Executive orders from Washington, fresh thinking about the food marketplace, and new policies on chicken kept food production interesting:

  • Biden spells out food-related agenda items.
  • Chicken: it ain’t just for sandwich wars.
  • A resilient industry continues to innovate.

“The most effective way to ensure families with children have enough to eat is by providing them with the resources to purchase the food they need. … And, since these benefits are spent quickly at local grocery stores and markets, they also stimulate local economies.”

Lisa Davis, No Kid Hungry

Biden Presidin’

Since his January 20 inauguration, President Biden enacted at least half a dozen executive actions that will directly affect food production (NBC News). While policies from immigration to the environment prompted discussions, hunger relief for children took center stage.

  • Biden signed an executive order on January 22 that focuses on mitigating the pandemic-stoked hunger crisis. The order called for a boost to food stamps and increased access to meals that would have been served at schools.
  • Share Our Strength Senior Vice President Lisa Davis thanked the administration, adding: “The hunger that children face today has the power to change the rest of their lives.”
  • The School Nutrition Association recommended that the school meals program should be extended to all students free of charge, as “Overly complex federal regulations divert resources from the mission of serving students.”
  • Chuck Conner of the National Coalition of Farmer Cooperatives argued that a January 25 executive order affirming “Made in America Laws” should strengthen the school meals programs.
  • Alt-Meat editor Lisa M. Keefe quipped that producers of meat alternatives are “ridin’ with Biden,” citing the president’s emphasis on climate change policy and its ability to shift consumer purchase decisions.

Chicken Bites

Policy and sports connected influential figures this week as chicken generated discussions beyond new sandwich options. The topics ranged from government policy to Super Bowl festivities.

  • A coalition of food safety groups petitioned the USDA to implement standards to reduce the presence of Salmonella and Campylobacter in poultry and to mandate control measures at slaughterhouses.
  • With the Biden administration transition, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service withdrew a rule that would increase line speeds at poultry processing plants (Meat+Poultry).
  • With Tom Vilsack expected to return as secretary of agriculture, Food Safety News pointed out that food safety “Modernization initiatives including line speed increases were advanced by the last two administrations — for poultry in 2014 and market hogs in 2019.”
  • In tragic news, six died in a January 28 liquid nitrogen leak at a Foundation Food Group poultry plant in Georgia (Reuters).
  • The National Chicken Council confirmed the pandemic did not disrupt American’s love for chicken wings. The organization estimated that 1.42 billion of these hot sauce conveyance items will be consumed during the Super Bowl.

That’s Cool

Despite hard times, new products, new services and innovation are running rampant. We saw this play out in packaged foods, menu offerings, agricultural advancements and even grocery store parking lots.

  • PepsiCo and Beyond Meat announced a partnership on January 26 to “develop, produce and market innovative snack and beverage products made from plant-based protein.” Fortune writer Beth Kowitt pointed out that the effort aligns with PepsiCo’s sustainability and environmental commitments.
  • Food Ingredients First interviewed Quevos founders Nick Hamburger and Zack Schreier, who introduced an egg white chip snack on ABC’s shark tank. Because of the egg base, the product is the first of its kind and addresses consumer interest in a high-protein, low-carb diet.
  • Detroit Free Press writer Susan Selasky tested Pizza Hut’s new Detroit-style offering that capitalizes on the popularity of rectangular pies with coast-to-coast cheese. The verdict? A strong attempt, but a little too “tomatoey” for the Detroit native.
  • Two new combatants entered the chicken sandwich wars. Boston Market “attempted” a Nashville Hot sandwich (Eater) and Chick-fil-A introduced a grilled sandwich with a “cool and creamy” cilantro lime sauce (The Takeout).
  • Progressive Grocer reported on Chicago-area retailer Jewel-Osco and how one urban store uses robots in the parking lot to help a contactless grocery pickup plan.
  • Fast Company covered Ukko, a company using CRISPR gene editing technology to make allergy-free wheat and peanuts.
  • Food & Wine described a bread bowl glove that Panera has developed to carry iced coffee. “Somehow it looks even more bizarre than it sounds,” reflected author Mike Pomranz. That is an understatement, Mike.

Worth Reading.

Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.

Hey, We Made the News!

In Food Business News, writer Monica Watrous captured how Bader Rutter helped launch Bunch Bars, a plant-based snack bar with a mission to help those in need. BR chief creative officer Ned Brown said, “Part of the very first conversation we had with [founder Carol Christensen] was around the central core notion … that great food should be available to everybody, period.”

Eat Less, Waste Less

“Humanity is living beyond the means of Planet Earth,” starts a report published on January 26 by nonprofit organization Circle Economy. The roadmap suggests that reducing excess food consumption can cut global emissions by as much as 39%.

Outlook: Not So Croppy

A Wall Street Journal article summarized the many benefits of a strong market for commodity crops. In contrast to the glut that drove down prices in the last year, strong demand is fueling a recovery that will benefit rural communities, equipment manufacturers, ag suppliers and grain companies. The downside, however, means more expensive groceries.

‘Warp-speed Evolution’

Bret Thorn, senior editor at Nation’s Restaurant News, shared his perspective on the restaurant industry in an open conversation with Karen Stabiner from The Counter. Stabiner summarized: “The pandemic exacerbated problems that were already there, and in the process shoved more than 110,000 establishments over the edge, to oblivion. Still, he considers what’s happened so far to be warp-speed evolution, not revolution; what happens next will be more of a revolution.”

Pizza Power

Los Angeles Times published what it claims is “the official frozen pizza power rankings,” courtesy of food columnist Lucas Kwan Peterson. For his research, Lucas tried 20 different frozen pizzas and ranked them according to taste and cook time to bring us the “irrefutable, infallible and 100% correct Frozen Pizza Power Rankings.” As Chicagoans, the results look pretty refutable and fallible to us.