January 13, 2023
Dry Wit January
Friday by Noon will return January 27. Our 2022 annual report will be out shortly.
Business, policy and alcohol. What more do you need to fuel another fascinating week in food production? Might we suggest … snake juice?
- Business developments buzzed throughout foodservice.
- The Farm Bureau wrote a table of contents for 2023 policy.
- Media offered no shortage of ways to cut the booze.
“We could more accurately call it a food and farm bill because whether you come from a rural community, a city or a suburb, it matters for you and your family.”Zippy Duvall, President, American Farm Bureau Federation
Fast Food to Fancy Food
Two media favorites of the foodservice industry (Noma and In-N-Out) made big announcements this week. There were plenty of developments across the rest of the restaurant biz, too.
- On January 9, The New York Times reported that Noma — the Copenhagen, Denmark, restaurant often described as the finest in the world — will close in 2024. Chef René Redzepi cited the grueling hours and intense culture as unsustainable. The business will shift to “a full-time food laboratory, developing new dishes and products for its e-commerce operation.”
- Eater’s Jaya Saxena reassured those who had not visited Noma, “It’s in every instance a fine dining restaurant cites locally foraged ingredients as the inspiration for a dish, in every goth bird we’re still seeing on tables today, and every high-end restaurant’s experiments with DTC fermented sauces.”
- In-N-Out, the West Coast burger chain “consistently ranked as consumers’ most-craved brand in NRN’s annual Consumer Picks survey,” will open its farthest-east operation near Nashville, Tennessee, in 2026 (Nation’s Restaurant News).
- Former McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook resurfaced this week after the Securities and Exchange Commission issued an order charging him “with making misleading statements to investors about the circumstances leading to his firing in November 2019.” (Food Business News)
- Subway, the nation’s largest restaurant chain by units, has hired a firm to explore its sale (The Wall Street Journal). The process is in the very early stages, and the sale of the privately held chain to private equity could fetch more than $10 billion.
- Associated Press reporter Dee-Ann Durbin wrote a deep-ish dive on the state of restaurant unionization, focusing on Starbucks. To date, 358 Starbucks units have petitioned the National Labor Relations Board to hold union elections.
- Finally, Business Insider shared news about a grill that Chili’s is testing to cook a steak to perfection in three minutes. Casual, meet quick service.
The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), the largest farmer advocacy group, held its annual convention January 8-11 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The event set the tone for food policy discussions in the coming year, replete with an awards presentation and an appearance by the agriculture secretary.
- AFBF set its policy priorities for the 2023 Farm Bill, which include: expanding disaster relief, increasing transparency of milk pricing, reducing food insecurity and opposing an update to the Clean Water Act.
- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack addressed the convention on January 9, highlighting a report that most farmers rely on off-farm income to make ends meet. Vilsack set forth the goal of “making agriculture profitable, not for many, but for all. Not sustainable for some, but for all. Not resilient for some, but for all.”
- The Ag Innovation Challenge winner, NORDEF, took home $50,000 to help diesel vehicles meet EPA emissions standards.
- AFBF named Tough, a border collie from Kansas, Farm Dog of the Year. Yes, there are photos. And videos. And photos of the runners-up.
- On January 8, the Farm Bureau surprised the ag industry by announcing an agreement with John Deere to “ensure farmers’ and ranchers’ right to repair their own farm equipment.” The move comes after years of farmers’ protests against Deere limiting repairs by independent shops and requiring expensive diagnostic equipment.
- The Association of Equipment Manufacturers stated that the move “reinforces our belief that successful resolution does not require onerous legislative action.” (The Scoop)
- NPR noted that many remain skeptical of Deere and will want to see follow-through. U.S. Public Interest Research Group captured the attitude: “Like Charlie Brown, farmers have lined up for the kick too many times to let Lucy pull the ball away again.”
As many make New Year’s resolutions to get healthier, the media chimes in with health advice. This year, more of that advice was dedicated to giving up alcohol than meat.
- Will Dry January trigger alcohol withdrawal symptoms? | The Washington Post
- The 12 best new nonalcoholic drinks for Dry January | Chicago Tribune
- More non-alcoholic drink options are available for Dry January | NPR: Planet Money
- Think you’ll save money with Dry January? Not at $17 for a mocktail | The Wall Street Journal
- Year-long moderation dampens Dry January participation | Food Business News
- Best diets overall 2023 | U.S. News & World Report
- Veganuary takes hold: Companies and consumers alike expected to embrace plant-based eating in 2023 | Food Ingredients First
It’s a Gas
In an interview with Bloomberg, Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Commissioner Richard Trumka suggested that the agency might ban the sale of new gas stoves as part of its plan to regulate the kitchen centerpiece. The CPSC walked back the statement, explaining that it is only “looking for ways to reduce related indoor air quality hazards.” Eater’s take on the matter: Buy a portable butane burner anyway.
Boiled Dough Nation
On January 7, NPR Weekend Edition host Scott Simon requested that UNESCO consider bagels as an American food of “intangible cultural heritage.” Simon made his case despite some big caveats: “I know the bagel is not American-born. But a lot of the best things about America aren’t.” We know bagels can’t beat cheese curds.
Skymall for Food
The Consumer Electronics Show may not be at the top of your list for kitchen gadgets, but perhaps it should be. The Associated Press covered a variety of high-tech cooking gear that ranges from ovens that “warn you when your food is about to burn” to automation for small restaurants and avocado firmness-checkers for supermarkets. Of course, there are also the classic startup descriptions, such as “the Peloton of cooking classes.”
Car Move Out, Car Move In
“Big City” New York Times columnist Ginia Bellafante lamented the “gentrifying” of New York State Thruway foodservice. By the end of 2022, McDonald’s locations were replaced by Chick-fil-A and Shake Shack operations. “You don’t get to pretend that you are chic, or rich, urbane or pious when you order a Double Quarter Pounder With Cheese. You are not buying into a philosophy or a lifestyle; you are buying 740 calories of distraction from life.”
Don’t Call it Snake Oil
On Health.com, dietitian Cynthia Sass offered a summary and pointed out the many risks for those following the trendy “snake diet.” It involves eating one meal per day and many hours of intermittent fasting, broken only by sips of the diet founder’s “snake juice,” a salty concoction designed to stave off hunger that has not been researched for safety. “Followers are encouraged to keep meals simple, be consistent, and not gorge — which may be difficult to do after not eating anything for two to three days at a time.” Hard to disagree.
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