April 17, 2020
Friday by Noon:

Broken Links in the Supply Chain

The coronavirus has complicated meat production across all proteins and companies throughout the country. Major processors closed or limited plant operations due to sick workers and contaminated equipment. This will cause a cascade of issues up and down the supply chain from farms to distribution. Closures at plants like Smithfield’s massive pork facility in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and JBS’s central beef plant in Greeley, Colorado, will cause a backlog of livestock as production can no longer keep up. Likewise, consumers are very likely to see a short supply and higher prices on grocery shelves.

As the pandemic progresses, the industry has a better understanding about supply chain interruptions. Restaurant closings have slowed demand for some foods and increased demand for others. The availability of workers for farming, trucking and retail stores will also make the normally streamlined process of keeping our nation fed much more difficult.

“Chicken processors are doing everything they can to 1) keep their employees safe and 2) work to keep chicken on the shelves — in that order.”

Mike Brown, President, National Chicken Council

Meat Going Bad

This week saw a pivotal turn for meat processing plants in the midst of the pandemic. Companies including Smithfield, Tyson, JBS and Cargill have announced shutdowns, with some reporting COVID-related employee deaths. Other companies have reported reduced capacity or temporary closures. The impacts are especially desperate for farmers who are losing markets for livestock.

  • Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Mayor Paul TenHaken told NPR, “It wasn’t easy getting the world’s top pork producer to shut down one of its biggest plants.”
  • In a company statement, Smithfield President and CEO Kenneth Sullivan warned, “The closure of this facility, combined with a growing list of other protein plants that have shuttered across our industry, is pushing our country perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply.”
  • Agri-Pulse summarized the slowdowns and shutdowns across the poultry, pork, sheep and cattle industries, and the potential impacts.
  • Purdue University agricultural economist Jayson Lusk explained how decreased cattle and hog processing will push wholesale and retail prices up and live cattle and hog prices down.
  • Livestock associations raised concerns for producers. NPPC President Howard Roth warned, “The pork industry is based on a just-in-time inventory system … leaving farmers with tragic choices to make. … hog farmers have nowhere to move their hogs.”
  • Estimating losses at $13.6 billion, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Colin Woodall commented, “Plant closures or slow-downs have significant regional and national implications that will ripple through the marketplace at a time when cattle producers are already suffering from market uncertainty and economic hardship.”
  • Adding insult to injury, The Associated Press confirmed that turkey producers in South Carolina are looking to stop a confirmed case of avian influenza from spreading. More fortunately, Meatingplace reported disruptions from damaging tornadoes that touched down in Mississippi will have minimal impact on poultry production.
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Supply Chain Stressors

Supply chains are built for efficiency. But the coronavirus crisis has changed where supplies are expected to go and how they will be used. With workers staying at home, produce rotting in fields and food banks looking to resupply, lawmakers and industries are scrambling to redirect resources.

  • Civil Eats reporter Lisa Held walked through “Food distribution 101” to illustrate the many links in the food supply chain and the failure points caused by COVID-19.
  • Scientific American detailed how labor and supply chain disruptions would hurt producers of specialty crops — think apples, berries and honey — more than growers of commodity crops.
  • In an April 10 letter, Feeding America and the American Farm Bureau Federation advocated for the USDA to connect farmers with food banks “to respond to shifting demands.”
  • Idaho potato farmer Ryan Cranney of Cranney Farms took distribution into his own hands and offered free potatoes to anyone willing to pick up from his farm; CNN reported on April 16.
  • Freight service Convoy pledged on April 16 to cover costs of shipping donations to food banks. C.W. McCall would be proud.
  • Bloomberg reported that the USDA allowed poultry plants owned by Tyson and Wayne Farms to increase line speeds in order to address shortage concerns. Activist group Food & Water Watch accused USDA of putting “profit over safety.”
  • In Fortune, Consumer Brands Association President and CEO Geoff Freeman, and General Mills CEO Jeff Harmening advocated for a government supply chain office that could apply uniform standards for critical infrastructure across the country.
  • On April 15, Slate reported that, of all things, packaging is the kink in “activating” the yeast supply chain.
  • NPD Group put numbers to the biggest shift in demand: the past few weeks have seen 40% fewer restaurant transactions than the same time last year.
  • On April 14, President Trump announced the “Great American Economic Revival Industry Groups” tasked with restarting the economy when lockdowns end. The food-focused panels include leaders from the full production chain, including seed maker Corteva Agriscience, pork producer Seaboard, foodservice distributor Sysco, and multi-channel brand Wolfgang Puck.

“Chicago is no second-class taco city. … Immigration has transformed it into a taco capital, with some of the best Michoacan-style tacos outside of Michoacan.”

José R. Ralat, Taco Editor, Texas Monthly (Chicago Tribune)

Worth Reading.

Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.

Oil Wars, Cont.

The Journal of the American Medical Association evaluated a study on coconut oil published in The American Heart Association’s journal Circulation in January. The study found that — despite a positive public health perception — coconut oil offers “no improvements to weight, blood glucose, or inflammation markers” and even increases cholesterol when compared with other vegetable oils.

Touch-free Cobb Salad

Bloomberg writer Matt Kronsberg profiled a handful of leaders of the $26 billion vending industry and explained their growth among today’s interest in “contactless” food delivery. Companies like Farmer’s Fridge, Chowbotics and Fresh Bowl have extended vending’s reach past snacks and sodas and have proven to be clutch players during the coronavirus crisis. Farmer’s Fridge, for example, has machines at nearly 100 hospitals on the East Coast and Midwest, and has cut prices by 25%.

Worst-kept Secret

Missing that Egg McMuffin from your pre-coronavirus work commute? Vice chronicled all the brands giving away their “secret recipes,” so you can enjoy your favorites safely from the comfort of your own home. In addition to the McMuffin, Waffle House shared its waffle recipe and Hilton Hotels provided a recipe for their signature chocolate chip cookies.

School Lunch Roll-forward

On April 13, a Maryland District Court blocked the rule that allowed the USDA to roll back school lunch provisions from the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The Lunch Tray blogger Bettina Elias Siegel provided background on the issue, calling it a victory for public health advocates. Meanwhile, the School Nutrition Association worried that returning to the stricter guidelines could add to sourcing difficulties from the coronavirus crisis.

Second City, First Class in Tacos

Chicago Tribune’s Nick Kindelsperger reviewed “Taco America,” by José R. Ralat. In his research, the author visited Chicago, The Intel Distillery’s backyard. Though often overlooked, Ralat says “Chicago is no second-class taco city. … Immigration has transformed it into a taco capital, with some of the best Michoacan-style tacos outside of Michoacan.” We concur.

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March 27, 2020
Friday by Noon:

Coronavirus > All Else

“We have been blessed with plenty when it comes to America’s food supply. Empty shelves can be frightening, but empty fields and barns would be devastating.”

Zippy Duvall, President, American Farm Bureau Federation

COVID-19 is affecting all aspects of life and we are continuing to track its impact on food production. As of this week the share of conversations about the coronavirus has skewed beyond anything we’ve analyzed since we began in 2012.

In fact, this is the first time a single topic has outpaced every other topic combined.

A few other major topics surfaced, especially the rise of the hashtag #plant20 among the agricultural community as the spring planting gets underway in the face of possible flooding on par with 2019. And many offered support for farmers during National Ag Day and National Ag Week.

However, conversations inevitably returned to the crisis at hand. This week, discussion was split between the administration declaring food and agriculture to be “critical infrastructure” and relief measures that the U.S. Senate approved on Wednesday night.

Covid-19 conversations chart

We take comfort in the fact that reliable sources indicate a dependable food supply will continue to nourish this uncertain world.

Your feedback is important. We encourage you to request a deeper dive into any topics you find useful. Email us atinfo@theinteldistillery.com

Thanks, 

The Intel Distillery Team

Culinary

  • Chef Bobby Flay addressed fans live from his living room on March 22 to discuss how cooking has been a refuge for him while social distancing.
  • The Counter broke down best practices for takeout food safety.
  • On March 23, Bloomberg columnist Leslie Patton called attention to the influx of takeout and delivery business buoying sales and reviving chain restaurants.
  • Even Michelin-starred restaurants have pivoted to takeout and delivery business. Food & Wine compiled a list of gourmet meals you can get to go (cloth napkins not included).
  • Los Angeles Times noted rising meat sales across butcher shops and provided readers with a list of the best meats to freeze for later.
  • On March 22, The New York Times interviewed Steve Sando, owner of heirloom bean supplier Rancho Gordo about bean’s sudden uptick in sales and popularity. “It’s just shocking. I used to be the loneliest man at the farmer’s market.”

Government

  • On March 21, the Department of Homeland Security officially named food and ag a “critical infrastructure” sector.
  • On March 25, in Food Safety News,FDA deputy commissioner Frank Yiannis reaffirmed the organization’s commitment to “safeguarding the human and animal food supply, helping to ensure that our food is not contaminated at any point.”
  • Meatingplace reported that, as of March 23, the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service temporarily adjusted its labeling policies to allow products intended for food service to be diverted to retail instead.
  • The USDA and Department of Labor have joined forces to identify pre-existing foreign farm workers who could be available to transfer to a different employer’s labor certification, after farmers expressed concern about a lack of available laborers for harvest season.

Nutritionists

  • The Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University highlighted the ways food policy reform and pandemic preparedness work hand in hand.
  • Dr. Dean Ornish, founder and president of Preventive Medicine Research Institute, posted insights on a March 21 LinkedIn article “how to enhance your immune system so that if you are exposed, you can reduce the chances of getting sick.”
  • On March 23, Quartzamplified reports from the French health authority: “losing your sense of taste or smell appeared to be a symptom of Covid-19.”

Manufacturers

  • In the CNBC “Squawk on the Street” podcast, Coca Cola CEO James Quincey reassured employees and investors, “The Coca Cola Company system has been through many crises, and we’ve got crisis adjustment in our DNA.”
  • The Hill recapped a message from Nestlé CEO Mark Schneider to employees: “Please get ready for the storm to hit — because hit it will.”
  • On March 24, The Wall Street Journal chronicled how distilleries are using their alcohol supplies to make hand sanitizer amid reports of nationwide shortages.
  • In a March 20 news release, PepsiCo expanded benefits to its “frontline employees” who are serving communities by replenishing the food supply.

Retail/Foodservice Channels

  • On March 24, Eater published app-level data on how COVID-19 has “brutalized” restaurants.
  • NPD Group attributed an 8% decline in restaurant transactions to social distancing. Meanwhile, Nations Restaurant News posted data from Foursquare that showed an 11% increase in visits to quick-service restaurants.
  • Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen announced plans to pay employees a bonus: “The true heroes in this story are our associates, and we want to provide them with additional resources and support to help them continue their remarkable effort.”
  • On March 19, FMI (the Food Industry Association) and the International Foodservice Distributors Association created a “matching program” to connect foodservice distributors with excess capacity to retailers and wholesalers that need additional resources to fill demand.
  • AgProfessional writer John Phipps took stock of shifting food shopping sources: “Instead of 30% food volume from restaurants, consumers will only be getting at most 16%. The remaining 14% will have to come from groceries/supermarkets. This would be a throughput jump of … 20%. That’s a whopping step-change for any industry.”

Ag Inputs

  • On March 21, The Wall Street Journal’s agriculture beat reporters outlined the crisis from the farming perspective, and emphasized the compounding hardships associated with labor, the weather and commodity prices.
  • Food & Wine covered the possible disruption to the farm labor: “In response to the coronavirus the federal government said it would temporarily stop processing H-2A visas in Mexico which allows seasonal farmworkers into the U.S.”
  • Feedstuffs communicated: “No evidence has emerged that [the] virus causes noticeable infections in livestock or poultry.”
  • Elanco CEO Jeff Simmons tweeted, “Grocery stores are scrambling to stock meat, eggs, and milk as fast as consumers are buying. What you as farmers and vets do matters.”
  • With regard to planting season, Bayer CropScience reassured farmers that, “As you gear up for #plant2020, know that we’ve got your back! Together we are #StillFarming!”
  • Tractor manufacturer Case IH thanked farmers: “As the rest of the world shuts down, you’re keeping bellies full.”
  • Corteva Agriscience CEO Jim Collins posted a heartfelt essay on LinkedIn praising the dedication of our food suppliers.

Consumer Advocates

  • Time featured anti-hunger advocate José Andrés and his charity, World Central Kitchen, calling him “a lesson of leadership in crisis.”
  • Union of Concerned Scientists implored the Trump administration to prioritize bailouts for family farms and farmers markets, “or they’ll risk breaking the backbone of their local food economies.”
  • Greenpeace warned against pro-plastic industries that use the outbreak “as an opportunity to exploit people’s fears around COVID-19 to push their pro-pollution agendas.”
  • A number of influential figures shared a tweet from advocacy group Suit Up Maine that reminded consumers: “When stocking up for #SocialDistancing, if an item has a WIC symbol beside the price, get something else. People who use WIC to feed their kids can’t switch to another brand or kind of food. If a store runs out of WIC-approved options, they will go home empty-handed.”

Industry Orgs

  • The National Restaurant Association canceled its annual convention that was scheduled for May 16 to 19 in Chicago.
  • The Consumer Brands Association thanked California’s governor for keeping critical infrastructure running despite shelter-in-place orders.
  • USA Rice Federation President and CEO Betsy Ward encouraged consumers to support local restaurants: “I, for one, want my favorite restaurants to be there with me, so I’m ordering takeout from them this weekend.”
  • American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall reiterated the agriculture industry’s dependence on “access to a skilled workforce to help with the work of planting, cultivating and harvesting our crops.”

Worth Reading.

In that sliver of white space of topics not related to the coronavirus crisis, we found a few other topics to review:

Happy Ag Day to You!

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue marked National Ag Day, March 24, by challenging Americans to keep agriculturalists top of mind: “In very uncertain times … one thing has remained steadfast: America’s farmers, ranchers and producers.” Bader Rutter (which owns The Intel Distillery) celebrated with a video thanking farmers, while our partners at Zoetis and Corteva also did their part to honor the day.

Peter Hemings, Head Chef and Master Brewer

Food & Wine highlighted a new beer inspired by an 1822 recipe, made at Colorado-based Avery Brewing. The original recipe was created by a little-known figure in craft brew history: Peter Hemings, head chef, master brewer and slave at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello plantation. Avery Brewing is promoting the beer “in hopes of giving [Hemings] the credit and recognition he deserves as one of America’s pioneering craft brewers.”

Dairy Deals Off

On March 20, Brownfield Ag News reported Dean Foods had walked away from a $425 million deal with Dairy Farmers of America. The article cites documents obtained by Bloomberg that confirmed, “Dean Foods Co. abandoned a deal to make Dairy Farmers of America the lead bidder for its assets after resistance from creditors and its bankruptcy judge.”

Why the Raisin Hate?

On March 25, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released its annual Shoppers Guide to Pesticides in Produce, which includes the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean Fifteen.” Findings were in line with 2019 findings with produce like strawberries and kale in the “dirty” column and avocados and sweet corn in the “clean.” However, the group (which typically does not consider dried fruits in its rankings) chose to single out non-organic raisins as having the highest occurrence. Food Safety News reporter Coral Beach shared the findings, noting the Alliance for Food and Farming calls EWG’s work “junk science.”

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March 20, 2020
Friday by Noon:

The New Not-so-Normal

Since the beginning, our objective has been to tell the story of food production through the most influential voices in the business. From farm fields to consumer plates, we’ve diligently tracked and categorized everything important in food, beverage and agriculture to provide a well-rounded perspective on our industry.

Part of our process involves a careful daily scan of the news. This gives us an up-to-the-minute snapshot that provides a clearer picture of what’s happening and who’s driving the conversations.

This week, the coronavirus dominated every facet of the news, including food production. Below is a core sample of influential voices from important segments of the industry and how they’re articulating thoughts on this unprecedented pandemic.  

Your feedback is important. We encourage you to request a deeper dive into topics you find useful. Email us at info@theinteldistillery.com

Thanks, 

The Intel Distillery Team

Channels

  • Nation’s Restaurant News compiled an up-to-date list of restrictions on bars and restaurants.
  • Amid fallout from criticism for being a costly drain on restaurant business, delivery service Grubhub announced the company “is temporarily suspending collection of up to $100 million in commission payments from impacted independent restaurants nationwide.”
  • Danny Meyer, owner of Union Square Hospitality Group, shared a video message to staff on Twitter after restaurant closings caused the group to lay off 2,000 employees — nearly 80% of its staff.
  • Writer Derek Thompson explored the hard-hit restaurant business in The Atlantic: “Already operating at paper-thin margins, restaurants face the loss of their entire dine-in business, but they will still have to make rent.”
  • Retail distributor UNFI CEO Steve Spinner commented in a release, ” We firmly believe that increased levels of public-private collaboration can further enhance UNFI’s around-the-clock efforts to meet our customers’ current and future needs.”
  • Food retailers strained to keep up with high demand and challenging conditions. Whole Foods and Amazon invoked temporary wage increases (Supermarket News), national chains such as Dollar General offered early morning hours exclusively for elderly shoppers (USA Today), and Costco (and others) suffered from workforces compromised by the coronavirus (Buzzfeed).

Academics

  • On its health blog, Harvard promoted healthy diets along with its coronavirus guidance.
  • Purdue University Dean of Agricultural Economics Jayson Lusk opined on stockpiling, shortages and how a looming recession might impact food markets.
  • Cornell University’s agricultural workforce development program warned: “Your farm workforce is not immune to coronavirus, please begin taking steps to protect yourself and your employees.”

Brands

  • Tyson Foods shifted some of its foodservice production of chicken, beef and pork to retail, reaffirming its role in meeting the current demand for meat.
  • Leaders from Coca-Cola, Nestlé, Cargill, Diageo and Danone updated ABC News on the state of their operations.
  • The Wall Street Journal‘s Annie Gasparro and Micah Maidenberg quoted General Mills CEO Jeff Harmening: “Before, [demand] was mainly just soup and flour … I think we’ve all been surprised at the virus impact over the past week.” Looks like cereal may make a comeback after all.

Consumer Advocates

  • In Civil Eats, Robert Egger, founder of antihunger non-profit D.C. Social Kitchen, suggested ways readers could fight hunger in their own communities.
  • The World Health Organization dispelled some myths about virus prevention. For example: “There is no evidence from the current outbreak that eating garlic has protected people.”
  • No Kid Hungry published a guide to help educators and administrators organize food-program operations that “meet the needs of students while minimizing community spread of the coronavirus.”
  • World Food Program USA examined how the disease affects global food supplies.

Government

  • The USDA ensured “the safety and timely delivery of the U.S. food supply while protecting the health of USDA employees.”
  • FDA published a thorough Q&A about COVID-19 and food safety.
  • On March 18, FDA announced it had “temporarily postponed routine domestic facility inspections,” instead focusing efforts on “natural disasters, outbreaks and other public health emergencies involving FDA-regulated products.”
  • In light of the CDC’s March 15 guidance of restricting gatherings of 50 or more, the Consumer Brands Association sent a letter to local and federal government officials pleading that food manufacturers be exempt from gathering and curfew bans.

Industry Orgs

  • The National Restaurant Association provided business planning tools to restaurant owners that outlined ways to “minimize loss of revenue during times of social distancing.”
  • FMI CEO Leslie Sarasin, confirmed grocery stores have “a viable supply chain that can provide safe, affordable food and consumer products for our customers during this time.”
  • In an effort to maintain the labor pool during planting and harvest seasons, Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall urged the administration to “find a safe and practical way to admit farm laborers as emergency workers for visas, while still protecting the public health.”

Worth Reading.

Acts of kindness and humanity earn our appreciation in trying times.

On a Bike and a Prayer

The New York Times profiled Transfernation, a nonprofit that, with the help of 10 cargo cyclists, picks up uneaten food from corporate cafeterias and restaurants around Manhattan to donate to soup kitchens. CEO Hannah Dehradunwala said the goal is “to make food donation as easy as calling an Uber.”

Disney Does Good

Since Walt Disney World Resorts announced it would close all theme parks through March 20, the company pledged all of its excess food inventory to a local food bank as a part of the ongoing Disney Harvest program. “In the last year alone, these donations provided one million meals to people in need.”

Relief for Restaurants

Eater published an ongoing list of relief funds for bars, restaurants and service workers. The resource shines light on all the ways people can come together to support the restaurant industry as businesses nationwide have been forced to shutter.

BK Loves the Kids

Bloomberg reported that during a phone call between restaurant industry leaders and President Trump to address the effect of the coronavirus on the food system, Restaurant Brands International CEO José Cil promised, “Burger King’s U.S. restaurants will soon begin offering two free kids meals per adult meal.”

Andrés 2020

José Andrés, celebrity chef and founder of World Central Kitchen, announced on Twitter that he would close all of his D.C. restaurants and convert some into community kitchens “to offer to-go lunches for those who need a meal.”

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February 28, 2020
Friday by Noon:

Labor Laws and Mardi Gras

A lot happened in the food world this week:

  • Cargill’s meat fakes
  • Fat Tuesday bakes
  • Labor ruling stakes

“How can an industry as big and influential as foodservice not have a dedicated and permanent home in which to honor its achievers, achievements, and innovators that impacted American culture and business?”

Jim Sullivan, restaurant industry consultant (Nation’s Restaurant News)

Cargill Plants a Foot in Plant-based

In early April, industry behemoth Cargill will expand into plant protein. The company’s entrance to the category has been gradual — and sometimes controversial — with investments in plant-based startups and alternative protein supply chains over the past three years.

  • In 2017, Cargill invested in lab-grown meat pioneer Memphis Meats, marking “the first stake in cell-cultured technology by a company that produces traditional meat products.” In May 2019, Cargill backed another lab-grown leader, Aleph Farms. A few months later, in August 2019, Cargill partnered with Beyond Meat’s pea protein supplier, Puris.
  • On February 24, Cargill announced its unnamed plant-based meat substitute. The new patties and ground products are expected to hit retailers and restaurants in April.
  • Reuters writer Tom Polansek noted Cargill’s “decades-long experience handling ingredients and buying crops to produce private-label products more efficiently than competitors.”
  • Plant-based advocacy group The Good Food Institute agreed, tweeting, “Others may have had a head start in the alternative-protein space, but Cargill’s size, supply, and expertise make it a formidable competitor.”
  • New York Post quoted Brian Sikes, the leader of Cargill’s global protein and salt business: “Whether you are eating alternative or animal protein, Cargill will be at the center of the plate.”

It’s Pronounced “Punch-key”

Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Carnival or Paczki Day (for our Midwestern readers) — however, and with whichever pastry, you chose to celebrate the holiday of excess preceding Lent, we’ve compiled a quick need-to-know guide for Mardi Gras foods.

  • Popular recipe site Food52 published “The True Origin” of Mardi Gras in America. Contrary to popular belief, Mobile, Alabama, not New Orleans, first hosted a Mardi Gras celebration in 1703.
  • What are Paczki? Chowhound provided an explainer for the famed jelly doughnut, dating back to the reign of Catholic-convert King Augustus III in Poland.
  • First you’ve heard of them? Forbes predicted “the Midwest paczki mania has the potential to rival what’s happened in New Orleans with king cake.”
  • Wait, what’s a king cake? All Recipes explored the cake’s origins and iterations. Article author Julie Tremaine spoke with Louisiana historian Adley Cormier, who notes: “No matter what form your King Cake takes, it must be shared and it must have a baby.”
  • Not into sweets? Cook’s Country compiled 20 Mardi Gras recipes to help you celebrate no matter where you are in the country.

Who’s the Boss

Media and advocacy groups debated the future of labor for millions of contract foodservice workers. On February 26, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a rule that limits workers’ ability to claim joint employment status. Under the new rule, an employer must “possess and exercise substantial, direct and immediate control” over another firm’s workers to be deemed a joint employer.

  • The Wall Street Journal suggested it will be more difficult for employees of a franchise to also be considered employees of a national brand, which could negatively affect workers’ ability to unionize.
  • The New York Times warned the rule “scales back the responsibility of companies … for labor-law violations by their franchisees.”
  • Shannon Meade, vice president of public policy at the National Restaurant Association applauded the new policy for enacting “vital and long-overdue regulations to provide clarity and certainty for thousands of small- and family-owned businesses, especially restaurants.”
  • In other food industry worker news, on February 25, CNBC reported that Amazon opened its first “full-size, cashierless grocery store,” in Seattle. United Food and Commercial Workers International Union President Marc Perrone described the store’s creation as “a ruthless strategy that is designed to destroy millions of grocery worker jobs.”

Worth Reading.

Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.

Crashing Sugar Theories

On February 25, emergency medicine specialist Dr. Richard Klasco timelined the many physicians’ and researchers’ reports that have debunked the notion of a “sugar high” since 1994 (The New York Times). Despite being disproved several times, the myth lives on. However, Klasco concludes, “cutting down on sugar will not affect children’s behavior, it may help to protect them against obesity, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.”

A Who’s Who of What We Chew

Jim Sullivan, CEO of industry consulting group Sullivision.com, advocated for the creation of a foodservice hall of fame in Nation’s Restaurant News. Sullivan offered up his nominations for foodservice’s “achievers, achievements, and innovators that impacted American culture and business.”

COVID-19’s Viral Spread Through the Supply Chain

Food Processing compiled statements from some of the world’s largest food manufacturers on how the coronavirus (COVID-19) has affected their businesses thus far. McCormick, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Tyson Foods, General Mills, Mondelez and Unilever have all reported shop closings, falling sales and uncertainty about the future of business operations in China.

Freaky … Not So Fresh

On February 25, the FDA issued a warning letter to Jimmy John’s, linking fresh vegetables served by the chain to a multistate E. Coli outbreak. The warning accuses the company of engaging in a pattern of “receiving and offering for sale adulterated fresh produce, specifically clover sprouts and cucumbers.” On February 26, CNN reported Jimmy John’s is no longer serving sprouts according to a statement sent to the news outlet.

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February 7, 2020
Friday by Noon:

Optimizing Meatballs

Super Bowl Sunday drew 102 million viewers, and brands battled for all those eyeballs. Meanwhile, updated nutrition research questioned the impact of our big game chowing. Note: We eat a LOT of chicken wings.

  • For brands? High stakes.
  • For red meat? More debates.
  • For 90’s foods? Remakes.

“The Super Bowl is one of the few times of the year — if not the only — where we don’t mind when the show switches to commercial break.”


Bridget Hallinan, Digital Reporter, Food & Wine

High stakes for athletes and brands (and their agencies)

Super Bowl Sunday is as big of a deal for food brands as it is for sports fans. Here’s a roundup of this year’s most memorable food and beverage moments:

  • Food & Wine chronicled every food and beverage commercial that aired during this year’s game.
  • The New York Times highlighted one of the most viral ads of the night, the death (and rebirth) of Mr. Peanut (aka the legume Baby Groot)
  • Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold promoted its “6 for 6-pack” program that dedicates a portion of proceeds from every 6-pack sold to help transition 6 square feet of farmland to certified organic land.
  • Eater took the bowl theme literally and produced a bracket for their favorite fast-casual foods served in bowls. A Mediterranean-themed restaurant, Cava, came out on top.
  • Data from IRI and SNAC International (formerly, Snack Food Association) predicted snack sales, noting “last year, snack food sales jumped 10.3% to $404 million during Super Bowl week.”
  • The National Chicken Council estimated “Americans will eat 27 million more wings during this year’s big game weekend versus last year’s.” Amazing, considering that’s only a 2% increase!

An update to the meat and health debates

Last fall, Nutritional Recommendations Consortium (NutriRECS) published an analysis in Annals of Internal Medicine that called research about meat’s health impacts too weak to recommend dietary changes. That put the group NutriRECS at the center of a heated debate among leading health researchers.

  • Influential Harvard nutrition professor Frank Hu called the group’s research methods flawed and stressed the importance of a balanced diet (The Harvard Gazette).
  • On January 15, JAMA’s Rita Rubin reported Harvard faculty and associates from the True Health Initiative (THI) harassed Annals of Internal Medicine editor-in-chief Christine Laine.
  • On January 22, Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp wrote a letter to Harvard President Lawrence Bacow: “Several of your faculty are involved as council members or advisers of THI and collaborated with THI in their effort to discredit scientific evidence that runs contrary to their ideology.” He assured Bacow that “Texas A&M’s research is driven by science. Period.”
  • Bacow did not respond. But on February 1, Harvard’s medical school posted a closer look “at the main issues and questions regarding the role of red and processed meats in your diet.”
  • On February 3, researchers from Cornell and Northwestern University published a study in JAMA Internal Medicine that suggests higher intake of processed and unprocessed red meat (or poultry) comes with increased risk of cardiovascular disease. The debate will undoubtedly be continued …

90s remakes poised for revival

Some items that made 1990’s eating trends truly unique have resurfaced. That’s good news for lovers of malls, lettuce wraps, sugar and nostalgia.

  • Dunkaroos, the dunkable cookie and icing snack that debuted in 1992, announced a comeback this week via Instagram. “Frosted tips? Totally not coming back. Cassette tapes? Definitely not coming back. ’90s fashion? Probably coming back. Dunkaroos definitely coming back! Summer 2020.”
  • P.F. Changs first introduced Americans to wok cooking and a new style of Asian-inspired concept restaurants in 1993. After closing the last of its Chicago locations February 3, Eater reported P.F. Changs opened its first fast-casual concept: P.F. Chang’s To Go. The chain plans to open 20 of these tinier to-go restaurants across the country.
  • Remember mall food courts? The Wall Street Journal spoke with real estate developers who are investing in abandoned malls, hoping that online food delivery hubs, or ghost kitchens, will “create new interest in retail and warehouse space vacated by merchants that have struggled to compete with e-commerce.”

Worth Reading.

Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.

Optimal Meatball Levels

The Wall Street Journal reported that Ikea “wants to bring the supply-chain precision behind its flat-pack furniture business to the way it manages meatballs.” Optimization efforts will focus on waste reduction, establishing a digital platform for its food division, and cutting costs.

Selective Sustainability

Michelin Guide unveiled a new green clover designation for restaurants that highlight sustainable practices. The symbol, dubbed the “Sustainable Gastronomy Selection,” is intended to “promote the chefs who have taken responsibility by preserving resources and embracing biodiversity, reducing food waste and reducing the consumption of non-renewable energy.”

In Brands We Trust

Morning Consult released its first annual State of Brand Trust report. Bakery and Snacks synopsized the report, noting that 28% of consumers say they have “little or no trust” in the food and beverage industry. Consumers do, however, “place conviction in brands like Cheerios, Oreos and Doritos.”

Eat Local, or Don’t

“Eat Local,” is often cited as a strategy to reduce one’s environmental footprint. In a February 4 article, Bloomberg questioned that mantra’s efficacy, speaking with climate experts who claim the approach is misguided, as “transit’s contribution to any food’s overall carbon footprint is tiny.”

Soy Misinformed

The Atlantic writer James Hamblin spoke with James Stangle, a veterinarian who published a viral article that claimed eating four Impossible Burgers per day “has enough estrogen to grow boobs on a male.” The widely shared article has since been debunked, and now Stangle is coming out to refute once and for all the belief that “plant-based proteins are inextricably tied to gender.”

Caffeine: Onward and Upward

The Washington Post interviewed Michael Pollan on February 5. The author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” has a new audiobook that explores “the most popular mind-altering chemical on the planet” — caffeine — and its effects on human progress.

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November 12, 2019
Focus Feature:

Workers in the Spotlight

Workers report preview

Labor shortages, wages and immigration policy have stirred intense discussion recently. Workers, employers and advocates have all spoken up to ensure they have a stake in important policy decisions — the effects of which will be felt throughout the food system, from farms to food processing facilities to consumers’ plates.

  • Agriculture feels the direct effects of labor shortages on farms and ranches.
  • Food processors and manufacturers increase the use of automation to replace portions of the workforce that have been affected by immigration issues.
  • Foodservice and retail channels face a shrinking workforce and a struggle over wages.

Download our latest Focus Feature filled with further reading to better understand how vital the labor force is to the entire food production system.

This content comes from The Intel Distillery: your essential source for food industry analysis and intelligence.     

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August 23, 2019
Friday by Noon:

Pumpkin Spice? It’s Only August!

“The more one spends on food, the less consistent are their choices … increasing affluence likely allows us to indulge ‘higher’ needs related to self actualization and self expression.”

Jayson Lusk, Purdue University economist

Sandwich Wars 2019

Prominent food beat writers had their radars set to sandwich this week after a highly covered launch from Popeyes on August 12. Fried chicken enthusiasts across the country took to social media to voice their opinions on the new offering, described by Popeyes as “a delicious buttermilk battered and hand breaded white meat chicken filet, served on a buttery, toasted brioche bun with two barrel cured pickles and guests’ choice of classic mayo or spicy Cajun spread.”

  • The New Yorker, proclaimed that Popeyes’ sandwich was “here to save America,” calling it a “moral compromise” to Chick-fil-A’s conservative politics.
  • Eater pitted the two chicken sandwich heavyweights, Popeyes and Chick-fil-A, against each other in a war fought with funny memes.
  • Grub Street chronicled the “chicken sandwich war” through the lens of Twitter, with a compilation of subtweets from fans, brands and influencers.
  • Los Angeles Times placed bets on which sandwich would reign supreme.
  • Chicago Tribune ranked 26 chicken sandwiches in the QSR market.
  • Ad Age’s Jessica Wohl recalled #popeyesgate to remind consumers of the time a California restaurant re-sold Popeyes fried chicken on its own menu with no attribution. To show there are no hard feelings, Popeyes debuted its new chicken sandwich at that very same restaurant.

Eurowatch

European food production and agricultural policies have exerted increasing influence on this side of the Atlantic. With European ownership of large food retailers, manufacturers, investment groups and chemical companies, it is prudent to keep a close watch on policies that will likely affect what’s happening in the U.S. Conversely, the USDA conducted equivalency audits in Eurpoean countries to ensure these nations’ food exports are up to par with U.S. food safety standards.

  • Alan Greenblatt from NPR: The Salt examined European Union’s (EU’s) adherence to food allergies. According to the article, the EU requires restaurants to list or label any of 14 common allergens that may be present on menus. Meanwhile, in the U.S., restaurants are not required to declare allergens and packaged foods only list eight common allergens.
  • U.S. food safety regulators turned an eye toward imported products from overseas. Food Safety News on August 19 reported on a USDA equivalency audit of French veal, pork and ready-to-eat meats. While it found no deficiencies, it did raise a few areas of concern.
  • USDA also cleared imports of pork from the tiny country of San Marino.

#PSL

For some, pumpkin spice latte (PSL) season marks the official start of fall, but as of late seasonal limited-time offers (LTOs) are being ushered in at earlier intervals and added to never-before-considered products. We noted key sources keeping track of these LTOs and sometimes simply asking, “Why?”

  • On August 12, Business Insider confirmed consumer suspicions of Starbucks’ PSL release date — August 27, the earliest ever — making it the first media outlet to break the story.
  • Starbucks tweeted an official announcement eight days later: “It’s official. PSL returns 8/27!”
  • Last week, The New York Times chronicled Dunkin’ and Starbucks race to debut pumpkin- and cider-flavored offerings, with Dunkin’s offerings hitting stores a full week earlier than last year.

Once Starbucks announced its pumpkin spice debut, the floodgates officially opened.

  • New York Post outlined 23 PSL products you can buy now, from drinks to snacks to dog treats.
  • Following Starbucks’ announcement, International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) countered, “The best part of pumpkin spice lattes is the milk.”
  • The newest contender in this year’s pumpkin spice mania? Pumpkin spice Spam. Yes, we feel the same way.
  • In CNN’s coverage of the new canned meat offering, author Scottie Andrew quoted Longwood University assistant professor of psychology Catherin Franssen, who believes all the pumpkin spice hype is “rooted in neurology: Sugar and pumpkin spice are an addictive combination that the brain learns to crave.”
  • Just in case pumpkin spiced Spam and waffles sound like something you might like to try, Food & Wine provided a few recipes and pairing suggestions.

Worth Reading.

Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.

To Rinse or Not to Rinse?

This week, USDA reminded consumers (yet again) that is NOT necessary to wash or rinse raw poultry prior to cooking. On August 20, USDA released results of a study that showed “how easy bacteria can be spread when surfaces are not effectively cleaned and sanitized.” So, to be clear, the best practice is to not wash poultry at all. But if you insist, the USDA recommends preparing raw fruits and vegetables before handling meat, thoroughly cleaning and sanitizing surfaces after contact with meat and cooking meat to a proper internal temperature to reduce risks.

Good & Gather, only at Target

On August 19, Target unveiled its new “flagship” food and beverage brand, Good & Gather. The release calls Good & Gather “Target’s largest owned Food & Beverage brand. Grounded in guest research, the flagship brand will offer a wide range of food and beverage products that prioritize taste, quality ingredients and ease, at a great value.” Much like Walmart and Whole Foods, Target joins the growing ranks of big box retailers that have found value in developing their own private label brands. A May 2 Forbes article analyzed the trend, citing Private Label Manufacturers Association data that indicated 1 in 4 products sold in the U.S. in 2018 was private label, with sales as high as $170 billion.

Cold Dogs

Is a hot dog a sandwich? If you freeze it and sandwich it between two cookies, does that make it an ice cream sandwich? Oscar Mayer seemed to think so when the brand announced its newest creation on Twitter. Behold, the Icedog Sandwich: candied hot dog bits, hot dog sweet cream and spicy dijon gelato all pressed between two cookie buns. Oscar Meyer prompted tweeters to direct message them to try the new sandwich. We didn’t, but Food & Wine investigated the meaty frozen treat. Their findings? “As of right now, Oscar Mayer has no plans to sell the sandwiches themselves in stores — but we’re hoping the hot dog bits have a fighting chance. We’d gladly eat a whole bag.” An interesting editorial stance …

While we’re talking ice cream, Bloomberg showcased top chefs’ favorite flavors from a poll of over three dozen chefs, pastry experts and restaurateurs. While imaginative craft ranked high, so did nostalgia.

Big Cheese?

A prominent animal activist group and a well-known dairy brand stirred discussions about authenticity in marketing and animal care. On August 19, Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) announced that it had filed a lawsuit against the Tillamook County Creamery Association. The lawsuit alleges Tillamook misrepresented claims about the source of its milk and its cows living conditions. Though some Tillamook ads encouraged consumers to “Say Goodbye to Big Food,” ALDF accuses them of being the “epitome of Big Food,” claiming the company sources “up to 80 percent of its milk from the largest dairy feedlot in the United States.” While activist groups like Food & Water Watch called the company’s practices “deceptive,” Tillamook disagreed with ADLF, saying the company would “aggressively defend” itself. (The Oregonian)

‘Income and (Ir)rational Food Choice’

Purdue University’s head of agricultural economics dove into food purchase psychology to examine “preference reversals.” The full study was published in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, but Professor Jayson Lusk summarized on his blog: “The more one spends on food, the less consistent are their choices.” Lusk elaborated, “There is a view among many food and agricultural scientists that many new food products marketed to higher income consumers are ‘unscientific’ insofar as they make absence claims about ingredients and processes scientists have deemed safe.” Clearly, Professor Lusk does not teach in the marketing department.

Making It Healthy

After explaining Whole Foods’ role in launching Beyond Meat’s chicken strips in 2013, co-founder and CEO John Mackey compared the environmental and health benefits of plant-based meat alternatives. In an August 21 article posted to CNBC’s Make It blog, Mackey said, “I don’t think eating highly processed foods is healthy. I think people thrive on eating whole foods.”

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August 16, 2019
Friday by Noon:

Adult Beverages and Kid Lunches

“For years, nondrinkers were the vegetarians of the bar world: neglected by menus, eye-rolled by servers, forced to settle for soda. The few nonalcoholic drinks available tended to taste as if they had been siphoned from a kindergarten juice pouch.”

M. Carrie Allan, Washington Post spirits editor

Everything in Moderation

This week, we’ve noticed liquor brands — both established and new — adjusting to changing consumer tastes and attempting to recapture the attention of a customer base that studies say is drinking less.

  • Business Insider covered old-school beer brand Natural Light’s latest product rollout: a hard seltzer that will compete with White Claw, the popular brand that is dominating this rapidly growing market.
  • Phusion Projects’ malt beverage brand Four Loko alluded to a forthcoming “fifth loko” on August 13 when they tweeted (the replies are worth checking out) a photo of a “blue razz” flavored can of “Four Loko Sour Seltzer.” The product touts 14% ABV, which CNN noted is “nearly three times as much as leading alcoholic seltzers.”
  • Eater profiled the latest viral vodka sensation, a spirit “made from grain farmed in the zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine.” Yes, you read that right. No, we don’t get it either.
  • Los Angeles Times produced a guide to sake that will teach you everything you need to know about the rice-based alcoholic beverage currently growing in popularity here in the U.S.
  • New Hope Network confirmed, “Reports of millennials killing the alcohol industry are exaggerated,” citing A Morning Consult poll that found adults of ALL ages are cutting down on drinking. The survey listed healthier lifestyle, saving money and losing weight as the top reasons among those surveyed.
  • The Washington Post featured a how-to guide for making, “complex, balanced zero-proof cocktails,” piggybacking on what they call a “new era of moderation.”

Back-to-School News … and Blues

With the first day of school just around the corner, the influential voices we track have set their sights on the kids — how are we feeding them, what are we feeding them and how are these foods affecting their health?

  • Forget meatless Mondays and taco Tuesdays, The Associated Press has coined the term “Trade Mitigation Thursdays,” a tongue-in-cheek reference to the shipments of free food delivered to school cafeterias courtesy of President Donald Trump’s trade disputes. The article says the extras “are coming from the Department of Agriculture, which is giving away the $1.2 billion in food it’s buying to help farmers hurt by trade negotiations.”
  • Food Safety News provided parents with tips to keep their kids safe and healthy this school year, covering everything from proper hand washing to packing lunches in a way that keeps foodborne illness at bay.
  • Senator Elizabeth Warren released her plan for the agricultural sector last week on Medium. It’s titled “A New Farm Economy,” and a portion of it focuses on the Farm-to-School program. Warren proposes expanding the program “a hundredfold” should she be elected, promising to turn it into a “program in which all federally-supported public institutions — including military bases and hospitals — will partner with local, independent farmers to provide fresh, local food.”

“We need to embrace the fact that our regulator day in and day out is the consumer … It’s less about defense and more about promoting our shared goals.”

Geoff Freeman, CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, speaking at the organization’s Leadership Forum this week. (Food Business News)

Worth Reading.

Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.

A Different Kind of Roast

In a confounding twist, the ever-evolving world of meat alternatives has led chefs to experiment with an unlikely substitute: watermelon — whole, smoked, roasted, marinated, you name it. The Wall Street Journal spoke with chefs who debated the pros and cons of using the fruit as a meaty centerpiece. Some are understandably skeptical; one James Beard award winner remarked: “Certain things scream to be left alone.”

Locally Sourced Food Fraud

Citing a study published this week in the Journal of Marketing that found “when people prefer to ‘buy local’ they more frequently base their decisions on price as a perception of quality.” MarketWatch encouraged readers to think twice about food labels: “The term ‘local’ on food packaging hasn’t been officially defined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.”

It Ain’t Just the Eggs

Food Safety News cautioned readers against licking batter bowls and spoons clean after making baked goods, citing an FDA warning that “uncooked flour can be contaminated with a variety of disease-causing germs, including E. coli, Salmonella and Listeria.” Article author Cookson Beecher suggests treating flour like you would any other raw food item by practicing proper food safety procedures such as following package instructions, maintaining proper temperature for the specified amount of time and keeping raw food separate from cooked items to prevent cross-contamination.

MCP-1 Anyone?

Bloomberg profiled a Chicago-based company’s newest attempt at curbing food waste — MCP-1 preservation packets that work by “inhibiting the ripening agent ethylene,” effectively extending the shelf life of fresh fruits “as much as three times longer than normal.” Last week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report that reiterated the embarrassing fact that “25% to 30% of all food going bad before it can be consumed,” so this technology could go a long way to combat food waste and hunger.

Sticking Up for Tamar

Several food-industry heavyweights rushed to the defense of Washington Post reporter Tamar Haspel after an article published in The Huffington Post accused her of misleading readers due to her “relationship with agrichemical giants.” Author Paul Thacker, a frequent critic of bioengineered crop technology, alleges that “she’s too close to the industry she writes about and that her prominent column at The Washington Post provides a perch to spread misleading information about agriculture and the food we eat.” Seasoned reporters refuted the claims, including Politico‘s Helena Bottemiller Evich, who tweeted, “The idea that @TamarHaspel is an industry shill is absurd. You can of course disagree with her (she writes columns – discourse is kind of the point), but the idea that she’s a hack is laughable to anyone who’s spent any time at all w/her.”

What About the Employers?

Workers in food production often do hard jobs for low pay. Across the board — farm fields, processing plants and restaurant kitchens — the food industry relies on immigrant labor to meet its needs. In the aftermath of a series of large-scale Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids at Mississippi poultry processing plants, The Associated Press raised the question, “what about the employers?” The August 14 article pointed out, “The operation led to 680 arrests of people in the U.S. illegally, with expected criminal charges to follow for some. But no plant owners or top managers were immediately charged, following the pattern of other recent sweeps.”

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August 9, 2019
Friday by Noon:

Food Is Ruining the Planet Is Ruining Food

Balanced diets, featuring … animal-sourced food produced in resilient, sustainable and low-GHG emission systems, present major opportunities for adaptation and mitigation while generating significant co-benefits in terms of human health.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
(see the unedited quote below.)

IPCC: Land and Food

On August 8, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), United Nations’ body for assessing science related to climate change, released a report detailing the relationship between land management, climate change and the global food supply. The undertaking involved 107 authors from 52 countries assessing more than 7,000 studies.

The influential voices The Intel Distillery tracks were quick to examine the report and share summaries and findings specific to food and agriculture:

  • An alarming number of the report summaries suggest IPCC’s recommendations center around reduced meat consumption. To achieve this, several sources, including Grist, The Guardian and EcoWatch, inaccurately omitted any mention of meat consumption from a quote found on Page 26 of the report: “Balanced diets, featuring plant-based foods, such as those based on coarse grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and animal-sourced food produced in resilient, sustainable and low-GHG emission systems, present major opportunities for adaptation and mitigation while generating significant co-benefits in terms of human health.” Whether one misquoted and the others simply copied and pasted is impossible to say, but we can conclude reporters should always read the actual report. Seriously.
  • David Festa from Environmental Defense Fund suggested, “The scientific breakthroughs that were so successful in boosting yields in the 20th century to fight global hunger are now threatening our food system.”
  • A BBC summary pointed out another tradeoff the report posed: either “concentrate intensive farming into the smallest possible area of land, in order to leave as much natural land as possible to soak up CO2 … [or] farm in a less intensive, more climate-friendly way — but that means taking up more natural land to compensate.”
  • Natural Resources Defense Council’s reaction to the report focused on the food waste component, noting that waste also includes packaging, labor and fertilizers.
  • A senior climate policy adviser from hunger-focused organization Oxfam commented, “Politicians must aim for zero hunger as well as zero emissions.”
  • Wired’s Matt Simon shared a common frustration: “There’s no cure-all, and every potential fix is fraught with maddening complications.”

Both the Eat-Lancet Commission and World Resources Institute published reports earlier this year, making the IPPC report the third major report from a widely influential source that reaches similar conclusions about environmental stewardship with food production.

Dieting to Death

It’s an endless cycle: new diets claim results that are too good to be true. Five popped up this week, each promising or debunking a different health benefit.

  • Harvard’s health blog detailed how ultra-processed foods can affect the balance of good and bad bacteria in our stomachs known as the “human microbiome.” The article discusses the “gut-brain axis” and suggests there is a connection between ingesting too many chemical additives and an increased risk for depression and anxiety.
  • To maintain a healthy microbiome, The Atlantic recommended ingesting a diverse assortment of microbes. The best source of these diverse microbes are apparently fruits and vegetables, which the article claims “are healthier than the sum of their parts, not just because of nutrients and fibrous skeletons, but because they contain microbes themselves.”
  • The Washington Post fact-checked “hormone diets” that claim to adjust the body’s hormones as a way to lose weight quickly and easily. Author Christy Brissette, RD, quoted doctors and endocrinologists, and the consensus was, “diets that claim to help you ‘hack your hormones’ for weight loss don’t have the evidence to back it up.”
  • The Wall Street Journal posted a book excerpt from Andreas Michalsen, MD, PhD, that endorses the weight loss trend of intermittent fasting, saying it’s not just another fad. Dr. Michalsen claims the positive health benefits of fasting come from reducing “the time spent each day processing food” and making more time for “cleansing and restoring the body’s cells.”
  • Haider Warraich, MD, said in an essay in The New York Times, that humans must “stop testing ourselves with lifestyles and diets that put our body’s defenses at odds with our well-being,” lest we continue to put ourselves at risk for heart disease. Warraich suggests less fat, salt, sugar and meat in our diets, warning: “The density of calories available to us coupled with the minimal effort required to obtain them is a toxic recipe.”

Judging a Box by Its Cover

Investing in sustainable packaging is a popular way for brands to align themselves with positive messages of responsibility and trust. Unfortunately, as we dug into stories about some of these ecological solutions in our scan of the news, it became apparent that the focus centers more on messaging and aesthetics than actual environmental impact.

  • New Food Economy linked the popular molded fiber bowls used by Chipotle and Sweetgreen and others with “cancer-linked forever chemicals.” Despite the bowls’ positioning as a compostable and thus more sustainable option, the article claims that they contain perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) — compounds that do not biodegrade naturally in the environment. This means that contrary to popular opinion, the bowls actually make compost heaps more toxic, “adding to the chemical load of the very soil and water they were supposed to help improve.”
  • Eater criticized McDonald’s failed efforts to phase out (recyclable) plastic straws at some U.K. locations in favor of a more eco-friendly paper version. In feedback, customers found the new paper offering too thin … sooo McDonald’s beefed up the straw. But that made it too thick to be processed by waste management solutions and, ironically, unrecyclable. The author wondered, “Have we really not figured out ecological solutions at scale yet? If humans can formulate believable meatless meat, truly environmentally friendly mass-market packaging must be feasible, right?”
  • On August 2, San Francisco International Airport became the first airport in the U.S. to ban the sale of plastic water bottles inside of its terminals. Travel + Leisure summarized the new rule, effective August 20, which will apply to restaurants, cafes and vending machines in the airport, but will exempt flavored water. Flyers are encouraged to bring their own (empty) reusable bottles and refill them at “hydration stations” throughout the airport.

Worth Reading.

Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.

With Partners Like These, Who Needs Rivals

Grubhub, America’s largest food ordering service, announced on August 2 that it would update some controversial policies following a New Food Economy article that accused the company of making shadow websites of restaurant partners without the owner’s permission, for the purpose of intercepting online orders to collect a fee.
Less than a week later, on August 6, Eater implicated the company in even more deceptive practices. Eater claimed that Yelp and Grubhub pulled a bait and switch by combining the two platforms and then allowing users to place delivery orders straight from Yelp. Yelp is also accused of replacing restaurants’ real phone numbers with number reroutes created by GrubHub in order to collect a ‘referral fee.’

What Goes Up Must Come Down

The Wall Street Journal wrote that restaurants and manufacturers are seizing the opportunity for upcharging. The businesses wager that as the economy continues to expand, consumers won’t mind paying more to help cover “higher costs for ingredients, transport and labor that many companies say they are facing.” This raises the question of how much and for how long, because as the article notes, “Analysts caution that some companies risk eroding their customer base if price increases outpace wage gains.”

Tariffs. They’re What’s For Dinner

In a Food Dive opinion piece, Specialty Food Association President Phil Kafarakis rebuked the Trump administration for its recent trade policy decisions. “Remember the abrupt U.S. tariffs against Mexico over immigration policy? They hit avocados and threatened tequila. And those against China aimed at remedying unfair Chinese influence in steel and technology exports? They dragged in our soybean farmers … All of this seems like bullying the little guy: Food. If any industry needs protection from unfair government actions, let’s pick the one that makes human life possible.”

The Kids Are Not Alright

The Wall Street Journal spoke with some kids and parents who want health food companies to stay away from their ice cream. The publication profiled various plant-based, dairy-free and nutrient-infused alternatives to the traditional offerings and asked kids and adults what they thought of them. “If I’m going to spend my calories on ice cream,” one Ohio mom said, “I’ll hold out for a scoop of some really good ice cream from some fancy ice cream place.” “I do not think ice cream is supposed to be healthy,” a 10-year-old remarked.

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Garbanzo Journalism
Friday by Noon | October 1, 2021

In the fortnight since our last weekly summary, much has been stirring. Influential farmers, producers, regulators, brands and thinkers convened ...

Food Summit in Sight
Friday by Noon | September 17, 2021

The pandemic continues to drive short-term discussions about workplace safety in many aspects of food production, while some of the ...

Short Week, Tall Order
Friday by Noon | September 10, 2021

Last night, President Biden stirred discussions about workers by announcing plans for a national vaccination policy — a topic that ...