Did COVID-19 Kill Food Snobbery?
Whether it’s the Michelin Guide sharing world renowned chef’s homemade recipes or YouTube clips of chefs from Bon Appétit fancifying boxed mac and cheese, food media in the time of the coronavirus has somewhat abandoned elitism in favor of more universally appealing content.
This ethos has been displayed before COVID-19 as well, notably through The Great British Baking Show. The low stakes baking competition show has captured the spirit of non-ostentatious food prep for years, and season 6 winner, Nadiya Hussain, is now bringing this attitude to her Netflix series, Nadiya’s Time to Eat. When the show first aired on BBC last year, the prospect of a global pandemic was not in mind. Hussain speaks with compassion as she visits families to discuss stresses they face in their everyday lives and how their daily struggles affect their ability to cook. This focus on the food life of workaday people seems especially timely as the pandemic continues to scramble daily schedules for people around the world.
Unsurprisingly, pandemic-specific food programming has been surfacing recently. Samin Nosrat, author of the cookbook Salt Fat Acid Heat, now hosts Home Cooking, a podcast targeted at foodies of all skill levels trying to curb their home-cooking anxiety. Bon Appétit‘s YouTube channel consists mostly of informal recipe tutorials that make cooking feel less intimidating, and the host’s pragmatic personalities help the viewer feel they are learning to cook from a friend rather than a teacher. This lighthearted approach in food media takes a turn from elitism in the food world, at least for now.
Quarantined Americans Are Cooking More Seafood
As stay at home orders and restaurant closures push more Americans to cook at home, people are turning to seafood more than ever. Supermarket sales of fish increased 37% in the first few weeks of April compared to last year at the same time, according to Chicago-based research firm IRI. Restaurant sales, on the other hand, have plummeted far below average, which is usually two-thirds of fresh seafood sales overall. Commercial fishing boats along the Atlantic coast have been forced to dump unsold fish, and weather issues also contributed to reductions in seafood production. “We’ve had an awful, just a terrible spring,” said Ernie Panacek, general manager of the commercial fishing dock at Viking Village on Long Beach Island, New Jersey.
If grocery store sales continue to rise, they may help offset the losses. “People are still hungry for their seafood,” Panacek said. “They can’t go out and get it at the restaurants, and they’ve got to eat.” Consumers are also buying fish that restaurants often don’t, such as Spanish mackerel, silver dory, and blue catfish, all of which have sold out at Pierless Fish, a Brooklyn restaurant supply company. The owner, Robert Demasco, recently reinvented Pierless into a fish delivery service, saying, “I probably sold 30 pounds a day of collars.” Demasco added, “I bought shad roe. I ran out in a day, and I had 60 pounds. I was like, really? You guys know what this is?”
‘Murder Hornet’ Both Feared and Eaten In Japan
In the Chubu region of Japan, the Asian giant hornet sometimes called the “murder hornet” is enjoyed as a culinary delicacy despite its deadly sting. Grubs are often preserved in jars, pan-fried or steamed with rice to make a dish called hebo-gohan, while whole adult hornets are fried on skewers until light and crispy. Live murder hornets are soaked in spirits to make the distilled beverage shochu. The hornets release venom into the beverage, which turns dark amber in color upon aging.
In the United States, where murder hornets were found last fall in Washington State decimating beneficial bee populations, scientists are much more focused on eradicating them. Some believe their culinary potential being overlooked. In Tokyo, the giant hornet appears on menus in more than 30 restaurants. Shota Toguchida, owner of a Chinese restaurant in the city, sells his own homemade shots of hornet liquor for 2,000 yen, about $19.
Bartenders Embrace Ube As Key Cocktail Ingredient
Ube (pronounced OOH-Bay) is a purple yam, now used as a cocktail ingredient. Ube’s unique flavor caught traction after its use among second-generation Filipino chefs in 2017. Ube gave ice cream a purple-tint, and in chicken and ube waffles at New York’s Maharlika. Around 2018 and 2019, bars started using ube typically with tropical-style ingredients. White spirits became fundamental for ube drinks, as they helped highlight ube’s violet hue.
Stephen Andrews, general Manager of Chicago-based gastropub Billy Sunday, uses ube powder and concentrate for his Tropic of Cancer cocktail. Like other bartenders, Andrew mixes ube into syrups rather than using it straight, as only a small amount is enough. Only two to three drops allows for a starchy texture and some vanilla aroma. Ube has more uses than just it’s eye-catching purple appeal.
Will There Be Widespread Meat Shortages? Here’s What To Expect
Americans are cooking at home more than ever, and meat sales skyrocketed 41% this April compared to the previous year’s sales, according to Nielsen research. However, meat supplies may not be able to keep up with demand in the coming months. The coronavirus continues to disrupt production at U.S. meatpacking plants, and fast food chains such as Wendy’s have already stopped serving burgers in some stores. Meat industry analysts advise consumers to expect higher prices and limited selection in grocery chains. Some grocers such as Kroger, Costco, and Albertsons have begun restricting meat purchases to prepare for potential shortages. At ShopRite stores, customers are capped at two items each for beef, pork, and chicken. “We’ve been adapting and adjusting on a week-to-week basis,” said Karen Meleta, Vice President of consumer and corporate communications for the grocery chain.
Meanwhile, sales of plant-based alternatives continue to climb. This week, Kroger began selling Impossible Foods plant-based burgers and other products at 1,700 of its supermarkets. Beyond Meat has also expanded sales of its plant-based meat products to warehouse brands like Walmart and BJ’s Wholesale Club. Beyond Meat Chief Executive Ethan Brown said the company plans to discount products and sell bulk packages to attract new customers over the next several months.
Egg Prices Triple And Lawsuits Accuse Producers Of Pandemic Price Gouging
Demand for fresh eggs has soared as more Americans cook at home during the coronavirus lockdown. Egg prices have also tripled in some states, prompting lawsuits against Cal-Maine Foods, the nation’s largest producer of eggs. Two separate lawsuits have come from the Texas attorney general and a group of private individuals in California.
In March, the average wholesale price of a dozen Grade A large eggs increased from $1.01 to $3.07, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Lawsuits from Texas and California describe the inflation as excessive, unfair, illegal profit. The California lawsuit included several of other egg producers and major grocery chains as well, such as Whole Foods and Costco, totaling 25 defendants. “As in any time of economic turmoil, there are those who seek to profit from the misery of millions,” read the complaint. Texas attorney general, Ken Paxton, accused Cal-Maine of inflating its egg prices 300% and mentioned one of its Texas subsidiaries, Wharton County Foods, in the suit as well.
The nation’s largest egg producer has strongly denied the allegations. “Cal-Maine has not exploited this tragic national pandemic for gain,” it said in a statement. Other accused companies have spoken out as well. “This case has no merit,” said Kenya Friend-Daniel, public relations director of Trader Joe’s, and the popular grocery chain has since been dropped from the lawsuit. Costco issued a statement denying any price gouging, saying it had also lodged complaints with government agencies over egg suppliers’ prices. The firm that filed the California suit on behalf of defrauded consumers has not responded to requests for comments.
Billions In Coronavirus Aid May Not Go Far Enough To Save California Farms
California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a $3.6 million program to help farmers and food banks stay afloat amid the COVID-19 pandemic Wednesday of last week. Additionally announcing a philanthropy pledge of $15 million, at the heel of the federal aid package of $19 billion promised to ranchers and farmers. Though the plan will benefit food banks, growers across California say even if they qualify for the maximum amount of aid, the money will not cover the losses seen throughout this crisis. Ryan Indart, a ranch owner from Clovis, Ca, says it will only keep his ranch afloat for about two months at best.
While demand has increased for food banks by 73 percent as a result of COVID-19, demand for both farmers and ranchers’ products has declined by 50 percent. Paired with perishable goods alongside transportation and harvesting costs, the lack of business has forced many California growers to begin dumping unused milk, destroy crops, and even kill livestock. However, the federal aid package is good news for food banks, having $3 billion of said funs distributed to farmers and ranchers to put together food boxes of pre-prepared meats, produce, and dairy to feed families in need. Food banks are hoping farmers will partner up to prepare these boxes, as equally distributing the wealth becomes an even bigger conflict. “If you ship an equal amount to every one of them, everybody’s going to be mad. For some, it’s not enough, for some, it’s way too much,” said Jacyln Pack, food acquisitions manager. The $3 billion in aid still won’t be enough for farmers, according to Cannon Michael, president of Bowles Farming Company. While they get a pick-and-pack fee, as well as a 15% tax credit, the price that food banks pay for produce has never been enough to cover the full costs of harvest, he said.
More Americans Go Hungry While Congress Debates Expanding Food Stamps
The coronavirus has left millions of Americans without paychecks, causing mile-long lines outside of food banks. Almost one-fifth of mothers with young children say their kids aren’t getting enough to eat, according to a survey by the Brookings Institution. This rate is three times higher than in 2008 during the Great Recession. Democrats seek to increase food stamp benefits by 15 percent until the economic crisis passes. On the other side of the aisle, Republicans have tried to reduce food stamp benefits for years, and when the pandemic began, the Trump administration aimed to establish new work rules that would likely remove more people from receiving aid. In current negotiations, Mr. Trump and his congressional allies agreed to a short-term increase in food stamp benefits, excluding the poorest recipients and five million children.
The congressional debate is not so much about the total number of recipients as the size of benefits. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, increases in size according to need. Representative K. Michael Conaway of Texas, top Republican on the House Agriculture Committee, noted that Republicans have supported big spending on other programs to moderate economic losses as well as bigger benefits for numerous SNAP recipients for the duration of the pandemic. Conway claims that Democrats are attempting to use the pandemic to install permanent food stamp increases.
USDA Commits $300 Million A Month To Redistribute Surplus Food
Closed restaurants, schools, and hotels have forced farmers to discard food while lines at food banks continue to grow. To solve supply chain challenges in our food system, the Department of Agriculture will buy $100 million per month of milk, $100 million of meat, and $100 million of vegetables and fruits from distributors and wholesalers. Food boxes of fresh produce, dairy, and meat will be sent to food banks, community and faith-based organizations, and other non-profits serving Americans in need. New York will give the state’s food banks $25 million to purchase products made from surplus milk from nearby farms. The state is working with dairy companies Chobani, Hood, and Cabot to make other products with the excess milk.
To avoid wasting surplus milk, the Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) have diverted nearly a quarter of a million gallons of milk to food banks thus far. Waste seems to be decreasing, as dairy farmers went from dumping 3.7 million gallons of milk each day to 1.5 million gallons, according to the DFA data. University students are also pitching in to keep as much food as possible from going to waste. James Kanoff at Stanford University and Aidan Reilly at Brown University founded a site called FarmLink that heIps farmers connect their products to food banks. More than 50,000 onions were saved in Oregon, and the transportation was paid for when the onions got redistributed to Los Angeles food banks.
Gas-X For Cows Could Make Beef and Dairy Cattle More Environmentally Friendly
Methane accounts for 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, second only to carbon dioxide. When viewed as a country, cattle rank as the world’s sixth-largest methane emitter, ahead of Brazil, Japan and Germany, according to research firm Rhodium Group. To address the problem, several companies are currently testing products that reduce the amount of methane emitted by beef and dairy cattle.
Swiss company Mootral created a dietary supplement consisting of garlic, citrus and other compounds that consistently reduces the animal’s toxic output when added to its feed. Mootral has yet to demonstrate that its product is effective in different breeds of cattle and in different climates. Another challenge: the company’s business model relies on livestock and dairy companies accumulating and selling carbon-offset credits. But if Mootral or a competing company’s product continues to show promise, the dietary supplement could swiftly lead to fewer greenhouse gas emissions.