While the nation’s underpaid fast food workers have been making themselves and their demands very visible in recent years, a group of cooks and food servers in one of San Francisco’s most prominent Chinese restaurants have also been quietly charting a course to a better work environment.
Today, a group of employees at Yank Sing joins the Chinese Progressive Association (CPA) and several Bay Area legal groups to announce a historic $4 million dollar settlement and workplace agreement with the restaurant’s owners. Yes, you read that right: $4 million. According to the State Labor Commissioner’s office, this is the largest monetary wage settlement they have helped secure from a restaurant of this size.
In the quest to shave off distance from field to plate, today’s chefs and restaurants have devised a range of creative solutions–from growing tomatoes on their own rooftops to sourcing fruit from their customers’ backyards.
The Perennial, a soon-to-open San Francisco eatery, plans to take the business of local sourcing several steps further. Many of the greens and herbs the restaurant serves will be grown in a closed-loop aquaponic system based across the Bay in Oakland. And when chef Chris Kiyuna wants to serve say, some sorrel or sprigs of purple basil, he’ll be able to harvest them from the “living pantry”–an area of the restaurant where the greens will float until just moments before they’re served. Read more
Oakland, California is a city in flux. The rental market in San Francisco has finally gone “totally bonkers,” and this once-working-class city across the bay is filling up with young families, artists, tech refugees, and just about everyone else who wants to stay in an urban area, but can no longer afford the city across the bay. And while some praise Oakland’s diversity and “livability,” many are concerned by signs of spill-over gentrification. Read more
Ben McLean is oddly optimistic for someone fighting, daily, to save his company. The Florida farmer and vice president of Uncle Matt’s Organic says he has seen the fruit on around a third of his citrus trees turn green, hard, and inedible. Read more
Update: The 6-state lawsuit mentioned in this piece has since been thrown out by a U.S. District judge.
Ed Olivera is making a sizable investment in his San Jose, California-based egg operation this year. And just in time. He and other egg producers in the state now have less than four months to meet new, more humane standards for laying hens set to go into effect on January 1, 2015.
Olivera is “taking out partitions,” between the battery cages many of his laying hens live in, making the remaining cages larger. He’s also putting in a brand new building filled with an “enriched colony system,” or enriched cages, which will house 200,000 hens. The standard battery cage is only 67 square inches (see the photo to the right), and has a footprint smaller than a letter-sized piece of paper, but the new cages hold more birds and allow around twice as much space (116 square inches) per bird. Now the legal standard for all laying hens in Europe, enriched cages are still a new concept in the U.S. (See an example from the EU below.) Read more
In recent years, there has been a local meat renaissance going on in Wisconsin. At the center of the movement was a business called Black Earth Meats. The operation, owned by Bartlett Durand, or the Zen Butcher, included a retail space, a buyers club and a community-supported agriculture (CSA) subscription service, as well as a U.S. Department of Agriculture-inspected slaughterhouse. Read more
Anna Larsen makes a lot of calls to fishermen and keeps a closer eye on the weather than most of us. If it rains unexpectedly or the wind picks up or if the fisherman she works with aren’t able to land the salmon, halibut, or whatever she’s offering the members of Siren SeaSA, her community-supported fishery (CSF), Larsen has to think fast. She keeps abreast of what’s being caught and makes sure that whatever does come in to Northern California’s Bodega Bay and Fort Bragg–be it rock cod, Dungeness crabs, or sand dabs–makes it to her shareholders within 24 hours. Read more
Imagine an ad campaign for organic food as ubiquitous as “Got Milk?,” “Pork. The Other White Meat,” and “Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner.” That’s the idea behind a proposed federal program that would collect money from organic producers and put it in a single pot for promotion and industry research for the whole organics sector. Read more
When Mishka Henner’s infamous feedlot photos made the internet rounds last year, they caught most viewers off guard. Filled with what looked like colorful pools of ink, smeared across beige canvasses, their captions made it clear that the black flea-sized dots in the photos were in fact cows, and the “ink” was liquid manure collecting alongside giant feedlots or concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).
When Will Potter, the author, TED fellow, and journalist behind the blog Green Is The New Red, saw the images, he didn’t just feel nauseous, shake his head, and click on something else. He wondered, what else could we learn about CAFOs by documenting them from above? Read more
Food news doesn’t take a summer break. Get caught up here with our weekly round up:
1. Lobbyists Loom Behind The Scenes Of School Nutrition Fight (NPR’s The Salt)
In the ongoing battle over healthier school meal rules in the House Agriculture Appropriations Bill, several news outlets have pointed to the Big Food dollars behind the School Nutrition Association (SNA)–the group that has been advocating for waivers that would allow schools to opt out of the new rules. Read more