Meat From a Vending Machine May Be Here To Stay
In 20156, when Joshua Applestone introduced vending machines at his butchery, Applestone Meat Company in upstate New York, a global pandemic not on his mind. “I wanted to eliminate one stressful thing from people’s lives: getting to the butcher shop before it closes,” Applestone said. The refrigerated vending machine allows customers to select and purchase meat cuts without human interaction.
Now, due to social distancing rules amid the coronavirus outbreak, Applestone’s meat vending machine is serving as a model for other butchers and grocery stores. Customers enter the storefront to find vending machines filled with various cuts of beef, chicken, lamb and pork. After selections are made and a payment card is swiped, the appropriate door opens so that the meat can be retrieved in a contactless transaction. “We thought society might take a while to warm up to these machines,” said Applestone, “but for the situation we’re all in, they’re the perfect solution. A lot of technology makes things more complicated. But vending machines? They’re here to help us.”
Shorter afterward, Kevin McCann of McCann’s Local Meats in Rochester, New York, opened his meat vending machine. McCann, who is a friend of Applestone’s, was surprised at how quickly customers grew comfortable with the vending machine, adding “the response has been unbelievable.” .
Delivery In Bulk Is New Normal For Home Cooks
Quarantine shopping has expanded the market for bulk purchases of basic items like coffee, butter, beans, and canned goods. A new survey from the world’s largest grocery store chain, Kroger, reveals that 39 percent of its customers have purchased more ingredients in bulk than they did before the pandemic. Canned soup sales increased 63 percent in March and April compared with last year. As consumers limit grocery store trips, bulk buying has contributed to limited availability of certain items like pasta, flour, and some cuts of meat.
Many shoppers say they have turned to bulk purchasing because they now have more people at home to feed, more meals to cook, and more groceries to buy, especially with restaurants closed or limited to takeout. Shoppers like New Jersey resident Stephanie Ormaeche (pictured) say bulk buying is cost effective and reduces the monthly restaurant bill. She and her husband aren’t used to buying two shopping carts worth of groceries but now feels the need to as she limits shopping trips. Others like Vincent Ader in Chicago see increased grocery shopping as an opportunity to get creative. Ader buys herbs in bulk as a way to experiment with new flavors. His meals typically use the same core ingredients, and the variety of herbs now allows him to vary the taste of each meal.
Koji Alchemy: Rediscovering the Magic of Mold-Based Fermentation by Jeremy Umansky and Rich Shih
Chef Jeremy Umansky, owner of the acclaimed Larder deli and bakery in Cleveland, Ohio, has been aging meat and curing food with koji for years. Likewise, co-author Rich Shih has extensive food preservation experience and is Exhibit Engineer for the Museum of Food and Drink (MOFAD) in New York City. In Koji Alche_my, the two preservations explorers demystify the science and techniques behind using koji to ferment and culture a wide variety of umami-rich foods from soy sauce and miso to sake, cheese, and charcuterie. They explain how to cultivate this fungus, Aspergillus oryzae_, as well as how to harness it in applications such as speeding up the curing, brining, and aging of meat with improved flavor.
Koji Alchemy includes an introduction by celebrated fermentation expert Sandor Katz as well as 35 recipes for various ferments, pastes, and foods like Popcorn Koji, Roasted Entire Squash Miso, Korean Makgeolli, and Amazake Rye Bread. In this primer, both home cooks and professional chefs should find plenty of inspiration and all the information needed to create all kinds of new and interesting cultured preparations.
Online Grocery And Delivery Sales Up More Than 100%
In the past month, more than one-third of Americans ordered groceries online for the first time ever. Online grocery spending has also increased nearly 50% each week since coronavirus lockdowns began in mid-March. To capitalize on shifting buying habits, online retailing giants Amazon, Walmart, and Target have all invested more in grocery sales. Walmart been slower to grow than Amazon and Target, despite being an established competitor in online retail. But Instacart has emerged as the online grocery leader. Instacart’s chief advantage has been partnering with numerous grocery chains, while its competitors mostly sell their own grocery products.
FreshDirect and Peapod have not had as much success, according to Earnest Research, a firm that tracks credit and debit card transactions. FreshDirect operates primarily in large cities like New York, and the company has suffered from staffing shortages due to COVID-19. Peapod also had to make untimely cutbacks just prior to the outbreak, which has proved to be poor timing in the continuing online grocery race.
Stocking Up On Canned Goods? Chefs Name Their Top Picks
With more people cooking at home during the coronavirus lockdown, shelf-stable foods are more popular than ever. Sales of Goya’s canned foods have increased by 400 percent. If you’re looking for the best-quality pantry items you can find, professional chefs have some recommendations, including everything from top-notch tuna to shelf-stable asparagus. Michael Schall, co-owner of Bar Camillo and Locanda Vini e Olii in Brooklyn, says his restaurant chefs are “addicted” to the oil-packed anchovies from Agostino Recca, which are so good they often snack on the fish right out of the jar. Connecticut chef and farmer Phoebe Cole-Smith is also a fan of the Agostino Recca anchovies, while Nick Perkins, partner at Hart’s, Cervo’s, and The Fly restaurants says that Cabo de Penas is his restaurant’s go-to when it comes to tinned fish. “They’re just old school and really solid,” said Perkins, calling out his favorites, the Cabo de Penas’ sardines.
If you’re looking for fruit preserves, you may want to take the advice of Annie Shi, co-owner of Manhattan’s King restaurant, and get some Kayanoya Yuzu Fruit Preserves. Shi likes to mix these high-quality preserves into a variety of cakes and desserts. Among other sweets, Smitten Kitchen founder Deb Perelman suggests Lyle’s Golden Syrup from the U.K., especially drizzled over pancakes or hot cereal. Julie Cole, chef at Nom Wah Nolita, even recommends her favorite canned soup: Campbell’s Cream of Celery. Cole claims it is “the Ferrari of canned soups.” To see more than 50 pantry staples preferred by chefs, read more here at Eater. Or see the full story here at New York Magazine.
How Shuttered Restaurants Shatter a City’s Economy
The coronavirus shutdowns have shed new light on the role of restaurants in the economic health of cities. “The benefit of having good restaurants outweighs just their tax benefits,” said Andrew Salkin, former member of New York City’s Finance Department and founding principal of the city-strengthening nonprofit Resilient Cities Catalyst. “They are the anchors of communities,” said Salkin. “They support tourism and the neighborhood they are in.”
For poverty-ridden cities, including areas of Indianapolis, Cleveland, and Detroit, restaurants have proven to be strong economic growth engines. In other well-known “food cities” such as Providence, Rhode Island and Asheville, North Carolina, restaurants form a key piece of the city’s identity. Restaurants also employ over 15 million people, according to the National Restaurant Association, and in some states, they are among the largest private-sector employers. Many cities rely on restaurants for both residential and commercial expansion, and without them, a city’s reputation and livelihood could be severely damaged. In Washington D.C. alone, restaurants and bars accumulated sales taxes of $1.3 billion last year, a significant revenue contribution.
In cities like Detroit, restaurants help attract residents who would otherwise choose the suburbs. In Providence, the tourism industry sometimes relies on the national reputation of its restaurants. “When we pitch Providence, whether for leisure tourism or meetings and conventions, we look at things that make us special, and a lot of that is you get meals you wouldn’t ordinarily get in a city of about 175,000,” said Kristen Adamo, president and chief executive of the Providence Warwick Convention and Visitors Bureau.
It remains to be seen how many restaurants will survive the pandemic and the ripple effects that shuttered restaurants will have on local economies. Many restaurateurs have not yet received federal relief, and insurers are unlikely to pay their business interruption claims. Most independent owners also say the Paycheck Protection Program is not useful to restaurants that will have to remain closed longer than other businesses. And when they reopen, they will have to operate at 50% or 25% capacity. “How do I make money if I have to bring back all my staff doing less volume and less sales?” asked award-winning chef Nina Compton, owner of Compère Lapin in New Orleans. When discussing the repayment of these federal loans, Compton added, “Getting forgiveness is going to be impossible.”
Restaurant In A Jar Is Popular In Moscow
Aleksander Khasanov launched his “Restaurant from a Jar” business just days before Moscow’s stay-at-home order went into effect. As the city’s restaurants and bars remain closed, residents have become accustomed to using food delivery services and now, buying restaurant meals packed and delivered in jars. Options include beef stroganoff, rabbit sausage in broth, and marinated pork cubes cooked over an open fire. Khasanov offers more than 100 different dishes from Russian, Indian, Armenian, Uzbek, and other cuisines. The bottled meals can be stored for up to a year and are certified by Russia’s food quality watchdog, Rosselkhoznadzor.
Khasanov has amassed more than 2,000 customers and expects demand to remain high or even increase at the end of the lockdown since people will work more and have less time and money to cook or eat out. The entrepreneur suspects that the convenience of delivery services will challenge restaurants far into the future.
Must Restaurants Dumb Down To Survive?
Since the pandemic shutdown began in March, restaurant spending has decreased by 60 percent, and $3 out of every $4 is now going to chains. Head judge on Top Chef, Tom Colicchio says that to survive the reopening, “restaurants are going to have to change.” When asked how restaurants will adapt, Colicchio suggested that “restaurants will have to cobble together a business of delivery and community-supported agriculture.” The chef added that restaurants will be selling proteins, vegetables, and cheese, buying from their supply chain and selling products much like a grocery store. The independent restaurant of the future may operate very differently than it did just a few months ago.
Colicchio has been critical of the federal Paycheck Protection Program. He does not think the program protects independent restaurants, as most of the funds have gone to large restaurant chains and the loan repayment rules don’t make sense for smaller operations. As an alternative, Colicchio helped establish the Independent Restaurant Coalition to lobby Congress for financial relief, asking for $120 billion of replacement income to help independent restaurateurs pay rent and other expenses. This figure was derived from estimated revenue losses over a period of six months. Under the proposed program, publicly traded restaurants and those with over 20 locations would not have access to these funds, since the Paycheck Protection Program already covers them. Colicchio added that the plan will act “more like a countercyclical program to keep restaurants alive during the crisis, rather than a block grant where the money runs out long before the crisis ends.”
While some restaurants are now surviving on life support with delivery services, Colicchio says many of them can’t afford to keep paying delivery service fees, which run as high as 30 percent for processing, delivery, and commissions. By Colicchio’s estimates, all he can afford to pay is 11 percent. The chef agrees with the bill in New York City that aims to cap delivery charges at 10 percent of an order’s total amount. .
Food & Wine Magazine Names Best New Chefs of 2020
Though the coronavirus pandemic has stalled restaurants and chefs across the country and around the world, Food & Wine Magazine shines a light on the brightest stars in the American culinary world with its annual list of Best New Chefs. “They are the people who not only will help rebuild their shattered industry, but also will eventually help it thrive in new ways—through their cooking, their resolve, and their vision for what a more equitable future in restaurants might look like,” editor Khushbu Shah writes.
Take chef Nick Bognar for example. At Indo in St. Louis, chef Bognar deftly combines Japanese and Thai traditions in a fusion cuisine that tastes completely natural. Chef Camille Cogswell masters the art of the bagel at K’Far in Philadelphia, and Eunjo Park is close to winning the world’s hearts with the rice cake at Kāwi in New York City. Since 1988, Food & Wine has helped fuel the careers of promising tastemakers with its top ten list, and this year is different only in that these chefs will become true trailblazers as they help us all navigate the brave new world of dining out. “The fallout from the pandemic has revealed new layers of strength and creativity, best embodied by this year’s class of Best New Chefs. With them at the helm, the future of dining looks brighter, fairer, and more delicious than ever before,” says Shah.
Why Texas BBQ Brisket May Be In Short Supply
In Tyler, Texas, Stanley’s Famous Pit Bar-B-Q temporarily closed for several weeks in April then reopened hoping to keep business running with curbside pickup. However, after owner Nick Pencis called several suppliers, it became clear that restocking their coolers with briskets would be more difficult than ever. COVID-19 has disrupted the meat supply throughout the U.S. and forced restaurant owners like Nick and Jennifer Pencis to find new brisket suppliers. Some owners are settling for no meat at all.
“At least 38 processing plants have ceased operations at some point since the start of the coronavirus pandemic,” according to a report in USA Today. As a result, in the first week of May, only 425,000 cattle were processed, down from 605,000 cattle the previous year. That’s 360,000 fewer briskets. The average cost of whole Choice briskets also more than doubled from $2.80 per pound in late April to $5.98 per pound in early May. That’s a price hike many BBQ joints can’t afford or can’t afford to pass on to their customers. Going forward, smaller beef processors could be a lifeline, as the big meatpacking plants may soon begin grinding briskets to meet consumer demand for burgers at fast-food restaurants, which are doing swift business while high-end steakhouses remain closed. Fortunately, most Texas BBQ joints are still open, but many are changing what they cook and how they do business. “Not cooking brisket for a little while might not be the end of the world,” said Reid Guess of Guess Family Barbecue in Waco, Texas.
Grocery Prices See Highest Increase In Nearly 50 Years
Last month, the average price of groceries reached their highest monthly increase in nearly 50 years, largely due to high prices for meat and eggs. In April, customers spent 4.3 percent more for meats, poultry, fish and eggs, 1.5 percent more for fruits and vegetables, and 2.9 percent more for cereals and bakery products. On average, this 2.6 percent jump in grocery prices marked the largest increase in the cost of food since February 1974. Among cereal and bakery products alone, April’s 2.9 percent price increase was the steepest it has been in a single month since 1919.
During the same month, 1 in 5 American households became food insecure (lacked consistent access to affordable food) due to the loss of 20 million jobs, putting enormous pressure on both families and food banks. Inflated grocery prices have mostly resulted from supply chain challenges brought on by a combination of restaurant closures, new consumer food buying habits, and limited production in processing plants due to COVID-19. Geri Henchy, director of nutrition policy for the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), has asked Congress to almost double the minimum SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefit from $16 to $30 per month and to increase the maximum SNAP benefit by 15 percent. FRAC has also advocated for suspending all SNAP administrative rules that may end or lessen benefits during the coronavirus crisis.
COVID-19 Triggers Global Food Crisis, Says UN
The United Nation’s World Food Program (WFP) cautions that another 130 million people could go hungry, as up to 36 nations may face famine by year’s end. While the U.S. currently has no major food shortages, other countries such as South Sudan are at risk. The FAO published data showing that wheat prices in the capital city of Juba have increased 62% since February, and the cost of the staple food cassava (a.k.a. tapioca) shot up to 41%. “We were already facing a famine pre-corona,” said Sudan’s deputy interior minister-designate, Mabior Garang. “If you add corona to the equation, it’s crazy.”
Supply chain challenges have upended food systems in other countries as well. India is the world’s biggest rice exporter, but one of its major distributors, Shri Lal Mahal Group, can now only ship 15% to 20% of its normal volume. Shipping restrictions have also made it increasingly difficult to transport perishable products like fruits, vegetables, and fish. From January 1 through April 10, the capacity of container ships moving goods internationally decreased by 30% due to sailing cancellations. Even ships that make it to ports have faced delays due to facility shutdowns and quarantines, which have resulted in wasted cargo. Air-cargo capacity has also plummeted by nearly 35%, as approximately 85% of passenger flights around the world have been canceled. “You can have a food crisis with lots of food,” said Abdolreza Abbassian, senior economist at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. “That’s the situation we’re in.”
High-End Meat Suppliers Begin Selling Direct to Customers
When restaurants began closing in March, the owner of premium meat company Nicky USA, Geoff Latham, braced himself for a shut down. High-end restaurants usually make up 85% of the Oregon-based company’s sales of Wagyu beef steaks, Kurobuta pork chops, and game meats like bison, elk, venison, and ostrich. However, his oldest son Gerick came up with a plan. They would sell their remaining and incoming inventory direct to consumers and grocery stores through online sales, something they had never done before. They still had to lay off some staff, but the strategy has helped the company survive and find new customers.
Nicky USA is one of 2,200 small U.S. meatpacking plants that employ under 500 workers. They now join companies like Allen Brothers, Porter Road, and Snake River Farms in selling direct to customers and retail outlets instead of supplying mainly restaurants. By selling direct, Nicky USA was able to recoup about 40% of its business just 8 weeks into the pandemic. Grocery stores, which had accounted for only 13% of sales, now make up 50% of the company’s profits. Nicky USA also began selling non-meat products such as toilet paper, paper napkins, and CBD products, an idea that stemmed from Latham’s youngest son, Gerod. To Geoff Latham, every sale and online order represents “a blip of hope” in a dire situation where “the finish line keeps moving back on us.” .
Contact Tracing Required In Reopened Washington Restaurants
As part of its safe reopening requirements, the state of Washington has ordered restaurants to keep a 30-day log of all customers who have eaten on the premises. This log will include email or telephone contact information, according to requirements announced Monday by Governor Jay Inslee. Restaurants must also conduct on-premise services at 50% of their capacity before lockdown. The state’s decision seeks to mitigate transmission of the virus and facilitate contact tracing of individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 so that exposed individuals can be tested and begin to self-quarantine.
According to Inslee’s reopening strategy, restaurants must meet several other government safety requirements and prepare a written reopening and operational plan. Under Phase 2 of Inslee’s strategy, which includes restaurant dining rooms, counties with less than 75,000 people that have no reported cases of COVID-19 in the past three weeks can apply to ease their stay-at-home restrictions. As of now, restaurants outside of the eight approved counties remain confined to takeout and delivery only.
So far, restaurants in other states that have begun reopening have generally followed federal guidelines, but Washington’s strategy is unique in that it requires a written reopening and operational plan. The Washington standards also ask that seated parties only interact with one employee during their stay. Parties are capped at five members, much less than most other states’ 10-guest cap. Parties must also sit at least 6 feet apart, and condiment stations as well as buffets and bars must remain closed. Compared to reopening guidelines in other states, Washington’s strategy is especially restrictive, perhaps because Washington had the highest absolute number of confirmed cases and the highest number per capita of any state in the country before the outbreak hit New York in mid-March. .
Chicago Now Requires Fee Disclosures On Food Delivery Receipts
Without third-party delivery services, many restaurants would be ill-equipped to fulfill online food orders, much less take them. Many customers assume that restaurants receive the full menu price, but delivery services charge fees of up to 30% in some cities, often more than struggling restaurants can afford to pay. In Chicago, orders must now disclose to customers how much of the total bill covers delivery company fees and how much goes to the restaurant. Third-party delivery companies must provide an itemized receipt of all charges, including any commission or service fee paid by the restaurant to the delivery company for services such as higher ranking in search.
Some restaurateurs and delivery services criticize the new policies, claiming that they will drive customers to better values if they don’t understand all the costs. David London, the Senior Lead for East & Federal Government Relations at DoorDash, claims the company’s commissions have already been cut in half for more than 2,000 Chicago restaurants. On the other hand, Nick Kokonas, CEO of Tock, remains confident in his delivery services as Tock only charges restaurants 3% of the total sale. Kokonas adds, “I suppose we will have to disclose that on the receipt now…but it doesn’t affect the customer at all, and it’s as much as 8 to 10 times less than some other services which can charge up to 30%.”
Indonesian Wildlife Market Urged To Close Amid Pandemic
Indonesia’s wildlife markets may pose a continued threat of spreading pathogens, despite the ban on wildlife trade for consumption instituted in nearby China. In the Indonesian city of Tomohon, butchers still prepare bats, rats, snakes, and lizards removed from the wildlands of North Sulawesi. Some butchers also slaughter dogs, sometimes taken from city streets. In light of the coronavirus, animal rights activists have increased pressure on local officials to close the popular bazaar, known as the Tomohon Extreme Meat Market.
Many local Indonesians believe that wild animals have medicinal benefits. Bats, for instance, are said to cure asthma, and bat meat is sold regularly along with snake meat in North Sulawesi supermarkets. Convincing officials to close wet markets or prevent the sale of bat meat may face some cultural hurdles, especially since the origin of the novel coronavirus remains unknown. While scientists point to similarities between the novel coronavirus and known coronaviruses in animals—particularly bats—no peer-reviewed scientific research, global public health agency, or academic expert has confirmed this hypothesis. Nonetheless, Indonesia now has the second highest number of COVID-19 fatalities in East Asia with 1,028 deaths and 15,438 reported cases. In a letter to the Indonesian president, a coalition of animal rights groups called Dog Meat Free Indonesia urged the leader to close the Tomohon Extreme Meat Market, adding, “If we do not act, the question is not whether another similar pandemic will emerge, but when.”