June 5, 2020
A Crisis Within a Crisis
The killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis has shocked and saddened all of us. Bader Rutter and The Intel Distillery team stand with the Black community and those protesting for justice and systemic change. We commit ourselves to learning and doing more to address and fight bigotry and racism. Diversity and inclusion are threads that unite the food industry and this union is our path to progress. In this edition, you’ll find a sample of food industry articles and editorials about this complicated issue, as well as summaries of a few other important happenings.
Seeking a More Equitable System
The events of this week and last touched on several food industry topics, giving rise to discussions simple and complex: from delaying restaurant reopenings and shutting down delivery to the ways racism and inequality play out in the food system.
- On June 2, Civil Eats posted a “list of organizations working to strengthen food justice, land access, and food access in the Black community will inform, inspire, and energize you to show up for racial justice.”
- The New York Times summarized how restaurant operators in different cities, chains and independents rose to the occasion to feed protesters, even while their own establishments sustained damage from rioters.
- The Los Angeles Times and Grub Street described how city curfews forced delivery apps to shut down.
- Food Management reported on Chicago Public Schools’ decision to temporarily suspend its student meal program, which had kept feeding many low-income students during e-learning. Food & Wine explained how local restaurants stepped in to fill the void.
- The Restaurants Rise virtual event sponsored by Informa PLC (Nation’s Restaurant News/Restaurant Hospitality), which was intended to discuss the tough times the industry is facing, switched gears as prominent foodservice leaders spoke out against racism.
- Supermarket News posted information about how U.S. retailers responded to the protests and the threat of riots.
- Unilever ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s took a very significant stand, outlining four concrete steps to “dismantle white supremacy,” and challenged America to take responsibility and commit to a just future or “the list of names that George Floyd has been added to will never end.”
- On June 3, The Wall Street Journal produced a photo essay of Philadelphia’s 52nd Street corridor, which was severely damaged by rioters, including many small food stores and restaurants whose future was already in question because of the pandemic.
- New Hope Network’s Carlotta Mast called on the natural food industry to collectively make a stand against racism, in part by “building a more just and equitable food system — one that doesn’t exploit and neglect the most vulnerable members of our society.”
On June 3, The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) indicted four executives for allegedly fixing prices of chicken sold to restaurants and grocery stores between 2012 and 2017. These individuals each face up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $1 million, if convicted. DOJ noted that these four were “the first to be charged in an ongoing criminal investigation,” so expect more news on this front.
- Coverage focused on Jayson Penn, CEO of Pilgrim’s Pride, the second-largest chicken processor. The Wall Street Journal’s Jacob Bunge spelled out text message evidence between him and a rival supplier.
- In the DOJ press release, Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim commented, “Executives who cheat American consumers, restaurateurs, and grocers, and compromise the integrity of our food supply, will be held responsible for their actions.”
- Food Safety News added that both Tyson Foods and Sanderson Farms disclosed subpoenas in regulatory filings. The two companies are the largest and third-largest chicken processors, respectively.
- Agriculture broadcaster Max Armstrong tweeted that the incident boils down to “fowl play.” Someone had to.
Prominent food and agriculture companies published sustainability reports and goals, covering issues such as climate change, responsible sourcing and biodiversity to food safety, animal well-being and employee health.
- Celebrating its 125th anniversary, Hershey’s highlighted commitments to carbon reduction goals and eliminating child labor within cacao communities.
- Tyson Foods celebrated investment in alternative proteins, reaching a $50 million hunger relief goal one year early and construction of a chicken welfare research farm.
- Cargill focused on increasing palm oil supply traceability, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and equipping farmers with data-driven technology.
- Corteva Agriscience announced 14 measurable goals to advance sustainability by 2030 in farming, land use and community efforts. CEO Jim Collins commented, “Our mission to lead the entire ag community towards better, more sustainable outcomes across the world is more important now than ever.”
Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.
On May 21, Eating Animals author Jonathan Safran Foer offered a rambling and scathing criticism of animal agriculture in The New York Times. Foer laid out his reasoning from financial, health, environmental and ethical perspectives, and outlined current meat industry struggles amid the coronavirus pandemic. In its June 1 response, the North American Meat Institute addressed Foer’s essay issue by issue and retorted, “Americans may be questioning what the future holds for our way of life, but contrary to Safran Foer’s assertions, they aren’t questioning what food is essential.”
Familiar Voices, New Platforms, Same Subjects
Chase Purdy, a food writer formerly with Politico and Quartz, started a blog called Pluripotent last week. He’ll focus on the “very nerdy, very promising field of cellular agriculture.” His latest post suggests three new pandemic-inspired reasons making the case for cell-cultured protein.
Former Humane Society of the United States (a vegan activist group) leader Paul Shapiro commented on the misleading coverage about increased sales in plant-based meat alternatives: “It’s helpful to recall that animal meat demand has also never been higher, and the actual gains for animal meat producers dwarf those of the plant-based meat-makers.”
A New Sensation
Food Navigator outlined details of a Dutch lawsuit that will require Nestlé to change the name of its “Incredible” plant-based burger substitute to “Sensational.” Impossible Foods filed the lawsuit more than a year ago in The Hague, claiming the visual similarities between “incredible” and “impossible” would cause confusion. A Nestlé spokesperson told Food Navigator the company will appeal.
Florida Man vs. the Chicken of the Trees
The Wall Street Journal ran a peculiar feature on June 4 about iguana hunting in Florida, which has seen an uptick since the coronavirus pandemic took hold. The article captures the technique of iguana hunter Joe Harris who uses a homemade blowgun with a fishing reel attached. Harris preferred the tail and said, “It’s the filet mignon of the iguana.”
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