Big-picture policies drove discussions this week, with particular attention to:

  • Tracking and trimming greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Restructuring and reinforcing global food supplies.

“This stuff is not going away: more reporting, more traceability, more visibility in the system. He who figures it out and can figure out how to make their own business better — and not just at a cost to their system — is gonna win.”

Dr. Jim Lowe, Associate Professor, University of Illinois (YouTube)

Emissive Discourse

Discussions around measuring, analyzing and cutting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions surfaced this week in legislative, agricultural and CPG circles.

  • On May 9, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) extended a comment period to June 17 for a proposed rule that would require public companies to report GHG emissions in their supply chains (e.g., farm inputs). The extension was granted after requests from leading industry organizations.
  • Agricultural groups, such as the American Farm Bureau Federation, celebrated the extension: “While farmers and ranchers would not be required to report directly to the SEC, they provide almost every raw product that goes into the food supply chain.”
  • On May 4, Reuters explained how a satellite measured GHG emissions from a California cattle feedlot.
  • Food Ingredients First reported on research conducted by Nomad Foods that concluded frozen food products frequently have lower carbon emissions than their non-frozen counterparts. Nomad Foods is a large purveyor of frozen foods in Europe. What are the odds?
  • On May 10, Unilever ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s announced Project Mootopia, “a potentially game-changing and planet-healing initiative that aims to cut [GHG] emissions in half on 15 dairy farms by the end of 2024.”
  • Want the latest deep dive on agricultural GHG emissions and sinks? Check out the Congressional Research Service’s May 10 report.

Grain Trade Blockade

Global food markets continue to adjust to disruptions from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. By shutting down one of the world’s largest exporters of grains and oilseeds, Russia has threatened the food security of millions worldwide — and the U.S. agriculture sector is stepping up to the challenge.

  • Tufts University focused on increased hunger levels, citing World Food Programme projections that 33 million to 47 million people will face acute food insecurity as a result of the war.
  • Keith Good of the University of Illinois covered the added difficulties of concerned nations banning food exports. This includes a graph of a worrying metric: “calories affected by export restrictions.”
  • DTN/Progressive Farmer writer Todd Neeley noted that Ukrainian farmers are expected to plant a majority of the usual crop this year. However, DTN analyst Todd Hultman warned that getting food out of Ukraine is the biggest difficulty at the moment.
  • Politico’s Meredith Lee cited Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.): “They’re sitting now on 12 million tons of agricultural products from the last harvest that will spoil by this fall unless it’s shipped.” Lee also outlined efforts by the U.S. and E.U. to break Russia’s blockade.
  • On May 11, President Biden announced a set of policies aimed at increasing crop production. The policies include increasing access to crop insurance and tech tools, as well as boosting domestic production of fertilizer: a key input cut off by sanctions against Russia.
  • Industry groups for grain producers, such as soy and corn farmers, welcomed the support.

“American farmers are on the frontlines of the response to Putin’s unprovoked aggression in Ukraine. Through production of homegrown biofuels and crops, our farmers are lowering the cost of gas and growing food to feed the world.”

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (Twitter)

Hey, What’s Good This Week?

A practical solution to retail food waste? There’s an app for that. On May 5, Meijer announced its Flashfood Program has redirected over 1 million pounds of food waste in the best way possible — by getting it to consumers. With up to 50% discounts on short-dated foods, value-hungry shoppers become part of the solution — preventing waste of meat, produce, seafood, deli, dairy and bakery products.

Customers make orders on the free app, then pick them up from refrigerators and racks at the front of Meijer stores. After a one-store pilot reduced in-store food waste by 10%, Meijer expanded Flashfood to all its stores in 2021. It’s a simple, elegant win-win for sustainability and value.

Worth Reading

Paper, Please

On May 10, Kraft Heinz unveiled paper-based packaging for its flagship ketchup products. The new design will undergo consumer testing before it hits markets, serving as an early step in the company’s plan to “make all packaging globally recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025.”

Doughy Demographics

Economist Jayson Lusk shared the latest results of Purdue University’s Consumer Food Insights survey. For those who dive into data headfirst, check out the dashboard to see how different demographics eat raw cookie dough, buy private-label products or compost food scraps.

Hunger Hurts Health

NBC News covered a Washington State University study that found food insecurity increases the likelihood of developing Type-II diabetes later in life. Lead author Cassandra Nguyen commented, “Eating according to the dietary guidelines tends to cost more money, and it may cost more time.”

Bad Formula

On May 13, Wall Street Journal reporters Annie Gasparro and Jaewon Kang updated the grim baby formula shortage situation: it could last for months longer. The category has suffered greatly after food safety problems were detected in Abbott Laboratories’ Similac product in February, and supply chain issues have made it difficult for competitors to fill the void.