Tragedy both human and animal

This is, it seems, the age of the unrepentant meat eater. Of course it’s a lot easier to be unrepentant when you’re only seeing the clean, blood-drained, plastic-wrapped cuts of what was once a cow, a pig, a chicken. It’s easy, in feeding our hunger for cheap meat, to forget not only the animal tragedy but the human as well.

The New York Times (and many others before it) pointed out today, the illegal immigrants who worked for incredibly low wages at Agriprocessors in Postville, Iowa, were ill treated after Homeland Security raided the plant in May. And anyone familiar with industrial meat processing can tell you that the workers weren’t treated much better when they were employees.

It’s not just the meat industry, of course. Industrial agriculture — Big Food — has an addiction to cheap labor and that often comes in the form of illegal immigrants from Latin America. But the industry does it on our behalf; if we didn’t expect 99-cent burgers, the story would be different.

Attack of the food bloggers (and anonymous reviewers)

The Wall Street Journal ran a piece that suggests online restaurant reviewers just might not be held to the same ethical standards as, say, Frank Bruni. Gosh, really?

(And let’s not debate if there are standards for professional reviewers. The Association of Food Journalists can even list them for you.)

And while the piece tried to look at bloggers, it didn’t really. The main evidence presented was Chicago’s Dine wooing of Yelp reviewers. And I would hardly call that collection of reviews authoritative. Any nitwit knows that a online single review — whether for a book, highchair or restaurant — is as useful as asking my dog what is opinion on the death penalty is.

So perhaps this is the big, bad main-stream media taking a whack at the little guy. (It is, after all, Rupert’s Wall Street Journal.) But I don’t buy it. Smart business are realizing the power a single person can have on the Internet. And how cheaply they can be bought. (Drop me a line and we’ll talk.)

This has to be scary for restaurateurs, who are already dealing with low odds of success, to think that someone with a computer and a following could have a single bad experience as leave them on Eater’s Deathwatch. And at least one big-time chef has taken a whack at food bloggers these that exact reason.

I can hardly blame him. But it’s an imperfect world. If people are willing to sell their loyalties to the highest bidder (or for at least a free dinner), there ain’t much you can do.