, such as Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, Hillary Clinton, Chuck Shumer and Joe Biden]
11.15 Pentagon Officials Forced to Make Fewer Public Appearances to Avoid Provoking Trump [...by revealing Trump's huuuge ignorance]
11.15 REPUBLICANS USED A BILL ABOUT WOLVES TO AVOID A VOTE ON YEMEN WAR [if there are 'defense industry' profits to be made—including congress-critter insider-trading—and political 'donations' to be had, we mustn't stop killing innocent civilians!]
11.14 The Guardian view on Yemen’s misery: the west is complicit [WAR CRIMES]
Economics, Crony Capitalism
11.16 Amazon’s HQ2 Will Get a Tax Break Designed to Help the Poor [a Republican program that directly helps participating wealthy companies—but only helps workers if and when 'trickle-down' occurs.]
11.16 Trump doesn’t want to punish Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi. His new sanctions prove it. [George W. Bush made a similar immoral decision for the same oily reasons after 9-11, protecting Saudi defense contracts while facilitating the slaughter of poorer Arab "terrorists" in the region.]
11.15 The Earth is in a death spiral. It will take radical action to save us [fossil fuel burning, un-recyclable plastic production/use and methane gas release must cease ASAP.]
International & Futurism
11.17 Thousands gather to block London bridges in climate rebellion [We're losing WWIII because the enemy is invisible while we're like frogs slowly cooking. We aren't informed enough to be alarmed, but must get organized and motivated to fight back. We need a War Plan to ruthlessly pursue the fight of our lives!]
11.17 Policies of China, Russia and Canada threaten 5C climate change, study finds [Climate catastrophe is increasingly likely without worldwide organization, funding and commitment to winning THE WAR AGAINST GLOBAL WARMING.]
11.15 Cuba to pull doctors out of Brazil after President-elect Bolsonaro comments [terms must be negotiated for fairness to Cuba's health professionals without disruption of healthcare for Brazil's poor]
11.14 'Appalling' Khashoggi audio shocked Saudi intelligence – Erdogan [Exposing a psychopath?]
Containing the Meat Spill
Originally published in ConsortiumNews.com yesterday, 28 May 2010
All the fast food chains are bucking inflation, driving down the price of meat—beef, no less, a former delicacy—to never-before-seen lows.
Navigating a mind-numbing office park near the interstate the other day, I was stalled at a traffic light, and a curious billboard caught my attention: “Prime rib dinner potato and salad for under $10 call 410-252-xxxx." The billboard stood on the concrete island in the middle of the road, seemingly unaffiliated with any surrounding businesses. Finally, I surmised that it belonged to the shiny Holiday Inn hunkered several hundred yards away, amidst a sea of pavement.
What an odd sign, I thought. Why did they include the phone number? Who would call?
Then I wondered, what’s the news here? Is $10 for prime rib so remarkable? For whom? Why? When? Or rather, since when? Clearly, the Holiday Inn hoped to attract customers to this unlikely locale for Friday night out, and cheap prime rib was its gambit.
But why? Aren’t we meated out yet? I’m meated out every night by 11:30- even if I’ve gone vegan for the day. I’m talking about the late-night ads: Checkers, Wendy’s, Burger King, McDonalds. I know what these companies are up to. They’re taking advantage of the late-night munchies in cruel fashion. But these ads display an impressive battle royale between the fast food chains—a battle to the bottom, a battle to the cheapest meat on earth.
I believe McDonalds won the latest round—this week, at least. In recent ads, McDonalds announced that it was practically giving away triple cheeseburgers: two for $3. Wow. That’s a lot of meat, cheap. Six beef patties for $3. Fifty cents a patty. Three hundred calories per dollar.
McDonalds touts this deal proudly—daringly, even. But their pride is mystifying, if not misplaced, if you think about it for only a minute. How can they sell triple cheesburgers for a buck fifty? It almost reminds me of prices I’ve seen on quaint menus from decades past—and that’s precisely the point. All the fast food chains are bucking inflation, driving down the price of meat—beef, no less, a former delicacy—to never-before-seen lows.
Why is their meat so cheap? Are they serving beef of shockingly low quality? Surely, McDonalds would never risk undoing itself with an E. Coli scare. Alternately, are we facing a ‘meat glut’ like the corn and soybean glut that the journalist Michael Pollan has highlighted of late?
The surplus of soy and corn, thanks to our farm subsidies, has made junk food so cheap that highly processed Doritos are cheaper per calorie than broccoli.
A meat glut is nothing to take lightly. Pollan has bemoaned the health crisis spawned by excess soy and corn, the building blocks of our processed foods. Their excess, thanks to farm subsidies, has made soy and corn so cheap, and in turn, the junk food they comprise. That’s how we arrived at this peculiar state where highly processed Doritos are cheaper per calorie than broccoli. And that’s how we arrived at our current health crisis, where rates of hypertension, diabetes, obesity and heart disease skyrocket, especially among the poor.
What happens when you throw $10 prime rib and triple cheesburgers into the mix? This can’t be good. In a way, this trend is surprising because I thought we were as a nation in the midst of an organic, locavore, health food revolution. Farmers markets are popping up everywhere (even in the parking lot of my local mall); people talk obsessively about fiber in their diets, and antioxidants, free radicals and fatty acids—little of which comes from triple cheeseburgers. Obviously, I’ve been trapped in my locavore bubble, because carnivorism still reigns. We’re being stuffed with ever-cheaper meat, and our public health crisis risks exploding.
Nothing announces this countertrend—or our astounding, stubborn ignorance—more than the much ballyhooed ‘Double Down’ sandwich at KFC: a ‘sandwich’ of bacon and melted cheese, held together not by bread, but two pieces of fried chicken. KFC advertises this monstrosity with great enthusiasm. The company is effectively thumbing its nose at all public health indicators—and common sense, and sensible taste—but we go along with it, happily ‘doubling down’ our chances of early morbidity.
We could not have cheap meat without cheap oil. So: why the deflation in meat, but not in oil?
American carnivorism involves one very important, worrisome ingredient: oil. Cheap oil supports the fertilizer in the corn and soy that becomes animal feed; it’s in the tractors and transport to market. We could not have cheap meat without cheap oil. So: why the deflation in meat, but not in oil?
In this recession, oil singlehandedly drives inflation; the price of gas alone rises while everything falls or stagnates, waiting patiently for the American consumer to return. With talk of drilling moratoria, continued imports from dangerous places, and impending peak oil, it’s surprising that oil apparently continues to be showered on our meat production, which could be run for much cheaper—indeed, for free, if you consider that cows’ native diet consists of grass. Free grass.
What’s going on? We fret about our national energy independence and sustainability, but the fast food joints are practically falling over themselves to give away their oil-drenched meat. Clearly, oil is not such a precious commodity after all—or we are engaged in some stunning wastefulness. The latter option is more compelling, especially in light of our plodding, nonchalant response to the oil spill in the Gulf, which recently caused the closure of 48,000 square miles to fishing. Forty eight thousand square miles of oil, and we hardly blink—it’s business as usual.
I realize that an economist might say that McDonalds and its competitors are simply engaged in a price war—that’s how they can offer triple cheeseburgers for a buck fifty. And yet, I would counter, this is a mighty long price war; I’ve observed this steady decline in the price of meat for years. It was about five years ago that I was shocked by a Popeye’s billboard hawking fried chicken for 39 cents apiece. I have yet to see that beat, but fear the day is surely coming...
Meat was a delicacy to our parents and grandparents. Just ask them. My mother tells of her whole family (in Irish Catholic quarters, that would be eight people, give or take) sharing a roast chicken for Sunday dinner. Nowadays, that’s dinner for two. On a Wednesday. With beef for breakfast, lunch—and late-night snack. Meat is fast becoming just another throw-away product. In light of our national health and energy crises, this should be very alarming.
Firmin DeBrabander is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore.
Copyright © 2010 The Baltimore News Network. All rights reserved.
Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.
Baltimore News Network, Inc., sponsor of this web site, is a nonprofit organization and does not make political endorsements. The opinions expressed in stories posted on this web site are the authors' own.
This story was published on May 28, 2010.