Showing posts with label Food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Food. Show all posts

April 5, 2020

No Food Shortages, No Need For Hoarding!



                       Coronavirus in the US: 'There is plenty of food in the country ...


 In recent days, top U.S. government officials have moved to assure Americans that they won't lack for food, despite the coronavirus. 
As he toured a Walmart distribution center, Vice President Pence announced that "America's food supply is strong." The Food and Drug Administration's deputy commissioner for food, Frank Yiannas (a former Walmart executive) told reporters during a teleconference that "there are no widespread or nationwide shortages of food, despite local reports of outages."
"There is no need to hoard," Yiannas said.
In fact, the pandemic has caused entirely different problems: a spike in the number of people who can't afford groceries and a glut of food where it's not needed. 
Dairy farmers in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Georgia have been forced to dumpthousands of gallons of milk that no one will buy. In Florida, vegetable growers are abandoning harvest-ready fields of tomatoes, yellow squash and cucumbers for the same reason. 
"We cannot pick the produce if we cannot sell it, because we cannot afford the payroll every week," says Kim Jamerson, a vegetable grower near Fort Myers. Those crops will be plowed back into the ground. "We'll have to tear 'em up," Jamerson says. "Just tear up beautiful vegetables that really could go elsewhere, to food banks, and hospitals, and rest homes."
The country's food distribution system, in normal times, is a marvel, efficiently delivering huge amounts of food to consumers. But it relies on predictability, like a rail system that directs a stream of trains, on set schedules, toward their destinations. Now, some of the biggest destinations — chain restaurants, schools and workplace cafeterias — have disappeared, and supply chains are struggling to adapt.
Jay Johnson, with JGL Produce, a vegetable broker in Immokalee, Fla., is the kind of person who makes this system work — matching buyers with sellers. "You're getting phone calls, text messages, emails, all day and all night," he says. " 'What's your price on this? What grade? Can you do a better deal?' You're doing all these micronegotiations throughout the day."
On Tuesday, March 24, he says, that all changed. "Everything got quiet. Wednesday, the 25th, superquiet. Thursday, now we're getting nervous."
Normally, chain restaurants buy a steady supply of produce, week after week. But most have shut down — and did so just as Florida's vegetable harvest shifted into high gear. "Now you're sitting there with all this production, perfect weather, and everybody's like, 'Oh no,' " Johnson says.
He told vegetable grower Mike Jamerson, Kim's husband, that "we're in trouble here. And it's to the point where I'm going to fill my warehouse up and I'm going to have to tell you to stop picking."
This is now happening. Kim Jamerson says that work in the fields "has stopped on the yellow squash. I think we're getting ready to stop the cucumbers. The bell peppers." Those unharvested vegetables will rot in the fields.
Something similar has happened to dairy farmers. Milk sales in supermarkets have increased, but not enough to make up for the drop in sales of milk to schools and cheese to Pizza Hut. Factories that make milk powder can't take any more milk. So some milk cooperatives have told their farmers to dump the milk that their cows are producing. 
The situation is especially dire for Florida's tomato growers, who sell 80% of their production to restaurants and other food service companies, rather than to supermarkets. "Think about all the sandwiches that people eat at lunch when they go out. Burgers, or salads at restaurants," says Michael Schadler, from the Florida Tomato Exchange, which represents some of the state's largest growers. "Many of those food service items have tomatoes." 
Schadler says growers already are "walking away from big portions of their crop," writing off huge investments. 
Meanwhile, food banks and pantries are having trouble supplying enough food to people who need it, including millions of children who no longer are getting free meals at school and people who've lost jobs in recent weeks.
Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, CEO of Feeding America, a network of food banks and charitable meals programs, says that these programs normally receive large donations of unsold food from retail stores. In recent weeks, though, as retailers struggled to keep their shelves stocked, "we're seeing as much as a 35% reduction in that donation stream from retail," Babineaux-Fontenot says.
Food banks are trying to claim more of the food that is stranded in the food service supply chain, either through donations or by buying it. 
"We are capturing some of that. I know we're not capturing all of it, but we have a whole team of professionals whose job is to try to make sure that we capture as much of it as we possibly can," Babineaux-Fontenot says. "So we're having conversations with major restaurants. We're having conversations with major producers, with trade associations, the whole gamut."
Kim Jamerson thinks "it's just a shame" to have enough food, but not be able to get it to the people in need. "A woman who's got two kids how can she live on unemployment, go into a grocery store and pay 90 cents for a cucumber? She just can't do that."
Part of the problem is that it takes labor to move produce from one place to another, and people are still figuring out who will pay for that. Jamerson says she can't afford to pay workers to pick a crop that will be donated. She wants the government to step in, provide workers or the money to pay them, and make sure food gets to where it's needed. "The government could send the food to the hospitals, the rest homes, to the food banks, to the churches," she says.
Jay Johnson, the produce broker, says there are signs of hope. The food banks in Florida, he says, are starting to buy some of his vegetables and figuring out new ways to distribute them. 
They asked Johnson to pack some vegetables in smaller packs, so food banks don't need so many volunteers to repack them. "They're understaffed, and don't have warehouse space, and they're having to think creatively," he says. 
"I see a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel here," he says, adding that he won't make money on those sales to food banks. Farmers won't either, but at least they'll be able to keep their workforce employed until, hopefully, better times arrive.

US Dairy Farmers Dump Their Milk to Keep Prices from Falling Due to Virus



Why Are Farmers Dumping Thousands of Gallons of Milk Every Day
 I see this and I want to cry! Everyone is taking a hit but this industry used to subsidies don't want to take theirs by having cheaper milk prices. So let it be a shortage and then make money by raining prices.


“We need you to start dumping your milk,” said his contact from Dairy Farmers of America (DFA), the largest U.S. dairy cooperative. 
Despite strong demand for basic foods like dairy products amid the coronavirus pandemic, the milk supply chain has seen a host of disruptions that are preventing dairy farmers from getting their products to market. 
Mass closures of restaurants and schools have forced a sudden shift from those wholesale food-service markets to retail grocery stores, creating logistical and packaging nightmares for plants processing milk, butter and cheese. Trucking companies that haul dairy products are scrambling to get enough drivers as some who fear the virus have stopped working. And sales to major dairy export markets have dried up as the food-service sector largely shuts down globally. 
The dairy industry’s woes signal broader problems in the global food supply chain, according to farmers, agricultural economists and food distributors. The dairy business got hit harder and earlier than other agricultural commodities because the products are highly perishable - milk can’t be frozen, like meat, or stuck in a silo, like grain. 
Other food sectors, however, are also seeing disruptions worldwide as travel restrictions are limiting the workforce needed to plant, harvest and distribute fruits and vegetables, and a shortage of refrigerated containers and truck drivers have slowed the shipment of staples such as meat and grains in some places. 
Leedle could likely sell his milk if he could get it to market. Dairy products in grocery stores have been in high demand as consumers stay home during the pandemic, though panic buying may be slowing. Earlier this week, a local market told Leedle’s wife she could buy only two dairy products total per shopping trip as retailers nationwide ration many high-demand products. 
“It’s just gut-wrenching,” said Leedle, 36, as he stood inside his barn, with cows lowing softly as the animals were giving milk that would be funneled directly into a manure pit. “All I can see is that line going down the drain.” 
Leedle has dumped 4,700 gallons of milk from his 480 cows each day since Tuesday. The 7,500-member DFA told Reuters it has asked some other farmers in the cooperative to do the same but did not say how many. 
Dairy cooperatives oversee milk marketing for all of their members and handle shipping logistics. Leedle said he will be paid for the milk he and other farmers are dumping, but the payments for all cooperative members will take a hit from the lost revenues. 
Land O’Lakes Inc., another cooperative, has also warned its members they may have to dump milk. Another cooperative, Wisconsin-based Foremost Farms USA, was even more grim. 
“Now is the time to consider a little extra culling of your herds,” the cooperative said in a March 17 letter to members. “We believe the ability to pick up and process your milk could be compromised.” 
The cooperative, which also owns butter and cheese processing plants, said milk-dumping might also be on the horizon. 
The dumping comes even as consumer demand for dairy has soared. Panic buying has left grocery store shelves nearly empty in recent weeks amid business shutdowns and quarantines nationwide. Retail purchases of milk rose nearly 53% for the week ended March 21, while butter sales surged more than 127% and cheese rose more than 84%, compared to the same period a year earlier, according to Nielsen data.  
Grocers have been charging consumers more, too. The average retail price of cow’s milk was up 11.2% for the week ended March 21, compared to a year earlier, the Nielsen data shows. 

RESTAURANT CLOSURES DISRUPT SUPPLY CHAINS 

Finding enough truck drivers is part of the challenge. Agriculture groups have lobbied states to increase truck weight limits on highways to enable more food to be delivered. 
Dean Foods Co, which has been starting some plant shifts earlier and running later, is offering $1,000 sign-on bonuses for drivers with dairy experience as it struggles to fill 74 open positions, a company spokeswoman said. 
Another major problem: The sudden shift in demand from restaurants - now closing en masse - to grocery stores creates severe logistical challenges. Suppliers struggle to make the shift from wholesale packaging for restaurants to preparing retail products for stores. 
“About half of U.S. consumers’ food budget was spent on restaurants, and we’ve shut that spigot off,” said Matt Gould, editor at trade publication Dairy & Food Market Analyst. 
It would take millions of dollars, for instance, to install new equipment to switch a plant from making one type of cheese - such as barrel cheese used to make processed slices for fast-food restaurants - to producing cheddar wedges for grocers, said dairy analysts. Even switching from bagging 10 lb bulk bags of shredded cheddar for food service to 8 oz bags for retail stores would require costly new packaging robots and labeling machinery. 
Schreiber Foods Inc, one of the country’s top dairy product manufacturers and food distributors, is cutting hours for workers at its dairy processing plants that normally supply the restaurant industry and adding staff to plants that stock the U.S. retail market, said spokesman Andrew Tobisch.  
As of last week, the plants serving retail were bottlenecked. 
“We’ve almost had too many trucks showing up at some of our plants,” Tobisch said. “The deliveries get backlogged and the drivers are having to wait longer and longer.” 
Trucks heading to restaurants, meanwhile, are getting sent back. Sartori Cheese in Plymouth, Wisconsin, has had restaurant customers refuse shipments of food they had ordered, said president Jeff Schwager. Some restaurant customers have called, asking if they can return orders delivered weeks ago. But processors can’t take the cheese back and resell it - or even donate it - because they can’t ensure it has been safely handled, Schwager said. 
Some of Sartori’s grocery retailers are telling Schwager they are closing their gourmet cheese counters with their displays of huge cheese wheels, in favor of pre-packed, grab-and-go wedges. The stores want to redeploy those cheese counter crews to stock shelves and handle other tasks, Schwager said. 
That means Sartori Cheese will need far more film wrap of a different size that is now in short supply as demand skyrockets. 
Meat producers and fruit-and-vegetable farmers are also struggling with the shift from wholesale to retail, causing plentiful products to run short on grocery store shelves. 
Paul Sproule, a potato farmer in North Dakota, said processors who churn out french fries and other restaurant products have stopped buying. Most can’t pivot to retail because they don’t have customer-facing packaging or relationships with stores for shelf space.   
In rural communities, smaller food retailers such as bakeries are starting to stock products that have been running short at grocery stories. In the farm town of Rossville, Indiana, local baker Sandra Hufford’s picked up grocery products from a food distributor, including butter, cartons of cottage cheese and gallons of milk. 
“They told me that they had a lot of customers not wanting to pay right now, and they needed cash-paying customers,” said Hufford, who owns the Flour Mill Bakery. 
Hufford stocked up her bakery’s refrigerated case and posted what was available for pickup and delivery on the shop’s Facebook page. Word spread. Now, customers from as far as Indianapolis – 60 miles away – are placing orders and driving out to pick up groceries. 
Reporting By P.J. Huffstutter in Chicago. Additional reporting by Karl Plume and Christopher Walljasper in Chicago; Editing by Caroline Stauffer and Brian Thevenot

September 4, 2019

You Might Become a Better Person if You Read and Eat These Very Special Chinese Cookies

Jasmine Cho knows the power of a good cookie. "Cookies," she says, "can make anything more palatable." Including conversations about race and social justice in America.
A baker based in Pittsburgh, Cho creates intricate, hand-drawn cookie portraits of Asian-American figures as a way to increase representation and raise awareness of Asian-American history and identity. 
Figures represented in sugar and icing include people like Takao Ozawa, a Japanese-American whose petition for U.S. citizenship was denied on the basis of race in a landmark Supreme Court case, and Yuji Ichioka, a pioneering historian of the Japanese-American experience who coined the term "Asian-American." 
Others featured on her baked creations include Olympic gold medalist Sammy LeeAfong Moy, often cited as the first Chinese woman to set foot in the United States, who was put on display before crowds as a curiosity beginning in the 1830s; and author and civil rights activist Grace Lee Boggs. Many of these figures are not widely known.
As Cho told the audience during a recent TEDx talk in Pittsburgh, "Privilege is when your culture is taught as a core curriculum, and mine is taught as an elective." The statement was met with a burst of supportive applause.
Cho shares her cookie art on social media and her work is becoming more frequently featured in the Pittsburgh art scene. A collection of her cookies has also recently been purchased and displayed at the City County Building.
Marian Lien, an advocate for Asian-American and Pacific Islander inclusion in Pittsburgh, recently encountered Cho's cookie art on exhibit at a local coffee shop. She said the display had a visible impact on her teenage daughter. "Who would have thought using baked goods as a platform to talk social justice was a thing? And yet, the attention it has garnered is exactly what we need to start dialog and to impart enlightenment."
Lien says that when her daughter, who was then 16, saw Cho's exhibit, she said, "'Wow, I didn't know there were that many of us that were making a difference. I better step up my game.' She proceeded to Google many of the Asian- and Pacific-Islander-American heroes and sheroes, and what could have been a 15-minute viewing became a two-hour experience for her."
That's exactly the kind of reaction Cho wants her cookies to elicit. "With all that has happened, and all that's still happening in America, it's so easy to become desensitized. Cookies are always going to be inviting, and your curiosity is always going to be stoked. I've never seen them met with less eagerness to know more."
Cho is also spreading awareness through a children's book she wrote and illustrated, Role Models Who Look Like Me: Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders Who Made History. These are the types of stories of Asian-American representation that Cho says were lacking in her own childhood. Although she grew up in Los Angeles, the daughter of a renowned Taekwondo master, Cho says she was the only Korean-American kid in her community. "I felt like a minority within a minority," she told me. It's a feeling that followed her into adulthood, as she described in her TEDx talk: "Growing up as an Asian-American, I felt that I needed to accept being invisible." 
While promoting her book, Cho has visited schools as a guest lecturer. In her presentations, Cho will often ask children whether they, too, have ever felt left out or lonely, as she once did. Teacher Amy Kim, an early-childhood educator at Pittsburgh's Shady Side Academy, observed her students' responses during Cho's recent visit.
"Our students were immediately impacted by her visit," Kim says. 
"For our Asian-American students especially, they absolutely connected withher and her children's book almost immediately. Their faces ssaid it
all by their proud expressions. ... The Asian children gleamed, 
knowing these famous Americans were similar to them."
 As part of the presentation, Kim says Cho helped students make
 their own cookie self-portraits.
As for Cho's own role models? She cites among them James Beard 
award-winning chef Joanne Chang, whose cookbooks served 
as an early inspiration for Cho's journey as a self-taught baker and artist. 
During a recent trip to Boston, Cho got to meet Chang. Of course, 
she presented her idol with a cookie portrait Cho had made of Chang.
But if you want your own custom cookie portrait by Cho, you're out of luck.
 She's not taking any more orders through her online custom bakery, 
Yummyholic, for the rest of the year in order to focus on another passion --
baking as therapy. 
Cho is currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in art therapy and has 
received a $10,000 "community champion" award from Citizens Bank 
to support her work providing baking therapy for the Center for Victims
 in Pittsburgh. For her, it's just one more form of cookie activism.

Caroline Choe is a writer, artist, teacher and chef based in New York City.

October 17, 2018

Would You Eat Slaughter-free Meat?






There's a looming crisis over the world's growing appetite for meat. Could a chicken running around a farmyard in San Francisco hold the key to a solution?
In 1931, Winston Churchill predicted that the human race would one day "escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium".
Eighty-seven years later, that day has come as we discovered at Just, a food company in San Francisco where we tasted chicken nuggets grown from the cells of a chicken feather.
The chicken - which tasted like chicken - was still alive, reportedly roaming on a farm not far from the laboratory.
This meat is not to be confused with the vegetarian plant-based burgers and other meat-substitute products which are gaining popularity in supermarkets.
No, this is actual meat grown from animal cells and variously described as cultured, synthetic, in-vitro, lab-grown or even "clean" meat.
It takes about two days to produce a chicken nugget in a small bioreactor, using a protein to encourage the cells to multiply, some type of scaffold to give structure to the product and a culture, or growth, medium to feed the meat as it develops.

ChickensImage copyrightALAMY
Image captionBillions of animals are slaughtered annually for meat

The result is not yet commercially available anywhere on earth but Just's chief executive Josh Tetrick says it will be on the menu in a handful of restaurants by the end of this year.
"We make things like eggs or ice cream or butter out of plants and we make meat just out of meat. You just don't need to kill the animal," Tetrick says.
We were given a rare taste and the results were impressive. The skin was crisp and the meat flavoursome although its internal texture was slightly softer than you would expect from a nugget at, say, McDonalds or KFC.
Tetrick and other entrepreneurs working on cellular meat say they want to stop the slaughter of animals and protect the environment from the degradation of industrial factory farming.
They say they are solving the problem of how to feed a crowded earth without destroying the planet, pointing out that their meat is not genetically-modified and does not require antibiotics to grow.
The United Nations says raising animals for food is one of the major causes of global warming and air and water pollution. Even as the conventional livestock industry strives to become more efficient and environmentally friendly, many doubt it will be able to keep up with the rising global appetite for protein.
We slaughter 70 billion animals each year to feed seven billion people, says Dr Uma Valeti, a cardiologist who founded California-based Memphis Meats, a leading cell-based meat company.
He says the global demand for meat is doubling as more people rise out of poverty and that humanity won't be able to raise enough cattle and chicken to sate the appetite of nine billion people by 2050.
"So we could just literally grow any meat, poultry or seafood directly from those animal cells," Dr Valeti says. "I think that is probably much bigger than sliced bread."
Many Americans say they are eating less meat but US Department of Agriculture (USDA) figures suggest the average consumer will still consume more than 222lbs (100kg) of red meat and poultry this year - about 20lb more than they ate in the 1970s.

A chicken sandwich in Boston
Image captionThe demand for meat is growing worldwide

The pioneer of cellular agriculture is Dutch scientist Mark Post. His first lab-grown hamburger, grilled in 2013, cost $300,000 (£228,000).
No company has yet scaled-up production to serve a cell-based patty commercially but Post estimates that if he started mass producing his burgers, he could get the cost of making them down to about $10 each.
"That's of course still way too high," he said.
If Just does manage to produce enough chicken nuggets to sell this year, it is unlikely to be in an American restaurant as the US government is still deciding how to proceed.
Most food in the US is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). But some - mostly conventionally raised meat - is regulated by the USDA. So if you're buying a frozen pizza in the US, the USDA handles the pepperoni version and the FDA handles the cheese.
"There are a number of countries in Asia and Europe that we're talking to," Tetrick says. "There's a lack of clarity" about regulations in the US while the USDA and FDA hold public hearings, he explains.
"I think countries want to take the lead in this. Whether it's food scarcity, whether it's sustainability issues or they just want to build an entirely new economy, they want to take the lead in doing this," Tetrick said.
The eventual aim is to move cellular meat out of the laboratory and into large manufacturing plants.
There are now dozens of companies working in the field and they're attracting venture capitalist investment from across Silicon Valley and beyond. Billionaires Bill Gates and Richard Branson are among those who have ploughed money into the technology.
The product also has a more surprising benefactor in Tyson Foods, which has invested an undisclosed amount in Memphis Meats.
Tyson is the biggest meat processor in the US, processing around 424,000 pigs, 130,000 cows and 35 million chickens every week. So why is it investing in cellular meat?
The firm decided "to shift from being a meat company to a protein company," said Tom Mastrobuoni, chief financial officer for Tyson's venture capital arm, Tyson Ventures.
"We've made the conscious decision that we're going to be the biggest protein company," he added.
The cutting edge technology of Silicon Valley may be synonymous with the freewheeling, entrepreneurial spirit of the United States but this is still a country where tradition runs deep.
The Cattlemen's Association has a powerful lobby and there's arguably no symbol more revered or romanticised in the nation's history than the cowboy.
And so the ranchers of the mid-west are stepping into the debate about how this new product will be marketed - as clean meat, cellular meat, slaughter-free meat, ethical protein, or just meat?
On their ranch in the Ozarks, a mountainous region extending from Missouri into Arkansas, Kalena and Billy Bruce are feeding their herd of black Angus cattle, helped by their four-year-old daughter Willa.

Kalena and Billy Bruce, with Willa
Image captionKalena and Billy Bruce, with Willa

"I think it needs to be labelled accordingly - a lab-produced protein," says Billy Bruce. "When I think of meat I think of what's standing behind us, a live breathing animal," he adds.
The state of Missouri agrees. At the urging of farmers, the legislature has decreed that meat labels may only be applied to the product of livestock. It is a hint of the disruption which traditional agriculture feels could be on the way.
"From a transparency standpoint for consumers, so that they know what they're purchasing and what they're feeding their families, we think that it needs to be called something different," says Kalena Bruce.
Lia Biondo, the director of policy and outreach with the US Cattlemen's association, based in Washington, DC, says she expects the Missouri law could be replicated in other states.
"We will let those companies decide what to call their products just as long as they don't call it beef or meat," says Biondo.
But in any case, will anyone actually eat it, especially here in cattle country? 
Diners at Lamberts, a traditional Midwest restaurant in Ozark, Missouri, are going to take some convincing.
"Meat oughta be growed on a farm, out in the fields," declares Jerry Kimrey, a construction worker from Lebanon, Missouri.
Teacher Ashley Pospisil, also from Lebanon, says she would prefer not to eat cell-based meat.
"I like to know where it came from and that it's natural and not processed from a lab," she says.
Linda Hilburn, who is tucking into a (cow) steak before heading home to Guthrie, Oklahoma agrees.
"I kind of like it having four feet in the beginning," she says.
"There's just something about man's creation that scares me. We've created havoc here. I kind of like the idea of God's creation."
While Ms Hilburn is far from alone in feeling squeamish about the idea of "Frankenstein food" as critics have labelled it, Josh Tetrick insists that cell-based meat is entirely free from the many animal diseases which plague traditional meat production.
And he is betting on human experience favouring progress.
"At the end of the day whether you're talking about a move from picking ice to refrigerator or from slaughtering a whale to refining oil into kerosene and moving from kerosene to a light bulb... even though people called the light bulb the Devil's current... humanity managed to embrace something new. 
"It always happens and if I had to bet it'll happen for this too."

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