Thursday, June 17, 2021

Salena Zito: Where's the Beef? Thanks to Russian Hackers, It's Ever Closer to Home.

 MURRYSVILLE, Pennsylvania -- Elaine Noll is standing in front of the cherry white and blue stand for Billy's Country Smokehouse at the local farmers market. Wrapped around her left arm is a canvas bag filled with local roots and vegetables she purchased. She is now listening as Shirley Stana explains to her the different fresh and smoked meats she has in her cooler from the local farm.

        "I've always liked to purchase fresh vegetables from the local farmers markets," Noll says of her armload of beets, turnips and kale. "It is more than just about supporting local farms. The vegetables are fresher, it is higher quality, and I know where it came from."

        By the time Stana has finished explaining how they raise, butcher and smoke their meats, Noll is a believer and has made several additional purchases. "I am now even committed before to getting local, especially with the instability of the market," she says.

        Days after JBS, the world's largest beef supplier, was disrupted by Russian hackers and forced to pay ransomware, farmers markets all across the state are being rediscovered by those interested in their operations. Although JBS shut down for only one day, many fear that the bigger a company is, the more vulnerable it is, and the less willing they are to depend on it.

        When hackers attacked the Colonial Pipeline last month, people saw firsthand the impact such a thing can have on the flow of services. Consumers reacted by panic buying, and fuel supplies evaporated. Now, they also wonder whether they should rethink how they purchase the food their family depends on.

        People in the United States began rethinking how they ate at restaurants 20 years ago when the farm-to-table movement began to sweep the country, beginning in restaurants on the West Coast. The idea of localism on the restaurant plate expanded quickly to the home as people began to rethink how they shop for groceries.

        Farmers markets, once places you had to find by driving on back roads, increasingly involved farmers big and small coming to city neighborhoods across the country, selling honey, fruit, vegetables, eggs and milk, among other things.

        The surge in interest added one more of many ways people could shed their dependence on large corporations, this time with the food they placed on the family table.

Shirley Stana, owner of Billy's Country Smokehouse, speaks to customers at a farmer's market.
         For many, those purchases only centered on vegetables. But today, the interest has expanded to freshly butchered pork, beef and chicken, explains Michael Little, who is manning the Chaganra Farm booth across the gravel marketplace. "What happened with JBS has really expanded interest in what we do," he said. Little explains that Chaganra is an old family farm that has transitioned from row crops and dairy to regenerative agriculture. "We do 100% grass-fed beef, pastured pork, pastured chickens, turkeys, eggs, that sort of thing," he says. "We feed non-GMO feeds. So, we're kind of a niche with respect to some other farms in the area, but we only sell what we raise in the way of meat. Everything is born on the farm."

        Little says the farm has about 80 cows now. The pig population varies from as few as 30 to as many as 75 at any given time. They also have chickens and turkeys.

        The fourth-generation farmer says people started rethinking meats during the pandemic. In the past two weeks since JBS' systems were compromised and people worried about price and availability, both the interest and the demand have increased.

        "We see from other farmers just how volatile it is, and that concern is shared by the consumer," he says. "At JBS, everything is automated. Their slaughter lines do 3,000 to 4,000 beef a day versus my butcher that might do 10 or 12. It's a huge difference. If my butcher has a power outage, they can default to a generator." There is no generator that can make up for such a hack, however. "Their computers go down, and all of a sudden, the nation's meat supply is cut off," Little says. "Now, it was only for a day, but that vulnerability makes people think about how they want to purchase their food supply."

        Ransomware allows hackers to encrypt their victims' files, then force them to pay a ransom to restore them. The threat isn't just that they steal the files and make them useless; they can also threaten to publish them if the ransom is not paid.

        Little admits that local, fresh meats will typically cost more than what you purchase in a supermarket. "You know, we have a different model than they do, but it's based off of our real costs," he says. "I think people are going to get that opportunity to try local farmers' products and hopefully stick with them based off what they find in the quality and a difference."

        Wherever you live in this country, it is nearly impossible to live more than a brief drive from someone's family farm. Although we peaked as a nation at 6.8 million farms in 1935, such farms persist. Amid advances in technology, consolidation, and increases in nonagricultural opportunities, there are still more than 2 million farms in the U.S. on 897 million acres. The average farm size is 444 acres, not much greater than the 440 acres recorded in the early 1970s, according to the latest numbers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

        For the American meat industry, Russian malfeasance may have nudged forward a gradual change in how people think about their dependence on larger corporations for necessities such as meat. Increasingly, they are looking to their own backyard for farmers to supply their dinner tables with meat, just as they have been doing with their vegetables for two decades now.     

        Salena Zito is a CNN political analyst, and a staff reporter and columnist for the Washington Examiner. She reaches the Everyman and Everywoman through shoe-leather journalism, traveling from Main Street to the beltway and all places in between. To find out more about Salena and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at



Anonymous said...

She forgot to ask the lady " How many families can your farm feed in a year?"

But, why it didn't occur to her that people living in cities can't drive out to the nearest farm nor can the number of farms surrounding cities produce enough.

Maybe we should have required farm land around every town and limited size, but too late now.

And, Salena may want to visit the farm she buys from and see if their animals are healthy look at how plants are being tended.

Anonymous said...

Yes, buy local. There are several MS farmers raising beef properly.

Myself? I get a monthly box sent to my home from Home Place Pastures in Como, MS. These folks are the real deal even taking the types of grasses the animal eats into account.

Locally? Although it is grain finished(but not improperly fed/raised like those in CAFOs), I would go with Remington Lott. Best burger meat around. You can sure taste the extra effort of dry aging their beef.

Now, if I can just find a farm nearby providing raw cream and milk.

Anonymous said...

Love Farmers Markets, but I’m kind of rich and mobile right now.
2:22 said what I’m thinking.
And do visit the farm or else take the claims with a grain or three of salt.

Anonymous said...

Cooks ~30 lbs of Remington Lott prime roasts last Christmas (as the family was completely blowing off Covid restrictions). Damn fine beef.

Anonymous said...

At 100 dollars for a brisket ................i'll pass and die from bologna overdose. The world is headed for a hard landing and city folk will be the ones eating their beloved pets for food. Joe Joe JOE JOE JOE JOE JOE JOE !!!!

Kay Jerome said...

Everything 2:22 said. I love FMs but I’m pretty rich. They are a luxury.

Anonymous said...

“F russian B hackers I”

Anonymous said...

Two kinds of beef in my opinion: real beef and confinement beef. Google confinement or factory farm beef if you need some more info.

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Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

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Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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