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U.S. Consumers Becoming Anxious About the Economy, Leading to Unease in Restaurant Industry

National Chicken Council | Posted on July 20, 2016

It appears that consumers are growing anxious about the economy, and that is leading to some unease in the restaurant industry, according to a QSR magazine report.  Signs are ominous that almost every sector in the $783 billion restaurant industry is in trouble. Although breakfast sales at fast-food restaurants rose 2 percent during the first quarter of 2016, far more critical lunch sales were down 3 percent, while dinner sales were off 2 percent, reports The NPD Group.

It is as if consumers who never fully recovered from the last recession are now preparing for the next one, says Bonnie Riggs, restaurant industry analyst at NPD. “I’m not an economist, but I’ve studied all the past recessions and how consumers behaved, and we’ve never experienced anything quite like this before,” she says. If there is one clear sign that something might be amiss in the restaurant industry, it is this: even the high-flying fast-casual dining sector has hit turbulence. For years, the fast-casual industry grew at an explosive pace. But uncertainty is settling in, as it has in the rest of the restaurant industry, and the onus is not just on troubled Chipotle, which has faced a series of health and safety-related issues.

The GMO Labeling Farce

Wall Street Journal | Posted on July 20, 2016

 For months Congress has haggled over pre-empting Vermont’s new GMO-labeling law, which mandates direct package labels for food sold or produced in the state. Some companies say they’ll stop selling in the state rather than absorb the expense. But about 15 states are considering labeling schemes, and the Senate earlier this year failed to prevent a patchwork mess with a voluntary labeling program. Thus comes the latest idea, from Senators Pat Roberts (R., Kan.) and Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich). The food industry supports the bill, in part because it allows companies flexibility on how to convey the information. It also precludes a state system that would pull over a Twinkies truck for inspection at the Connecticut border. Organic interest groups—Just Label It, the Center for Food Safety—aren’t satisfied. One complaint is the Agriculture Department’s discretion to decide what the label will cover. The bill excludes meat from animals who chomped on genetically engineered feed, and more dispensations may follow. The irony is that the groups howling about arbitrary standards invented the false GMO distinction: Everything humans eat has been genetically modified through breeding.

The High Cost of Keeping Food Safe | Posted on July 20, 2016

t larger organizations are less likely to require members to invest in food safety procedures due to higher implementation costs. Recalls induce organizations to adopt stricter food safety standards only when expected future gains from improved product reputation outweigh the short run costs of implementing those standards. The same logic holds for organizations representing growers of a product with higher demand, e.g., a larger share of fruit and vegetable sales. Organizations whose members have a larger share of the market for their product are more likely to adopt stricter food safety guidelines when that investment induces members to increase output, a necessary condition for which is that members’ current food safety procedures are more protective than the industry average. Our econometric analysis finds that organizations with more members are less likely to adopt food safety guidelines for their members, as our theoretical analysis predicts. Organizations whose members account for a larger share of the market for their product and organizations for commodities representing larger shares of fruit and vegetable sales are more likely to implement food safety guidelines, consistent with considerations of long term profitability increases due to improved reputation for safety outweighing concerns about increases in cost of production.

Puerto Ricans among most food insecure

Daily Yonder | Posted on July 20, 2016

Hispanic households in the U.S. that trace their origin to Puerto Rico are more than twice as likely as Cuban-origin households to suffer from food insecurity, a new study shows. The research shows that within the ethnic designation of Hispanic, significant differences in food insecurity exist, depending on family origin, as well as immigration status and length of time residing in the United States. Nationally, 22.4 percent of Hispanic households were food insecure in 2014. Of Hispanic subgroups, households of Puerto Rican descent living in the United States had the highest food insecurity rate – 25.3 percent. The rate for families of Cuban origin was 12.1 percent.

Iowa farmer hopes to make it big with edible crickets

Des Moines Register | Posted on July 20, 2016

While farmers are no rarity in this eastern Iowa town of 600, Herman's operation stands alone. Her farm, the Iowa Cricket Farmer, is the state's first insect farm growing critters for the purposes of human consumption. It's believed to be among a handful of cricket farms across the country capitalizing on a trend of health-conscious foodies munching on insects. The farm's 50,000 to 60,000 crickets have been raised so far to be breeders. Herman expects to deliver the first batch bound for human stomachs this summer.

They'll be sent to Salt Lake City and ground into cricket flour for Chapul, the maker of cricket protein bars and protein powder made famous on the television show "Shark Tank."  While there is inherent novelty to the operation, the Iowa Cricket Farmer looks more like a science lab than a playground.

Silly Marketing | Posted on July 19, 2016

If you have been reading my blogs this year, you know that I am distressed over the switch to marketing issues that simply pander to public perception.  Before I write another word, I want to clearly state that I completely understand the need to supply what your customers want.  I am a big fan of choice in the market place and believe that there is room for virtually all niche or specialty products along with the more commonly produced products.

Nevertheless, I have been having fun with some recent marketing ideas that I first thought of as “silly.”  The first was a Facebook post, “buying chicken labeled no hormones added was like buying water labeled wet.”  Is that just silly or a clever way to get the message out that could open the door to a factual discussion?  Then, last week, I saw another post that read, “I cannot decide whether to inform my friends about the safety of GMOs or label water as GMO free and get rich.”  That one made me laugh so loud I startled my dog.  Maybe humor is the mechanism that will work.

Scientists injected cows with “happy hormones” and got healthier milk

Quartz | Posted on July 19, 2016

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison discovered a way to boost calcium levels in milk by giving cows regular injections of the hormone serotonin, a chemical messenger that, among other things, is linked to feelings of happiness.

Unhealthy Fixation

Slate | Posted on July 19, 2016

Is genetically engineered food dangerous? Many people seem to think it is. In the past five years, companies have submitted more than 27,000 products to the Non-GMO Project, which certifies goods that are free of genetically modified organisms. Last year, sales of such products nearly tripled. I’ve spent much of the past year digging into the evidence. Here’s what I’ve learned. First, it’s true that the issue is complicated. But the deeper you dig, the more fraud you find in the case against GMOs. It’s full of errors, fallacies, misconceptions, misrepresentations, and lies. The people who tell you that Monsanto is hiding the truth are themselves hiding evidence that their own allegations about GMOs are false. They’re counting on you to feel overwhelmed by the science and to accept, as a gut presumption, their message of distrust.

What if antibiotics in animal feed make a comeback?

Watt Ag Net | Posted on July 18, 2016

Europe is resting after a long period of trying to remove growth promoting antibiotics from animal feeds.  The U.S. is just starting, but it looks determined to take it one step further — that is, remove even antibiotics used for therapeutic purposes. To this end, we must keep in mind several Northern states of the European Union are already working to reduce the use of therapeutic antibiotics. So, one might be excused to believe the world is working against the notion of usinf antibiotics in animal production.

But what if the ubderlying reason of going aways from antibiotics no longer existed? How would that be possible? Very simple: the medical industry could come up with a new generation of antibiotics specific for animals. That is, antibiotics that would not promote resistance to those used in human medicine. If that was possible, and my instinct says it is coming up sooner than we might want to believe, then why not allow antibiotics back into animal feeds?

Post Holding’s Sued for False “Natural” Claims

Whole Foods magazine | Posted on July 14, 2016

Post Holdings, Inc., and its subsidiary, Post Foods, LLC, are being sued by three separate plaintiffs for labeling, marketing and selling Shredded Wheat as “natural” despite testing positive for the herbicide glyphosate.

The lawsuits were filed on June 22 by the Organic Consumers Association. “On the back of its cereal box, Post says Shredded Wheat is made of ‘100% Whole Grain Wheat’ and that the product is ‘made with nothing but goodness,’” said Ronnie Cummins, OCA’s international director in a press release. “But tests prove Shredded Wheat contains glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup. Glyphosate is not only very unnatural, it is a known toxin, linked to a long list of potential and serious health problems.”  Though testing by an independent lab in California found Shredded Wheat to contain 0.18 parts per million of glyphosate, which is a level below what is allowed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Kim Richman, of The Richman Law Group, which represents OCA in the suit notes that “even at low levels, including levels below those approved by regulatory agencies, studies show that glyphosate is an endocrine disruptor.”