August 13, 2021
Friday by Noon:
Doubling Down on the Future
Clearly, people are looking past this Friday the 13th …
From climate to investments to new alliances, the future factored heavily into conversations about food production this past week:
- U.N. panel predicted climate extremes
- U.S. Senate approved infrastructure upgrades
- Alt. protein makers established new partnerships
On August 9, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its Sixth Assessment Report on the long-term effects of climate change. The report, which includes analyses from thousands of scientists, projects big changes that will affect food production across the world. Unless your wifi is amazing, we recommend the version “for policy makers” — the full report clocks in at 3,949 pages. No, we haven’t read all of it yet.
- If bar charts and detailed explanations aren’t your thing, IPCC also created an interactive map that visualizes predictions for temperatures, rainfall, wind speeds and even ocean acidity.
- The Associated Press noted that this report includes better modeling of how carbon dioxide and methane affect climate. Since livestock are a common source of methane, expect this data to factor into future conversations.
- Cornell University agricultural economist Chris Barrett explained to Modern Farmer that rising sea levels are “overwhelmingly a problem for rice and aquaculture.”
- Reuters emphasized one prediction Seattle-dwellers might surely affirm: “Once-in-50-year heat waves now happening every decade.”
- Matt Casale of U.S. Public Interest Research Group stated, “While the consequences of inaction would be catastrophic, there is no reason we can’t still avoid the worst of it.”
- As reports like this one become more common, food companies face increasing pressure to disclose steps taken to minimize carbon footprints. Nonprofit group Ceres recently called out companies for lax governance, while The Wall Street Journal covered the implications for finance.
Repairing Roads to Recovery
The U.S. Senate passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act this week with bipartisan support, sparking reactions about the effects across the food production system. The bill provides $548 billion for spending on transportation, clean water, power and broadband; it still requires final approval by the U.S. House of Representatives.
- President Biden responded to the Senate’s passage of the bill: “America has often had the greatest prosperity and made the most progress when we invest in America itself.”
- The Washington Post explained how the bill would “combine lawmakers’ desire for immediate, urgently needed fixes to the country’s crumbling infrastructure with longer-term goals to combat challenges including climate change.”
- Restaurant Business warned that the new bill cuts short a pandemic federal aid program for restaurants.
- Farm Progress dove deep into details of the bill that affect agriculture.
- USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack underscored the benefits to rural communities: “When rural America reaches its full potential, all of America is better positioned to compete in a global economy.”
- Food Business News pointed to big funding for rail and waterway improvements. Curious how food crops get around the country? If so, this article has numbers for you!
“The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is a monumental achievement … that will strengthen the consumer packaged goods supply chain and empower the industry to continue to deliver essential goods to consumers.”Geoff Freeman, CEO, Consumer Brands Association
Plant-based everything, from compounds to creameries to salamis, continues to be a hot topic. This week, announcements from major players in the food industry made news as more companies continue to test the alt. protein waters.
- Pizza Hut announced on August 10 that it is “doubling down on innovation and catering to evolving preferences” by testing a Beyond Pepperoni pizza.
- Danone partnered with biosciences company Brightseed, the creator of an AI software map that analyzes the health impact of plant-based compounds.
- In investment news, Miyoko’s Creamery and V2food each raised over $50 million in funding for plant-based products, while Triple Pundit shared that food giant Grupo Bimbo is investing in alternative protein startups.
- Speaking of Miyoko’s Creamery, a California court ruled on August 10 that the startup can use the word “butter” on labels (Food Navigator). The judge stated, “Quite simply, language evolves.”
- On Twitter, Tamar Haspel shared her opinion on the labeling case: “The dairy industry lost this war when they didn’t go after peanut butter.”
- Jenny Splitter from Vox pondered a future where plant-based foods take over the protein industry and what that would mean for key players. Splitter worried, “How workers would fare is less clear.”
Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.
‘Ethnic Food’ or ‘Dinner’
Priya Krishna sparked conversation in a recent New York Times article about the “ethnic” aisle in grocery stores, referring to it as a “necessary evil” for producers trying to get their products on shelves. “The section can seem like an anachronism — a cramming of countless cultures into a single small enclave, in a country where an estimated 40% of the population identifies as nonwhite. Even the word ‘ethnic’ … feels meaningless, as everyone has an ethnicity.”
The Kids Are Alright
Politico shared results from the Household Pulse Survey conducted by the US Census Bureau that show a drop of nearly 24% in US hunger rates for households with children. While too early to identify a major factor, researchers believe the recent child tax credit as part of the American Rescue Plan could be closely tied.
The Food That Eats Your Food for You
Fermented foods have been around for millennia, but millennials have only picked up on the trend recently. Coincidentally, scientists are starting to understand the science behind health benefits of foods like yogurt, sauerkraut and kombucha. New York Times health writer Anahad O’Connor explained that these foods “alter the makeup of the trillions of bacteria, viruses and fungi that inhabit our intestinal tracts, collectively known as the gut microbiome.” Adding to the evidence, Inverse reported that a more diverse gut microbiome reduces the effects of aging.
The Biggest Mac
On August 4, The Guinness Book of World Records uploaded a profile of Donald Gorske, the man who holds the record for the most Big Macs eaten in a lifetime. In the clip, Donald shows off his record-keeping system: 30,000 empty Big Mac boxes with receipts cataloguing 50 years of daily purchases. It is a charming profile of obsessive commitment, but if you are what you eat, Don must have sesame seed buns by now …
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