[syndicated profile] phys_breaking_feed
A bowl of salad contains more than vitamins and minerals. Plant matter also includes remnants of the hormones plants produce to control how they grow, age, and manage water intake. Recently, scientists have reported that our gut microbes and cells may respond to these hormones and even produce similar molecules of their own. In an opinion article published August 22 in the journal Trends in Plant Science, researchers in France explore how plant hormones may influence human health.
[syndicated profile] phys_breaking_feed
Transition metal silicides, a distinct class of semiconducting materials that contain silicon, demonstrate superior oxidation resistance, high temperature stability and low corrosion rates, which make them promising for a variety of future developments in electronic devices. Despite their relevance to modern technology, however, fundamental aspects of the chemical bonding between their transition metal atoms and silicon remain poorly understood. One of the most important, but poorly known, properties is the strength of these chemical bonds—the thermochemical bond dissociation energy.

All hail my incredible skills

Aug. 22nd, 2017 08:54 am
monanotlisa: (natasha - avengers)
[personal profile] monanotlisa
Yesterday post-swim (!) the first time after endoscopic surgery (!!) I was patting myself dry. I looked at my towel and found bright red on it. Eek! I looked at my abdomen -- all good -- and then at my hand, where a long, slice-y cut was oozing a little blood. To add insult to injury, it wasn't even on my fingers, where one might feasibly mishandle the courtesy razor: It was right between my index and second finger, actually requiring a butterfly bandaid.

I'm just not meant to shave, y'all. Most of my leg scars (in spite of several knee surgeries and a few IV port leftovers from hospitals), are from cutting myself up trying to get hair off that belongs there in the first place.

In other health news, I found the world's tiniest malpractice problem! So, here was the success of the above-mentioned fifty minutes of swimming without aggravating my Problem Incision, the rightmost one, which of course includes some details, but not gory ones after all )

Vid: Infinity (No Man's Sky)

Aug. 22nd, 2017 05:28 pm
violace: (Default)
[personal profile] violace
I guess I could finally post this 4 month old draft?? I guess.

Title: Infinity
Fandom: No Man's Sky
Music: Sun by Sleeping At Last
Length: 04:00
Summary: That we may fall in love every time we open up our eyes.
Content notes: bright flashes, footage of a large but friendly spider-like creature
made for [personal profile] jetpack_monkey during Spring Equinox Vid Exchange 2017

AO3 | Tumblr

Download (x264 mp4, zips include subtitle file):
720p (146 MB)
1080p (201 MB)



Notes )

Outtakes )


Credits for mods & Steam workshop resources:
Chromatic Aberration + Vignetting + Scan Lines Removal by Atari
Darc Flight by darconizer
No Pirates + No Random Sentinels by Mjjstral
Slightly More Common Rare Creatures by gtdcarthage
Cheat Engine tables one and two by deadendthrills
Cheat Engine table by Squall8 (see link for further credits)
Aurora by TooCrispy
The Farm by MurashiPath Finder Hub by Hello Games
Waveform Station by Eli

The South Carolina Dylann Roof Knew

Aug. 22nd, 2017 03:12 pm
[syndicated profile] longreadsrss_feed

Posted by Matt Giles

When Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah first began to cover the trial of Dylann Roof, the white supremacist who murdered nine parishioners of Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church in June 2015, she initially assumed her feature for GQ would focus on Roof’s victims. But as Ghansah began to report on the trial, and specifically on Roof himself, she realized the thrust of her piece would have to focus on the murderer.

Over and over again, without even bothering to open his mouth, Roof reminded us that he did not have to answer to anyone. He did not have to dignify our questions with a response or explain anything at all to the people whose relatives he had maimed and murdered. Roof was safeguarded by his knowledge that white American terrorism is never waterboarded for answers, it is never twisted out for meaning, we never identify its “handlers,” and we could not force him to do a thing. He remained inscrutable. He remained in control, just the way he wanted to be.

And so, after weeks in the courtroom, and shortly before Dylann Roof was asked to stand and listen to his sentence, I decided that if he would not tell us his story, then I would.

To do so, Ghansah had to confront the history of South Carolina. This was a journey that Roof had also undertook in the days and years before he entered Mother Emanuel with 88 bullets — one that ended with a perverted viewpoint of the antebellum period before the state became the cradle of secession. What Ghansah finds as she crisscrosses the state — visiting Roof’s own place of worship in Columbia, walking along “Slave Street” on Boone Plantation — is that South Carolina prefers its history viewed through a heavy-handed filter.

Dylann Roof was educated in a state whose educational standards from 2011 are full of lesson plans that focus on what Casey Quinlan, a policy reporter, said was “the viewpoint of slave owners” and highlight “the economic necessity of slave labor.” A state that flew the Confederate flag until a black woman named Bree Newsome climbed the flagpole and pulled it down. A place that still has a bronze statue of Benjamin Tillman standing at its statehouse in Columbia. Tillman was a local politician who condoned “terrorizing the Negroes at the first opportunity by letting them provoke trouble and then having the whites demonstrate their superiority by killing as many of them as was justifiable…to rescue South Carolina from the rule of the alien, the traitor, and the semi-barbarous negroes.”

Roof is what happens when we prefer vast historical erasures to real education about race. The rise of groups like Trump’s Republican Party, with its overtures to the alt-right, has emboldened men like Dylann Roof to come out of their slumber and loudly, violently out themselves. But in South Carolina, those men never disappeared, were there always, waiting. It is possible that Dylann Roof is not an outlier at all, then, but rather emblematic of an approaching storm.

I took a road trip last week down the Atlantic coast and spent a few days in Charleston. It was a somewhat shocking experience to be in a city that purports to treasure its history but so openly glosses over the gritty details. Boone Plantation is one of the few sites to feature slave cabins dating back to the 1700s, but as Ghansah notes, the majority of the cabins are staffed by odd-looking dummies, which she writes “are supposed to represent black people in their deepest ignominy…there were no dummies that were supposed to represent the masters or the mistresses of the plantation.”

It is also at Boone I first learned of the “compassionate” slave owner, mentioned in one of the cabin’s audio tools. To enslave another human being immediately disqualifies anyone from being described as compassionate, no matter that person’s other qualities. This was closer to historical fiction than history. This distinction continued through the tour. The text in one cabin explained the significance of an archaeological dig on the property, an effort undertaken by a private firm which suggests Boone Plantation was forced to review the land (so as to not run afoul of Historic Preservation Act) rather than act on of any sort of archival inquisitiveness.

That a site like Boone would include these fallacies only confirms what Ghansah discovered during her time reporting on Roof:

In Charleston, I learned about what happens when whiteness goes antic and is removed from a sense of history. It creates tragedies where black grandchildren who have done everything right have to testify in court to the goodness of the character of their slain 87-year-old grandmother because some unfettered man has taken her life. But I also saw in those families that the ability to stay imaginative, to express grace, a refusal to become like them in the face of horror, is to forever be unbroken. It reminds us that we already know the way out of bondage and into freedom. This is how I will remember those left behind, not just in their grief, their mourning so deep and so profound, but also through their refusal to be vanquished. That even when denied justice for generations, in the face of persistent violence, we insist with a quiet knowing that we will prevail. I thought I needed stories of vengeance and street justice, but I was wrong. I didn’t need them for what they told me about Roof. I needed them for what they said about us. That in our rejection of that kind of hatred, we reveal how we are not battling our own obsolescence. How we resist. How we rise.

Read the story

Wouldn’t Change It for the World

Aug. 22nd, 2017 08:09 am
[syndicated profile] ao3_personofinterest_feed

Posted by <a rel="author" href="/users/bliphany/pseuds/bliphany">bliphany</a>

by

The name you take shapes the life you live in, and sometimes you’re allowed a second chance.

There is a man creating a million alias to protect people, including himself, a woman keeping her married name, and two dead spies wandering in a place where no one knows theirs.

Words: 1810, Chapters: 1/15, Language: English

Linkspam: fannish/geeky/SFF, misc.

Aug. 22nd, 2017 12:31 pm
umadoshi: (Orphan Black - Cosima 01 (teaotter))
[personal profile] umadoshi
Fannish/Geeky Things/SFF

"Tatiana Maslany Says Goodbye to 'Orphan Black'". [series finale spoilers]

Sarah Rees Brennan wrote "Our Winged Brains: The Appeal of Winged Creatures in Genre Fiction" for Tor.com.

[twitter.com profile] seananmcguire wrote a fantastic Twitter thread about the awesomeness of In Other Lands.

"'Atomic Blonde' Doesn’t Pretend Women Fight Like Men, And The Result Is Awesome".

Via [dreamwidth.org profile] recessional, a Tumblr post about Atomic Blonde...which is really hard to describe without spoilers. It has to do with a plot point that many people have warned others about in advance of their seeing the film (a warning for which a lot of people have been grateful, whether or not it dissuaded them from seeing the film themselves), and offers a take on why the "this horrible thing happens [so the movie failed us/is bad/perpetuates the same bad things that always happen]!" warning is misleading and the event is in fact genre appropriate.

"Doorways to Fantasy: Rovina Cai Illustrates Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children". [Tor.com]

"You're screwing this up: An open letter to Hollywood from your mortal enemy (the female comic fan)".

"N. K. Jemisin’s New Contemporary Fantasy Trilogy Will “Mess with the Lovecraft Legacy”". [Tor.com]

"Library of America Recognizes Ursula K. Le Guin (and Science Fiction)". [Book Riot]

"Robin McKinley: A Pioneer in YA Fiction". [Book Riot]


Miscellaneous

"The masseuse who pulled my arm out". [BBC] "Life with a disability can sometimes give rise to unspoken questions and sensitivities, but amid the awkwardness there can be humour. The following is an edited version of a sketch by Angela Clarke who has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, delivered for the BBC at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival."

"Confessions of a Costume Curator: As a fashion historian, my job is to learn from other people’s clothes—a task that is challenging, messy, and often spooky".

I think I may've linked this before--it's from last year--but I came across it again and still really like it: "24 Things Women Over 30 Should Wear".

"Swan, Late: The unexpected joys of adult beginner ballet". [Note: the writer frequently uses the term "oriental dance" when talking about bellydance; I'm not sure if that's a standard term in those circles? It pings me uncomfortably, so I figured I'd note it.]

"‘Kids are gross’: on feminists and agency". "What I’ve come to suspect is that many feminists’ failure to recognise the autonomy of children is, at least in part, symptomatic of the way children have for many feminists become symbols of oppression. But when we are unable to separate the systematic discrimination that makes mothering a ridiculously difficult and often oppressive role from the fact that children are sentient, autonomous human beings who deserve dignity and respect, we are in danger of allowing glaring hypocrisies to creep into the way we construct and use feminist principles and ideas."

"INFOGRAPHIC: A world of languages - and how many speak them".

"N.K. Jemisin’s #AntiFascistSFF and Gail Simone’s #ComicsHateNazis Are the Inspiration You Need on This Monstrous Day". [The Mary Sue] (From earlier this month.)

"Eisner Nominee Renae De Liz Shares Short Guide for Artists on How to De-Objectify Female Characters". [2016]

"A Sweet Valley High Movie is Coming (from the Writer of Legally Blonde!)" [Book Riot]

"How to Keep a Roomba Vacuum Cleaner From Collecting Data About Your Home".

"A New Canon: In Pop Music, Women Belong At The Center Of The Story" and "The 150 Greatest Albums Made By Women". [NPR] (Tori's Little Earthquakes is #27.)
illusion_is_mine: (Fallout: pinup girl)
[personal profile] illusion_is_mine
This week has sort of been up and down.  My parents found out Sunday night that my grandfather isn't expected to live that long.  His kidney's are failing him, and he has a whole other slew of problems.  He's come out of really bad illnesses before so I'm hoping he recovers, and I'm trying to stay positive.  In the back of my mind though I've also been preparing for the worst.  

My friend called me that night I found out after I told her over text.  She told me the reason she hasn't been able to stay in contact is because she's had some deaths in the family, and her dog died.  She thought that I hated her, but I reassured her that I didn't hate her.  I figured that she had something serious going on in her family.  I'm glad we were able to reconnect, because I didn't know if she would contact me again.

All that aside I've been doing okay.  I've been mostly trying to take my mind off of everything by gaming, and reading.  I bought Sonic Mania recently, and I've been enjoying playing that.  It also made me want to play Sonic Colors so I plugged up the Wii, and played that along with Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, and Fallout 4 yesterday.  

Did anyone see the eclipse yesterday here in the US?  I manged to put together one of those shoebox pinhole viewers and got to see it.  It was pretty cool.  I'd never done something like that before so it was really enjoyable.  

Oh yeah, my car insurance company sent me a check yesterday.  I guess they won the case where they sued the company of the lady that hit me in that bad accident.  I wasn't expecting anything so I'm glad it all worked out in the end. :)

I hope everyone has a great week.

(no subject)

Aug. 22nd, 2017 08:03 am
baranduin: (Default)
[personal profile] baranduin
Thinking of a story where all the gods/demons/etc. exist but no one is interested any more. I remember Star Trek had the Apollo episode that I used to watch obsessively. Any book or film recs for that kind of story? How do gods deal with rejection? Maybe some like it, gets them away from all that smiting and stuff. I bet the AO3 has some from the Yuletide collections. Probably a bunch of coffee shop AUs lol.

Good morning.
[syndicated profile] longreadsrss_feed

Posted by Michelle Weber

Colin Gillis has lost a tremendous amount of weight, and it changes things — the way he moves around the world, the way people react to him. But as he lives in his smaller body, he finds that there are other, deeper parts of his existence as a person of size that he’s lost along with the weight.

But there was also something attractive and deeply pleasurable about being—and living—large, about cultivating huge appetites and satisfying them with abandon. Eating piles of calorie rich food and guzzling it down with wine is tremendously fun, and I look back on occasions when I did that with fondness, a hint of jealousy, and with only the slightest regret. And my large body was so powerful! I trained until I could deadlift 420 pounds. The rush of excitement doing this gave me, the sense of accomplishment, the physical pleasure of muscles flush with blood, was a palpable sense of strength that I carried with me, in body and in mind.

Removing over thirty percent of my total body mass has entailed losses of pleasures that I once associated with being huge and that remain important for me. These are more than just the pleasures of regular excess in food and drink. I am physically smaller now and less strong than I once was. I may never gain back all of my old strength.

Read the essay

Gem's Garden by Jane Matwain (SFW)

Aug. 22nd, 2017 10:46 am
juniperphoenix: Steven Universe and Connie Maheswaran standing back to back (SU: Steven & Connie)
[personal profile] juniperphoenix posting in [community profile] fanart_recs
Fandom: Steven Universe
Characters/Pairing/Other Subject: Portraits of various characters in garden settings
Content Notes/Warnings: none
Medium: digital painting
Artist on DW/LJ: n/a
Artist Website/Gallery: [tumblr.com profile] janematwain

Why this piece is awesome: This is a series of garden-themed pictures that so far includes Pearl, Amethyst, Steven, Peridot, Lapis, and Connie. I love the concept, the colors, and the wealth of detail in each of these — Lapis's picture even has water dripping out of the bottoms of the pots. There's some great characterization (Amethyst's version of a "garden" made me laugh). My favorite is Peridot's, which makes wonderful use of light and captures Peridot's nervousness about being able to take proper care of all these tiny Earth life forms.


Link: Gem's Garden
[syndicated profile] science_daily_topsci_feed
A team of engineers has developed stretchable fuel cells that extract energy from sweat and are capable of powering electronics, such as LEDs and Bluetooth radios. The biofuel cells generate 10 times more power per surface area than any existing wearable biofuel cells. The devices could be used to power a range of wearable devices.


[syndicated profile] phys_breaking_feed
In the megacities that are home to nearly 10 percent of the world's 7.5 billion people, trees provide each city with more than $500 million each year in services that make urban environments cleaner, more affordable and more pleasant places to live.

Bird help

Aug. 22nd, 2017 05:33 pm
roga: coffee mug with chocolate cubes (Default)
[personal profile] roga
Why google this forever when I have actual North Americans who can help me with this stuff. Can anyone tell me what these birds are? I am assuming that all four are cardinals - 3 males and 1 female - but I would appreciate confirmations/alternatives.

under cut to spare you )

ETA confirmed :)
[syndicated profile] grist_rss_feed

Posted by Darby Minow Smith

When your family owns a Montana cattle ranch, it seems like selling beef to a friend should be easy enough. David Balatero, an old boyfriend’s bandmate, wanted good meat from a small ranch, and he knew my family could provide it. Once while waiting in line at a trendy barbecue joint, I had described our slice of river valley land and the people who worked it. And for a holiday dinner at his house, I brought the prime rib.

So when David said he’d like to buy some beef from us, I wanted to accommodate. Every year, my family puts aside a few animals for just this purpose. The rest get sold on the conventional market, but the calves that stay behind plump up on alfalfa until they’re ready to fill the deep freezes of our horse veterinarian or tax guy.

But Balatero lives in Seattle, so if he wanted our beef, he’d have to pick it up — and I couldn’t blame him for not wanting to drive a Prius full of melting chuck for 10 hours through winding passes across the Rocky Mountains.

There are a lot of Davids in the world: People who love beef, but who also care about the impact of our conventional agriculture system on farmers, animals, and the environment. They would like to support small ranches and producers who adopt more environmentally friendly farming practices.

But a 1,200-mile round trip isn’t reasonable for everyone.

To those folks, Seattle-based Crowd Cow might seem like a god-send: The online “cow sharing” start-up seems to promise beef you can believe in. Its mission statement uses phrases like “the very best beef from small, independent ranches” and “healthy, high-quality meat you can trust.” No Prius necessary.

Balatero knows one of Crowd Cow’s founders (Davids are friendly dudes), so he started buying meat through the company soon after its launch in 2015. He now gets most of his beef from the website.

The site’s sales pitch is working on more than just Davids. This summer, Crowd Cow went national, and its tiny team swelled from two to 22. As of this writing, the company has 14 job postings. Crowd Cow says it’s on track for $7 million to $10 million in sales this year.

But as it grows, Crowd Cow is also harvesting controversy — most notably for its sale of luxury Japanese beef, which seems at odds to some critics with the company’s local, sustainable meat ethos. (Many skeptics — some Grist readers among them — would no doubt argue that ethical, sustainable meat can’t exist, but that’s a beef for another day.)

Every good foodie has heard the “know your food, know your farmer” mantra. I wanted to know what happens when that relationship goes online, so I decided to take a closer look at Crowd Cow, its critics, and its customers. Hang tight, there are haikus and hanger steaks ahead.

. . .

With an approach that perfectly captures life in the modern Emerald City, Ethan Lowry and Joe Heitzeberg conducted research into their steer-selling partnership by walking up to Starbucks customers and asking: Would you crowdfund beef from a small ranch?

Tech-friendly, food-loving Seattle replied: What’s the URL?

Back in 2015, Lowry was a David. The brain behind the popular restaurant app Urbanspoon (now Zomato) wanted better beef, but he wasn’t satisfied with his options for getting it.

Traditional meat shares require a lot of planning, he says, and farmers markets eat up Sunday mornings. So Lowry talked to his friend and fellow tech veteran Heitzeberg, and the pair decided to apply the crowdfunding model to meat.

To bring their idea to life, Lowry and Heitzeberg met with Pacific Northwest ranchers who they hoped would become suppliers. The pair’s outsider, learn-as-you-go perspective is built right into their venture’s name: The ranchers pointed out that they wouldn’t actually be selling cows to Crowd Cow; they’d be selling steers and heifers.

But Crowd Steer sounds like a failed early aughts message board, so the cuter name stuck.

Within 24 hours of launching, Crowd Cow sold its first animal to a group of “steak holders.” Throughout 2016, the company expanded beyond Washington state. In January, Crowd Cow raised $2 million in funding; even the aptly named Joe Montana invested.

So how does Crowd Cow work? On a recent weekday, I opened my laptop, typed in the URL, and plugged in my zip code. Crowd Cow offered me the chance to buy grain-finished beef from a 13,000-acre Washington farm owned by Hutterites (a religious group similar to the Amish). I wanted to see how it would work for someone on the East Coast, so I put in a Brooklyn zip code. This time, Crowd Cow offered meat from a tiny Virginia operation that practices rotational grazing.

The Kalbi-style short ribs looked interesting. I could even earn free beef by encouraging friends on social media to join in to “tip” the cow. Otherwise, there would be nothing to do but wait for the rest of the meat to sell, and for the $30 ribs (plus $12.99 shipping) to arrive on dry ice in a styrofoam cooler.

Crowd Cow offers slick marketing, full of frequent beef puns and lovely photos. It makes it easy and fun to buy beef. Mission accomplished!

It’s offline, where the snout meets the grass (or doesn’t), that things get complicated.

. . .

Farmers who grass-feed their cattle tend to be driving when you call. My interviews for this story were briefly interrupted when farmers stopped to talk to a guy at the tractor parts store, to plug a Bluetooth into the truck, and to close a gate to keep cattle from roaming free.

Henry Giacomini answered the phone when he was pulling a trailer-load of cattle into the slaughterhouse parking lot. The California rancher sells about half of his 450 calves through the conventional market. It’s a system designed for efficiency; Giacomini finds an acceptable price for his animals and opts out of the rest of the story.

Things get quite a bit less efficient for the rest of his calves. Giacomini winters some of the animals on a grassy lease five hours away. Because they’re not being fed calorie-dense grains like corn and soy, it takes at least six more months for his grass-fed animals to hit slaughter weight. He has to find retailers or restaurants who specialize in grass-fed animals to buy his beef. Although he can get better prices, slaughtering and processing the animals can take a significant amount of money.

The larger payoffs, though, could be substantial. Those grass-fed calves aren’t contributing to Midwestern manure lagoons. They aren’t crammed into feedlots or quickly gaining weight on corn. Good grazing practices can build up soil and sequester carbon (this is not an idea without critics; here’s a pretty nuanced look at the science). Many ethical meat proponents argue that we should eat less meat and pay more for these better practices when we do.

But although there’s growing demand for grass-fed meat, it doesn’t always pay the bills.

Giacomini tells me that he would like to grass-feed all of his cattle, but it’s pretty risky. He can’t always find a natural buyer when the livestock is ready — and if he then tries to sell his steers and heifers on the conventional market, they’ll be too big, and he’ll lose money.

Last year, Giacomini took a bet on grass-fed. He bought about 100 additional yearlings from other ranches to fatten up. This winter, people started getting pessimistic about the market. Giacomini was nervous. The animals were getting close to slaughter weight when one of his major accounts fell through.

“I thought we were in big, big trouble,” Giacomini recalls. Then he linked up with Crowd Cow.

Giacomini had a few phone calls with Lowry and filled out some forms. The company emphasizes transparency and asks about a wide variety of practices. Lowry advocates for variety in the meat aisle, so there aren’t many hard no’s with Crowd Cow. Ranches can’t use growth hormones, and antibiotics should only be used on sick animals, but that’s about it. Crowd Cow uses the information in the documents that producers fill out to craft a story about the ranch.

Giacomini expects to keep selling to the company through December. Crowd Cow doesn’t do long-term contracts, but Giacomini feels good about the company and the partnership. He’s set aside calves for next season.

. . .

Reminder my friend David Balatero? Crowd Cow couldn’t tell me too much about the company’s typical customers, but he certainly seems to fit the profile. He’s a software engineer in a progressive city. He occasionally frequents the farmers market and tries to support small businesses. He’s critical of Whole Foods’ and Amazon’s impacts on local stores, but sometimes buys from them out of habit and ease.

Balatero dabbled in vegetarianism and feels himself being pulled back towards a mostly meat-free diet. Still, he loves the taste of meat. He’s a joyful, searching, progressive, tech-savvy eater. If I needed a ramen restaurant recommendation or a new tasks app, I’d ask him for both.

Balatero has ordered from Crowd Cow 10 times, purchasing everything from oxtail to steak. All of his meat was grass-fed and came from Washington state.

Still, there are some things that slip by even a knowledgeable Crowd Cow customer. In 2016, the company added grain-finished meat to its offerings. When I ask Balatero what he thought of the move, he admitted that he didn’t even notice. “Hmm,” he says.

In July, Crowd Cow got a lot of “hmms” when it put very rare Japanese A5 Wagyu beef up for bid. Heitzeberg, one of the company’s founders, documented his trip through Japan’s meat markets on the site, which hyped the “world’s best beef.” Crowd Cow hosted A5 Wagyu explainers, Instagram quotes, and videos.

There was even a haiku contest; the winning beef poet got a Japanese chef’s knife.

Adam Danforth, a butcher and James Beard Award–winning author, had a submission. He wrote:

The Best Beef Is Found
On American Farmland
Vote With Your Money

Pennsylvania goat farmer Sandra Kay Miller had a similar reaction. She says it felt like Crowd Cow, which built itself off the energy of the U.S. meat movement, was giving the “middle finger to all these American producers.”

At the time, Crowd Cow’s mission statement said it celebrated “healthy, high-quality, sustainable meat” from the “very best local farms.” The company only ships within the United States. “Japan is not local,” Danforth points out, wryly.

Clearly, the sale touched a sore spot for boosters of the ethical U.S. meat market. “If you look at grass-fed beef, our largest competitor is imported,” Mindful Meats founder and Bay Area beef whiz Claire Herminjard says. “It’s so much cheaper to ship in Australian or New Zealand beef.”

Imports make up to 80 percent of grass-fed beef sales in the United States. BN Ranch and Butcher Box, two big grass-fed players, source meat from the Southern Hemisphere. To producers struggling to do the right and risky thing in the face of cheap foreign meat, Crowd Cow’s A5 Wagyu move felt like a slap in the face.

“Spend that money on us,” Miller says.

About the beefed-over beef itself: Japanese A5 Wagyu cattle are weaned at a young age, kept indoors in segregated pens, and fed grains. This, to Danforth, is nothing more than high-end factory farming. They’re just “wrapping language around the confinement of a single animal which is supposed to be a herd animal,” he argues.

Danforth posted about the sale on Facebook, and farmers, chefs, food educators, and Crowd Cow’s Heitzeberg stepped into the fray. Insults flew. “You’re as bad as the PETA people,” one poster wrote (fighting words in meat circles).

Diana Rogers tried to play intermediary. She’s a nutritionist and grass-fed beef advocate who had previously endorsed Crowd Cow. After the dustup, Rogers distanced herself from the company because she worries about its lack of clarity on ethical meat.

. . .

In the wake of the Wagyu outcry, Crowd Cow updated its mission statement to drop references to “local” and “sustainable.” Lowry says he understands why some advocates would bristle at those word choices in this context.

But he disagrees that A5 Wagyu is akin to factory-farmed beef and says the animals are really healthy and well cared for. Still, he recognizes it’s pretty different from the image of pasture-raised American cattle.

Lowry says the Japanese beef was “on the site for one day. Every other day has been pushing and promoting U.S. beef.” The company was open about the sale and farm, he says, so it fit under the umbrella of what Crowd Cow has been trying to do since the beginning: Be transparent. Get its customers the best possible beef.

So would Crowd Cow buy meat from other countries, like Australia or Uruguay? Yes, Lowry says, but he would want to meet those farmers first. And, like the Japan sale, Crowd Cow would be clear about where the beef came from, he says.

Crowd Cow customers seemed unfazed by whether or not Japanese beef is local or sustainable. Balatero says he thought, “I’ve heard this is amazing, and I want to try it once.” The cuts on Crowd Cow started at $79 and sold out in six hours.

This weekend, the company posted a pre-sale announcement. More Japanese A5 Wagyu would be available in time for the holidays.

. . .

Claire Herminjard, the Mindful Meats founder, says the U.S. food system faces two overarching problems: One, small producers need to earn a living wage so they can keep their farms. And two, environmentally friendly food needs to scale to the point where all communities can afford it.

Consumers show an increasing willingness to pay for better-produced food. And that has enticed big players into the sustainable space.

Amazon is buying Whole Foods and meeting with heavy hitters inside the U.S. grass-fed movement. Blue Apron bought Bill Niman’s BN Ranch. Even conventional meat giant Tyson has a venture capital fund for investing in smaller food companies. (Right now, that includes meat alternative start-ups.)

This isn’t necessarily the type of scaling that sustainable food advocates hope for. “VC funding and acquisitions are beginning to usurp the work of mid-level and low-level people trying to make change,” Danforth says. He points to Perdue and Hormel buying Niman and Applegate Organic, and says there are growing problems with greenwashing and a softening of standards.

Earlier this year, the Stone Barns Center published “Back to Grass,” a comprehensive look at the beef market, difficulties along the supply chain, and what U.S. grass-fed producers would have to do in order to compete with foreign and conventional meat.

I emailed lead author Renee Cheung asking if she could talk about “Back to Grass” in the context of Crowd Cow and Amazon’s interest in grass-fed meat. She told me that it was interesting that I had picked those two companies, because, in an ideal world, they could both go a long way toward solving those very different problems identified by Herminjard.

Amazon could provide the scale needed to bring down the cost of U.S. grass-fed beef; Crowd Cow could help small farmers get a premium price — if it does enough to help customers understand what more sustainable beef looks like, and why it’s worth paying more for.

When I talk to Lowry about the phrase “sustainable meat” and how Crowd Cow defines it, he says: “I don’t think in the space of two years we’ve become the be-all end-all arbitrator of truth in the space of beef.”

Still, whether the company meant to or not, this is the role that Crowd Cow took on when it stepped into the world of ethical meat. Balatero says he fully outsourced his meat vetting process to Crowd Cow.

This worries people like Danforth. Although he successfully argued against the use of “sustainable” and “local” in Crowd Cow’s old mission statement, he says the site’s updated language doesn’t promise much anymore. “You could call Perdue a family-owned organization,” Danforth says.

Despite the concerns and criticism, a lot of people are hoping that Crowd Cow, or something like it (perhaps many things like it), can succeed. There are ranchers, like Giacomini, who took a bet on the company, and customers, like Balatero, who love its meat.

After all, not everyone’s lucky enough to be able to haul a month’s supply of beef home in their car trunk after a weekend visit to Montana. And there are still plenty of reasons why we opt for the conventional market for the rest of our animals.

“There’s a lot of places to stub your toe” when it comes to ethical meat, Giacomini tells me. But, he adds, “I’m really rooting for Crowd Cow to make this last.”

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Online startup Crowd Cow wants to disrupt the meat market. The stakes have never been higher. on Aug 22, 2017.

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