This was a sick week for food industry events. Luckily, the only bug The Intel Distillery members caught was the Mormon cricket. We let it go outside …

  • We traveled for a little food show and tell
  • But COVID-19 crashed the party

We are also introducing a monthly special, Distilled Perspective, where we answer reader questions on the industry. This month, it’s the state of American dairies.

“People still have this image of red barns, of cows in the field. … We’ve all been there — it’s an image, and it feels like a warm hug, somehow, and that’s what you want to think of when you think of a dairy farm. But that’s not the reality anymore.”

Mark Stephenson, Director, University of Wisconsin Center for Dairy Profitability (Bloomberg)

Show Business

Members of The Intel Distillery planned to attend industry events this week. We made the North American Meat Institute’s annual meat conference in Nashville and a Politico Live event in Chicago, but New Hope Network’s Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, California, was postponed.

  • Team Leader Betsy Rado traveled to the meat conference where she observed a presentation on grocery retail trends from McMillan Doolittle’s Neil Stern, who reassured audience members: “Physical retail isn’t dying. Bad retail is.”
  • Content specialists Kyle Church and Courtney Sprewer attended Politico’s “America’s Environmental Future: On the Menu — The Food System of the Future.” The three panelists discussed bringing together citizens, farmers, cooks and lawmakers to collaborate on a food system that serves everyone. Chef Rick Bayless commented: “It was actually the farmers that taught me about sustainability.”
  • New Hope Network announced on March 2 that Expo West is “officially postponed, with the intention to announce, by mid-April, a new date.” Would-be participants expressed collective disappointment in the missed opportunities and New Hope’s communications.
  • Before the organizer postponed the show, KIND CEO Daniel Lubetzky offered a scathing critique on LinkedIn, soliciting 3,800 engagements. He called out New Hope for “missing the mark” with regards to show participants’ well-being.

Coronavirus Congestion

The effects of coronavirus are being felt across industries, but food and beverage companies’ dependency on global trade routes has made conducting business during the outbreak particularly difficult.

  • The Wall Street Journal described all the ways coronavirus is “upending the carefully calibrated logistics of global shipping.” U.S. distributors of meat, produce and even animal feed have complained of Chinese port congestion, causing significantly increases in the time and cost it takes to ship and store goods.
  • Food Safety News spoke with food scientists who agree, “coronavirus poses little danger from a foodborne illness perspective.”
  • Vox stressed the importance of washing your hands to prevent the spread of the virus. In Food Safety News, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Mindy Brashears doubled down on that recommendation: “wash your hands, not your poultry.”
  • Chicago Tribune debunked this widely disseminated and decidedly made-up statistic from PR firm 5WPR: “38 percent of beer-drinking Americans would not buy Corona under any circumstances now.” (It should be noted, however, 5WPR once handled PR for competitor Anheuser Busch.)
  • In reference to the false statistics, Corona’s parent company, Constellation Brands, stressed “these claims simply do not reflect our business performance and consumer sentiment.”

DISTILLED PERSPECTIVE, Vol. 1: What’s up with dairy?

An Intel Distillery subscriber asked “What’s going on with dairy these days?”
First of all, thank you for asking. And second, quite a bit actually.

Between the poor weather of 2019, increased competition from milk alternatives, labeling, trade issues in North America and Asia, shuttering of small-scale operations and major brand bankruptcies, the dairy sector has commanded an outsized share of the spotlight of late:

Worth Reading.

Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.

The Future of Petri Meat

On February 28, senior leaders from the cell-cultured meat companies that make up the Alliance for Meat, Poultry and Seafood Innovation contributed to an opinion piece in Food Dive. The article applauded U.S. food innovation and advocated for taking the same approach when deciding how to feed growing future populations more efficiently. The authors forecasted “Cell-based meat and seafood won’t replace conventional livestock production and fishing, but it will be an undeniably valuable part of the solution.”

Paper or Plastic

On March 1, New York state’s plastic bag ban was set to go into effect, but it was delayed by a lawsuit from an association of bodega owners and a plastic-bag manufacturer. The Wall Street Journal captured the public’s response to the bag ban and interviewed a few store owners on their plans to comply … or not.

Dine-in DOA

The Counter looked at the decline in full-service restaurant traffic and other industry trends to forecast what the future of the restaurant industry might look like, especially for independent operations. “In the tradition of Big Ag, Big Pharma, and Big Tobacco, we could be headed into the era of Big Menu.”

Peanut Cures

Good news for parents and kids who suffer from peanut allergies. On January 31, the FDA approved Palforzia, the first drug proven to “mitigate” (not cure) allergic reactions to peanuts in children. interviewed doctors from the FDA and Providence Saint John’s Health Center, to provide a more scientific explanation of how the drug works.

Future of Food Safety

Food Safety News recapped FDA deputy commissioner Frank Yiannis’ speech at this year’s Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) conference. Yiannis promoted the FDA’s “New Era of Smarter Food Safety,” a more interdisciplinary approach to food safety that focuses on “science- and risk-based standards for the production and transportation of domestic and imported foods.”

Shifting to Sustainability

Instead of the “detailed, intricate discussions of farm policy stances” that typically dominate the conversation at the annual Commodity Classic, Agri-Pulse noted that commodity groups representing corn, soybeans, wheat and sorghum shifted focus to address sustainability goals.

Mormon Crickets

The Associated Press reported on crop-destroying Mormon crickets, which are “named after Mormon pioneers whose forage and grain fields were devoured by the insects.” The pests hatched early this year and are expected to show up in Western states Nevada, Idaho, Oregon and, of course, Utah. Bad news for Mormon and non-Mormon farmers alike.