Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Offal and Arbitrage

The sandwich in this box is not merely a sandwich. It does not merely represent the absurd and growing distance between farm and fork, or even the disdain of the food-industrial complex for its porcine and human participants.  No, this sandwich is much more: it is a hedge fund on a bun.

As Willy Staley writes in The Awl, the McRib is a very peculiar market manipulation, made possible only by the absurd scale of McDonald's, a corporation so big that its menu decisions -- something as simple as adding celery to a recipe -- "quickly become global agricultural concerns."

As nasty as the McRib may be, it has its fans, and they are frustrated by the shifting regional geography of its availability. By comparing the timing of McRib releases to fluctuations in pork commodity prices, Staley makes the case that McDonald's is able to use its mammoth purchasing power to shift a significant portion of the world supply from one market to another when the difference between the two is greatest.

This just in: more geography of McDonald's. The Huffington Post reports that "artist and scientist" Stephen Von Worley has found the point in the contiguous United States that is most remote from any McDonalds, and in fact has mapped the entire country according to its distance from McDonald's. I put "artist and scientist" in quotes because for me this really captures what a geographer can be!

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