In contrast to the oversized share of attention plant-based proteins have received recently, influential voices have turned their attention to the real thing.

  • Food system security, spurred by the cyberattack on JBS.
  • Delivery’s staying power, forged by the pandemic.
  • Supply chain struggles, driven by ongoing meat production issues.

Jeopardized Beef Supply

JBS Foods, the world’s largest meatpacker, announced on May 31 that a cyberattack forced the Brazil-based company to shut down processing plants in Australia, Canada and the United States. On June 2, the FBI attributed the attack to Russian cybercriminals.

  • Keith Good of the University of Illinois distilled the supply chain woes: “Two of 2021’s worst trends, cyberattacks and shortages, meet in one story about #meat.”
  • The disruption came in the wake of Congressional leaders requesting that the Department of Justice open an antitrust investigation into the beef processing industry.
  • Farm Journal’s Tyne Morgan reported that 27,000 fewer cattle were processed on June 1 — which amounts to 22% less than the previous Tuesday.
  • National Cattlemen’s Beef Association commented: “We have a high supply of cattle at one end of this equation and a high demand for U.S. beef at the other, but the middle is being absolutely choked by the lack of processing capacity.”
  • JBS declared that it had fully restored its systems on June 3, having lost “less than one days’ worth of production.” JBS USA CEO Andre Nogueira praised the IT team and shifted focus to “fulfilling our responsibility to produce safe, high-quality food.”

Delivering the Goods

The pandemic accelerated the growth and accentuated the importance of food and beverage delivery. Several developments focused on which trends will stick and how delivery will continue to evolve and grow.

  • The Wall Street Journal published a triple threat of articles about food delivery: alcohol-to-go, and the laws permitting the practice, is here to stay (May 29); Uber Eats and others attempting to one-up Amazon by moving to a “within the hour” model (May 31); and pizza purveyors like Domino’s and Papa John’s varying perspectives on using third-party apps (May 30).
  • Restaurant Business covered James Beard award-winning chef Stephanie Izard’s new role as chief restaurant officer at DoorDash. In a press release, Izard explained: “I know that bringing the voice of the local restaurants to leadership is critical to enact meaningful change.”
  • Supermarket News reported that Instacart will offer same-day delivery from nearly 6,000 7-Eleven stores in the U.S.
  • Meanwhile, Yum! Brands looked to beef up its in-house tech. The chain bought Australia-based Dragontail to “[scale] … artificial intelligence (AI) kitchen order management and delivery technology globally.”
  • A partnership between Walmart and drone delivery company Flytrex expanded its drone delivery capabilities near Fayetteville, North Carolina, according to Grocery Dive. “First in Flight” is no joke.

A Meaty Fortnight

Outside of the JBS cybersecurity debacle, the topic of meat production rose to prominence from several perspectives since our last edition of Friday by Noon:

  • The Washington Post’s Laura Reiley outlined the reasons behind rising prices of beef and pork, referencing a conversation with an economist from the American Farm Bureau Federation. Key factors cited included labor shortages, restocking restaurants as they reopen, high feed and transportation costs, and a strong export market competing with domestic demand.
  • In an article titled “Where’s the Honeycrisp of the meat case?,” Prime Future blogger Janette Barnard pondered innovation in meat, compared with other categories like plant-based protein and produce. Barnard argued that innovation is plentiful, just unseen, as it’s mostly on the farm side of the business, not on grocery shelves.
  • The line speeds at which pork is processed are again at issue. The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) praised the USDA’s response to a March federal district court ruling that rolled back Trump administration policies. Food Safety News outlined the National Pork Producers Council appeal of the ruling.
  • Food Business News editor Keith Nunes compared the “stark” differences between Tyson Foods’ new CEO Donnie King with outbound leader Dean Banks. While Banks, who is leaving the nation’s second-largest meatpacker for personal reasons, brought years of tech-industry experience, King is a meat industry veteran who’s been with the company since 1982.

Worth Reading.

Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.

Food Truckin’

A feature on food trucks in the New York Times highlighted the success stories for some small-business owners and described how they were able to adapt and prosper during a pandemic. For many food trucks, going digital, creating a strong presence on social media and even reconstructing menus was the key to success. “Food trucks — kitchens on wheels, essentially — are flexible by design and quickly became a substitute during the pandemic for customers who couldn’t dine indoors and coveted something different than their mainstream carryout options.”

Malthus at the Gate

The International Food Policy Research Institute recommended that governments implement policy reforms to combat hunger in the face of climate change and rising populations between now and 2050. Compounding these concerns in the short term, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization found that in May food prices rose by the fastest level in a decade.

Looking Hard for Progress

Eater’s Jaya Saxena examined what’s changed in the restaurant industry post-#MeToo, post-George Floyd and (nearly) post-pandemic world. Saxena called for a consensus in what makes for a better industry: “No more excuses for sexist or racist chefs who happen to have a brilliant mind for food, and no more throwing workers under the bus in the name of customer-is-always-right hospitality.”

Debatably Natural

BBC Future attempted to settle the debate surrounding processed foods versus natural foods. A deep dive later, BBC concluded: “frozen vegetables, pasteurised milk or boiled potatoes, for example, can be better for us than their unprocessed counterparts. As long as we can recognise a processed food as being close to its natural form, having them in our diet may even be good for us.” So if we form SPAM into more natural pig shapes …