The Juicy Bits
March is a tumultuous month. There's madness on basketball courts. Green beer in bars. Whiskey fungus on wedding venues. And storms rage across America. Some storms even jeopardize summer crops such as strawberries. Meanwhile, in Switzerland, Swiss chocolate Toblerone can no longer display its symbols of "Swissness.". Amid this madness, some harbingers of spring appear: a fresh crop of cookbooks, the James Beard Award finalists, and the promise that chemists will finally answer the age-old question that's plagued beer lovers for decades: Bottles or Cans? Yes, poultry and egg prices remain high due to the ongoing bird flu, but the USDA is testing a poultry vaccine that may ultimately stabilize those prices. And restaurant recommendations are now better than ever, since ChatGPT partnered with Open Table. Plus, the USDA is finally revising its country of original labeling laws so that "Product of USA" on meat labels will mean that the animals were actually raised in the US and not raised elsewhere but only the meat processed here. These are positive developments, no? Welcome to the season of hope. —Dave Joachim
Spring Cookbooks Have Sprung
Image Source: Food & Wine/Alexis Camarena-Anderson
You can find millions of recipes on the web. Who needs a printed cookbook? Judging by sales, millions of people do. There's something about cooking from a printed book by a trusted author. To discover what that is, check out this season's new cookbook crop, including guides to Taiwanese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean, and Filipino cooking, and recipes for Mexican grilling, a bevy of desserts, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Food & Wine put out an inclusive roundup. Here are others from Simply Recipes, Tasting Table, and Eater. Happy cooking!
Michelin Awards And Withdraws Stars In 2023 Restaurant Guide To France
Image Source: Laurence Mouton
Guy Savoy in Paris first received 3 Michelin stars in 2002. This year, the restaurant was downgraded to 2 stars. A total of 25 restaurants lost stars in Michelin’s home country this year. Of the 44 establishments awarded new stars, 37 are located outside of Paris. La Marine, a fish and seafood spot on Noirmoutier island, was the only new 3-star recipient, while 4 restaurants joined the 2-star ranks, and 39 restaurants received one star. Vive le France?
Jack Daniel’s New Construction In Tennessee Blocked Due To Pervasive Black Fungus
Image Source: Jennifer Wright/Alamy
Whiskey that evaporates during aging is romantically called the “angel’s share." But the angel's share results in the devil's fungus, according to those who live near distilleries. Whiskey fungus is driving a wedge between residents of Lincoln County, Tennessee, and Jack Daniel’s, the distillery founded in 1866 in neighboring Moore County. For decades, JD's whiskey fungus has been coating homes, cars, patio furniture and road signs in a stubborn, sooty crust. Complaints have been filed. Lawsuits have been brought. Now, a local Tennessee court has halted construction of a new Jack Daniel's barrel house.
California Floods Jeopardize Summer Strawberry Harvest
Image Source: California Strawberry Commission
Most US-grown strawberries come from California, and about a third of the state’s strawberry acreage is in the Watsonville and Salinas areas, according to the California Strawberry Commission. This winter, that area has been battered by 11 atmospheric rivers and storms, causing about $324 million is agricultural losses. In mid-March another storm broke a local levee, drowning over 1,000 acres of prime strawberry fields, and forcing the evacuation of more than 8,000 people from the Latino farmworker community. Soren Bjorn, president of leading strawberry brand Driscoll’s, said the potential impact is significant. Strawberry shortcake, beware.
US Department Of Agriculture Considers Vaccinating Chickens Amid Ongoing Bird Flu Outbreak
Image Source: Mike Blake/Reuters
The largest avian flu outbreak in US history began early in 2022 and has since affected more than 58 million farmed birds in 47 states, driven up egg and poultry prices, and raised concerns about another human pandemic. The H5N1 virus that causes bird flu has already spread to mammals such as mink, foxes, raccoons and bears, yet experts at the Centers for Disease Control say the risk of a human pandemic low. Nonetheless, the Agriculture Department has begun testing poultry vaccines for a potential large-scale bird flu vaccination program, a first for the country. Test results are due in May. Meanwhile, officials encourage poultry farms to prevent transmission of bird flu through biosecurity measures like enhanced disinfection procedures for farm workers.
Agriculture Department Proposes Higher Standards For Meat Labeled "Product of USA"
Image Source: Reuters/Andrew Kelly
In 2009, the USDA finalized labeling standards for meat that required country of origin labeling. Those standards allowed meat from animals born and raised abroad and only processed in the US to be labeled "Product of USA" and "Made in the USA." But most consumers believe the labels mean the product comes from animals born and raised in the US, according to a recent survey. So the agency has now, 14 years later, proposed changes to the rule. The US Cattlemen's Association cheered the changes, having lobbied for them for years, and arguing that the current rule disadvantages domestic producers and stifles competition. Truth in labeling. What a concept.
Lab-Grown Animal Fat Enters The Plant-Based Meat Market
Image Source: Matt Chase
Plant-based meat has taken a hit recently. Fast-food chains like Burger King, Dunkin’, and McDonald’s have been slow to adopt it, consumers have softened on buying it, and Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods each announced layoffs. Could lab-grown animal fat improve the taste and texture of plant-based meat products and change the game? Will vegetarians and vegans eat plant-based meats that include lab-grown animal fat? These questions and more explored in this deep dive from intrepid reporter Yasmin Tayag.
Is MSG Bad for You? Dietitians Set The Record Straight
Image Source: iStock
The short answer: No. MSG, monosodium glutamate, is a natural compound originally harvested from seaweed. Now it’s mostly sourced from bean and cereal proteins. MSG is the source of the savory "umami" flavor in everything from Doritos and hot dogs to ketchup and salad dressing. Despite claims of "Chinese restaurant syndrome," studies of MSG have repeatedly shown that the compound is safe to consume in moderation. Moreover, consumers prefer the taste of foods made with MSG versus without.
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Toblerone Chocolate Is No Longer "Swiss Enough" To Show The Matterhorn On Its Packaging
Image Source: Fabrice Coffini/Getty Images
According to the "Swissness Act" of 2017, food products with the Swiss cross or "Swiss Made" on packaging must contain a minimum of 80% raw materials from Switzerland (100% for milk and dairy) and essential processing must be done in the country. One of those Swiss food products, Toblerone chocolate, was invented in the Swiss city of Bern and can be identified by its distinctive triangular peaks, inspired by the nearby Matterhorn mountain. Alas, Toblerone is now owned by US company, Mondelez International, which is shifting some production to Slovakia in July. Result? Toblerone packaging will soon lose its iconic Swiss Matterhorn mountain. Will anyone notice or care? We shall see.
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