This is the web version of a list we publish twice-weekly in our newsletter. It comprises the most noteworthy food stories of the moment, selected by our editors. Get it first here.
Betting the farm. What do broiler chickens and New York City public school teachers have in common? They both log long hours in cramped, overcrowded conditions. That, and their long-term fates depend heavily on McDonald’s. According to Bloomberg’s Deena Shanker, the New York State Common Retirement Fund—one of the largest public pension funds in the country—has a whopping $300 million tied up in McDonald’s stock.
Last week, with concerns about intensive chicken farming on the rise, the fund wrote a letter to McDonald’s execs warning of “potential financial and reputational risks associated with [the company’s] chicken welfare practices,” and calling on it to improve. “The point isn’t just to take better care of animals,” Shanker writes. “It’s to protect the company, and thus its investors.” Meanwhile, AgFunder’s Lauren Manning puts the gripe in broader context, as a wide range of institutional investors begin to reconsider their stakes in commodity meat.
Hanging in the balance. The James Beard Foundation announced on Tuesday that it’s overhauling its award policies and procedures in an effort to promote transparency, openness, and diversity. Starting with this fall’s nomination season, the organization will add more people of color and women to its committees and judging panels, striving to achieve the demographic ratios reflected in U.S. Census data. It’s also sunsetting its Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America list and removing fees for first-time entrants in its journalism awards. These changes come shortly after the foundation published a series of four op-eds from members of the food community on how to increase institutional equity, part of its pledge to build a fairer James Beard—one that better represents the restaurant industry’s diversity.
Rising tide. As Hurricane Florence bore down on Jones County, North Carolina, a group of migrant farmworkers called 911 for help. They had missed the mandatory evacuation orders and woke up to find themselves in waist-deep water. But help never came—the owner of the farm told emergency management officials his employees were just fine. Buzzfeed News investigates.
Tipping point. The Washington, D.C. Council on Tuesday overturned legislation to end the city’s controversial tip credit and put restaurant servers and bartenders on the same minimum wage as everybody else. A miscarriage of democracy? Perhaps, but not a new one: Maine Governor Paul LePage similarly rejected the will of the voters when he overturned a tip credit bill last year. As we’ve reported, ending the tip credit will not kill the restaurant industry—one of its detractors’ key talking points. In Minnesota, restaurant employment has doubled since the state ended its tip credit decades ago.
Speak of the devil. Hell’s Backbone Grill, one of the most celebrated restaurants in the Southwest, sits in the middle of 1.9 million acres of desert, four hours away from the nearest metropolitan region. It’s hard enough running a farm-to-table restaurant in Boulder, Utah, population 225. But now, the Grill’s two chefs face a new challenge: Donald Trump. In a captivating NewYorker feature, Kathryn Schulz reports on the lawsuit the restaurateurs launched against the president after he halved the Grand Staircase National Monument, which surrounds Hell’s Backbone Grill, bringing in the tourists who sustain the business. The suit not only tries to reverse the president’s actions—it poses a larger constitutional question about whether the executive branch even has the right to reverse monument designations. Read the story, then make a reservation ASAP.