Food stories of the year

Baylen Linnekin asked several food policy wonks what they thought were last year’s and next year’s biggest food stories, and here is part of my reply:

The troubles at Chipotle (whose food I like and buy, despite its dumb anti-GMO stance) brought home two points: local and handmade and every other good thing bring real tradeoffs, and food hazards aren’t just the result of moral laxity fixable by replacing “them” with educated idealists like “us.”

I also predicted that food commentator Mark Bittman, often criticized in this space, would find few takers for his notion of carding kids who want to buy a Coke. Read the whole thing here, and unrelatedly, if you are interested in food issues, check out this Russ Roberts interview with outstanding food scholar Rachel Laudan (earlier).


  • Chipotle is national and industrially made. How is their fiasco relevant to local and handmade?

  • “Chipotle has led the movement among fast-food chains in acquiring produce from local farmers… In an effort to reduce its carbon footprint, Chipotle increasingly has used more produce from local suppliers. In 2012, it bought 10 million pounds of locally grown produce, and bought an additional 5 million pounds each year, setting a goal of 25 million pounds by 2015, according to a review of company press releases and an email from Chris Arnold, Chipotle’s spokesman.”

    At the company’s outlets, unlike those of most chains, customers pass before a glass screen behind which the employees are seen to assemble burritos (or whatever) by hand with the customer requesting more or less of one ingredient, asked to choose one sauce rather than another, and so forth. Now, it’s probably a fair objection that decent burritos are intrinsically handmade and that rival burrito chains are using much the same methods of assembling them even if they do so back in a kitchen where customers don’t see. It may also be a fair objection that the most serious problems of food pathogens were present in the ingredients before they reached the restaurants and would not have been averted had the company replaced the handiwork of visible employees with some mechanized assembly method.