Cheese Prices Swing From Near 20-Year Low To Record Highs
When restaurants and schools went under lockdown, demand for cheese plummeted and the market price of block cheddar dropped to near 20-year lows. Shortly afterward, consumer demand for cheese skyrocketed, and market prices followed suit. By June 8, cheese prices reached a record high when a 40-pound block of cheddar went for $2.585 a pound on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, a 160% turnaround from mid-April when the same block of cheese sold for just $1 a pound. Block cheddar prices influence the entire wholesale and retail market for all types of cheese, and according to Phil Plourd, president of Wisconsin dairy consulting firm Blimling and Associates, “It’s the most volatility that we’ve seen in the cheese market ever.”
After cheese prices reached their low point in April, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced its plan to spend $3 billion to purchase food from farmers, including $100 million a month on various dairy products. Analysts say the decision put a floor under prices, preventing them from dropping precipitously low. Meanwhile, consumer demand has remained relatively high with consumers buying 20 to 30% more cheese at stores compared to last year, according to market research firm IRI. Restaurants reopening around the country has further increased demand, and cheese prices have now begun to climb again, remaining just 3% under the record high levels of early June.
Families Of Former Aunt Jemima Models Oppose Rebranding
Two families of women who have portrayed Aunt Jemima for the Quaker Oat’s syrup and pancake brand say they disapprove of the company’s plan to retire the racist brand. The original logo depicted Aunt Jemima with a wide smile and a bandana, an image based on Kentucky native and Civil War-era slave Nancy Green. Later, in 1925, Lillian Richard of Hawkins, Texas, became the face of the brand, and Richard’s family recently spoke out against the rebranding decision. “I wish we would take a breath and not just get rid of everything,” said Vera Harris, the Richard family historian, “because good or bad, it is our history. Removing that wipes away a part of me. A part of each of us. We are proud of our cousin.”
In 1989, the Aunt Jemima brand image was redesigned again with a new model wearing pearl earrings and sporting straightened curly hair. Anna Short Harrington is believed to be the model in the 1989 logo, and her family has also spoken out against the rebranding. “This is an injustice for me and my family. This is part of my history,” said Larnell Evans Sr., Harrington’s great-grandson. “The racism they talk about, using images from slavery, that comes from the other side – white people. This company profits off images of our slavery. And their answer is to erase my great-grandmother’s history.”
Pitmaster Daniel Castillo Brings Central Texas BBQ To L.A. Communities In Need
While Daniel Castillo was working as a corporate chef for Whole Foods in California, he held weekend barbecue popups in Orange County. Soon, his Heritage Barbecue venture became so popular that Castillo quit his dayjob to pursue his barbecue dreams. The coronavirus threw a wrench in the works, but Castillo still plans to open this July and in the meantime, he developed O.C. Smoke Kitchen to serve hospitality workers who are out of work due to COVID-19. At one event, Castillo and his team prepared 800 smoked pulled pork tortas, smoking 360 pounds of pork butt to get the job done. When Castillo received a full packer’s cut brisket, his team turned it into a brisket roulade stuffed with a mixture of mushrooms, caramelized onions, rosemary, garlic, thyme, parsley, and bourbon. Castillo says, “Being one of the few craft barbecue destinations in southern California, I want to push the boundaries of what American barbecue can be.” Castillo even bakes cheesecake in his smoker, a dish unique to Heritage Barbecue. Bourbon smoked ham is another specialty, featuring ham cured for 14 days in a bourbon barrel from Texas, then smoked and glazed with Texas bourbon.
More Than 115,000 Sign Petition To Rename Columbus Ohio “Flavortown”
Two weeks ago, the mayor of Columbus, Ohio, Andrew J. Ginther, announced that the city would remove the statue dedicated to Christopher Columbus outside of city hall. Soon afterward, a petition on Change.org sought to change the official name of Columbus, Ohio to “Flavortown.” So far, more than 115,000 people have signed on, easily reaching the minimum 50,000 signatures required for the petition to be accepted for consideration at city hall. Why Flavortown? Celebrity chef Guy Fieri is a Columbus native, and his fans call him the “Mayor of Flavortown.” Plus, the city is a well known test market for new food products. “Why not rename the city Flavortown?” said Tyler Woodbridge, the petition organizer. “The new name is twofold. For one, it honors Central Ohio’s proud heritage as a culinary crossroads and one of the nation’s largest test markets for the food industry. Secondly, cheflebrity Guy Fieri was born in Columbus, so naming the city in honor of him (he’s such a good dude, really) would be superior to its current nomenclature.” Fieri himself has yet to publicly comment on the petition.
Banned Since 2005, Beluga Caviar Available Again In America
The roe from beluga sturgeon is the world’s most expensive caviar. Prior to 2005, the U.S. imported 80% of the world’s beluga caviar supply. When the U.S.S.R. eased its strict fishing regulations, beluga sturgeon became overfished quickly and put the endangered species list. A vigorous black market for beluga caviar exacerbated the problem, causing beluga sturgeon to become so endangered that the U.S. banned imports entirely. Prior to the prohibition, Mark Zaslavsky, founder and owner of Marky’s Caviar, harvested some beluga sturgeon from the Caspian Sea and brought them to the U.S. for sustainable reproduction. This species of sturgeon is the biggest freshwater fish in the world, requiring a narrow range of temperature of other environmental conditions and taking 10 to 15 years to produce eggs. Zaslavsky has spent the last 17 years watching over his fish at Sturgeon Aquafarm in Florida. He has now successfully produced homegrown beluga caviar that is available in America for $420 per half ounce. Zaslavsky’s farm has also donated over 160,000 fertilized eggs for sturgeon repopulation efforts.
World’s Best Restaurant Repositions Itself With The Moon And Stars
Last year, the French Riviera restaurant Mirazur was named the world’s #1 restaurant by World’s 50 Best Restaurants, which has been ranking top tables since 2002. During lockdown, chef Mauro Colagreco did some soul searching and decided to completely remake Mirazur’s menu based on biodynamic farming, an agricultural method similar to organic farming with the addition of planting and harvesting calendars based on the phases of the moon and its gravitational pull. Mirazur reopened June 12, and Colagreco now serves leaves and salad greens on “leaf days,” when the “energy” and flavor are most concentrated in the leaf of the plant. The same is true for fruit days, flower days and root days, an approach meant to serve the highest quality, most flavorful food available.
Colagreco sources ingredients from five organic and biodynamic gardens in the Menton area with a total area of about 12 acres. The chef’s move to sourcing biodynamic ingredients is part of Mirazur’s recent sustainability efforts, which include a commitment earlier this year to go completely plastic-free. While the award-winning chef knew he could reopen Mirazur as it was before the pandemic, he found such deep peace among the plants in his gardens during lockdown that he wanted to share that experience of peace with his guests. “Our goal is not to be the best restaurant in the world,” says Colagreco, “but to provoke emotions in our diners and to cook with passion.”
2.2 Million Restaurants May Shutter Worldwide, Industry Analyst Says
As restaurants struggle to stay in business during the pandemic, several have already filed for bankruptcy protection or closed operations, including large chains like Le Pain Quotidien, Chuck E. Cheese, Souplantation, and Sweet Tomatoes. “Based on our estimates, we believe up to 10% of all restaurants globally will disappear, with 20% or more also going through a restructuring process,” said Aaron Allen, founder of industry consulting firm Aaron Allen & Associates. With roughly 22 million restaurants worldwide, Allen estimates up to 2.2 million restaurants may close permanently. OpenTable, which tracks restaurant activity via its reservation services, estimates the failure rate could be even higher. CEO Steve Hafner says 25% of U.S restaurants or roughly 66,000 American establishments may close permanently. These estimates add useful data to the Restaurants Act now under consideration in Congress, a bill that would establish a $120 billon pandemic relief fund for independent restaurants.
David Chang’s Momofuku Restaurants Issue Coronavirus Safety Guide
Momofuku released its COVID-19 guide to health and safety for its employees, guests and restaurants, hoping other hospitality businesses may also find it useful. Among the various rules in the guide, guests must wear masks into any Momofuku restaurant and have their temperature checked upon entry. If a guest’s temperature is above 100.4°F, they will be asked to leave. The procedures were created with the intent to share them across the foodservice industry. “Our goal is to not only implement these procedures into our restaurants to keep our teams and guests safe,” says the introduction, “but also to make them available and accessible to anyone who might find them useful for their own businesses.”
U.S. Whiskey Industry Loses $300 Million Due To Trade Tariffs, Report Says
Two years ago, the European Union enacted a 25% tariff on U.S. goods as retaliation for U.S. tariffs on European steel and aluminum. To get its point across, the new E.U. tariff specifically targeted iconic American products such as bourbon and other U.S. whiskeys. The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States reports that European exports decreased by 33% over the course of the dispute, resulting in $300 million in lost revenue.
Between January 1997 and June 2018, U.S. whiskey exports to Europe shot up from $143 million to more than $750 million, according to Distilled Spirits Council data. To calculate current losses, the Council multiplied projected growth for the year by the 33% drop in European exports. Later this summer, the U.S. Trade Representative office will consider additional tariffs on imported European wine, spirits, and food products such as coffee, olives, chocolate, and vodka, likely escalating the trade war further. .
As Alcohol Sales Drop, Nonalcoholic Options Multiply
While consumers are buying more alcohol from grocery and liquor stores for consumption at home, those gains are far outweighed by the massive decline in alcohol shipments to restaurants, bars, sporting arenas, concert venues, and other facilities that shuttered due to the coronavirus. Global alcohol consumption is not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024, according to Mark Meek, Chief Executive Officer of IWSR Drinks Market Analysis, a leading authority on the alcohol market. “The pandemic is set to cause a deeper and more long-lasting after-effect to the global drinks industry than anything we’ve experienced before,” said Meek, who predicts that the U.S. recovery will likely take even longer.
As alcohol sales have gradually declined, the non-alcoholic beverages market has slowly but steadily grown. Nonalcoholic beer currently accounts for less than 2% of the U.S. beer market but is expected to increase by a third this year as the overall beer category will likely decrease by 3.7%, its fifth straight annual decrease, according to IWSR data. For example, the exclusively nonalcoholic beer company, Athletic Brewing Co., is already seeing this year’s sales surpass all of 2019’s record-high sales, according to CEO Bill Shufelt.
Blanton’s Iconic American Bourbon Was Created For The Japanese Market
When Blanton’s Single Barrel bourbon debuted in 1984, whiskey expert Fred Minnick said, “[It] was a domestic flop. In fact, the only thing positive about Blanton’s was its popularity in Japan.” That popularity among the Japanese was completely intentional. When Master Distiller Emeritus Elmer T. Lee originally described the soft caramel and vanilla flavor profile for the new Blanton’s Single Barrel bourbon, he didn’t even anticipate that the liquor would be sold to American drinkers. Blanton’s was aimed squarely at the Japanese palate and was specifically created for the Japan market by Lee and liquor executives Ferdie Falk and Bob Baranaskas.
‘Carbon Farming’ Act Goes Before Congress
“Carbon farmers” are reducing greenhouse gases using regenerative agriculture techniques such as plowing fields less often, covering soil with composted mulch and annual cover crops, and using drainage ditches. To help support these farming methods, Congress is considering legislation that would give farmers “carbon credits” redeemable in the international carbon-trading marketplace. The bill was introduced by senators Mike Braun (R-Indiana) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) and will put the US Department of Agriculture in a position to certify independent consultants for farms that want to earn carbon credits as well as inspectors to confirm that farmers are using the approved techniques.
The bill has the support of more than 50 different farm groups, environmental groups and other corporations. Last fall, the Noble Institute in Oklahoma published a study that estimated the potential demand for carbon market trading from agriculture at 190 million metric tons at a value of around $5.2 billion.
Paris Rooftop To Become Europe’s Largest Urban Farm
A 4,000 square meter (43,055 square foot) farm on the rooftop of the Paris Exhibition Centre is set to become the largest urban farm in Europe. Soon after local authorities eased COVID-19 restrictions, developers began executing plans to expand the farm over the next two years to 14,000 square meters (150,695 square feet). The farm belongs to Agripolis, a French farming company with a focus on transforming unused urban areas into organic farming spaces. In the French capital, the Agripolis rooftop farm will feature rental space for citizens to grow their own produce as well as an on-site restaurant where visitors can sample various local farm-grown products and dishes made with them. Agripolis aims to produce 1,000 kilograms (2,205 pounds) of fruit and vegetables every day at the height of the growing season. “The goal is to locally supply healthy, pesticide-free products to local businesses, company restaurants, and to farming associations in a nearby area,” Agripolis president Pascal Hardy said.
Illinois Judge Allows Restaurant Rent Relief Due To “Act Of God”
Restaurateurs facing months of back rent may have caught a break. A bankruptcy court in Illinois ruled that the force majeure or “Act of God” clause in a restaurant lease can excuse the tenant’s responsibility to pay the entire rent amount during forced business closures due to the coronavirus. Giglio’s State Street Tavern, an Italian restaurant in Chicago, filed for bankruptcy protection in February and was unable to pay rent from February through June. The landlord, Kass Management Services Inc., told the restaurant owner, Bobby Hitz, to either pay the rent from March through June or leave the premises, according to Illinois court documents.
The judge, Donald R. Cassling, ruled that the restaurant must pay the full rent due for the month of March. However, for the remaining months, the judge ruled that Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzke’s executive order to suspend on-premise consumption was evidence of force majeure. According to judge Cassling, since the restaurant still offered takeout, curbside pickup and delivery during those months, the business is only required to pay rent “in proportion to its reduced ability to generate revenue due to the executive order.” The restaurant estimated that 75% of its locations were unusable due to the executive order, so the judge ruled that the tenant should pay 25% of the rent from April through June with monthly rents likely increasing as coronavirus restrictions are eased. The ruling sets a precedent for other restaurateurs in similar legal battles with landlords.
China Suspends Poultry Imports From Tyson Plant In Arkansas
Last week, China announced a suspension of poultry imports from an Arkansas Tyson Foods facility linked to hundreds of COVID-19 cases. Among the 3,748 Tyson workers tested at the Springdale, Arkansas plant, 481 or 13% tested positive for the coronavirus, and 95% of them were asymptomatic. While all global and U.S. health organizations agree that there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 via food, China’s General Administration of Customs explained its suspension by saying that the company “recently occurred employees with new pneumonia aggregation infection.”
The suspension comes just 6 months after China lifted its five-year ban on U.S. poultry imports, which had closed off $500 million worth of American poultry products due to avian flu. Tyson was quick to assure the poultry market that its poultry products are safe for human consumption. “At Tyson, our top priority is the health and safety of our team members,” said Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson, “and we work closely with the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service to ensure that we produce all of our food in full compliance with government safety requirements.”
Germany Bans Single Use Plastic And Polystyrene Food Containers
Last week, Germany agreed to ban the sale of single-use plastic straws and polystyrene food containers as a result of a European Union directive intended to reduce unnecessary waste throughout the continent. The ban is part of an effort to move away from “throw-away culture,” according to Germany’s Environment Minister Svenja Schulze. Single-use plastics make up for up to 20% of garbage collected in the country’s public places. Lawmakers agreed to end the sale of plastics, including single-use cutlery, plates, stirring sticks and balloon holders, as well as polystyrene cups and boxes by July 3, 2021.
Border Agents Seize Nearly 10 Tons of Prohibited Meat From China
At California ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency intercepted 19,550 pounds of prohibited meats such as pork, chicken, beef and duck en route from China. According to a CBP statement, 834 cartons of meat were mixed in with boxes of headphones, door locks, kitchenware, LCD tablets and other household products. All of the products lacked the required USDA entry documentation. In the first five months of 2020, the interception of prohibited meats from China at the Los Angeles/Long Beach Seaport has increased by 70% compared to last year. “Our close collaboration with our USDA strategic partners has resulted in an increased number of prohibited food products interceptions in a relatively short period of time,” said CBP director of L.A. field operations, Carlos Martel.
Weedkiller Manufacturer To Pay $10 Billion To Settle Cancer Suits
Bayer AG announced it would pay $10.9 billion in settlements after lawsuits with U.S. plaintiffs alleged that Bayer’s (formerly Monsanto’s) Roundup herbicide causes cancer. The weedkiller is widely used in both industrial and residential farming. An estimated 95,000 cases were filed and the settlement includes $1.25 billion for potential future plaintiffs from Roundup customers that could be diagnosed with the form of cancer known as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. According to two people involved in the negotiations, individuals will receive between $5,000 and $250,000 in payments, depending on their case. The $1.25 billion for future claims will be applied to a class-action suit filed by Judge Vince Chhabria’s U.S. District Court in San Francisco. A portion of the $1.25 billion will fund an independent expert panel to uncover whether glyphosate, the active chemical compound in Roundup, causes cancer; and if so, in what dosage. If glyphosate is found to be a carcinogen, Bayer will not be able to argue in any future cases.
U.S. Threatens Tariffs On China To Protect Maine Lobster Industry
President Trump has signed a memorandum directing the Department of Agriculture to provide U.S. lobster fishermen with financial aid to compensate for lost income due to Chinese tariffs. White House trade adviser Pete Navarro says Trump also ordered U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to provide a report on how well China is complying with the $150 million in purchasing commitments Beijing made under the Phase 1 U.S.-China trade deal. Depending on the outcome, Trump suggested placing retaliatory tariffs on the Chinese seafood industry. Maine Senator Angus King welcomes the memorandum, saying, “This is definitely good news. The timing is good. This has been a tough summer for our lobstermen.” Maine lawmakers have repeatedly asked for aid in the lobster industry, a trade supporting 4,500 state-licensed lobstermen and an additional 10,000 people, contributing $1.5 billion to the economy each year. Get the full story here at Associated Press, or find more information here at Reuters.
How Europe’s Meatpacking Plants Avoided Becoming COVID-19 Hotspots
The meatpacking industry in the U.S. looks quite different than the industry in Europe. In the U.S., about four huge companies account for roughly 80% of slaughterhouse production. While Tyson Foods, JBS SA, Cargill and National Beef have plants scattered throughout the United States, European meat production is far less centralized. In Germany alone, there are more than 14,700 meat and fish processing companies. Spain has about 3,810 meat and fish processing companies. With fewer, smaller slaughterhouses, Europe has not had quite as many challenges in containing large viral outbreaks at meatpacking plants. Individual governmental regulations have also helped.
Soon after the outbreak began, Germany’s government proposed a series of reforms to transform labor practices for plant workers. Likewise, France’s Agriculture Minister proposed testing every single slaughterhouse employee for the coronavirus among other precautions. The U.S., on the other hand, has designated meatpacking plants as “critical infrastructure” and authorized all plants to stay open. As of June 9th, at least 24,715 U.S. meatpacking workers have been infected with COVID-19 and at least 86 have died, according to data collected by Leah Douglas of the Food & Environment Reporting Network. By contrast, in Europe, about 2,670 coronavirus cases have been reported among meatpacking plants and four workers have died, according to an analysis of news reports, government figures, and union statistics.
Grocers Revamp Salad Bars And Hot Bars
When coronavirus shutdowns first went into effect, grocery stores remained open but self-serve salad bars and hot bars did not. According to market research firm IRI, prepared food sales fell by 47% in mid-April, year-over-year. Grocers gradually revived their prepared foods business, and sales have slowly picked up, down by only 27% in the last week of May. When shopping, you may notice several new approaches in the prepared foods section of your favorite grocery store. Texas-based supermarket chain H-E-B transformed its cold food bars into beer coolers, and some coolers are now filled with prepared meals from local restaurants. Florida-based Publix reopened its salad bars and hot bars in mid-May, but instead of being self-serve, employees now assemble the dishes. Likewise, at Central Market in Texas, where huge food bars have always been a big part of the business model, items like specialty olives are now pre-packed and employees put together salads and hot bar plates to order. New York-based Wegmans took a similar approach, moving its hummus, olives, and other self-serve foods behind counters for cheese shop employees to assemble.
Prior to the pandemic, growth rates of hot and cold bars had already been waning, according to Jonna Parker, leader for fresh food insights at IRI. As the downward trend continued, grocers responded by selling salad in other ways. The restaurant franchise Saladworks had already been expanding into grocery stores with staff-run kiosks in four locations of the ShopRite grocery chain. Now, it has plans to open 20 more Saladworks kiosks and recently signed a deal with another major grocer, according to CEO Kelly Roddy. Some grocers are considering salad robots as well. Prior to the pandemic, the Chowbotics automated salad kiosk known as Sally was mostly used in universities and hospitals, but Chowbotics just signed three new grocery store deals with more on the way, according to Chowbotics CEO Rick Wilmer. The company’s new app will even allow touchless ordering as customers scan Sally’s QR code then order tailor-made salads on their phones from a mix of 22 different ingredients.