Menu Labeling and Rent Seeking

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

A little over two weeks ago, I wrote:

The behemoth companies love regulation, because the compliance costs tend to kill off upstarts and smaller competitors.

It’s only a matter of time before we’re going to see one or more big restaurant chains join the menu labeling crusade. In fact, I’m surprised we haven’t seen it already. It makes good business sense. A federal law seems inevitable now. Jump on board early, and you’ll have a say in how the regulations are written–specifically, exactly who will be required to abide by it.

Ta-da!

…more than a dozen fast-food and pizza chains have linked up with several health groups that believe the legislation should include as many establishments as possible.

The bill, they say, has gaps big enough to let a milk tanker drive through. As written, the bill applies only to chains with 20 or more restaurants operating under the same name. They must post calories on menus and provide more detailed written information, such as fat and sodium content, on request…

Yum and the other companies say the regulations should apply to individual restaurants with $1 million or more in annual sales and chains with three or more locations.

My soothsaying powers are in fine form. Or, this was just blindingly obvious.

Digg it |  reddit |  del.icio.us |  Fark

65 Responses to “Menu Labeling and Rent Seeking”

  1. #1 |  Ben | 

    I’m gonna have to go with ‘blindingly obvious.’ Sorry, Radley.

  2. #2 |  Marty | 

    Radley- ‘Magic 8 Ball, will history repeat itself and have businesses jump into bed with regulators to squeeze out competition?’

    ‘pretty fucking likely’

  3. #3 |  Bronwyn | 

    Down with YUM! brands! Buy Papa John’s Pizza… preferably from my husband at his Carrollton store :)

    I keed, I keed.

    It’s sad that, after feeling the sting of CPSIA (thanks, Mattel!), my husband is going to feel a similar sting.

    It just keeps getting worse and worse.

  4. #4 |  Fluffy | 

    It’s not necessarily rent-seeking behavior.

    Oh, it probably is, but it isn’t necessarily.

    If I saw that I was the target of future unjust regulation, I might pursue a strategy of trying to get that possible regulation altered to both fit as many of my competitors as possible and to make it as unworkable and unfair as possible – not to rent-seek, but to try to forestall the regulation by making it obviously stupid and unpopular.

  5. #5 |  Stephen | 

    “Buy Papa John’s Pizza… preferably from my husband at his Carrollton store :)”

    LOL, I’ve probably bought pizza there. More than one Agitator follower here I guess.

  6. #6 |  Tokin42 | 

    I’m torn, on the one hand Yum is keeping a lot of companies, including mine, busy this year when no one else is building anything. On the other hand….well, there is no other hand, I need the damn work.

  7. #7 |  Dave Krueger | 

    “Welcome to Pizza Hut. If you’ll please just step on the scale, we’ll seat you and provide the appropriate menu as mandated in the You Will Eat Healthy rules supplied by the Health Cost Reduction Czar.”

  8. #8 |  MG | 

    Speaking of Yum Brands:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQ8ViYIeH04

  9. #9 |  Drew | 

    Missing piece in this: how expensive is it to get accurate calorie counts n food items? Can you simply add up the known pre-prep ingredients, or are you required to send your entire menu, cooked, to a lab?

    Personally, I believe that even if someone makes a case that there is some sort of supposed MORAL need for something like this (menu reprinting, or caloric research), then it should at least be done entirely at taxpayer expense (the representatives of the taxpayers are forcing it, so they should also bear the responsibility of paying for it). There’s no such thing as a positive moral obligation that falls only on some people but not on others.

  10. #10 |  Dave Krueger | 

    It’s only a matter of time before we’re going to see one or more big restaurant chains join the menu labeling crusade.

    Given the left’s hatred of corporations and worship of tiny boutique style businesses, you would think they would jump all over that.

    I’ll be so glad when this rule making binge finally reaches its natural conclusion where all merchants and employers are exactly the same. The idea of walking into a restaurant and picking a meal without knowing the calorie count is just plain scary. Skinny people don’t know whether they have to puke up their dinner later or not and fat people shouldn’t get to happily shovel food into their mouths oblivious to the harm they’re doing to themselves. Publishing the calorie count in ALL restaurants will ensure they feel bad no matter where the fatsos decide to go.

  11. #11 |  CTD | 

    The mighty Karnak has spoken!

  12. #12 |  Washington Planner » Wednesday required reading 8/5/09 | 

    [...] Balko confirms his prophetic powers – or at least the reliability of large corporations to survive regulation too [...]

  13. #13 |  J sub D | 

    My soothsaying powers are in fine form. Or, this was just blindingly obvious.

    The latter.

  14. #14 |  andyinsdca | 

    This is already happening (more or less) with the “Food Safety” act. It’s deliberately aimed at destroying small/home farmers with a crushing regulatory burden. Of course, they don’t have lobbyists like ADM & Dean Foods.

  15. #15 |  Dave Krueger | 

    Another example of this kind of legislation is when the government started requiring burdensome record keeping requirements for producers of sexually explicit material (not so affectionately referred to as porn). The main lobbying group in that business is the Free Speech Coalition which serves the porn industry. While they fought it in court, the Federal government agreed not to prosecute members of their organization for failure to comply with the 2257 requirements. Everyone else is fair game.

    In any case, if you’re a mass producer of commercial porn, it’s far more cost efficient for you to meet the 2257 record keeping requirements than it would be for a legitimate individual artist who happens to utilize provocative explicit imagery in his work. Essentially, some fraction of small time artists (of which there are many) who experiment with explicit sexual imagery, have been intimidated into steering clear of anything that requires the 2257 record keeping rather than risk being prosecuted under child porn laws for something that has nothing to do with child porn.

    I used “artists” because that’s a group I can identify with, but the laws discriminate against small time individual producers of commercial porn as well. And, needless to say, porn is protected speech no less than theagitator.com.

  16. #16 |  fwb | 

    Just one more of the 99,999,999 laws passed by Congress that are unconstitutional. NO AUTHORITY. NO, it’s NOT the commerce clause. 18th amendment is proof.

    Tiocfaidh ar la!

  17. #17 |  Cynical in CA | 

    Blindingly obvious to us choir members, Cassandra-like to the unwashed masses.

  18. #18 |  Danno49 | 

    I’m not sure what it is about this post but it smacks of something totally and completely false. I shall go through Balko’s Twitter feed and find correlating evidence proving that he was, indeed, at a Taco Bell enjoying some sort of high-sodium, fat-filled deliciousness that prevents him from providing an objective viewpoint to this issue.

    And even if there is no evidence there, he’ll still be wrong.

    Hairy Man-Love,
    Patter-ego

  19. #19 |  Bronwyn | 

    They expect crafters to send one of every batch to a lab for destructive testing… for makers of one-of-a-kind goods, that’s a little hard on the inventory… so I wouldn’t be surprised if restaurant owners were forced to send prepped foods for lab testing.

    I mean, if you’re going to destroy a business, don’t do a half-assed job of it, right?

    Stephen, since my husband bought the Carrollton store in April ’08, customers often come in to tell him how much better it is now. He’s working hard to put Snappy Tomato out of business.

  20. #20 |  Chet | 

    Oh, won’t someone think of all the mom-and-pop mega-franchises that will be harmed by this legislation? oh noes!

  21. #21 |  Rick | 

    Chet: By all means, let’s have the government subsidize McDonalds Corp and eliminate Red Robin. It’s for the children. The really, really fat ones.

  22. #22 |  Phillip | 

    Gotta love it. It’s not being imposed on every restaurant (yet); just every restaurant that currently stands to compete with the big dogs.

  23. #23 |  Chet | 

    By all means, let’s have the government subsidize McDonalds Corp and eliminate Red Robin.

    “Eliminate Red Robin”? Don’t be absurd. The cost of compliance isn’t going to “eliminate Red Robin”, when you can get nutritional information for your recipes absolutely free from the USDA’s own website.

    You people are just being completely retarded about this. Actual mom-and-pop restaurants are exempt. Big corporations already have the data. Moderately-big corporations can get it for free. The only cost here is a reprint of menus, which they already do regularly. Again, zero net cost.

  24. #24 |  Bronwyn | 

    Something tells me Chet doesn’t own a business… I’m also skeptical of his reading skills.

    Yum and the other companies say the regulations should apply to individual restaurants with $1 million or more in annual sales and chains with three or more locations.

    $19, 230 a week in sales is not that hard to meet for an individual restaurant, if it’s located in a slightly larger than tiny town.

    $13,000 a week is good for a particular shop I know in a town of 3500.

    Do the math if you can, Chet. Many actual mom-and-pops will not be exempt if YUM! and friends get their way.

  25. #25 |  Chet | 

    As written, the bill applies only to chains with 20 or more restaurants operating under the same name.

    Nobody runs a “mom-and-pop” operation with 20 fucking locations. Nobody runs a “mom-and-pop” operation with three!

    And again, the costs of compliance here are effectively zero. Finding nutritional information just means putting numbers and materials into a website, and then printing new menus. Which restaurants do anyway. You don’t need a bomb calorimeter to measure the caloric content of your food.

  26. #26 |  Dave Krueger | 

    #23 Bronwyn

    Something tells me Chet doesn’t own a business…

    He doesn’t need his own. He’s perfectly content telling other people how to run theirs.

  27. #27 |  Bronwyn | 

    I think you’re right, Dave. Then again, you usually are :)

    Nobody runs a “mom-and-pop” operation with three!

    I’ll be sure to tell my husband, who’s currently scouting a few new locations to build within the next year. His is (and will remain) a sole proprietorship, meaning it’s not even a mom-and-pop, but merely a pop operation.

    Chet fails again, to the surprise of absolutely no one.

  28. #28 |  Rick | 

    And again, the costs of compliance here are effectively zero.

    Something tells me you don’t cook, either. Recipes change all the time, in small and large ways. New dishes are invented every day. Ingredients get repurposed. Actual restaurants have been known to offer what is known as a “daily special” or two. What you are proposing is to pressure every restaurant to start operating like Mickey Ds – megabatches of standardized food – all so that the New Soviet ingredient documents (which you are oddly confident will be simpler than a 1040 form) don’t need to be filled out again with every new shift. Remember, there will need to be auditing of the menu listings. It’s not only printing a new menu (stupid as that is).

    Turning the chef’s art into a mere extension of the bureaucracy is the action of picayune, small-minded assholes.

  29. #29 |  Dave Krueger | 

    #24 Chet

    …the costs of compliance here are effectively zero…

    First of all, if it’s free, I suggest that all the restaurants in the country go ahead and contract out the necessary work to collect the data and update the menus and send the bill to Chet to help him get a handle on just how costly “free” can be.

    Secondly, even if it were free, it’s not the government’s business to tell a restaurant what to put on their friggin’ menus. Duh! If there’s anything on the planet that could be called successful, it’s the interaction between a restaurant and the consumer. It really just doesn’t need the government to come in and fix it because it just ain’t broken.

    Thirdly (pay attention here, Chet), the criteria under which a law is justifiable should be a little steeper than whether it has a nice ring to it. In other words, even a law that doesn’t cost a thing and even provides some measurable benefit is not automatically justifiable. While, I fully understand that government control enthusiasts seem to think laws need only pass the feel-good test to be obviously worthwhile, not every goddamn fucking interaction between humans needs to be standardized and regulated by a government agency.

    Finally, obesity isn’t caused by the lack of calorie counts on menus. It’s from people eating too much and knowing full well they’re eating too much and not having the self-discipline to do something about it, whether they know the calorie counts or not. Sometimes people are responsible for their own condition.

  30. #30 |  Phil Smith | 

    In the future, all restaurants are Taco Bell.

  31. #31 |  Hannah | 

    Dave K on #7

    Give a girl some warning, you made me snarff my coffee. I don’t need hot liquids going up the sinuses. It burns. ^-^ +1

  32. #32 |  GregS | 

    No one can say that including calorie counts is going to be easy or free, because no one knows how strict these laws will become in the long run. For example, will the law be satisfied with an approximate calorie count or does it have to be exact? (The latter would require restaurants to serve exactly standardized portion sizes, which most are currently not set up to do). Will the law be satisfied with the restaurant staff doing their own caloric calculations & measurements, or will it require testing by an independent testing facility? (The latter would eliminate impromptu specials, and would make spur-of-the-moment ingredient changes difficult). Will the law eventually require every variation in a recipe to be tested separately? Etc. Etc.

    As is always the case with creeping regulation, you shouldn’t look only at the specific measure being proposed at this instant in time. You should look ahead at the trend and ask yourself where this will lead if the first small step is taken now.

  33. #33 |  Zargon | 

    That’s right. The costs of compliance are effectively zero. Which is why those dozen fast food chains have already implemented the free improved labeling they want to force on everybody else. Because they just care that much about their valuable customers.

  34. #34 |  Chet | 

    I’ll be sure to tell my husband, who’s currently scouting a few new locations to build within the next year. His is (and will remain) a sole proprietorship, meaning it’s not even a mom-and-pop, but merely a pop operation.

    Yeah, yeah. Everyone’s a king on the internet.

  35. #35 |  Chet | 

    Something tells me you don’t cook, either.

    I cook all the time. If I needed to present calorie information for my dishes, I could determine that in 2 minutes by putting the recipe into the USDA’s nutrition website. I’ve done it before, just for fun. Sure, recipes change, but do they substantially change in calories from day to day? Of course not.

    What you are proposing is to pressure every restaurant to start operating like Mickey Ds – megabatches of standardized food – all so that the New Soviet ingredient documents (which you are oddly confident will be simpler than a 1040 form)

    “Oddly confident”? I’ve determined nutritional information for my own dishes. Have you? No?

    I suggest that all the restaurants in the country go ahead and contract out the necessary work to collect the data

    Yeah, “collect the data.” It takes months of biochemical research to determine the nutrition of even a single dish!

    Well, no, it doesn’t, but that’s certainly the impression you’d get from these glibertarians. The truth is you don’t need a single minute in the lab to determine the calorie and nutritional content of your foods.

    Secondly, even if it were free, it’s not the government’s business to tell a restaurant what to put on their friggin’ menu

    Yeah, it is. Regulating public facilities, like restaurants, is the government’s business. I’m sure you believe it shouldn’t be, but that’s not the country you live in.

    It’s from people eating too much and knowing full well they’re eating too much and not having the self-discipline to do something about it, whether they know the calorie counts or no

    Oh, I see. When I talk about costs of compliance, I “know nothing about business”; when Dave contradicts the entire field of dietary nutrition, that’s all hunky-dory. Dave, have you ever actually learned anything about the subjects on which you comment? I see no indication of it.

  36. #36 |  Mattocracy | 

    Chet, you can pretend all day that compliance with Federal Regulations doesn’t cost anything if that makes you happy Chet land. But in the real world, santa clause doesn’t exist, neither does the easter bunny, and there is no benevolent government free from corporate thugary. Compliance just isn’t as simple as you like to believe it is. It’s just naive.

  37. #37 |  Chet | 

    The costs of compliance are effectively zero. Which is why those dozen fast food chains have already implemented the free improved labeling they want to force on everybody else.

    I can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic, but they have already done it; you can see nutritional information for every menu item at Wendy’s, McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, and a dozen others I can think of off the top of my head.

  38. #38 |  Chet | 

    Compliance just isn’t as simple as you like to believe it is.

    It just can’t be, right? I mean you have absolutely no evidence that the cost of compliance for this law will be substantial; it’s just a tenant of libertarian faith that regulation is always costly. I mean it has to be, right?

  39. #39 |  Chet | 

    They expect crafters to send one of every batch to a lab for destructive testing…

    No, they don’t!

    If libertarian beliefs can be defended without dishonesty, why aren’t you doing that?

  40. #40 |  Zargon | 

    I apologize for falling into the trap of attempting to defend my ideals via an argument from effect. I don’t know how many of the dozen fast food chains that support the legislation already label their menus, I’d be shocked if all of them do, but even if they do, it’s ultimately beside the point.

    The legislation is an attempt to control peaceful people via threat of force. That is bad.

  41. #41 |  Jody | 

    Chet = it’s free and easy, so quite bitching Libertards.

    I figured, maybe Chet is right. So I’ll try this out.

    First I went to Food Network.com and grabbed the very first result on a search for Rachel Ray recipes. Why? One, she’s their poster child and fairly popular among quick fix, non food elitists. People like Chet I imagine. Second, I needed a recipe to try this out.

    Here is the recipe:
    http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/rachael-ray/parmesan-crusted-chicken-breasts-with-tomato-and-basil-and-potatoes-with-peppers-and-onions-recipe/index.html

    Second I went looking for the USDA nutrition website. Came across these:
    http://www.newcaloriecounter.com/articles/goverment/usda/usda_national_nutrient_database_for_standard_reference.html

    But wasn’t sure if that was it, so I tried this:
    http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search/

    So far, so good, as my favorite professor says.

    Looking at the recipe the very first ingredient is:
    1 1/2 to 2 pounds fingerling potatoes or red skin baby potatoes

    I love fingerlings. I make a wicked side dish with these and goose fat. I like these when I can get them at the store (almost always) and they’re great when you can get them out at a real restaurant (not TGI McFunsters)

    So I go to the first website, the USDA calorie counter. I put in “Fingerling potatoes” into the food name bar. I get:
    “We are sorry no matching items were found”

    OK, but surely the USDA Nutrient Database will have them, right?
    Found items about : fingerling potatoes Not Found!

    So I picked a recipe at random, and the very first item doesn’t exist in either of these two databases. And this is a food item I can find almost EVERYDAY at the local Safeway here in the Denver suburbs.

    So I tried potatoes in the calorie counter. I figure a more general search could yield what I need. Potatoes does give you a load of types, none about fingerling though specifically. And let’s be honest here, if I use this type, and they are a specific type of heritage potatoes, the USDA and folks who will enforce this law will want the specifics I assume. I won’t be able to justify saying “Well, your calorie counter didn’t have it so I got close, right? I substituted “Potatoes, boiled, cooked in skin, flesh, without salt”

    Potatoes on the USDA site also gives the same info. It’s using the same database, so there is no entry for fingerling.

    Now, Rachel, woman that she is, says we can substitute baby red potatoes. Good news, reds are in there:

    Amount Description Gram Weight
    1 100 grams 100
    1 1 potato large (3″ to 4-1/4″ dia) 369
    1 1 potato medium (2-1/4″ to 3-1/4″ dia) 213
    1 1 potato small (1-3/4″ to 2-1/4″ dia) 170
    1 0.5 cup, diced 75

    If I select 1 potato, small, then I can move on to the actual caloric and nutritional content. I still have to do math to get here and accuracy is not going to be easy. Just for this one ingredient alone it’s taken about 20 minutes to do the research and write this up.

    Moving along to the other ingredients. Red Bell Pepper. Not found. Bell Pepper. Not found. Pepper. 93 matches. Surprise! Peppers, sweet, red, raw matches what I need. Pick that. Get to another screen like the chart I reproduced above for the potatoes. Except this time there are 8 choices instead of 5.

    Next ingredient: 1 Italian mild green pepper, cubanelle, seeded and thinly sliced- cubanelle- not found. Italian Pepper- finds 6 matches, 5 Campbell soups and 1 Pepperidge Farms Bread product. Pepper gets 93 matches, again, and I see Peppers hot, peppers sweet yellow, red, green, but nothing matching exactly what I ma putting into this recipe.

    OK, so enough with this. My point in doing this is testing Chet’s hypothesis about how easy this is. Sure, the actual looking up and clicking of buttons is not so hard, but assuming I am using the resource you claimed to use, it sure seems like it’s missing some things, considering the first three items on the recipe don’t match up well with the USDA’s database. Thsi is far more difficult and time consuming than you are making it out to be Chet.

    So no one here is being dishonest about how this could work if the idiots suggesting it get their way. If anything, in giving you the benefit of the doubt, to me you are coming off as dishonest in claiming something is so easy that any idiot can do it in a matter of minutes, but ignoring the fact that the USDA database is woefully incomplete. How is a French, Indian, Italian, etc restaurant that uses out of the way items supposed to be able to accurately post calories using this tool you suggested when it can’t even account for all the day to day items? Seems pretty obvious you’ve understated the entire process (intentionally I assume, to make a point), and it’s a distinct possibility that small restaurants will have to send their foods to be analyzed in order to comply. I believe that is an additional burden they don’t need, nor deserve, especially considering others points (like Dave’s).

    I’ll stop feeding the toll now.

  42. #42 |  Chet | 

    The legislation is an attempt to control peaceful people via threat of force.

    Unbelievable. Yes, that’s exactly what it is.

    Aren’t any of you embarrassed by this? Honestly?

  43. #43 |  Bronwyn | 

    Chet, did you read the CPSIA? I did. It calls for testing of every batch. Destructive (and very expensive!) testing by a lab. The ol’ x-ray gun may make an individual crafter feel better if she manages to rent one with a passel of friends (because guess what? They’re EXPENSIVE), but the only way the CPSC enforcers will be satisfied is with that destructive testing.

    And that’s not even beginning to address the obnoxious (and costly, not to mention often impossible to comply with) labeling requirements.

    A few unofficial opinions have been published by the CPSC, exempting some types of products (undyed hemp, anyone?) but every single one is nonbinding.

    No dishonesty from me, Spanky.

    And what the hell does “every man on the internet is a king” mean? I disprove your mom-and-pop thesis and that bullpucky is all you’ve got in return?

    Sad.

    I any of us are embarrassed, it’s for taking the time to talk to you.

  44. #44 |  Chet | 

    Chet, did you read the CPSIA?

    We’re not talking about CPSIA. We’re talking about menu labeling requirements. Simple nutrition and caloric data that you can get from a government website, for free.

    And what the hell does “every man on the internet is a king” mean?

    Gosh, I thought my meaning was pretty clear. You can pretty much make whatever absurd, self-aggrandizing claim you want on a blog post. You can claim you run a “mom-and-pop” store the size of a Walmart, for instance, or that your home business-on-the-side runs 20 different store fronts in as many towns. You know, just whatever claim is required as counterexample, why, there’s someone so conveniently in that exact situation. Funny how that works on the internet.

  45. #45 |  Bronwyn | 

    Oh. You were suggesting that I’m a liar. Gotcha.

    Well, I’m not a liar. I’m so bad at lying, I don’t even try. But hey, if it makes you feel better to think that I’m just making shit up, go right ahead. It’s pretty obvious that you live in dreamland.

    Otherwise, you can look up SPH Enterprises and you’ll see that I’m telling the truth. You see, everything I’ve said is easily verifiable.

    You brought up some hooha about mom-and-pops, I offered real data to counter you. The CPSIA and Food Safety acts are absolutely relevant to the conversation, because they are two more examples of Government Knows What’s Best regulatory nonsense that threatens small business with huge cost burdens. You said the CPSIA does not call for destructive testing, which it does.

    Calm down and try to bring some of your own data, if you think ours is pulled from our asses. We like data, we really do. Bring it.

    Not everyone on the internet is a liar and a fake. Do you really think you’re the only true blue surfer? Maybe you should turn off the computer and save yourself from all this trauma.

  46. #46 |  Chet | 

    Well, I’m not a liar.

    I hear that a lot from liars, frankly.

    You said the CPSIA does not call for destructive testing, which it does.

    I didn’t say that. I said menu labeling requirements don’t require destructive testing, which they do not. Again, you can satisfy these labeling requirements at absolutely no cost. Where’s the onerous burden of no cost?

  47. #47 |  Lloyd Flack | 

    Chet,
    The time and hassle to owners and employees is zero cost? Their time is worth nothing?

    Jody just demonstrated how much time compliance could take. And the difficulty and cost will be greater if they do not use precise recipes and vary a dish from time to time and put lots of experimental dishes on the menu. In other words it will penalize innovative and adaptive cooks.

    That you found it easy and fun to calculate calorie counts once does not mean that it would not be an onerous task for people doing it frequently as part of their living. A lot of people will find it quite difficult to work their way around these websites. Oh, and what if their computer or internet connection goes down? Should they close their business while this is happening?

    Calorie counts on menus is a feel good idea, and you seen to not care how much it costs other people to do something that makes you feel virtuous. Your behavior is that of a narcissist and a wanker.

  48. #48 |  Rick | 

    I will be very surprised if troll responds substantively to Jody’s comment.

  49. #49 |  Chet | 

    Jody just demonstrated how much time compliance could take.

    Only because she doesn’t know how to use a website, apparently. I mean she’s like the people in infomericals, for whom the use of a spatula is beyond the capacity of their dexterity, and so they need a dedicated egg-flip-o-matic or something. Her post is just beyond absurd.

    Calorie counts on menus is a feel good idea

    It’s also a good idea in practice. Why should restaurants get to conceal information about their food? Why should they be able to lie to us and say that something is lo-cal or healthy when it is not?

    That’s what you’re in favor of – lying restaurants. That’s what you’re arguing in favor of.

  50. #50 |  Chet | 

    Just for this one ingredient alone it’s taken about 20 minutes to do the research and write this up.

    “20 minutes”? You really must think I’m a moron. What on Earth is wrong with you people?

  51. #51 |  Bronwyn | 

    You really must think I’m a moron.

    DINGDINGDING!

    Finally! Chet’s right about something.

  52. #52 |  Bronwyn | 

    Here, Chet. If it’s so fast and easy, a caveman can do it in seconds flat, show us.

    Here’s a recipe for beef bourguignon.

    Give us the per-serving calorie count, using your method. Post your start time, so we can keep you honest.

    Ready? Set? GO!

  53. #53 |  Dave Krueger | 

    #48 Rick

    I will be very surprised if troll responds substantively to Jody’s comment.

    While libertarian leaning, I’ve always thought the primary focus of this site is misconduct and policy issues involving law enforcement and the justice system. As such, it attracts not just libertarians, but also conservatives and liberals (and anarchists) interested in that subject. Although sympathetic, Chet seems to show very little interest in those law enforcement discussions, instead saving himself for the more generalized political and economic topics where he fundamentally and dramatically differs from the perspective shared by many (probably most) of us. Whether that makes him a troll is debatable, but he makes very little effort to hide his disdain for those who aren’t persuaded by his arguments.

    #51 Bronwyn

    Finally! Chet’s right about something.

    Finally! :D

    Bronwyn, I’m pretty certain you’re wasting your time in trying to reason with Chet. Libertarians, who fundamentally oppose unnecessary government intrusion into people’s lives, are never going to share much common ground with those who see government coercion as the primary vehicle for implementing the improvements they envision for mankind.

    You’re talking to someone who has rationalized the idea of forcing someone to give him something for free by claiming that it doesn’t cost anything. Under that system of logic, there is nothing he couldn’t justify.

  54. #54 |  Dave Krueger | 

    Oops. Sorry, Bronwyn. I accidentally poked the wrong karma button on #51.

  55. #55 |  Bronwyn | 

    Oh, darling Dave, I know it’s a waste of time, but I just turned in a major project on Monday evening, and my brain is too fried for anything more productive than dandling trolls on my knee.

    I’ve about run the course of entertainment value on this one, though, so I’m done unless he comes back from his time trial with some results.

    I looked at your photography site a while back. I like your work… at least, the work I can safely view at the office :)

  56. #56 |  Bronwyn | 

    *cries over spilt karma*

  57. #57 |  Jody | 

    Four points, Chet.

    One- show me where I went wrong (“can’t work a web site”). I said the actual mechanics around your suggestion are valid (as in, clicking buttons, choosing pull down menus ain’t hard) but you ignore the fact that the database is woefully inadequate for even simple recipes. I’m not sure where my methodology is off here.

    So then how is the post absurd? I did exactly what you contended others should do, right? You made the argument first that these new rules would not be targeted at mom and pop operations. Just big corporations which have the money and time to send dishes to labs frequently. When it was pointed out that versions of this law would mean people who owned three locations, not out of reach for successful small restaurateurs, you countered that all this info can be found fast and free at the USDA website, so even if they were forced to comply, it’s easy and we were bitching about something that was “no cost”.

    Did I use the wrong websites? Did I somehow misuse the search function? Where exactly did i prove I did not know how to “use a website”? I basically took a random recipe ( and not one that uses exotic ingredients) and did exactly what you claimed was so easy. Well, sure the mechanics are easy, but it’s not quite the solution you claim. If everything worked as you claimed, I should have found it easy to do this, and that the database was robust enough to support just about ANY dish you’d find in the average restaurant.

    It took 20 minutes to gather the websites and start the first bit of research and write the response here. Maybe I’m a slow typist. Yes, it’s silly to point out perhaps. But again, your claim is that the whole process is quick and easy. My claim is that for small business, independent restaurant folks sitting down once a week as the menu changes to do this will be a significant portion of their time- time they really ought to using to do other things. You’ve intentionally overstated how easy AND more importantly accurate it is. I’ve noticed you completely ignored the accuracy argument.

    Two- I’m a guy. I realize gender neutral names confuse folks. It’s cool. I accept that you assumed.

    Three- The idea that somehow calorie counts will insure truthfulness has already been invalidated considering chain restaurants are lying about it- http://www.reason.com/blog/show/134957.html (if you don’t like the reason article go to the Cinci Enquirer). How will these new batch of laws prevent folks from lying when they’re doing it now? Fines? Doubtful. Considering how easy it will be to lie, and considering all the ways the statistics can be played with, it seems silly to say that this protects or helps consumers in any fashion. Will we need some federal calorie police to ensure adherence?

    Four- We have a friend locally that has his own bar-b-que business (Texas style brisket. Not bad. Makes a mean baked beans though). He bottles and sells his own sauce. If I recall correctly, in order to do so he has to label calories and ingredients. In the quick conversation I have had with him about this it’s in upwards of $100 or more per sample to be analyzed. They spent a decent chunk ($500 to start) just to be able to bottle sauce. Now, the point here is not that they shouldn’t have to for this case in particular, but rather if we expand this to every dish a small restaurant serves, and considering places do change their menu, factoring in the trend towards using locally grown produce (http://atlanta.bizjournals.com/atlanta/stories/2009/03/09/focus6.html), AND that means that as growing seasons change, out of necessity the dishes have to change too…

    Well, the point is that again, you seem to be trying to intentionally understate the actual burden here for small and even medium size businesses (the Mexican chain I love here locally is family run, and have about 12 locations in Colorado, Wyoming and Arizona, for example).

    I find it odd then that you claim folks like myself are being dishonest. If you want to argue that the government ought to do this, has an obligation to do so, that’s cool. At least then you wouldn’t be making things up (one would hope). I could at least respect the position but totally disagree with it. As it is, you’ve been countered at every turn and have nothing left but attacks on people’s character in response.

  58. #58 |  Dave Krueger | 

    #55 Bronwyn

    I looked at your photography site a while back. I like your work… at least, the work I can safely view at the office :)

    Thank you. :)

    My photography site is blocked completely where I work. They won’t unblock it because they say it has grownup stuff on it and they don’t want anything like that at work. But things are much better than they used to be, They used to screen our incoming email for naughty words You know, words like “breast”. They would quarantine the messages and then read them. They don’t call it the Bible Belt for nothin’.

  59. #59 |  Bronwyn | 

    So your fried chicken orders were tossed in the circular e-file?

  60. #60 |  supercat | 

    Chet: In some cases, it may be easy to calculate the caloric and nutritive content of food because all of the ingredients come in a homogeneous form that would typical be precisely measured in the course of preparing it. On the other hand, many recipes are made with non-homogeneous ingredients (e.g. snow peas contain starch-rich seeds in a fiber-rich pod; the carbohydrate content in a pound of snow peas may vary considerably from one batch to another). Further, many types of food preparation destroy a portion of the material being prepared (e.g. burgers on a grill may lose a significant amount of both water and fat). By what practical means could one estimate within 5% the caloric content of a cooked burger, other than by using a calorimeter?

  61. #61 |  Chet | 

    By what practical means could one estimate within 5% the caloric content of a cooked burger, other than by using a calorimeter?

    The nutritional information on the hamburger is for cooked hamburger.

  62. #62 |  Andrew Williams | 

    Please tell me Domino’s was one of them. I’d LOVE another reason to boycott those fuckers.

  63. #63 |  Dave Krueger | 

    There’s a very short distance between mandating the publication of calorie counts and the taxing of calories (a calorie guzzler tax) or the dictation of calorie limits (cafe standards). Luckily, we live in a free country and the government respects the rights of people to live their lives and run their businesses as they see fit…

    Hahaha! Just kidding about that last part.

  64. #64 |  Mattocracy | 

    Yes Chet, it is a tenant of the Libertarian philosophy that compliance with regulation carries a cost for the private sector. I know you don’t believe that is true. Some people don’t believe the Earth is round and some people don’t believe that gravity exists. If you don’t already believe the obvious truth that compliance costs money for private business, then there isn’t anything I can do to prove it to you. Do I have to prove that the sky is blue too?

    Heaven forbid that we let people run their businesses as they want to without having to force someone’s nutritional values on them. I mean, your opinion should be religious dogma and just has to be forced onto other people, right? No freedom from what you think is right I guess.

  65. #65 |  supercat | 

    //The nutritional information on the hamburger is for cooked hamburger.//

    Is it for hamburger meat which is baked into a casserole, cooked on a frying pan, or flame-broiled until it’s all dried up? A quarter-pound of 75%-lean beef that’s baked into a casserole will have a lot more calories than one which has most of the juices cooked out. So I repeat my question: how can one determine within 5% the caloric content of a burger that’s cooked a certain way, other than by using a calorimeter?

Leave a Reply