selective focus photo of plants

The Week in Food: February 22 -27, 2021

Winter pauses to allow us to catch our breath. This week at fork pitch we looked at trends towards younger people eating at home, hero pay and grocers, the sustained growth of gluten-free, ghost kitchens and ghost franchises, meat plants, CEA and deforestation. Enjoy your weekend!


  • Income and spending surged in January, a good sign for economic recovery.
  • Looks like the $15 minimum wage movement hit a bump in the Senate.
  • After weeks of significant declines, troubling signs of a COVID comeback in New England, Texas, Florida.


  • Hard to say but COVID may have reversed the trend for younger people rarely/not/never preparing food in the home. Conagra sees more young buyers.
  • This took me by surprise: Americans eat much more chicken than they used to, doubling to more than 100 pounds per year.
  • Grocers saying that the hero pay in some jurisdiction will cause them to go out of business. Kroger has threatened to close stores. I am skeptical because there are no constraints on price increases and if all competitors have the same pay increases… Reconciling claims by supermarkets. Caution: Reason has a strongly libertarian bent.
  • “It’s like H-E-B is the moral center of Texas,” Chain rises to occasion during storm; politicians do not.
  • Gluten-free products to hit $4.3 billion in sales. What is poorly covered in stories on this growth is the why. Celiac is present in a very small portion of the population; IBS more but still not huge. While they have gotten better, most gluten-free products don’t taste as good/perform as well. If this was just a trend, it would fade as people give up. But sales continue to grow, estimated at 7.5 growth over the next 7 years. The answer probably lies in FODMAPs, short-chain carbohydrates (wheat among other things) poorly absorbed by the intestines. The affect on IBS patients is documented but more research is needed regarding their presence in other foods and the effects on gut flora, increasingly seen as a key to health.
  • More on last weeks story on gas stoves: 12.3% of US greenhouse gases come from homes.. This is why zoning laws are requiring no-gas housing.


  •  NRA cancels restaurant show for 2nd straight year.
  • The chicken wars continue with Applebee’s, Cracker Barrel and Outback entering.
  • I wish I had seen this earlier: a state-by-state guide to restaurant openings.
  • White Castle is using Ghost Kitchens to sell in markets where it has no restaurants. And it is killing it…I suppose the logical next step for ghost kitchens was ghost franchises. They’re here. Not sure if they make it if they are based mostly on social media cred, though.
  • Restaurants were unprepared to shift their business to mostly delivery. As a result, Door Dash, Grub Hub etc. made bank. But the outrageous fees they charge has spurred operators to find alternatives.


  • Meat and Dairy to make final push to keep substitutes from using their identifiers. ‘Milk’ seems like a lost cause for the Dairy industry.
  • Kroger and infarm have created Controlled Agriculture Environment (CEA) modules to supply stores with leafy greens.
  • Why chocho may be the next big plant-based protein: a complete protein and 45% protein by weight.
  • Run-off is only on of the myriad problems caused by waste from large meat processing plants.
  • We’ve talked a lot about how COVID has been especially hard on workers in meat processing facilities. John Oliver did a segment this week on the issue:


  • There was a 7 step process for serving Donald Trump a diet Coke. This was before COVID…
  • I have polarizing ambivalence on this – I love accuracy, in language and in process. Calling something Pho (or mole, for another example) when it clearly isn’t is annoying but is it worth a social media firestorm?
  • Love yogurt but dairy doesn’t really agree with me. I am going to try this recipe to make it with Cashew milk. Will report.
  • A long article in New York Times magazine about the intersection of food and activism. Understated in the article is the historical dependence on scale. The structure of food systems required a lot of (usually poorly paid) labor. As many older industries have learned, technology disrupts scale; CEA (above) has the potential to change food production in ways that solve some of these issues.
  • What’s driving deforestation? Beef

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