Egg prices are so high due to price gouging, not bird flu?

Looks like Big Egg is going to send you to the cereal aisle. There’ve been warnings about egg prices going up for over a year. And the only thing more reliable than taxes is that if someone predicts a price increase, there’s a price increase – whether the reasons are real or fabricated. So as predicted, people are being choked out by the carton. The excuse given is last year’s avian flu outbreak. Supplies were cut so severely, egg farmers had to charge a claw and wing for the product. However, like most of the unnecessary price increases we’re subjected to, greedy egg producers used a scare to gouge consumers. Advocacy group Farm Action said production has not decreased as much as egg producers want us to believe, they’re just continuing to float that myth so they can keep prices high.

Nowhere is the ire over inflation more concentrated than in the price of a carton of eggs. According to the Bureau of Labor, a dozen eggs cost an average $4.25 last December compared to $1.78 a year ago. In some parts of the country, the average price is $9.73.

Most of the explanations thus far as to why eggs have increased in price assume the invisible hand of the market or blame “acts of god” like last year’s avian flu outbreak that took out 43 million birds. But in a letter to FTC chair Lina Khan, the advocacy group Farm Action points out that the math behind those explanations doesn’t add up. Rather, Farm Action’s legal counsel Basel Musharbash alleges “a collusive scheme among industry leaders to turn inflationary conditions and an avian flu outbreak into an opportunity to extract egregious profits reaching as high as 40 percent.”

“Contrary to industry narratives, the increase in the price of eggs has not been an ‘Act of God’—it has been simple profiteering,” the letter notes, adding that the industry’s profit margins have risen to “unprecedented” levels alongside egg price increases.

The story, according to the organization, is not one of egg prices going up because of a crisis, but one we’ve seen over and over again over the last year: Prices are increasing under the guise of uncontrollable “inflation” simply because companies can make more money if they raise prices. The trend applies to everything from breakfast cereal to rent.

The egg industry has previously come under scrutiny for such behavior: a group of egg buyers accused egg producers of engaging in anti-competitive behavior between 2004-2008, including slaughtering chickens to artificially induce scarcity.

“The real culprit behind this 138 percent hike in the price of a carton of eggs appears to be a collusive scheme among industry leaders to turn inflationary conditions and an avian flu outbreak into an opportunity to extract egregious profits reaching as high as 40 percent,” Farm Action wrote.

Avian flu outbreaks were discovered in February 2022 in Delaware and spread to 10 states. The worst impacts of the avian flu were over by that spring, but prices kept increasing. According to Farm Action, “No hen losses were reported after the beginning of June except due to sporadic outbreaks in September, October, and November.” The result was that the average flock size for egg-laying hens in any month in 2022 was “never more than 7-8 percent lower than it was a year prior—and in all but two months was never more than 6 percent lower.”

The USDA noted in May 2022 that price increases in eggs were larger than the decrease in production. The USDA believed that the industry would attempt to ramp up egg production to make up for losses, but by December noted that the industry was keeping production pared back, saying that “producers—despite the record-high wholesale prices—are taking a cautious approach to expanding production in the near-term.”

[From Vice]

Those bastards! They’re out here killing chickens so they can charge more for the eggs they stole from them?! This whole article is infuriating. Sadly, I believe all of it. Any excuse to stick it to the consumer. The big bad guys here are a conglomerate called Cal-Maine. I’m sure they’re the ringleader with several other large producers in on the racket, but Cal-Maine seems to be Farm Action’s target. The article also said Cal-Maine was trying to use fuel and feed cost increases as further excuses for the price jump. But the company listed a 40% increase in gross profit margins last year. So the real truth is: they’re just awful.

Between this and the recent news out of Iowa about SNAP restrictions, I’m seeing red. We can’t sleep on the crimes being done to those who need food and medication assistance.

And I made the joke above about sending you to the cereal aisle, but as you read, you can’t go there. They’ve been fleecing us for years.

With egg prices more than doubling in the past year, calls are coming for an investigation into possible price gouging.

The spike in egg prices has been attributed to the millions of chickens that were slaughtered to limit the spread of bird flu.

— The Associated Press (@AP) January 25, 2023

Photo credit: Instagram, Twitter, Edourd Gilles, Hello I’m Nik and Tengyart from UnSplash

food Science

Study finds that fat on the outside of chocolate gives it the best mouth feel

I hope I’m doing this study justice because I feel like I need more science education to understand it. Researchers at the University of Leeds broke down the steps in eating chocolate. They used a model of a mouth to find that the fat on the outside of chocolate breaks down, coats the tongue and makes eating chocolate so enjoyable. They hope that by maximizing the location of fat healthier chocolate can be developed without sacrificing the experience.

Summary: Researchers have decoded the sensory processing mechanisms that make the sensation of eating chocolate so irresistible to most people.

Source: University of Leeds

Scientists have decoded the physical process that takes place in the mouth when a piece of chocolate is eaten, as it changes from a solid into a smooth emulsion that many people find totally irresistible.

By analysing each of the steps, the interdisciplinary research team at the University of Leeds hope it will lead to the development of a new generation of luxury chocolates that will have the same feel and texture but will be healthier to consume.

During the moments it is in the mouth, the chocolate sensation arises from the way the chocolate is lubricated, either from ingredients in the chocolate itself or from saliva or a combination of the two.

Fat plays a key function almost immediately when a piece of chocolate is in contact with the tongue. After that, solid cocoa particles are released and they become important in terms of the tactile sensation, so fat deeper inside the chocolate plays a rather limited role and could be reduced without having an impact on the feel or sensation of chocolate.

Anwesha Sarkar, Professor of Colloids and Surfaces in the School of Food Science and Nutrition at Leeds, said: “Lubrication science gives mechanistic insights into how food actually feels in the mouth. You can use that knowledge to design food with better taste, texture or health benefits.

“If a chocolate has 5% fat or 50% fat it will still form droplets in the mouth and that gives you the chocolate sensation. However, it is the location of the fat in the make-up of the chocolate which matters in each stage of lubrication, and that has been rarely researched.

“We are showing that the fat layer needs to be on the outer layer of the chocolate, this matters the most, followed by effective coating of the cocoa particles by fat, these help to make chocolate feel so good.”

The study – published in the scientific journal ACS Applied Materials and Interface – did not investigate the question of how chocolate tastes. Instead, the investigation focused on its feel and texture.

Tests were conducted using a luxury brand of dark chocolate on an artificial 3D tongue-like surface that was designed at the University of Leeds. The researchers used analytical techniques from a field of engineering called tribology to conduct the study, which included in situ imaging.

Tribology is about how surfaces and fluids interact, the levels of friction between them and the role of lubrication: in this case, saliva or liquids from the chocolate. Those mechanisms are all happening in the mouth when chocolate is eaten.

When chocolate is in contact with the tongue, it releases a fatty film that coats the tongue and other surfaces in the mouth. It is this fatty film that makes the chocolate feel smooth throughout the entire time it is in the mouth.

[From Neuroscience News]

I was gifted luxury handmade chocolate for Christmas and it was the most amazing chocolate I’ve ever had in my life. It felt like sex in my mouth and the taste was so complex and rich. They were like jewel toned little presents that melted in my mouth with notes of earl grey, passion fruit and orange. After eating those chocolates Hershey’s tastes like cardboard, although I’ll still eat it I’m not that picky.

Also I lived in Germany for a few years and even the store brand chocolate tastes better than American chocolate for some reason. Maybe they have better ingredients along with a better mouth feel. I did some half assed research and German brand Ritter milk chocolate has 18% fat while Hershey’s has 20% so it’s not just fat content.

I used to watch a lot of “how it’s made” videos on YouTube and I saw one from Cadbury where scientists were working on a “healthier” chocolate bar with less sugar. It was due to UK government regulations on sugar content. It’s been out for a few years now and has just 15% fat and less than 8 grams of sugar. They replaced some of the sugar with fiber. That sounds kind of unappetizing, but this type of science can hopefully make healthier chocolate taste better and that’s a good thing.

Photos credit: Eniko Kis, Budgeron Bach and Mikhail Nilov on Pexels

food Meghan Markle Prince Harry royals

The Sussexes shared tandoori chicken at the Ojai hotspot The Dutchess

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex had a date night in Ojai! I love writing about their date nights because I’m interested in hearing about what they’re eating. Remember the huge f–king debate about their meals at Locanda Verde? They ate sheep’s milk ricotta and steak tartare, which still sounds absolutely disgusting to me. Thankfully, their meal at The Dutchess sounds much more edible.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry were finally able to sneak away from their two tots for a low-key date night. The pair dined at the duly named restaurant “The Dutchess” recently and an insider told Page Six they were “incredibly pleasant” and “really polite to the staff” throughout the evening.

Harry, 38, and Markle, 41, chose to stay under the radar with our source saying “you would never have noticed” the royal couple were even at the Ojai, Calif. hotspot.

“No one approached them and if people recognized them no one showed it,” the insider told us, emphasizing that the pair were “lovely guests.”

Although the Duke and Duchess of Sussex didn’t have a reservation and it was the “first time they’ve been there,” they were quickly seated. They went on to share half a tandoori chicken before heading home to son Archie, 3, and daughter Lilibet, 1.

[From Page Six]

Of course I had to look at the dinner menu for The Dutchess – I actually think the tandoori chicken sounds like one of the best dishes on the menu, although I probably would have ordered the skirt steak with fried rice and lemongrass sauce, plus the crispy potatoes. The beef masala also sounds very good. For dessert, I would get the ice cream sandwich. Anyway, it’s nice to know that they still go out on date nights every so often.

Incidentally, given Meghan’s foodie credentials, I wonder if she and Harry have ever gotten a reservation for French Laundry, one of the most sought-after cuisine hotspots in California. I recently read an article questioning if French Laundry was overhyped, but I bet Meghan would love it… if she hasn’t already been.

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Backgrid.

food olivia wilde

Did Olivia Wilde submit her special salad & dressing recipe to Food Network?

Yeah, per usual, a lot of women think Olivia Wilde is a sympathetic figure. I disagree. Olivia and Jason Sudeikis’s nanny sold her story (and texts) to the Daily Mail this week and the nanny really sold me on the profound dysfunction of both Olivia and Jason. I’ll never understand why so many women are tying themselves in knots to proclaim that Olivia is some kind of victim though – she was downright cruel to Jason, and he reacted to her cruelty poorly and emotionally. Then she lied about being cruel to Jason publicly and repeatedly for years. One of these people has consistently been a liar, a gaslighter and an emotional abuser and it’s not Jason.

One of the saddest details of the nanny’s story was that just weeks after Olivia began her affair with Harry Styles and just days after she dumped Jason, she stood in their shared kitchen and made her special salad and special salad dressing to pack up and take to Harry Styles. The fact that Olivia made the salad for Harry in front of Jason was some kind of big breaking point for Jason. But most people were incredibly curious about this f–king salad and why it was so special. Well, Page Six pointed out that Olivia submitted a salad recipe to Food Network at some point, and they think it may be her “special salad.”

You can see the recipe here. It’s made with roasted salmon, zucchini and potatoes. You use a lemon juice-based marinade/dressing on the salmon, which also consists of olive oil, dill, garlic, shallot, red pepper flakes and smoked paprika. You use that on the salmon before you throw it in the oven, and then use the same dressing for serving. There’s also a vinaigrette, which consists of red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, honey, salt and garlic, emulsified with olive oil. You put that dressing on the mixed greens, then put the roasted salmon, zucchini and potatoes on top. Oh, there’s feta cheese involved, which is disgusting (to me). But sure, that sounds like a special salad, I guess.

Update: So, after all that, Olivia posted a page from Nora Ephron’s Heartburn on her IG Stories. If you’ve never read Heartburn (or watched the incredible film adaptation), do so immediately! The wife.narrator is a food writer, and the story is interspersed with recipes. So, Olivia’s special salad dressing is just “the vinaigrette from Heartburn”?

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Backgrid.

Florence Pugh food

Florence Pugh’s easy tzatziki recipe is just six ingredients

Its Friday so let’s try to lighten up the mood a little, shall we? One of the Buzzfeed food guys, Pernell Quilon, broke down Florence Pugh’s tzatziki recipe and it’s so easy, I thought why not pass it along? I usually associate tzatziki with more summer recipes, but our days as yet hover in the low 80s here in So Cal, so I guess mentally I’ve still got one foot in summer.

Anyway, as many of you know, Florence is a good home cook, and she posts many of her recipes to YouTube from her beautiful kitchen. This recipe only takes six minutes, or so Flo claims, and six ingredients, most of which you probably have in your kitchen already. I’ll give you the Buzzfeed breakdown and post Florence’s video below.

Here’s the six ingredients you need for the tzatziki: full-fat Greek yogurt, cucumber, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper. As for tools, all you need is a grater and a bowl to mix it all in. If you already have the salt, pepper, and olive oil, the total cost of making your own tzatziki is under $5. The Greek yogurt I got was small, so I’d say the ingredients below could satisfy up to two people. That can, of course, be expanded easily.

STEP #1: First, start by dumping your yogurt into a bowl.

STEP #2: Next, add lots of olive oil to the yogurt.

STEP #3: Add a little bit of salt and a lot of pepper.

STEP #4: Cut a portion of the cucumber, since we won’t be using the whole pre-pickled dill — all you need is about six inches! Grate your cut cucumber directly into your mixture of yogurt, oil, salt, and pepper.

STEP #5: Take 1–3 cloves of garlic, depending on your liking, and grate on the finest side of your grater directly into the bowl until unable to safely continue.

STEP #6: Finally, mix it all together

[From BuzzFeed]

Here are my notes: Florence is pretty insistent on full fat yogurt for the tzatziki. I’m not Greek, let me make that perfectly clear, but I’ve made tzatziki with non-fat yogurt before. Florence says in her video below she’s going to be mad at me, but I think we’ll work it out. It’s a dip, not a sauce, so it doesn’t need the fat to coat the starches in the cooking. It’s a taste factor thing. I’ve found the non-fat to make it tangier. I mention this also because I’ve had trouble finding full-fat plain yogurt, tbh. Anyway, you do you. Pernell plays with ingredient amounts as he’s making it and you should too. Go light to begin and add more if you need it. Pull back on the salt and pepper and garlic until you know how much you want. The beauty of tzatziki is the marriage of mellow and zesty. It should have a kick to it, but not punch you as soon as it hits your tongue. Also, Hecate note: always keep a lemon handy. If you get too heavy with that salt or garlic, give it a shot of lemon juice to balance it out. The other thing is, Flo and Pernell talk about grating the cucumber and garlic. I know grating is a pain in the tuchus and hell on your nails, but you want to do it here. I find chunks work against blending the flavors. Oh, and one warning: in the article, Pernell said this only costs $5 if you have olive oil, salt and pepper in your pantry. If you don’t, this is closer to $20, depending on how good your oil is.

Now that you have your fab little tangy tzatziki, what do you put it on? As Florence and Pernell mention, it goes with so much. Try crudité, fish, raw or roasted veggies, chips. Trader Joes sells Gyro slices, grab those, some Pita bread, red onion, tomato and lettuce to whip up a nice little sandwich. Pernell suggested a salad, it’s a heavy dip but it could work with a heavy ruffage, maybe. Veggie pizza tastes great dipped in it. The recipe above is for two people, which is good. Tzatziki doesn’t keep long. I always end up throwing some out and it breaks my heart.

Oh my gawd, I almost forgot the most important part! As Flo will show you below, when you finish mixing, you have to lift the tzatziki bowl and dance in a circle. This invokes the Cucumber Goddess’ blessing, otherwise the yogurt curdles… or so the legend goes ?.

Photo credit: Avalon Red, YouTube and Instagram

food Meghan Markle Prince Harry royals

The Sussexes ate sheep’s milk ricotta, steak tartare & ravioli at Locanda Verde

I was so busy looking for photos and fashion IDs for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in New York on Monday, I forgot to think and write about food. Following Prince Harry’s United Nations speech, Harry and Meghan went to lunch with Gloria Steinem at the Crosby Bar, within the Crosby Hotel. There are no reports – that I’ve seen – about what they ate. The menu is good though – lots of salads, pork chops, chicken au vin pot pie (!!), French fries, flatbreads and a very decent dessert menu. Harry and Meghan then went out with another couple for dinner at Locanda Verde in Tribeca. Locanda Verde is an Italian joint, with star chef Andrew Carmellini, and it’s co-owned by Robert De Niro (who co-owns a lot of stuff in Tribeca). So what did Meghan and Harry eat at Locanda Verde? Thankfully, Page Six had the scoop:

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle didn’t get the royal treatment when they dined at Italian restaurant Locanda Verde in Tribeca on Monday night.

“There was lots and lots of security all throughout the restaurant, but they weren’t in [a] private room,” a source exclusively told Page Six on Tuesday, adding that they were “seated in the middle of the busy restaurant.”

We’re told that other patrons dining at the NYC hotspot that evening were told by the Sussexes’ security team that they would be “asked to leave” if they tried to snap any photos of the royal pair. But the Duke and Duchess of Sussex didn’t seem to mind interacting with the other diners and Markle even approached a person celebrating their birthday at a nearby table.

“There was a random birthday celebration at the table next to theirs,” the source recalled. “Meghan went up to them with Harry and said, ‘I wish you the happiest birthday,’ to the table next to her. They were all dumbfounded and just said, ‘Thank you so much.’” Another spy in the bustling dining room confirmed to Page Six that Markle sweetly sent birthday wishes to the person celebrating and that the pair were in “great spirits.”

“They wined and dined with another couple that seemed to be close friends,” our second source said.

The eagle-eyed spy added that the couple ordered the Sardinian sheep’s milk ricotta, steak tartare, Piemontese, the ravioli, and a few other dishes as well as red wine for sipping.

We hear the former “Suits” star “looked good” with her hair pulled back as she and Harry enjoyed their meal with the group.

[From Page Six]

“Sardinian sheep’s milk ricotta, steak tartare, Piemontese, the ravioli…” I’m sorry but just the thought of “sheep’s milk ricotta” is enough to make me hurl. Steak tartare is also… not good. But I order red meat medium-well. It can be pink but not bloody. I don’t need my steak to f–king moo. (sidenote: whoever leaked this info about Meghan and Harry’s meal added an extra comma, the dish is actually called “steak tartare piemontese”). You can see the menu here – why order sheep’s milk anything when there’s a whole lobster, fire-roasted garlic chicken and prime NY strip steak on the menu?? Damn. Oh sh-t, on the dessert menu, there’s a milk chocolate almond tarte!! Meghan and Harry, please tell me you ordered that.

Embed from Getty Images

Photos courtesy of Getty, Instagram.


#SwedenGate: Swedish people don’t feed guests, especially their kids’ friends

It started over the weekend, and it was a refreshingly wholesome “controversy” about cultural differences. The controversy? Apparently, in Sweden, if your kid goes to play at a friend’s house, his friend’s family will not feed your child. In fact, the Swedish family will eat dinner and your child is just expected to play quietly away from everyone. This is apparently some kind of Nordic tradition, and it’s… um, considered really weird to most other cultures. Including mine! My Indian father loved feeding my friends. The number of times he would stir-fry shrimp for my friends “as a snack” is pretty remarkable. I would assume most Americans are like that too, culturally – parents have snacks for their kids’ friends, and everyone is welcome for dinner. This is not the way for Sweden. Some Swedish person wrote a column for the Independent about the controversy:

I was laughing when I checked Twitter and saw that #Swedengate was trending. All this fuss because of the revelation that Swedish people don’t – as a rule – serve food to guests (particularly to other children who are playing at their houses). It’s true, but what’s more confusing to me is why that’s even a problem.

As a child growing up in Gothenburg, I remember not really caring at all that I wasn’t being fed – I just continued playing and had a nice, quiet time while the other family had their dinner. It was usually just a quick “pause”; probably because they didn’t want to mess up my family’s plans.

The Swedish thinking goes like this: the other child (or the other family) may have plans for another kind of dinner, and you wouldn’t want to ruin the routine or preparations. I don’t think it is anything to do with not wanting to feed the other child or because it costs money or anything like that, it’s more to do with tradition and wanting to eat with your own family.

It would be different if you were actually invited over as a proper “playdate”, like people do more commonly here in the UK, but that wasn’t usually the case. We didn’t really have the same kind of formally arranged invitations. I think in many ways, Sweden is more of a free society than the UK. Children are allowed to run around more freely there, so they would usually just knock on the door and ask if they can come in and play – and obviously, you don’t “plan” how many children would be at your house in that instance. It would be a complete surprise. The parents wouldn’t be included usually, they wouldn’t come over to your house or expect to be catered for.

If you do have a planned playdate, of course, it’s different. Or, if the children are really young, then it’s a different story and you’d have a plan for people (their parents) to come over and eat. That would work the same way as it does in Britain.

Times have changed, too – today, it’s a different story. In Sweden now, if you have one child who comes over, they would likely get food as well. It’s not so much the way it was 20, 30 or 40 years ago, when I was growing up. But even then, it really wasn’t the “big deal” people on Twitter are making it sound like it was. Everyone did it. You just continued playing with dolls (or whatever it was) while your friend ate with their mum and dad.

[From The Independent]

Yeah, I’m probably the same age as this Swede, and back then, we didn’t have playdates either and nothing was formal. Now, do I have many memories of being fed at other people’s houses? No. Because my house was the one where kids would be fed. My parents were the ones who always had snacks and there was always enough food if a friend wanted to stay for dinner. Even more than that, friends were always invited for dinner!

Not here to judge but I don’t understand this. How’re you going to eat without inviting your friend?

— Seeker (@SamQari) May 26, 2022

Forget about Swedes not feeding their play date kids – what about adults having to bring their own sheets and towels when invited to spend the night? Lived there for 18 years, can confirm #swedengate

— Xtine Milrod (@XtineMilrod) May 31, 2022

This Swede food saga is just wild to me. So you don’t feed your guest, but accept food when it’s offered to you. And you ask your guests to pay you back when you feed them. You can’t convince me it’s your culture, this is wickedness. #swedengate

— Aji Fatou (@ajifatoudibba) May 30, 2022

I wish my abuela were still around. She’d be trying to airlift tamales to Sweden.

— Lynda Carter (@RealLyndaCarter) May 31, 2022

Photos of Swedish actor Alexander Skarsgard, courtesy of Avalon Red, Instar.