August 4, 2023
Hot and Pricey
As we collectively languish through these hot dog days of summer, we’re offering just two interesting topics for consideration. But we did find two very cool maps to help get your head around some trends. Can you find them below?
- It’s hot. It’s dry. Food production reacts to both.
- Food is getting more expensive, still.
“If you think of all of the other benefits that can be achieved through better visibility, such as supply chain efforts, deterrence of food fraud, enhanced sustainability, and more, I’m convinced that better food traceability will take cost out of the food system.”Frank Yiannas, former FDA deputy commissioner (AgFunder News)
A (Verrrry) Dry Heat
Drought and a heat wave are affecting crops, workers and transport worldwide.
- Transporting livestock at night and using mist foggers are just a couple ways farmers across the High Plains and Midwest are keeping animals cool, according to an article written by The Wall Street Journal’s Patrick Thomas. In addition, farm workers are starting work before sunrise to take advantage of cooler temps.
- Agricultural workers received some relief from the heat when the U.S. Department of Labor issued heat hazard warnings and plans to enforce rules designed to keep workers safe (Agri-Pulse).
- Writing in Modern Farmer, farmworker advocate Joan Flocks opined that farm workers need better protection from the heat, noting an uptick in heat-related injuries and even deaths in the past three decades.
- Water-intensive blueberries and strawberries have been victims of Iowa’s hot, dry summer. The Associated Press described the struggle at pick-your-own berry farms, where entire crops have failed this year.
- The heat wave does have one benefactor: the Medjool date. An August 1 article in The Guardian explained how this sweet fruit and its harboring date palm have thrived in the Arizona sun despite temperatures exceeding 100 degrees.
- India’s drought showed signs of relief as rice planting resumed there last week after an uncomfortable pause in cultivation of this vital grain (Reuters).
- Bloomberg’s Amanda Little simultaneously praised and criticized a new breed of heat/drought/climate-change-resistant corn. “The most promising new methods of acclimating to the climate crisis are worth celebrating, but they should also be considered a clarion call to solve the problem at its root.”
Our Wallets Are Hungry Too
Food prices continue to rise despite inflation may be subsiding in the rest of the economy. While Americans consistently spend a lower portion of our incomes on food since the pandemic, we’ve been catching up to Europe on total cost. Our World in Data visualizes the trend.
- The Wall Street Journal noted that heat waves are typically followed by food price inflation as staple crops like grain often suffer the most.
- The Associated Press covered a worldwide rise in grain prices due to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine and India’s restrictions of rice exports.
- J. Edward Moreno of The New York Times reported that major food and beverage brands continue to contribute to inflation. Coke, Pespsi and Unilever all boosted earnings by raising prices by 8% or more in the second quarter.
- For Kraft Heinz, the gamble of raising prices undercut its bottom line as consumers reduced purchases (Barron’s).
- Progressive Grocer shared the “troubling news” that 36% of U.S. families have skipped meals for financial reasons in the past year.
- The National Chicken Council presented results of a study that found price is becoming less of a driver of chicken purchases, with younger generations preferring poultry for perceived healthiness and availability of “organic” and “antibiotic-free” label claims.
- When New York City restaurant Mischa garnered headlines for charging $29 for its signature hot dog, Grub Street editor Alan Sytsma asked: “What is it about the hot-dog equivalent of a Black Label burger that has people so worked up?” Perhaps because it costs more than eating four hot dogs at Yankee Stadium?
- The food isn’t the only part of eating out that’s getting more expensive. Eater revealed that restaurants are charging $25 to $50 per person for reservations. At least it’s generally applied to the bill.
USA Is Chicken
Cool map alert! The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization compiled a world map outlining the most popular meat products by nation. Hong Kong leads the way in pork consumption at almost 122 pounds per capita per year, while Iceland is the world leader in seafood consumption with each Icelander consuming just under 200 pounds per year. Here in the U.S., and in most of the Americas, chicken is #1.
Talking Pizza and Pollution
The Natural Resources Defense Council confirmed that the Department of Environmental Protection is directing dozens of New York City restaurants to affix particulate filters on all wood- or coal-burning pizza ovens installed before May 2016. With the support of a law passed by the New York City Council in 2015, the regulation aims to capture 25% to 75% of particulate matter emissions discharged by restaurant exhaust systems. Talk about a breath of fresh air.
Not Too Awful on Resources
An article in Modern Farmer listed ways people can reduce the climate impact of their food consumption. Predictably, veganism and limiting meat topped the list, but author Samantha Maxwell asked, “what if increasing certain types of meat eating made a bigger difference?” Enter organ meats, aka offal. They cite a German study that asserts substituting offal into diets once or twice a week would drop livestock emissions by up to 14%. The article admits that Americans’ souring on the option can be largely traced to beef shortages during WWII.
Frank Yiannas — formerly FDA deputy commissioner of food policy and response and vice president of food safety at Walmart — has joined internet of things (IoT) company Wiliot as strategic adviser. Yiannas told AgFunder News, “If you think of all of the other benefits that can be achieved through better visibility, such as supply chain efforts, deterrence of food fraud, enhanced sustainability, and more, I’m convinced that better food traceability will take cost out of the food system.”
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