This week’s Friday by Noon recap of the top stories from food, beverage and agriculture’s most important voices highlights two trends:

  • Earth Day, April 22, sparked discussions on planetary commitments regarding environmental stewardship and climate change.
  • As legalization grows, the culinary press addressed cannabis as a food and drink ingredient. You know, edibles.

“We are not debating whether or not climate change is real; those days are over. The debate is simply how to best address climate change.”

Rep. Glenn “G.T.” Thompson (R-Penn.) (Politico)

Leaders Warm to Climate Policy

At the opening of a two-day climate summit, President Biden pledged to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030. While the 40-nation summit continues today (April 23), influential voices have already spoken up on what this could mean for food production. Meanwhile, members of the U.S. Senate negotiated the Growing Climate Solutions Act, which establishes carbon markets and provides incentives for farmers to adopt climate-friendly practices.

  • Agri-Pulse noted that Biden’s emission-reduction plan failed to fill in details. Politico’s Ryan McCrimmon attributed this to a “tenuous partnership” with the agriculture industry.
  • Other government leaders wasted no time setting policy. On April 22, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced more than $500 million of funds for “climate-smart” projects: expanding research, improving infrastructure and conserving land.
  • Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) offered a home-state solution: “GHG emissions from corn ethanol are 46% lower than gasoline.”
  • American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall cheered the Senate’s bipartisanship: “This bill is evidence lawmakers can … find solutions to environmental challenges while respecting the role of farmers and ranchers as they feed families around the globe.”
  • National Farmers Union, often at odds with the Farm Bureau, welcomed the bill for establishing the “credibility of carbon markets.”
  • Seeing no room for compromise, environmentalist group Friends of the Earth rejected the measure in favor of “absolute reductions without any possibility of offsets.” The group and dozens of others signed a letter calling carbon offsets “a scam.”

Earth Day: Launchpad for Commitments

Earth Day provided food brands, agriculturalists and journalists with an excellent backdrop to announce climate commitments, stress areas for improvement, or reframe stewardship strategies. Our feeds were flooded with examples.
Here are a few stand-outs:

  • In an April 20 LinkedIn post, PepsiCo Chief Sustainability Officer Jim Andrew proclaimed, “PepsiCo is an agricultural company at its core.” He explained that the company’s Positive Agriculture Agenda will emphasize sustainable sourcing.
  • Triple Pundit covered Hershey’s announcement to reduce emissions by more than 30% by using more renewable energy, such as a utility-scale solar farm at a production facility in North Carolina.
  • Food Ingredients First described two Nestlé initiatives: carbon neutrality for KitKat bars by 2025 and some new research about low-carbon/drought-resistant coffee varieties.
  • On the agricultural side, Agri-Pulse compared two new approaches that offer farmers incentives for sequestering carbon into the ground. Major ag inputs Corteva Agriscience and Bayer have differing programs but “both say there’s a lot of enthusiasm out there this year for carbon payments.”
  • Cutting food waste, eating less beef and lamb, and welcoming more plant-based menu items are the three ways NPR’s Allison Aubrey and Maria Godoy suggested diets can positively affect the planet.
  • Beer trade magazine Brewbound reported on New Belgium Brewing’s Fat Tire Torched Earth Ale, “a beer made with smoke-tainted water, dandelions, and drought-resistant grains — some of the less-than-ideal ingredients that would be available and affordable to brewers in a climate-ravaged future.” Yum?

420: Cannabis Goes Mainstream

Since 17 states (and Washington, D.C.) have legalized recreational cannabis, we have noticed an increasing number of traditional media pointing out ways to cook, eat and drink products made with marijuana. For the “Real Origin of 4/20,” check out Esquire’s 2019 explainer.

  • The Washington Post’s Voraciously blog dove into the intricacies of state vs. federal legislation, and outlined some instructions on “how to use it carefully, safely and legally.”
  • Consulting firm The Acheson Group posted a video discussing “Cannabis: A New Approach to Food Safety.”
  • Mintel Canada suggested edibles/drinkables can “bridge that gap” between current and potential cannabis users.
  • Food Politics blogger and academic Marion Nestle covered a post from Stained Page News that listed 10 influential cannabis cookbooks. Our favorite? “Bong Appetit.”
  • Food & Wine shared a slideshow of 9 cannabis-infused recipes including “Cannabis-Infused Pasta with Clams and Green Chiles.” A far cry from the Taco Bell drive-through.

Worth Reading.

Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.

Bye Bye Food Boxes

Just short of its one-year anniversary, the USDA announced it will end the Farmers to Families Food Box program. Heralded by former USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue as an “innovative approach” to provide food assistance amid the pandemic, The Counter reported on a range of issues, including food waste, unqualified partners and inconsistent distribution. It also mentioned Vilsack vowed to learn from the agency’s mistakes when the USDA rolls out a produce box program in conjunction with food banks.

Michelle Was Right

Findings from a dietary trends study conducted by Tufts University found that children and adults continue to eat foods with poor nutritional quality. Sixteen years of data showed less-nutritious foods are linked to restaurants, whereas schools supported more nutritious eating among children. Nutrition school dean and study author Dariush Mozaffarian commented, “Improvement in schools was especially striking, large, and equitable across population subgroups. This is clearly linked to the 2010 Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, a powerful lesson on how a single federal policy can improve both nutrition and equity for millions of Americans.”

Bowlful of Pride

Ahead of Pride Month, LGBTQ Nation promoted a new Together With Pride cereal supporting gender and identity awareness from Kellogg’s. Iconic mascots, including Tony the Tiger and Snap, Crackle, Pop, appear on a box featuring heart-shaped, rainbow-colored cereal with edible glitter. Kellogg’s will donate a hefty $3 to GLAAD for each box sold, though customers must upload their receipts to its website. Great idea, though the activation seems like something that could be automated.

A K-pop in Sales

Ad Age’s Jessica Wohl shared news about McDonald’s latest celebrity menu collaboration. BTS, the Korean pop supergroup, will partner with the fast food giant on a signature 10-piece chicken McNugget meal complete with sweet chili and cajun dipping sauces. “McDonald’s teaming up with BTS shows the breadth and reach of both the world’s largest restaurant company and one of the biggest pop groups worldwide,” added Wohl. Food for thought: Wouldn’t seven nuggets be more of a signature meal?