assorted color easter eggs on plate

The World of Food for the Week of March 29 – April 3, 2021

A Happy Friday and a blessed Passover and Good Friday. The world of food for the week saw strange combinations: Bees & cars, kosher & sake, sommeliers & restaurant rescue, salt water & beans, Hydrox & Oreo, and a new portmanteau, Agrivoltaics. Enjoy

MACRO

  • Almost a million new jobs created for the week, led by the world of food as restaurants re-open!
  • However concerns about a fourth wave of COVID and that, because of vaccine resistance, we may never reach herd immunity.
  • So some states are opening altogether and some are slowing or reinstating restrictions.

RETAIL AND CONSUMER

  • Kroger’s decision to close stores over ‘hero pay’ is an unforced PR error. It came after Long Beach CA passed a bill requiring workers get a $4 bonus for a few more months. Food 4 Less stores – a Kroger brand – has said they will close 3 stores because of the added costs. I suspect they were looking to close these stores anyway and thought the pay increase would give them cover. Or they could lever the city into rescinding. Either way it is a very bad look that could harm their long term business in south LA and Orange counties.
  • The search is on for alternative to PSAS. These chemicals, found in packaging but known to leach into food, have a negative effect on the immune system.
  • The pandemic proved to be a revenue boon for grocery stores. As a result, they also incurred an additional $24 billion in pandemic related costs.
  • Did you know the Hydrox came first and that the Oreo was an imitation that Nabisco developed because of the popularity of Hydrox? Seems backwards but it’s the truth.
  • Unilever is going to start putting carbon footprint information on its packaging. This is a PR move and nothing more. Individual efforts on global warming are essentially meaningless. The real impact has to come from industries like energy production, transportation, and food production in lowering greenhouse gas levels.
Greenhouse gasses produced by the food supply chain

RESTAURANTS AND FOODSERVICE

  • In Lyon, France, the town decided it would move to an all-veggie meals for schools. The result was protests and outrage
  • So 2 flu shots and back to the restaurant? Um, it’s trickier than that. Public health experts are concerned that increased density in dining can intensify spread, even with a majority vaccinated crowd of diners. They also caution that vaccines are great but aren’t 100%.
  • When fast food doesn’t pay a living wage, the taxpayer picks up the slack. A higher minimum wage would mean less dependence on supplemental income.
  • Whataburger gives $90 million to employees as a thank you for the last year. Eat at Whataburger – it’s really good and a good actor in the world of food.
  • A how-to in crowd sourcing your way to a viable restaurant rescue. Sommeliers can’t save every restaurant but they saved the Rustic Kitchen in Vista Mar, CA

FOOD SUPPLY CHAIN

  • The Suez Canal has gotten all the attention but there have been lots of port problems, which is really a problem for perishables. Now they are getting resolved.
  • The corn is high and going higher as drivers return to the road. As a result, ethanol will take a bite out of supply.
  • I am continually critical of China’s trade policy and find their treatment of the Uyghurs appalling, but this editorial from Bloomberg blaming zoonotic disease on wet markets is short on science and long on prejudice. The scientific proof that wet markets are the source of transgenic mutations is sorely lacking.
  • As an example, you can tell China’s ban on Taiwanese pineapples is politically motivated because the reason given was they were infested with ‘harmful creatures.’
  • OTOH, TIL that the People’s Republic of China is ineligible to import beef into the US. (I am going to need a subhead just for China.)
  • Ever tasted sea beans? Probably not, because they are very hard to grow. But with controlled environment – and saline water – they may become popular.
  • Agrivoltaics uses panels to provide not only energy but shade and protection. Depending upon configuration it can ameliorate conditions and make possible growing crops in harsh climates.

LAGNIAPPE

  • In celebration of Easter, here is a whole bunch of information about Cadbury, including their creme eggs.
  • Describing this drink, the writer says to avoid water with 2 hydrogen and 2 oxygen molecules. Wait, what? That’s…hydrogen peroxide. And no, I wouldn’t drink a drink mixed with hydrogen peroxide, either. Then I realized it was April Fools day in the world of food, too.
  • A story about kosher sake seems merely amusing but it turns out to be about Chiune Sugihara. He was a Japanese diplomat stationed in Lithuania during World War 2 who approved more than 2000 visas to help Jews escape the Nazis. An amazing man. As a result, Jews make a pilgrimage to visit his grave and the Japanese supply them with… kosher sake.
  • First we learned about mushroom milk. Now you can put it in your mushroom coffee. It’s half the caffeine and in theory, full of anti-inflammatory properties. Soon we will all be under the thumb of big fungus.
  • I am not that much of a fan of either matzoh balls or knudel but the technical challenges from restrictions to leavening agents and dairy are really interesting.
  • You finish your grocery shopping and make a bee line home. On the way you realize there are 15,000 honey bees in your back seat. What do you do? You say it could never happen? Well it did for a guy in New Mexico.

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