Food Supply Chains, Chefs & Farmers

This article is excerpted from an article by Kim Severson that ran originally in the New York Times.


CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Back in the 1970s, when Nathalie Dupree and Shirley Corriher were cooking together in Atlanta, they wanted to avoid the kind of relationship in which competition slides into rancor.

So the two women, who went on to build national reputations, developed the pork chop theory. The idea is that one pork chop in a pan cooks up dry. But two produce enough fat to feed each other, and the results are much better.

The pork chop theory is as good an explanation as any for what’s happening in North Carolina, where women dominate the best professional kitchens.

The North Carolina food sisterhood stretches out beyond restaurants, too, into pig farming, flour milling and pickling. Women run the state’s pre-eminent pasture-raised meat and organic produce distribution businesses and preside over its farmers’ markets. They influence food policy and lead the state’s academic food studies. And each fall, the state hosts the nation’s only retreat for women in the meat business.

Really, the women own every single link in the food chain in North Carolina,” said Margaret Gifford, a brand consultant in New York City who spent 16 years in the state and started Farmer Foodshare, which connects North Carolina farmers with dozens of hunger relief agencies.

To be sure, women are still only nibbling around the edges of North Carolina’s big agricultural engines, like the $2.5 billion hog industry. And the most recent United States census figures show that women run just over 12 percent of the state’s 50,218 farms, a little less than the national average.

But in the state’s local-food movement and top-flight restaurants, women are represented in outsize proportions.

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