A lot happened in the food world this week:

  • Cargill’s meat fakes
  • Fat Tuesday bakes
  • Labor ruling stakes

“How can an industry as big and influential as foodservice not have a dedicated and permanent home in which to honor its achievers, achievements, and innovators that impacted American culture and business?”

Jim Sullivan, restaurant industry consultant (Nation’s Restaurant News)

Cargill Plants a Foot in Plant-based

In early April, industry behemoth Cargill will expand into plant protein. The company’s entrance to the category has been gradual — and sometimes controversial — with investments in plant-based startups and alternative protein supply chains over the past three years.

  • In 2017, Cargill invested in lab-grown meat pioneer Memphis Meats, marking “the first stake in cell-cultured technology by a company that produces traditional meat products.” In May 2019, Cargill backed another lab-grown leader, Aleph Farms. A few months later, in August 2019, Cargill partnered with Beyond Meat’s pea protein supplier, Puris.
  • On February 24, Cargill announced its unnamed plant-based meat substitute. The new patties and ground products are expected to hit retailers and restaurants in April.
  • Reuters writer Tom Polansek noted Cargill’s “decades-long experience handling ingredients and buying crops to produce private-label products more efficiently than competitors.”
  • Plant-based advocacy group The Good Food Institute agreed, tweeting, “Others may have had a head start in the alternative-protein space, but Cargill’s size, supply, and expertise make it a formidable competitor.”
  • New York Post quoted Brian Sikes, the leader of Cargill’s global protein and salt business: “Whether you are eating alternative or animal protein, Cargill will be at the center of the plate.”

It’s Pronounced “Punch-key”

Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Carnival or Paczki Day (for our Midwestern readers) — however, and with whichever pastry, you chose to celebrate the holiday of excess preceding Lent, we’ve compiled a quick need-to-know guide for Mardi Gras foods.

  • Popular recipe site Food52 published “The True Origin” of Mardi Gras in America. Contrary to popular belief, Mobile, Alabama, not New Orleans, first hosted a Mardi Gras celebration in 1703.
  • What are Paczki? Chowhound provided an explainer for the famed jelly doughnut, dating back to the reign of Catholic-convert King Augustus III in Poland.
  • First you’ve heard of them? Forbes predicted “the Midwest paczki mania has the potential to rival what’s happened in New Orleans with king cake.”
  • Wait, what’s a king cake? All Recipes explored the cake’s origins and iterations. Article author Julie Tremaine spoke with Louisiana historian Adley Cormier, who notes: “No matter what form your King Cake takes, it must be shared and it must have a baby.”
  • Not into sweets? Cook’s Country compiled 20 Mardi Gras recipes to help you celebrate no matter where you are in the country.

Who’s the Boss

Media and advocacy groups debated the future of labor for millions of contract foodservice workers. On February 26, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a rule that limits workers’ ability to claim joint employment status. Under the new rule, an employer must “possess and exercise substantial, direct and immediate control” over another firm’s workers to be deemed a joint employer.

  • The Wall Street Journal suggested it will be more difficult for employees of a franchise to also be considered employees of a national brand, which could negatively affect workers’ ability to unionize.
  • The New York Times warned the rule “scales back the responsibility of companies … for labor-law violations by their franchisees.”
  • Shannon Meade, vice president of public policy at the National Restaurant Association applauded the new policy for enacting “vital and long-overdue regulations to provide clarity and certainty for thousands of small- and family-owned businesses, especially restaurants.”
  • In other food industry worker news, on February 25, CNBC reported that Amazon opened its first “full-size, cashierless grocery store,” in Seattle. United Food and Commercial Workers International Union President Marc Perrone described the store’s creation as “a ruthless strategy that is designed to destroy millions of grocery worker jobs.”

Worth Reading.

Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.

Crashing Sugar Theories

On February 25, emergency medicine specialist Dr. Richard Klasco timelined the many physicians’ and researchers’ reports that have debunked the notion of a “sugar high” since 1994 (The New York Times). Despite being disproved several times, the myth lives on. However, Klasco concludes, “cutting down on sugar will not affect children’s behavior, it may help to protect them against obesity, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.”

A Who’s Who of What We Chew

Jim Sullivan, CEO of industry consulting group Sullivision.com, advocated for the creation of a foodservice hall of fame in Nation’s Restaurant News. Sullivan offered up his nominations for foodservice’s “achievers, achievements, and innovators that impacted American culture and business.”

COVID-19’s Viral Spread Through the Supply Chain

Food Processing compiled statements from some of the world’s largest food manufacturers on how the coronavirus (COVID-19) has affected their businesses thus far. McCormick, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Tyson Foods, General Mills, Mondelez and Unilever have all reported shop closings, falling sales and uncertainty about the future of business operations in China.

Freaky … Not So Fresh

On February 25, the FDA issued a warning letter to Jimmy John’s, linking fresh vegetables served by the chain to a multistate E. Coli outbreak. The warning accuses the company of engaging in a pattern of “receiving and offering for sale adulterated fresh produce, specifically clover sprouts and cucumbers.” On February 26, CNN reported Jimmy John’s is no longer serving sprouts according to a statement sent to the news outlet.