For most people, this week is all about spreading the love. However, the food and ag world faced:

  • A federal budget backlash.
  • A fried chicken frenzy.
  • A meat aisle melee.

“Americans dining out on Valentine’s Day will find there is a price on love that keeps moving higher.”

Sarah Chaney and Heather Haddon, Wall Street Journal

Budget Backlash

On February 10, President Trump unveiled his 2021 budget proposal. While many influential food and agriculture groups disapproved the proposed budget, Congress has the final say.

  • Politico provided a helpful summary of the possible effects on food, agriculture and trade.
  • The New York Times claimed that the budget “[would cut] SNAP funding by about $15 billion from last year.”
  • National Association of Wheat Growers President Ben Scholz confirmed the group “will continue to impress upon Congress the difficult economic conditions in wheat country and thus why these programs shouldn’t be cut through the budget and appropriations process.”
  • National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson said that the proposed budget “has failed to address the very real economic challenges facing rural communities” for the fourth year in a row.
  • However, Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue released a statement applauding “President Trump’s pro-growth policies like tax cuts, common-sense deregulation, and new trade deals.”

Fried Chicken Frenzy

The fried chicken wars of 2019 are flying high well into this new year. Americans just love the fried yardbird as it’s leading sales for national chains and gaining popularity on breakfast, lunch and dinner menus.

  • KFC unveiled a pair of $59.99 bucket-of-chicken-themed platform Crocs via the company’s YouTube channel. The shoes are even fried chicken-scented.
  • Nation’s Restaurant News reported Popeyes, which “used to be a lower profile brand for Restaurant Brands International,” has become an important driver of sales in the fourth quarter, thanks in part to its viral chicken sandwich.
  • Wendy’s wanted in too. On February 4, the brand announced a nationwide rollout of a breakfast menu that features a crispy chicken biscuit.
  • Los Angeles Times food writer Jenn Harris debuted “The Bucket List,” a series dedicated to fried chicken in Los Angeles. For her first feature, she interviewed chef Sang Yoon about the science behind making delicious fried chicken.

Can’t Judge a Meat by Its Package

In the battle for grocery store shelves and consumers’ plates, decision-makers on both sides of the divide faced off over plant-based meat alternative labeling issues.

  • Republican members of Maryland’s state senate proposed a bill that seeks to prevent cell-cultured meats from being labeled as meat if “the product contains animal tissue cultured from animal cells outside the animal from which the tissue is derived or is made from plants or insects.”
  • The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association partnered with The Center for Consumer Freedom to survey 1,800 consumers about plant-based meat, finding “widespread consumer confusion regarding the ingredient composition and purported benefits of plant-based fake meat products.” CNBC provided more context.
  • Plant-based food manufacturer Miyoko’s Kitchen sued the state of California for violating the company’s first amendment rights by ordering the company to “remove truthful messages and images from its website and its product labels.”

Worth Reading

Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.

Pollination Nation

On February 11, Food Politics writer Marion Nestle offered a collection of recent material from USDA, Food Navigator, The Guardian and The California Almond Board that made the case for better oversight of trucking bee colonies to pollination sites. Agriculture methods like the ones used to produce almonds can take a heavy toll on bee populations, and organic beekeepers blame “large-scale mechanization of one of nature’s most delicate natural processes” for colony collapses.

Foam Friends and Foes

The New York Times profiled the Dart Container Corporation, a family-owned business that produces white foam single-use containers. Critics label these and other single-use Dart products as “environmental blights contributing to the world’s plastic pollution problem.” To clean up its reputation, Dart is broadening its offerings, focusing on recyclable alternatives and speaking out against those looking to scapegoat foam products.

All-Star Weekend: Flavortown Edition

As part of All-Star weekend in Chicago, Food & Wine reported that celebrity chefs José Andrés and Guy Fieri will take part in the NBA’s All-Star Celebrity game. Fieri will be assistant coaching alongside sports commentator Stephen A. Smith, while Andrés will be in on the action, playing on “Team Wilbon” with the likes of rapper Common and Latin music star Bad Bunny.

Grocery Store Report Card

U.S. Public Interest Research Groups (U.S. PIRG) published a report on grocery stores’ policies and consumer notification plans for food recalls. PIRG polled 26 top grocery retailers about their recall practices, and only gave four stores a passing grade of C: Target, Kroger, Harris Teeter and Smith’s. Fast Company reported on the findings, advising consumers to sign up for FDA recall alerts and USDA recall alerts.

Fit or Fat?

On February 5, NPD Group found that “half of U.S. consumers want to lose weight and over a quarter follow a diet plan to do it.” On February 10, a report from The New England Journal of Medicine confirmed that “by 2030, nearly one in two adults will be obese, and nearly one in four will be severely obese.”

Will You Feed My Valentine?

Looking for an easy last-minute way to celebrate Valentine’s day at your office? Quick! Check out this Los Angeles Times article before your co-workers get to the bottom of this newsletter. Cooking editor Genevieve Ko has provided a set of Valentine’s Day recipe cards to pass out like when you were in elementary school. (Hopefully, your coworkers get the hint and bring you delicious Valentine’s-themed treats Monday.)

A Pricey Night Out and More

On February 14, Wall Street Journal’s Sarah Chaney and Heather Haddon compared food prices and wages over the past decade and lamented that this year’s Valentine’s Day dinner will cost more. Then again, we consider a Valentine’s Day meal an investment.