Wednesday, August 20, 2008

No ESKAPE......

Amid all the fallout of high gas prices there are bunch of news stories. Mostly they settle on whether or not producers absorb the cost, or pass it on to their customers. The Producer Price Index went up 1.2% last month.....the most in forty years.......and people are shitting themselves over whether or not this will introduce Richard Nixon style stagflation.

We now pay an extra forty bucks for the Mountain People truck to deliver our stuff once a week. Multiplied by his twenty stops it seems like a ripoff......but that pays for maybe half a tank of diesel.

In Produce Land it is really ugly. Contracts are by bid, and most of the bids came in way before the diesel went up to five bucks a gallon. None of the contracts are profitable at five dollar diesel, so the big packers get to decide who to fuck over and who to carry. Small, irritating growers in the Salinas Valley are watching their entire crops being plowed under because they could not make their nut and they pissed off some packer back in high school.

Thank God I am not a lettuce farmer.

Of course the whole stupid ethanol thing has hit corn and wheat prices, which has hit meat prices. On Monday it hit home for us.....a Niman Ranch filet costs me at least 120 bucks. I get maybe eight decent steaks out of it. I sell the filet for 2o bucks.

Normal restaurant practice is to triple the cost of the food in a dish. My "normal" restaurant practice goes back to the sixties because I am old. Modern normal restaurant practice, especially as practiced in Carmel, says multiply by five or six. My $20 filet should cost somewhere between $45 and $100.

Also, when you order the filet at The Store, you get porcini cream, a grain, fingerling potatoes and a veg. And everything is organic.

Oh.....and it comes on a plate....which is carefully washed and stored by Rosaria in the building I pay rent for, and the filet is brought to your table by the waitress who is paid minimum wage of eight bucks an hour. Oh, the propane is $4 a gallon that cooks the filet.....and the PG&E bill runs a couple grand a month to keep the shit from rotting after it is trucked down from Mendocino. We won't even talk about the fact that Melodie and Mike Kucher at the Chevron in The Village receive and store the stuff in their walk-in for free.....or the cost of going and picking it up and driving it out to The Store.

Still, idiots like me look at who is buying the filet, and what that person means to me. Callie and Garret buy filets. Doug Forzani buys filets. Pat Clark and Dave Shipman eat filet. I cannot in good conscience charge Callie or Garret or Doug more than 20 bucks for a five ounce piece of meat. Sorry.

I am not alone. I spent the first day in the office in more than two months today and posted a bunch of invoices. The excellent if seriously grumpy winemaker at Adelaida in Paso Robles has not raised his prices either. A kick ass, hot weather zin or pinot from this prick can be had for less than fifteen bucks......shipped all the way to Cachagua, stored, served in nice glasses by a reasonably nice wine geek. If you are not drinking Adelaida wines, you are stupid. Same deal with Dan Lee at Morgan.

Back to the filet. I can possibly not lose as much money on my twenty dollar filet if I buy commercial beef. "Choice" commercial beef from Iowa costs less than six dollars a pound. We pay fourteen to eighteen for natural and organic filets.

Meet the ESKAPE crew, and the MRSA crew. Oh, and the VRSA, VRE and MRE crew.

ESKAPE is a desperate, last ditch marketing ploy to try to engage consumers developing concern for the deadly threat that Enterococcus faecium, Staphylococcus aureus, Acinetobacter bauminii, Pseudomonas howsyourfather, Klebsiella pneumoniae, and Enterobacter yomama pose to.......well, human life......... on the planet.

MRSA stands for Methicillin Resistant Staph Aureus, VRSA for Vancomycin Resistant Staph Aureus, VRE for Vancomycin Resistant Enterococcus, etc.

Methicillin and Vancomycin are the last-ditch anti-biotics that used to kill all the bugs that nothing else could kill. Used to.

Back in the day, meat growers discovered that they needed anti-biotics to keep the various animals they were packing in sheds and pens in Auschwitz type concentrations from dying of hundreds of diseases. It developed that even beyond fighting disease, feeding animals low levels of antibiotics actually helps the critters put on weight faster. By killing competing bacteria in the guts of the various critters, the full focus of the food went to the host critter. Broiler chicks can pop out at 45 days, as opposed to 96 or 12o.

Unfortunately, the bugs mutate rapidly and quickly develop resistance to the drugs. For years, the pharma industry kept up....but the economics changed. Pharma stockholders want drugs that have to be taken daily for Viagra and Prozac and statins, not drugs that people take for a week a few times in a lifetime like antibiotics.

So the bugs are winning.

The big sea-change came when the US approved avoparcin for use in animals. The US and the EU, to be fair. Avoparcin is close enough to vancomycin that vancomycin efficacy was gutted within months. MRSA is now commonly found on both farm animals and farm workers here, Canada and Europe.

In our corporate-friendly, regulation and government unfriendly environment, MRSA, VRSA, MRE and VRE bugs have spread all across the country. There is even a scarier infection involving gram-negative bacteria like Klebsiella. If you wind up in an ICU......if the original reason you are there doesn't kill you, Klebsiella just might. It cannot be stopped. We are returning to the pre-antibiotic world of the nineteenth century. Isn't that fun?

These bacteria now kill significantly more Americans than AIDS. In George Bush's regulation-free environment, the combination of agricultural antibiotics and the unlimited prescriptions of antibiotics by doctors for silly viral infections (sixty percent of American antibiotic prescriptions are unnecessary according to the AMA) have resulted in the situation where sixty percent of staph infections in the US are MRSA or VRSA. Twenty percent of those people die.......nearly 100,000 last year. In Sweden, where the government regulates all this shit, the rate is two percent for MRSA staph infections, and only a handful of people die.

Oh, and the budget to fight these particular bugs? Thirty-five million of the $300,000,000 we spend on all microbial diseases. And this is not counting the bio-terror budget. Spending on fighting anthrax, which killed a half dozen people seven years ago dwarfs spending on MRSA.

I am sure I don't need to tell you where John McCain stands on this issue. He is a "let it rip!" kind of guy.....which is easy to be when you have had unlimited free healthcare your entire life.

My friend Rod Kenyon died in hospital of a staph infection last one of the best hospitals in the world.

Actually, I am not sure if he was my friend or not, since one of his last acts in my restaurant was punching me out when I deserved it.......

Then, again....who else is gonna take the effort to punch you out when you deserve it but a true friend? Well, at least that is the way it works in Cachagua.......

Rod Kenyon was a working man....a woodcutter, a fence builder, and a cowpuncher at times. Rod was an appreciator of the Cachagua Store filet with porcini twenty hard earned dollars a pop.....even though he lived in his Land Cruiser much of the time.

Rod did not have unlimited free health insurance.....and Rod Kenyon is dead of a staph infection.

Sorry, folks. I am not raising my prices. I am not going to stop buying and serving natural and organic beef.

And I am definitely not voting for John McCain.

Here's to you, Rod.

A glass of Adelaida Schoolhouse Zinfandel. And a sweet little filet.


Blogger pendoodles said...

Holy moley thats expensive shipping prices!

9:47 AM  
Blogger Pexster said...

I remember visiting Adelaida many times back when John Munch (now at Le Cuvier) was winemaker. They were always really great people!

5:51 PM  

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