You know times are challenging when the most-quoted line in the media we monitor is: “It’s finally infrastructure week.”

So, to keep things light and honor the changing seasons, we present this week’s topics in haiku:

Food waste aplenty
When supply chains do not work
Meat is on trial

Wayfinding on Waste

In 2019, the USDA, FDA and EPA declared April “Winning on Reducing Food Waste Month.” The pandemic has only exacerbated inefficiencies in the nation’s food supply chain with estimates suggesting 1.2 pounds of food per person per day are wasted in the United States. Food industry stakeholders are sharing progress and warning of challenges that remain.

  • Los Angeles Times columnist David Lazarus shared findings from the United Nations Food Waste Index that showed 1 billion tons of food are wasted each year, which equates to each person throwing more than $1,000 in the trash annually.
  • Food Business News reported that Kroger invested in upcycled food startups, and Mondelez SnackFutures joined the Upcycled Food Association.
  • Natural Resources Defense Council underscored the critical role of government — at all levels — to create policies aimed at “preventing food from going to waste, rescuing surplus food to redistribute to people in need, and recycling food scraps to replenish soils.”
  • The James Beard Foundation invited ReFED Executive Director Dana Gunders to share recommendations to reduce food waste in foodservice. Reducing portion sizes and designing low-waste menus were key post-COVID suggestions.
  • Mark your calendars: On April 28, Food Tank is hosting a “Stop Food Waste” virtual event with a panel of 20 influential figures.

Ships, Chips and Automobiles

One year after the food system first faced pandemic-related upheaval, the industry continues to adapt supply chains. Adding another layer to the conversation, President Biden released his infrastructure-focused American Jobs Plan on March 31.

  • In order to keep up with higher volumes of online grocery purchases, companies are investing in the cold chain. The Wall Street Journal investigated the hot market for refrigerated warehouses.
  • The blockage of the Suez Canal last week only exacerbated shipping container shortages (Reuters). The Counter noted that vessels carrying livestock took priority after the canal reopened on March 29, but ocean-bound traffic will be slowed for months.
  • A coalition of California-based groups urged Congress to “help ensure safe, abundant, local food supplies” by considering water infrastructure as part of Biden’s plan.
  • Consumer Brands Association focused on the importance of maintaining highways for transporting food products across the country.
  • National Corn Growers Association welcomed funds for upgrading waterways and rural broadband, but objected to the plan’s omission of ethanol for fuel needs.
  • In Civil Eats, Anthony Nicome argued that better infrastructure will help reduce food insecurity.

The Protein’s Court

The meat industry found itself at the center of plate in a string of battles over state and federal laws, ranging from food labels to farm practices.

  • On March 29, a U.S. appeals court rejected Tofurky’s challenge to a Missouri law that required alternative proteins to be clearly labeled as “plant-based” or “vegan.”
  • Twenty states supported a lawsuit against California for setting animal care practices and “threatening the free flow of interstate commerce.”
  • On March 30, a U.S. District Court judge dismissed a lawsuit that blamed OSHA for failing to set COVID-19 standards at processing plants. Food Processing explained: “Because no OSHA inspector had found an imminent threat to employees, no cause of action existed.”
  • A judge paused USDA plans to allow faster processing at pork plants, citing incomplete research on worker safety (The Associated Press).

“As evidenced time and again throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the state of our nation’s infrastructure is inseparable from the health and quality of life of our nation’s consumers.”

Geoff Freeman, Consumer Brands Association

Worth Reading.

Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.

One of Life’s Great Questions

Is coffee good or bad for you? The answer isn’t so simple. The New York Times shared how machine learning can uncover answers and influence future nutrition research. “The ability of machine learning to process vast amounts of data could transform the ability of nutrition researchers to study their subjects’ behavior more precisely and in real time” said Amanda Vest, a director at Tufts Medical Center.

Bitcoin for Coffee?

Not exactly, but Nation’s Restaurant News reported that Starbucks will now allow its customers to pay by converting digital assets such as bitcoin into cash via the company’s app. “The average consumer holds a wealth of digital assets — from gift cards to loyalty points to bitcoin — but lacks the tools to adequately track and utilize their value,” said Gavin Michael, CEO of the digital wallet platform Bakkt, in partnership with Starbucks. Similarly, some celebrity restaurants are beginning to explore non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and other cryptocurrencies as promotional tools.

A Spoonful of Honey

In her never-ending quest to call out industry influence in health and nutrition, NYU Professor Emeritus Marion Nestle responded to an ad in Today’s Dietitian. The National Honey Board ad touted the product as “an all-natural source of antioxidants and prebiotics” when, as Professor Nestle put it: “[Honey] is mainly glucose and fructose just like any other sugars.”

Ballpark Food Strikes Out

Baseball season is back, but Chicago Tribune writer Chris Jones found that the pandemic stifled the usual ballpark dining atmosphere. He listed slow internet as one of his top qualms, but it’s clear what he really missed: “The dispenser of shaved onions — a sticky, rotary miracle of 20th century technology — has been dispatched to some graveyard of pre-COVID ballpark concessions.” We agree — it brought delightful play value to condiment application.