Daily Essentials | 8 May 2105

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MICHAEL RUHLMAN: Pasta, Asparagus, and an Egg

I was about 24 hours into my vegan experiment, planning to prepare pasta with asparagus and olive oil. In Ruhlman’s Twenty, I write about what a felicitous pairing scallops and asparagus are and make a sauce by pureeing the stems and mounting the puree with butter, serving the reheated tips as garnish. Finding myself with a good bunch of asparagus, I thought, “I’ll bet pureed asparagus makes an excellent sauce for pasta. But still it’s going to need a little oomph. Hmmm. Perhaps some freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Oops, not strictly vegan. But maybe just a few shaving, it’ll taste sooo much better.” I was hungry, and the dish needed a little extra something, which in so many instances is solved simply by adding an egg. Oh hell, why not mount a good deal of butter into that beautiful pureed asparagus and top the plate with a chicken’s egg.

CNN/MONEY: NY Governor moves to hike fast-food worker wages

Cuomo is directing the state labor commissioner to investigate how much employees in the fast-food industry are paid and to determine if it’s enough for them to survive.

In a New York Times op-ed published Thursday, Cuomo says the labor commissioner will form a panel that will decide in three months if wages in the fast-food industry are “sufficient to provide for the life and health of those workers.” If they aren’t, Cuomo says he has the power to boost wages without legislative approval.

VOX: Panera is the latest food company to join the war on scary-sounding chemicals

JB: Was there anything on Panera’s list of “no-no” ingredients that seemed ripe for removal?

DJ: In every instance, the amount of these things is going to be trivial. Unless you exist on a diet of Panera bread and nothing else, the idea that you’re going to get anything that’s bad for you is laughable.

Now, no one would say someone should go out and drink a large amount of these chemicals. In very large amounts, they can cause harm. But the amount one would get from eating even a large amount of Panera products is of no clinical significance.

JB: What about propylene glycol? It sounds rather frightening.

DJ: We give it intravenously to patients all the time in hospitals. It’s actually crazy for people to worry about ingesting that. It’s crazy, full stop.

PHENOMENA | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC: Is Drug-Resistant Staph A Work Hazard for Farm Workers?

A new study by the researcher who has done the most to pin down the presence of “pig MRSA” in the United States pries open the relationship between raising animals for food and risking drug-resistant infections—while also demonstrating how frustratingly difficult it is to fill all the data gaps around that risk.

The study is by Tara Smith, who is now an associate professor at Kent State and was previously faculty at thee University of Iowa College of Public Health, where she published the first paper identifying MRSA ST398, the hog-associated resistant strain; her former Iowa colleagues are co-authors. It’s the first study done in the US (and the largest ever) to prospectively track and sample hog farmers, and it maps the results against the locations of hog CAFOs—”confined animal feeding operations” holding thousands of animals—in the state which produces more US pigs than any other.

Quick version of their results: Compared to people with no current swine contact, people currently working with swine were 6 times more likely to be carrying some strain of drug-resistant staph, and 5.8 to 8.4 times more likely to be carrying strains that are specifically linked to hogs.

MODERN FARMER: Pork Chops, Pig Smarts and Muckraking: An Interview with Barry Estabrook

Some of what Estabrook says he learned while researching his book shocked him, including how some United States Department of Agriculture inspectors were mistreated by their superiors for doing their job by reporting “things like feces or puss from abscesses on the meat” at large slaughterhouses. He says they “were transferred to jobs two hours away and it made it impossible for them to live and work.”

Estabrook was also appalled by how a company called Premium Standard (it has since been bought by a large Chinese conglomerate) continued to lose court battles against small groups of rural residents and instead of cleaning up its behavior considered the multimillion-dollar fines “part of doing business. You’ve been found guilty, you’re paying millions and millions in settlements and what did you learn from this? Nothing. I believe that to this day nothing has changed. They continue polluting.”

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