The weekly Future Food News Review features leading journalists in foodtech and agtech sharing and discussing their top headlines of the week, hosted on Clubhouse.
We're mixing things up here at Future Food and have partnered with Danielle Gould from Food+Tech Connect to host deep discussions about the future of our food system and we're going to be bringing those conversations to the Future Food podcast. Expect fireside chats, book clubs, and the format for this episode, the Future Food News Review.
The weekly Future Food News Review features leading journalists in foodtech and agtech sharing and discussing their top headlines of the week, hosted on Clubhouse. This was our second edition and featured:
Expect a nuanced conversation about alternative proteins, picking up on news about Eat JUST's $200m funding round and consumer survey, the approval of the organic label for hydroponically-grown produce, how farmers are responding to the pandemic-induced restaurant industry shutdown in choosing what to plant, how states are rolling out Covid-19 vaccines for food system workers, how junk food companies are using TikTok to advertise to young people, and many more!
We're still testing out this format and would love to hear your suggestions for great journalists for us to include to ensure we're bringing diversity of thought to the headlines discussed.
👋 Join us every Friday at 7a PDT on Clubhouse
Featured articles this week:
Louisa B-T: Okay, well, I think I'm going to kick things off with an article that we wrote for AFN. But it's also we've had quite a bit of coverage of this company this week, and that is eat just the color volume alternative protein startup that used to be called Hampton Creek, they raised $200 million of growth, or it could even be late-stage funding from the Qatar sovereign wealth fund, and Microsoft co founder, Paul Allen. And that takes their total funding, since they were founded in 2011, to over $650 million. And they're going to use the funding to build capacity for their various different products, which now include part based eggs, replacements in various different formats. They say they've now replaced as many as 100 million eggs with plant-based alternatives. And they're also going to be accelerating research and development of new formats on the plant-based side. But equally, they also have cell-cultured meat cell cultured chicken. So what is this? Why does this matter? You know, alternative protein companies are raising funds all over the place? Well, I think this together with the historic announcement from just last November, when they were the first in the world to get regulatory approval, cell-based meat in Singapore, and they served in the restaurant, which is also first, their first product was chicken nuggets, and they're still serving it there. In Singapore, I have a few friends who've who've tried it. I think this and this funding round marks a real turning point for just when they you know, they've had a bumpy road, in many ways, you know, was an SEC investigation that was that was dropped as being, you know, a little bit of controversy internally. And when they first announced plans to get into cultivated meat, you know, as well as being on the plant based side with their just Mayo, you know, a few of us were quite a bit skeptical, you know, wondering if it was just PR jumping on the bandwagon. You know, and there are also some unconfirmed rumors that fundraising was a bit challenging last year. Obviously, it was a tricky year that aside, but now it seems to be you know, full steam ahead, you know, and they don't just want to do chicken and eggs. So this week, I also released a podcast interview that I did with Josh Tetrick, the founder and CEO from a few weeks ago, so I presume that the round must have be near clothing closing. And he emphasized the importance of rapid expansion. So you know, they didn't just think about which technologies they have, and what products can they fit that to, they really want to be replacing animals across the food system across different food types. And so when they came to thinking about how would they replace meat, they looked into plant based, but they decided that actually cell culturing was the route forward to it's interesting, they're developing this technology platform, you know, multiple different technology types. Apparently, it sounds like there's some research on the plant. Besides that. That's translatable into the cell cultured side. So it's a real turning point. You know, it's really exciting to see how, how much they're expanding. So that's my segment for now, if people have any questions or comments do jump in.
Chloe Sorvino: Hey, Louis. So I will say, I appreciate you bringing this up. Josh is a very interesting founder to things that I was super interested to hear more about. So they are considering building production in Qatar from this from this investment. And they've taken other funding to so from other kind of sovereign wealth, right. I think that food security is becoming definitely a part of their investing thesis and how they present themselves, which I think is fascinating thing I'll say is, you know, I know an IPO is really likely probably next year, they he's been saying for a while now that, you know, they won't be going public until they're profitable. And they've been expecting to become profitable at the end of 2021. He's been saying that for a while now. But, you know, I think that will be a huge moment. I'm sure he's watching a lot of these backs and all the crazy markets happening right now and is probably hitting his head a little bit that he hasn't been able to get it done sooner.
Louisa B-T Great. Thank you for that extra insight. So Megan, moving on to you. And it's related you have the story out this week in Food Dive about some research that JUST brought out this week.
Megan Poinski: Yeah, thanks so much. Yeah, I had first heard Josh Tetrick mention this research a couple weeks ago at a conference, he just said offhand something about intent to purchase for cell-based meat. So I was very interested, and I finally got a copy of what they had pulled together this week. It's interesting, because in the last several years, there's been a ton of consumer research on you know, would you buy cell based meat? What do you think of cell based meat? And going back to 2018 that there was some research done by cadence international that a third of consumers only a third would be interested in it. This research says that seven in 10 would actually buy cell based chicken instead of some of the Chicken from animals that they buy. Very interesting. It's shows that as this is less of a science experiment and more of, you know, something that more people are doing, it's getting on restaurant menus, it's getting a lot of funding, it's being talked about as the potential future of meat, more people are accepting. The thing that I found most interesting though, is they asked these people who said that they would be willing to buy, sell based chicken or also sell based beef, what their top reason for wanting to buy, the cell based equivalent would be. And the top reason a fifth of all consumers said that they would buy it because there were no animals killed in order to make the meat. So this means that not only is there a market, but people know exactly what they would be getting meat that comes from a fermenter, rather than an animal. And that is the top selling point for them. There's been a lot of talk in recent years about how much more sustainable cell based meat is. And there was the lifecycle assessment of the cell based meat industry that was put out last month on behalf of the Good Food Institute and the European animal rights group. And sustainability was much further down the list or reasons that people would want to buy it. So I found it fascinating. And this really shows that when these products do come out to US consumers, as long as they're rolled out as a new kind of meat, or a new way of making meat, instead of this weird high tech thing that's been done and conceived of in a lab, there's probably gonna be a lot of people who are interested, for many reasons.
Kim Severson: Oh, hey, Megan, this is Kim, from the Times. I'm always gonna argue in favor of cooking and deliciousness and what people really want to eat. And I find bones find these conversations. So interesting, because on one hand, you have so many more people who are cooking and who are, you know, the farmer's market situation has just exploded there, you have people who are really seeking out food that's sustainable, that's grown in the earth, that there's enough, there's a ton of people who also are, you know, cooking, wanting deliciousness, who really like eating. And then there's this product that is made with, you know, molecular biologists and chemists and food engineers. And I think there's a disconnect, I do think that people do are really pushing back against the industrialized food system in the way that much of the meat in this country gets produced. But I don't think that that there's going to be this this swap with this stuff. And I know people are very excited about it. And certainly everybody likes impossible burgers and I, you know, just saw they had impossible me that you know, the Starbucks breakfast sandwiches, I don't doubt that there's a nice here. But I think when those 21% of people say they want to, they might try to think it's more about, I don't think people want me, maybe they maybe they do want like, I don't want meat but I want me maybe it's more about vegetarianism, and veganism, and whole food and food that's kind of delicious to cook and not just like, I want chicken nuggets, but I don't want to kill a chicken. I don't know, the food. You know, consumer, the consumer that everybody talks about is such a wide ranging thing in America, right? And we have this huge food dichotomies all over the place, we have a rabid diet culture, and then we have like 64 new kinds of Oreos, and everybody gets excited about it, you know, like we're crazy nation when it comes to eating. So I think this, this, these products are certainly already have a place in popular culture of eating. But I think increasingly, and as we've seen through the pandemic, and as we seen through Gen Z, folks who are cooking like crazy and who are really actually good cooks and not, you know, just doing like stunt cooking for Instagram, I think food grown I know people are gonna argue with me about the real food is is always going to be I think the thing that people actually put on their plate. And this, this is super interesting. He's obviously making a lot of money. But you know, it's about bio reactors and investors. And I also just for the last thing that I want to get off on, he doesn't be sorry, you invited me pretty soon, but that this notion that they're talking about food security as a kind of a marketing element to me, I can't. At this point, it's hard for me to imagine the reality of trying to eat when you're a poor nation or you're, you know, a poor person in a in this country. I don't think the solution is going to be this kind of product. And I find that a little as I raise a little eyebrow when people start talking about this as a solution to food insecurity. I'm sort of reminded of the old golden rice argument about GMOs and that whole thing I think it's a it's a really easy thing to to market and discuss, but in reality on the ground feeding hungry people, I'm not sure that the the fake chicken nugget is really the thing that's going to do it. Anyway, thank you very much for coming to my TED Talk.
Errol Schweiser: I'm gonna have to 100% agree with Kim. And I'll just add a couple points. One, what's it made of? cell cultures need to be fed something what's in the medium. So if you're talking about turning $100 million investment into a billion dollars in retail sales, that's a lot of substrate. That's a lot of raw materials. So if anybody wants to volunteer what the secret sauces, I'm all ears. And the second thing is, you know, I call this the oligarchs diet. This is a type of technology that's really being foisted upon the consumer, there is no constrained demand, they're doing the surveys, and who knows how they're asking the questions, and what the research is, you know, how it's being geared up for, for folks, when you have a sovereign wealth fund that's based all their earnings on oil coming around saying we're gonna fix climate change. By creating this, you know, designer Franken food, I'm definitely pretty cynical in terms of food security, if this is the Bill Gates form of food security, we should really call it what it is. And that's food imperialism. There'll be foisting this upon developing world countries, and trade deals, and, you know, dumping just like they do with GMO corn. So, I remain very skeptical, especially considering that I did plenty of work with just when I was at Whole Foods.
Elaine Watson: This is Elaine from Food Navigator, USA, I mean, I saw this survey too. And I think it's kind of suspicious some of these consumer surveys, because I feel like because this product isn't on the market yet, you can pretty much get whatever you want, depending on how you ask the question. So I've seen some surveys that basically say, Would you eat a healthy, sustainable alternative to meat that's kind to animals? And, you know, predictably? You know, most people say they consider trying it. And then you can say, well, would you, you know, eat a Franken meat developed in a lab by people in white coats to the middling with, you know, the fundamentals of nature. And then, you know, most people say, they don't want to eat it. So I think, you know, really, until these products are actually on the market, you know, beyond the sort of high profile restaurant, restaurant launch, it's very hard to predict how consumers are going to feel about them. But I actually think that sell cultured meat could be an easier sell to consumers and some of these new microbial proteins, because you can still sell it, as you know, aka, you know, quote, unquote, real meat. Whereas, you know, if you're talking about a novel protein produced by a microbe in a fermentation tank, you know, selling bacterial protein is probably a much tougher sell than selling, you know, so called real meat. So I think it's just very difficult to predict until these products are actually on the market, you know, how consumers are going to respond to them. And it will all depend on how successful successful these companies are marketing them. positioning it.
Danielle Gould: Yeah, Elaine, I think that that's a great a great, great point. And you did a story this week on some of the growth projections that Boston Consulting Group has for the growth of the space, and as well as cell culture meet reaching price parity, which will be a huge issue. So maybe you could talk a little bit about that?
Elaine Watson: Sure. Yeah. Yeah, I mean, it feels like every month, somebody puts out a new report predicting the imminent collapse of animal agriculture. And, and you know, this this week, I'm the one from Boston Consulting Group and blue horizons has gone into, you know, a fair amount of media attention and headlines about peak meat and so on. So this particular report predicted that alternative proteins, so that's plant based proteins from microbes and also sell cultured meat could account for 11% of the global protein market by 2035. And that was their most conservative estimate. So they're most kind of wildly optimistic estimates had old alternative proteins capturing 22% of the market by 2035. I mean, I personally think the lower estimate is probably more likely, and possibly even still quite optimistic, because it's based on the assumption that these alternative proteins are going to match animal products on taste, texture and price Pretty soon, which is, you know, not a given. And, and as we've discussed, you know, I guess it also assumes that consumers will embrace all of these new proteins, which is, you know, by no means obvious. I mean, I know a lot of the headlines that I read about this report were about so called peak meat, but I think one thing the report does quite well is spell out that will actually still see increases in animal production, for some time, even as alternative proteins market share increases, because, you know, the overall protein market is still growing. So I don't think animal agriculture is in danger of collapsing anytime soon. But I mean, on a purely kind of personal note, what's striking to me and just kind of reflecting Kim's point, I think, is that there's so much energy and investment in the food industry right now. That's very narrowly for focused on, you know, reverse engineering meat, dairy and eggs, you know, replicating the Western diet just without animals by kind of putting back you know, breaking apart and putting back these kind of junk foods if you like molecule by molecule to create these increasingly sophisticated drop in replacements for burgers and ice cream and pizza and you know, I'm a vegetarian and I you know, if this means we gradually displace industrialized animal agriculture, you know that that's fantastic. But from a nutritional perspective, you know, many of these companies are still using really limited toolbox, you know, extruded soy in pee or wheat protein, a bunch of starches, gums, coconut, all methyl cellulose and so on. And, you know, nothing wrong with those things. They're often plants. But you know, it's probably not what most consumers think about when they're asked about going on a plant based diet, which conjures up images of brightly colored fruits and vegetables, and nuts and whole grains. So I would personally just love to see the packaged food industry devote, you know, the same amount of time and energy into helping consumers find more affordable and convenient ways to eat a wide array of array of plants and phytonutrients. And, and, you know, more beans, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, and so on. And that's just going to be a lot harder than coming up with the perfect plant-based ice cream.
Louisa B-T: Yeah, they thank you for that. And I will actually add, in my podcast with Josh Tetrick, he did say that, you know, the best way for people to replace me and have a plant based diet is to eat the whole plants. And he said, You know, he would wish the company would come up with a sexy bean company to make beads sexy to have people eating the whole vegetables. And I will also say that another thing that concerns me is that, you know, there are developments around alternative protein in emerging markets, and even in places like India, where the population of predominantly vegetarian already, and I would be worried that these meal alternatives would make their way there, and then people would start eating more processed plant based food, then they all they're eating today, so actually could get, you know, less healthier and have more diet-related health issue.
Elaine Watson: Yes [there does seem to be a bit of] plant washing, at the moment, I'm getting a press release every week saying, you know, what, a new plant based cookie and it's like, well, the cookie was probably plant based anyway. Right. And now you're positioning. And also, there's a lot of companies that are sort of adding plant proteins to nutritional shakes, and things like that as positioning as kind of snacks and drinks that you might just drink in the afternoon, you know, not as a meal, you know, giving you another 20 grams of plant protein. Again, nothing wrong with that, but it's just sort of adding additional protein to the diet rather than displacing any animal products. So it's not really going to make much of a difference, you know, for trying to fix the or shift, the food system is giving you another 20 grams of protein that you probably don't need. So I think, you know, there's a lot of different components to this to this trend, and some of them are welcome. And some of them are just another way for food companies to sort of position in markets, things that aren't necessarily that healthy organize sort of, you know, shift the food system in a different direction.
Danielle Gould: Sonalie, I'd love to hear from you. Because you know, you and I have spoken about this. And across Asia Pacific, there's a different expectation around technology in your food, or there's different consumer, either relationship with technology and food. So maybe you have some thoughts as well, around some of these topics.
Sonalie Figueras: Yes hi, when Elaine was talking about getting press releases about everything being plant based. It was kind of reminding me about five years ago, getting so many press releases about gluten free, everything that was gluten free already, but was now advertised as certified gluten free. So I do I do see that. But in certainly in in the kind of more developed Asian markets like Hong Kong and Singapore, it's just a different motivation for why people are choosing these things. I don't know that protein is at the top of mind in the same way that it seems to be in the US where I think there's there's this like bigger protein conversation constantly. I. So I know that Elon was talking about India. I don't I don't know that that majority of Indians are vegetarian, but the figure I had was actually around just under 30%. At last count, and that's it. That's an old fire. There aren't as many. What I have obviously seen is that in certain circles in India, in the more kind of the richer socio economic kind of levels stratas you're seeing a lot more of eating of beef, which is obviously not a traditional kind of ingredient on the plate in India. But I think it's more that in India, there's just a lot more vegetarian food that's available all the time anyway. So meat isn't just the only thing on the plate, but certainly in for example, in China, I think the concern is definitely Luckily, much more around food safety, and just general nutrition, general health, not necessarily just protein. I don't feel like food safety. And I maybe, you know, maybe I'm wrong. But I don't think that in the United States and in Europe, there's this. There's such a concern on food safety. And would you agree with that, Danielle?
Danielle Gould: Yes, I mean, I think I wouldn't say that it's the top of mine. It's more health and taste. And then environment and safety doesn't really come up in the consumer insights work that I've been doing
Sonalie Figueras: Exactly. And I think that what happened in China with the African swine flu. So I was actually going back to rising meat consumption that I think Elaine mentioned, I've been seeing some data about that, too. I think there's some some interesting information about how Chinese beef consumption is actually on the rise. So in 2020, was the first time there was quite such a big rise in specifically beef, compared to pork and chicken. And that's because pork has really taken a backseat. And one because it got a lot more expensive, because it was more scarce. And to just again, because people are extremely concerned because of the African swine flu, which affected almost a quarter of all pigs in China. So I don't know, I think it's just very different motivations. And I think that also, in Asia, there is also the part about seeing food as as trends. You know, like today, I was I was I was in a mall, and there was a drink that was latte with truffle foam. So everything is just always a very trend focused thing. And what I see a lot what I hear a lot other than from the diehard vegetarians and vegan communities here is that it's the, you know, impossible foods is a is a trend, as well as beyond meat. And so there's there's also that aspect that I think propels the demand.
Danielle Gould: And I just wanted to build on something that was said quite a bit. You know, as far as what what Elaine was saying, I think one of the things that we see with a lot of plant based companies is, again, this focus on a limited number of ingredients, which isn't necessarily good for dietary health, but it's also, you know, counter to the goal of reducing climate change, right. And, you know, we if you have mono cropped ingredients, right, mono cropped peas, so I, that, you know, we we might be replicating some of the issues that our current system has. So that there is an opportunity for using more diverse ingredients that are grown in a more diverse way that actually helped to build soil health and soil organic matter, and support farming communities. But I also wanted to turn to Chloe, who has a really interesting story on this front, and then we're going to be moving on in a little bit. But there was just so much in the plant based space that happened this week, Chloe, talking a little bit about this new company nourish ingredients that has a fermentation process for developing vegan fat.
Chloe Sorvino: Yeah, and I know you guys wanted me to talk about this. And we already did talk about alternative protein so much. I've wrote a few other stories this week. So I can totally pivot. I will just share your point earlier. And a few points that I've heard. I think that just going back to what we're talking about, in terms of meat consumption growing in Asia, you know, Japan actually consumes more beef than seafood at this point in time. And I've similarly seen the rising beef happening in China, specifically because of African swine fever. That has been concerning. And I think, more and more I'm, I'm really thinking about the institutions involved in these companies and what what would it mean to be going public and what means cementing these types of things in our, you know, society, because at the end of the day, even if America barely, you know, increase increases its meat consumption right now. And right now, it's been almost like flat, if not stagnating. And as with multiple, you know, developing developed countries around the Western world, but really, if it, if it isn't stopping, and decreasing meat consumption in Asia, it really, climate impacts, like if you look at the UN reports, and projections of climate impacts really won't be mitigated, like at all. So I think that's also something just to think about in terms of how so many of these brands are marketing and, and like, there's this funding frenzy, but like, what does that funding frenzy really mean? And I think, you know, I think the startup I read about this week, which was back Bailey cushings, horizon ventures, and they don't make a lot of investments as to why I think it was worth a few minutes of time to discuss, you know, I think just as a great example of these foods, and these venture backed products are so so ultra processed to begin with, which is why they keep having to create new startups and fun new things and new technologies to be able to fix ingredient issues that are arising Right. I mean, obviously there aren't. There aren't ingredient issues and fat binding issues with you know, whole plants and beans, rice I really appreciate that that's part of the conversation already. So, you know, nourish ingredients is a fermentation platform that is specifically focused on vegan fats that are more accessible. They're not using coconut oil or palm oil. And the kind of ideas when it's commercialized, it'd be healthier, more readily accessible than some of the other ingredients that are commonly used right now, like beyond, for example, uses canola oil. So there's definitely health concerns to contend with that I don't know if these really will end up being healthy made something huge to watch. And again, these are continuing to be highly processed. I will say that since we've been talking a lot about the funding, and there has been this, obviously, just massive Gold Rush, folks seeing plant based and alternative proteins as like, the last frontier of investing, right? That's obviously super problematic for so many reasons. from, you know, just the amount of time we have left in this decade to really make changes in our food system and how it really has to be figured out in these next few years. And how much of a distraction it really could be. But I think it's important talk with this, because horizons is one of the few firms that's really doing early stage startup investments. And that is important because these, there are moon type, moonshot type technologies that are still being proven that do lack funding, and in these earlier stage areas, and if this is going to be part of the solution, which all these institutions backing these companies, unfortunately, just seems like it's going to be something we have to contend with going forward. It seems like now these early stage startups are getting crowded out. Because while there is a massive amount of funding, pouring into the alternative protein space, there's like 3 billion in the past year alone, most of the money is really from like the black rocks and sequoias of the world, all these like bigger institutions that are suddenly drawn to this idea of being you know, in on this hot new craze, and the profit that they're going to see with it, right. So all of a sudden, like, it's going to a lot of these later stage startups that are way closer to an exit or an acquisition or an IPO. And that earlier stage ones are getting crowded out. And so if this is going to be taking up so much capital, this is going to take up so much energy and time and even discussion to the conversation like this. You know, I think we all just have to think about that, you know, I'm really focused on trying to I'm grappling with sorted out when I'm writing my book. And just like the distraction and how we just don't have enough time for distractions, lots of different sides. I also will say something that Errol mentioned earlier about lab grown meat really stuck with me. There are huge issues in terms of the scaffolding the substrates, they really haven't figured this stuff out yet. Also didn't really figure out the bovine fetal, like serum replacements yet, on top of that, I've also recently heard that a lot of these lab grown alternatives use a lot of antibiotics. And there's, I don't have to talk about antibiotic resistance here. So I'm sure a lot of folks know and want to get more time. But there's a lot of continual questions. And for me when I think about lab grown, and I will say just this ingredient startup could be for lab grown, it could be for plant base, it could be non GMO, it could be GML, they have a lot of different prototypes coming out. But for lab grown, I kind of see the future maybe the future kind of thing is maybe most likely is that like this, because it's so expensive to replicate the nature because of how expensive reactors are. I think it'll probably end up being like, you know, an ingredient in processed foods. I think maybe it'll be like a 20% lab grown chicken sausage with the rest plant. Kind of like what a Dells is doing. Now doing that maybe makes more sense economically. But I think we'll see.
And I'll eventually try it; I'm working through my thoughts.
Elaine Watson: But I'm just going to say on the antibiotics, I don't believe that's actually it's something that would be used in commercial scale production, it's more people using in laboratory. So I think that's something that may be a misnomer, but to my understanding is the most expensive aspect is the growth factors. So some things like IGF one, and they're like a 1000s of dollars per gram. bioreactors are expensive, but I think it's some of the elements in the gross media that you know, have have to come down by massive orders of magnitude in order to make this commercially viable. And I mean, IGF one is a good example. I think that you know, I was talking to a company last week. And that's something like $13,000 a gram, which is obviously not something that is going to work on a commercial scale. So I think that's where there's so much kind of time and energy and investment at the moment trying to bring the cost down at some of these recombinant proteins and growth factors to be used in the growth medium, or maybe even finding other models where you don't need these things. I mean, you can produce all of them through microbial fermentation, but it's still super expensive.
Actually, I do know that there are some companies that are really focusing on getting the cost of the growth medium down. I've future meat technologies, and they actually found a way to reuse their growth medium. Yes, they also have taken out all of the animal-derived ingredients.
Chloe Sorvino: Yeah, I mean it just and from my understanding, there is a little bit of fetal bovine serum in what was approved in Singapore but they are working on getting New approval that does not include that at all.
Elaine Watson: Yeah, I mean, to make this viable, I mean, all of the companies have to have an SBS SBS three medium because it defeats the purpose in the first place if you're avoiding animals, and then you're using animal products. So
Louisa Burwood-Taylor: Thank you both so much. So I'm just going to quickly reset the room for people that have joined us. We are the food and tech Connect club, a collaboration between AgFunder and food and tech connect to host, hopefully meaningful discussions about our food system here on clubhouse. And today, we have our future Food News review, it's going to be every Friday at 7am. Pacific time. And we're featuring the leading journalists in our space, we're super lucky to have them all here discussing their top headlines of the week. So now I'm going to move over to the wonderful Kate Cox from the counter, she has a really interesting story to tell us about what farmers are planting in lieu of crops for restaurants to Kate, take it away.
Kate Cox: hey, thanks, everybody. I must say I'm quite impressed with clubhouse, just gonna say that it makes me feel incredibly old. But it seems to be working. So this is cool. And it's nice to hear all of your voices. So yeah, this week, I am sharing a piece that we published at the counter yesterday by our contributing writer, Laila Nagi, who talked to farmers across the country as they're sort of in the middle of peak planting season, which is about right now, and was about right now, last year when the pandemic sort of sent supply chains or began to send supply chains into a tailspin. And that was right around this time. Farmers are thinking much differently this year about what to put in the ground. As we know, last year, many farmers already had their crops planted for the season. And Mother Nature is not on our timeline. So there's really no going back. Once you've got plants in the ground, you're going to grow them. And that's one of the reasons that we ended up seeing farmers having to plow crops under or giveaway product or sell things for cents on the dollar instead of several dollars a pound this year. What was really interesting in this piece is that farmers are kind of going back to basics. And that that really means something very distinct for certain kinds of growers. If they were running a CSA, or had strong restaurant relationships in the past, or were growing specialty items for high end chefs, that's over for this year. Many of the people who may have been growing, let's say you know, a Carolina Reaper, pepper or edible flowers or something boutique E and high end for a hotel, specialty microgreens herbs, that kind of thing. Those folks are doing sort of more cautious planting this year. So we had a grower in California, who had been growing hikma and actually my favorite line of the entire pieces. I have no HCA contracts this year. But you know, it's sort of it's goodbye to things that were that required a strong relationship in a market. And even though restaurants are opening up slowly, and the retail sector seems to have bounced back to some degree, or at least gotten a handle on inventory issues. Farmers are looking at storage crops, potatoes, carrots, onions, things that can go in a CSA box, and that customers can identify immediately and know exactly what to do with. And so it's gonna be an unusual year for produce, I think everywhere in retail in CSA boxes, specialty varieties, interesting experiments, working with seed breeders, that's not going to happen this year is a very cautious year for farmers and out west. In Colorado, for instance, where in addition to the pandemic, there was a really heavy frost in April and October that sent stone fruit growers into a frenzy and cost them pretty significant percentages of their of their planting season. Those folks are still recovering. So they're looking at how to continue growing things in the interim, while their trees and customer relationships kind of get repaired. So it's a precarious time. I think success this year for farmers might mean they sell everything in the fall. And that's that and they may be selling, you know, a cherry tomato Medley rather than, you know, a new variety of raspberry. So it could be it could be an interesting time at the consumer level to in terms of what what we get at retail level by way of variety.
Louisa B-T: That is really interesting. And what how do you think this will reflect on the costs of different crops you know, at the supermarket on supermarket shelves potentially?
Kate Cox: Well, you know, labor is an ongoing issue. And that's a cost for farmers. But I do think given that they're a bit more conservative this year, and they're not experimenting with some of the kind of crafty varietals, or working with seed breeders whose product may have been more expensive, we are probably going to see somewhat stable prices, we just may be eating a whole lot more carrots, potatoes and onions, then we are golden raspberries, for instance.
Jenn Marston: This is Jen, I kind of wonder if, if traditional outdoor agriculture kind of goes back to those basics that you were talking about. But we've also heard a lot, and this is obviously still a really new and developing area. But we've heard a lot about seed breeding with indoor farming is getting a lot of attention. So I kind of wonder if there's a role for indoor ag play in providing some of those specialty crops that maybe it's less dependent on Mother Nature and what happens there. And so then it becomes a mix of, you know, it's sort of you your staples sort of grown more traditionally, and then the, you know, I can't remember the name of the company now, but they've had this special breed of strawberries they're making and they cost like $50 for a 15 pack, but they're supposed to be amazing.
Kate Cox: Yeah, microgreens strawberries, those are the two items that we know do really well in in vertical farm systems, and that they have, you know, managed to kind of solve the price issue. But there's still so much they can't grow. So you make a good point, perhaps outdoor ag has a handle on, you know, the basics and storage crops. And now we start going to, you know, the Gotham greens of the world, or they're sort of smaller smallholder farmers who already had retail relationships, I think what's really interesting is sort of the changing nature of relationships. I mean, it's, it's in a farmer's DNA to adapt. So you know, it's not, it's not a big tragedy, if suddenly, you're planting, you know, many more rows of potatoes than you have in the past. But what is interesting is that you might not be growing for the same people that you were growing for before. And so if some farmers pivoted to CSA over the summer and managed to stay afloat, you know, with a small CSA business, they may be committing a whole lot more acreage this year to growing for CSA is if they weren't before. or, in the case of the farmers we talked to in Colorado, they're now growing for a food pantry, because that state has given growers some grant money to grow for food pantries and other outlets for food assistance. So some of those farmers said, it's not really just what we're planting, it's that we it's that the purpose of our planting has a different focus now, and our relationships are changing, it's not so much anymore, that we're trying to supply the same markets that we were now we may be growing to fill some gaps in the Food Assistance Program, or to provide products that were formerly kind of too pricey for food pantries to take in. So for instance, raspberries and blackberries. In one case, in the case of Colorado, they were growing items that wouldn't have shown up in food assistance packages before because they were too expensive. But they're able to do that now with some support from the state government in grant funding to do that. And so I think that's what's probably most compelling about the story is that it's the relationship that farmers have to their land is forever changing. But this has really changed who they're selling to and who they're growing for.
Danielle Gould: Great. Thank you so much, Kate, such an important story. And it sounds like it's gonna have long term implications for the future of agriculture in the in the country. I think we we just started to talk a little bit about indoor Ag and I know that Kim has a story that she wants to talk about. Kim Severson, who's a reporter with The New York Times, about the organic certification now for indoor ag. So Kim, do you want to do you want to talk about that a little bit?
Kim Severson: Thank you. Yeah, I like I read that story. I thought that was a great story. I wrote a lot about how farmers were kind of caught, really caught with you know, 3000 acres of fava beans when all the shut down and no restaurants to sell it to this story that I am trying to think a lot about where hydroponics or I guess indoor agriculture is in the world and how it's working. And I kind of got on to this, I was talking to a chef in Florida who's like, you know, four months, five months out of the year. It's so hot there, nothing can grow and without the vertical gardens giving the chef's their lettuce, they would be out of luck and talking about all of this. But anyway, this week, a US District Court in San Francisco said that the USDA can in fact, certify hydroponic operations as organic and this has been an ongoing fight between people who originally wrote the organic laws and 1990. And the idea was that soil and the health of that soil is really essential to the organic definition, right soil and organic are, are married. And now hydroponic growers are saying we can meet all of these applicable certification issues. And we don't need to worry about the soil, but we can still be organic. And so there was a sort of a battle between the two sides of this in the Coalition for sustainable organics, the head of whom, by the way, used to be the head of the United potato growers of America, just as a side note, but this group is people who are in companies that invest a lot of money in, you know, in the strawberries in hydroponic lettuce, growing operations, I think there's a big tomato growing operations, it's about to start in Tennessee. And their argument is, look, you know, we can provide organic produce for people and they've got the price point down. And meanwhile, farmers who are trying to switch to organic on their land have to wait three years for their soil to, you know, cycle through and be approved, they, they're arguing they're at a real disadvantage, financially with some of these other newer companies, and that they're incredibly different categories. So it's a it's a really interesting fight between farmers who see farmers an ecosystem in which the soil matters, you know, the environment, you know, what you put in the soil matters, and you cannot take soil out of the organic concept. And, you know, a new group of hydroponic farmers who see, you know, it's organic is about no synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. So it's a really interesting place that's being fought in this little small weird rulemaking fight and within the USDA, but I think it brings up a larger issue about what organic actually means or what people want to eat. And can this, you know, is is the food that's coming out of some of these farms? Is these hydroponic operations. Is it as good as what you could get from the soil? And will there be kind of a deliciousness differentiation? Will people will food, organic food grown in really good soil become kind of an elite, you know, food stuff, I just, I think it's it's kind of a beginning point of, you know, of a real change in agriculture that I think ultimately might be more, at least be more popular and significant in terms of how we grow food, then, you know, maybe, you know, plant based egg, you know, substitutes at this point. So anyway, I'm just curious if people feel like they are. Have you eaten a lot of hydroponically grown strawberries? And like some of these new tomatoes coming out? Do you think the quality is as good? Do you think this is a as a kind of a low cost way to get organics ultimately into people's low impact way to get organics into people's into people's kitchens? And the soil? Is soil important to agriculture? My guess is the big question. Anyway, that's what I've been thinking about this week. interested in what you guys think,
Kate Cox: I love this story, been fascinated by this sort of strange bedfellows that soil or no soil, kind of personal politics debate brings to the table. And I think that's one of the most interesting things about this is that for true soil evangelists, hydroponics is anathema to everything, you know, the original organic pioneer farmer's stand for and I'm just fascinated at the depth of the divide, and in the organic community about this, and I can't, I can never get enough of this story because there's no sort of easy villains. And it's really, it's just kind of a fascinating story about people and you know, kind of Ag politics and all the ethos that goes along with organics. So I was really glad to see this.
I kind of wanted to chime in because I also run an organic trade platform. And I noticed that organic is kind of heavy, I don't know, I feel like it's almost it's gone post organic. And it's interesting that you're you're talking about this debate between indoor ag versus soil based AG, because if you know, there's obviously the whole discussion around regenerative agriculture, and I don't know if folks are familiar with kind of organic farming and of course biodynamic farming, there's always been fights between organic and biodynamic for so long. And it felt like organic sort of won out. But if we start talking about kind of conservation and ecology and agro ecology, and I did this really fantastic. Well, it wasn't fantastic because of me, but I interviewed Angela Pei, who, who spends her life fighting for agro ecology, that's her term over regenerative farming. And I mean, one of the things that we're not bringing into the discussion here between indoor and outdoor ag is is the climate kind of consequences, right? Because it feels like indoor ag is meeting things like Food Security and Nutrition needs, but it's not solving the need that we have to better live with the Land and Natural Resources in order to mitigate climate change. And so that's kind of Where I feel the regenerative farming community, the organic farming community, the biodynamic, they have this, this other part of the argument that indoor agriculture just isn't addressing.
So there's all great points. And I think if we would actually frame this as agri ecology versus everyone would probably be more appropriate, because all these other terms are really commodity forms in terms of, you know, creating some value in the marketplace for a particular set of techniques. So just one point there. But the other point is around hydroponic, it's not labeled. So you don't really know if it's hydroponic versus soil ground. That was the problem with the hydro organic and why a lot of folks like myself said, you know, it's fine what they're doing, just create a separate label. So there's market differentiation. And then I think my final point would be nutrient density once again, what's the secret sauce? What's the growth media you can't just grow fruits and vegetables on water and air? There needs to be some sort of substrate? Is it coconut shell husks? Is it cow manure? What else is in the water? We don't know. And therefore we don't know what the nutrient density is of the products being grown from it. That's something that you know bio nutrient food association is showing around soil health and you know, and you know, regenerative agriculture agro ecology, soil adds to nutrient density where it's hydroponic, I think you're gonna see a lot more tests coming out showing the stuff is nutrient deficient. It's, there's nothing to it. And also, what the heck are they growing this stuff on?
This is Twilight from severe leads. And I've actually, I've visited a strawberry opera, large Burberry operation, I won't name here, but they were growing strawberries in these new waist high systems. And it was, in fact, coconut substrate. And, you know, they're, they're essentially piping in nutrients through the water. And I asked about soil, actually, I asked the CEO, and he said, You know, that's not what our consumers care about our consumers care about whether they're feeding strawberries to their children, and whether those strawberries
organic, and that's kind of where it ends. And that was two years ago, and I've been really interested to see kind of how that's shifting, right.
I think that is shifting, I
do think there is a rising interest on the part of consumers in the impact of soil and the, in general, the larger discussion around climate and the environmental impact of our food beyond just is my milk, gonna poison my children. But I also just wanted to say that the,
the hydroponic conversation is interesting to me, because it often gets framed. And actually, when this news came out this week, my co editors were like, this is a big deal. They're gonna start certifying hydroponic food as organic and I was like, No, actually, this has been happening for a while this has been more about whether or not certain folks can stop this from happening. And you know, there were big discussions within the NTSB, the National Organic Standards Board, I think it was a year and a half ago or something like that. So most of this conversation is about whether they can stop it. It's been happening for years. I just wanted to pipe in and say that.
Yeah, absolutely. You're absolutely right, that I think this was a an appeal against a previous ruling on this. Great. So we're going to move on, I just want to remind everyone, we are recording this, we're hoping to release this in podcast format. So if everyone can mute themselves, as soon as they stop speaking, just to avoid any interference, and check that their mics aren't rubbing on their clothes. I think mine was earlier. So we're gonna move on now to Leah Douglas from fun. And you have a story this week about the vaccine eligibility for food system workers. So please, Leah,
Hey, everyone, great to be here really enjoying the conversation so far? So yeah, so the the topic I wanted to talk about a little different than where we've been, or moving into the labor space and talking about COVID, which some folks know is that my main focus this year is covering pandemics impact, particularly on the workers who, you know, grow our food, ship it, process it, and so on. So, you know, one thing that's obviously been top of everyone's mind, the last few weeks in the space is the rollout of vaccinations to, you know, frontline workers and food system workers. And I've seen a lot of reporting on, you know, at the local level, the national level, who's eligible for the vaccines in the food sector in the food sector, but I hadn't seen like a resource to to just take a glance and understand how many states have made these workers eligible. So yesterday, I published a series of maps on the current website, that is, you can basically select by sector and see which states have made food sector workers eligible for the vaccine. And if they're not eligible now, when they will be soon, which it's looking like, by about mid April, we'll see these workers eligible in every state, because it's been a really interesting topic in the last couple of months because, you know, as folks node states have have really shaken up their vaccine eligibility fee. is in sort of real time. So the CDC recommended late last year, the food system workers, for the most part B and really early phase usually phase one the other restates vaccine rollout. But as the vaccines have arrived in states, a lot of states have switched to more of an age based criteria or have moved other frontline sector is up ahead. And so there's been a lot of lobbying from the industry and from worker unions to get these workers, you know, reprioritized, in the phase out of the vaccine, so, you know, I think, Oh, I hope a helpful resource for folks who are covering this. And of course, with President Biden mandating essentially that all adults be eligible by May one, we've seen a really rapid, and with more vaccine available, we've seen these timelines really, you know, every day, it seems like more and more states are opening the vaccine eligibility to all adults. So I think this is a really fascinating sort of glimpse at where we are in the pandemic. And of course, just eligibility doesn't end the pandemic for these workers. It doesn't mean every worker will be vaccinated or that access will be easy. That's for, you know, more follow up reporting. But for now, I hope this is a helpful resource for just understanding where we are at one year into the pandemic.
your your reporting? I mean, it's been cited by most of the major news outlets, john oliver, how what what is the goal with with this? How do you think that it might shift the conversation with this new map that
you just released? Well, I think the gap that I saw was, you know, sort of a lot of reporting that had kind of broad statements about, you know, he talking workers are eligible in some states, but not all. And I found myself wondering, you know, where what states,
you know, how
are these states making decisions about who is and isn't eligible. So, you know, I'm hoping that, you know, for other reporters, and for, you know, other folks who are interested in what's going on with this sector right now, that it can be a way to understand, you know, how many states are prioritizing these workers. So like, as of today, you know, most states have, have pushed these workers intelligibility as of today, so, around 35 states have four or five of these sectors that I'm tracking currently eligible. So I think in some ways that tells a more optimistic story than I had had been under the impression before making this map, the coverage that I had read indicated, or sort of suggested to me that many fewer states are making these workers eligible. So I think that was one interesting finding that, you know, the clear majority of states do have these workers eligible. But you know, there's also some interesting learnings around, you know, states that are just doing age based criteria and have essentially eliminated occupational priority for for workforces. That's not very many states, but it is happening most controversially, I think, in the food space that's happening in Florida, where, you know, of course, there's a high number of farm workers and desantis, Governor desantis has, has moved ahead with just an age based eligibility phase and not prioritizing occupational groups like farm workers ahead of senior citizens. So I think there's some interesting learnings there,
that suit I've we've been tracking this, we published our tracker, I want to say, maybe about a month, a month and a half ago, and we're always updating it, we're focusing more on manufacturers than the farmworkers just because that is our primary audience. But it's been really interesting to see all the updates coming through, we update it probably a couple times a week since there is a bigger vaccine rollout going on. And it's definitely one of our top read stories so far this year. So it certainly is a useful resource. But to put it together, we had to read through every single state's policies and comb through to kind of what we're doing now. It's kind of surprising to us that, you know, this wasn't spelled out anywhere. And it was kind of harder information to find, especially because everybody has said through the whole pandemic, that the people in the food industry are some of the superstars that are really keeping the country going through this.
Yeah, I think that's such an interesting point. You know, I've also had to comb through all those different state guidelines. And even the state guidelines from public health departments aren't always clear. So you have to look at, you know, recent news reporting. And I mean, that this has become clear with your my reporting on COVID cases and outbreaks all year, but just the lack of standardization, the way this information is presented by public health agencies, and nationally, the fact that like, you know, journalists have to put together this information, so it's easily accessible, as opposed to there being some sort of federal database that we could just search. You know, it's incredibly labor intensive. And I think the, the, the incredible variety of how states are approaching this, you know, makes these tools necessary and also difficult to build. Thank you, Leah.
You know, I think we're moving along. We it was heartbreaking to see over last year what happened to food and farm workers and it was equally heartbreaking to see the impacts of the pandemic on the restaurant industry and Brett Anderson, who's joining us from the New York Times wrote a phenomenal piece this week about the independent that restaurant coalition, and how they fought really hard in order to secure $28.6 billion in grant relief for small restaurants and bars. So Brett would love for you to talk about that journey and the work you're reporting on this week. And thanks for joining us.
Well, thanks for having me. I've really enjoyed this. So yeah, as you mentioned in the other piece, about the independent wrestling, when I first started reporting, you know, last summer Not long after this was formed. And I was originally attracted by the fact that the people involved with this group, really, even early on represented a cross section of what is ultimately, you know, a fairly narrow industry, you know, had a lot of the heavyweights in the independent restaurant world, as well as, you know, really small operators in not in big markets. And I thought it just seemed like an indication of how, how vulnerable everyone was in the independent restaurant world to the pandemic. And, and so, you know, I had conversations with people about it, I got to the fall, and was talking with my editor about the group and whether or not we would write about it. And it was, we certainly decided that it was really a political story, whether or not they were going to have any success, and that that would be best left to reporters in Washington. And so I sort of reluctantly agreed with him. But then I noticed that as I spoke to restaurant tours around the country, I mean, I mainly write about restaurants. And I try to make a habit of getting on the phone with folks, even if it's just casually around the country regularly, just so I can sort of feel like I have my ear to the ground about what's happening. And it struck me that just about everyone I spoke to would without my mentioning it bring up this group, the independent restaurant coalition and the meetings that they had over zoom, and how important they had become to sort of lifting up people during this this year of, of grief and loss. And so when I finally wrote the story that appeared earlier this week, it sort of had these two layers to it. And in fact, my colleague, my friend and colleague, Kim seavers, in her and I actually talked about this phenomenon of restaurant tours, having the space to sort of openly emote and sort of feel safe being vulnerable, and how that was like something that was worth continuing to talk to people about. And so ultimately, the story that ran is about this political success, which I think really does seem kind of unlikely that a lobbying group that did not exist a year ago, would play a role, I think, played a lead role in securing $28.6 billion in relief money. But then I also the story had this layer to it about how how they achieve that success was through that what I think is a really unique process, particularly in the world of politics, of this kind of high emotional intelligence, where they, you know, they spent time and set aside time in their meetings to lift people up. And that had the the result of actually creating the energy and the urgency that they needed to see this job through. You know, the aspect of it that I'd be interested to hearing from this group about is that, you know, that the story kind of puts a marker down about the arrival of this group, this restaurant coalition that has influence in Washington. And, you know, a lot of the folks that are involved with it are vowing to, to continue to stay together and to and to really formalize themselves as a lobbying group and an advocacy group that can help move the needle in Washington for other issues that they care about, including issues around the food system. And, you know, to me, it seems worth continuing to watch to see how they operate. And if they're able to successfully advocate for issues that a lot of independent restaurant tours have, you know, been very vocal about over the decades, particularly when it comes around, it comes to, you know, to farming and that kind of thing. But so that's sort of that's, that's all I have to say about I'm happy to take questions, but I am getting really interested to hear if anyone here thinks that it's it's reasonable to expect that this lobbying group could be an ally in other areas of politics and food systems.
I had a question. This is Jen, how do you think just simply because of, you know, we're talking about restaurants and there's obviously a lot of controversy around restaurants relationship to delivery services like doordash and Uber Eats and everything. Would you think this loving group might be able to exert any influence in the name of protecting restaurants over issues like that?
I mean, they would say that they intend to do that. You know, that they want to be, they want to use this newfound influence to be able to protect restaurants from, you know, from all of its, you know, all of the things that endanger their businesses, including, you know, including the delivery services. I, you know, but that wasn't something that came up. as, you know, this is our next agenda item. When I spoke to people, in fact, I believe that they don't, they haven't quite decided on what their next agenda item is, I think they've only just sort of decided that they, they believe they've had a test that they need to follow up on. And man, I think the trick will be, you know, finding issues that they can rally around, you know, this last year, the group has really been, I think, fighting for their own survival, and that helped in keeping people on board. But, you know, in the future, if if restaurant businesses get back to operating something like normal, you know, it, we could see this group perhaps dissolve, because there aren't enough people on it that see reason to, you know, to fight.
I was gonna be really curious to see how they interact with the NRA, the National Restaurant Association, and in particular, in relation to the minimum wage or this what they call the sub minimum wage for restaurant workers. And whether or not that will be something that they take up or whether they care about the workers in that way.
Yeah, you know, the sort of drama with the NRA was very much in the background of this. In fact, like, the day before the story came out, the NRA announced it was hiring this new executive to improve communications with with its members and made a point to say, including independent restaurants. The you know, though I did actually speak with a couple of different people in that group about, you know, about wage issues. I do believe that a lot of restaurant tours want to, you know, raise their wages and try to fight in Washington for it. But there's not doesn't seem to be unanimity. What I heard in the group was that people in smaller markets where the economics are just different than they are in places like San Francisco and New York, they believe there needs to be different standards in different places. I'm just speaking for what I heard when that issue came up.
Tonight. Sorry. Oh, sorry. Oh, sorry. I was gonna get over to Christine cuz I know she hasn't spoken yet and has a lot of covers this this industry quite closely.
Oh, thank you. Um, hey, bruh. I'm Kristin Holly. I'm a freelance writer. And I mostly focus on restaurant tech. But I've been doing some work mostly for food and wine that about IRC and PvP and now the relief fund and I think the interesting thing about IRC right now, and I spoke with things like Kevin Boehm and Phil Marcus at the very beginning, and and like you, I heard, they were very adamant about my two year old is crying, a very adamant about advocating for the interests of independent restaurant whose above, you know, the kind of NRA interests, which tend to be the larger companies. And I think that's evident, there's a very specific part of this relief grant program that is still to be implemented, that requires restaurants to sign up at the moment for a DUNS number, and then the SAM registration, it's just a lot of bureaucracy that is going to be required for people for restaurant owners to actually access this relief. And the IRC is currently advocating for like the removal of that system. And like, it requires a notary and all kinds of crazy things for restaurants to jump through in order to receive any of the $20 million. And I think that looking to signals like that, where they're really going granularly granularly, granularly, after what affects independent restaurants versus, you know, sort of the larger stories is, is super, super interesting to me, because they can advocate for, like the very specific needs of a very specific industry that was that was, frankly, under represented on a national level. So I really enjoyed your piece. And I'm, I'm really excited to watch the IRC go forward. Because they have it's, you know, with a lot of smart people with a lot of big ideas on how to help, but I too, am interested to see what happens when, you know, we're talking about recovery. And when, when the people who founded this organization get busy again, with their day jobs,
last thing I want to just mention is that the grant program hasn't you know, they haven't started taking applications yet. And, and so there's a lot that remains to be seen in terms of how you know, what sort of regulations they have built into it and stuff, but I agree that it's it's gonna be interesting to continue to watch. Thanks for having that. Kristen.
Can I ask a question Brett, it's it's regarding delivery drivers. And I'm not familiar enough with the laws in the US on this, but our delivery drivers of food delivery companies considered part of these discussions and part of these groups because I was wondering if anybody had any thoughts on so the ruling in the UK about the gig economy, obviously very different than what's happening in the US on the regulation front. But is there any organization around those type of workers in the food industry? I know, they're not directly from restaurants. But obviously, they're delivering food. And they have very few protections,
you know, that that delivery drivers did not come up in my reporting on this. The you know, it's possible that you know, that this group has been considering them part of their world, but i don't i don't think that that is the case. I don't believe that. That's high priority. Okay, thanks.
Could I just ask Brett, quickly, one question, because I think
I thought yeah, yeah, go
ahead. Just as just a question about whether whether or not IRC dissolves or is able to keep lobby and non other sort of restaurant sector related issues? What do you think the appetite will be on the part of diners have we seen so much because of the pandemic, that were willing to sort of tolerate chef owners being, you know, political and, and lobbying for issues outside of the survival of the sector? For instance, you know, worker or labor related issues,
do you think that the appetite on the part of diners has changed? Or will?
Well, I you know, that diners is a big, that's a big group.
you know, like, I think it really depends on on the socio economic status of the diner, and where they live, you know, I can speak to I live in New Orleans. And, and we're in a, you know, we're sort of a blue island in the middle of a very, very red place. And I know, over the years from reporting here for the local paper, that, you know, restaurant tours were here, very reluctant to be political, even in the ways that like, restaurant tours are in on the coasts, even when it comes down to like, putting things on the menu about, you know, small farms, and that kind of thing was seen as, you know, kind of too provocative, and that it could alienate diners. And I've always sort of found that, you know, that stuck in my mind the entire time I was recording on this piece about how, you know, this suggested a certain softening among independent restaurant tours to get involved in politics, but also that I think that the way that restaurant tours, think about politics and think about their diners, you know, to get to your question really depends on where they live and where they're operating. And, you know, diners and in, in Denver and San Francisco and, you know, are really different than diners in Birmingham, and, and in some ways in New Orleans, particularly in sort of suburban New Orleans. So I, you know, I don't feel equipped to be able to I do think some diners are willing to pay more for their food, for instance, but I don't, you know, I can't pretend to know if there's enough of them to to really, you know, to make real change here.
Yeah, thank you and talking about diners. Twilight, you had a really interesting story this week about how junk food restaurants and retailers are using Tick Tock influencers to target kids. And, you know, I just I know, in my own world, I see a lot of young people on tik tok, who are taking following influencers there and taking what they say is truth, which is kind of scary. So we'd love to hear about that story.
Sure, thanks. So I worked with our contributing writer Dakota Kim's on a story this week. And it was it was really kind of spurred by the fact that we saw this this one product come out from Dunkin Donuts and they worked with this woman, young woman, 16 year old Charlie demello, who's a dancer turned Tick Tock influencer and she has 108 million followers which is hard for me to even wrap my brain around. But they developed drink a coffee drink that has like multiple pumps of caramel swirled in and it's the large is apparently has 68 grams of sugar. And so we started thinking about, you know, what does this mean in the big picture? What are the other companies doing? and Dakota had some good conversations with it? about it with experts? And yeah, you know, Doritos, McDonald's, Wendy's to put lays, a lot of them are doing this kind of thing. They're working with music artists and other folks who've just kind of popped up on this platform. I think for those of us who are newer to tic tac, it's hard to imagine how quickly this is really taking shape and how many young people are on the platform. But you know, it's interesting particularly right now because adolescents are so much more likely to respond to and take advice from and listen to their peers. And I think because of the pandemic, especially their peers are increasingly on their phone, they were already on their phone. But even more so now, right? When kids haven't been able to hang out with each other, there are just, you know, spending all of their time interacting on tik tok and other platforms like it. So, so this is kind of a big deal right now. And there isn't, there's not a lot more really, there's no regulation, or very little regulation of it. There's there are FTC put out guidelines, but they're voluntary. And the brands have to, they are supposed to, in some way disclose that it's sponsorship, or that it's an ad, but that's not happening consistently from what we can tell. And it's also it's, it's a really big deal in terms of who these companies are targeting demographically. And we know that, you know, youth of color are more vulnerable to diet related diseases. And we also know, we, Dakota spoke with Jennifer Harris from the red center. And she pointed to some important research that that shows that black and Latinx youth are targeted at a much higher rate. So so it's it's ultimately a food justice issue, as well as being you know, a marketing issue. And, you know, there are there are a lot of folks who think that Congress should, should start looking at junk food and processed food and foods like the the Charlie is beverage, similar to the way they do with tobacco and alcohol, which is, you know, really requiring FTC to take a harder stance on
yeah, that's kind of the that's the story. And we'll we'll probably continue to follow similar stories related to tick tock because we do feel like it's important platform to be watching right now. terms of the stuff. Hey,
this is Kim,
this story. I love that story so much. And it's kind of like a story that says as old as food marketing, is I remember when you'll remember the big fights they had over keeping sugary cereal ads off of kids cartoon time and Saturday morning. And, you know, there was also like a fight to keep the Oreos used to have this program that give two schools a counting game. And you counted by taking, like, from 10 to one by taking the Oreos off of the little counting board. Like it's just like, like some, like, here's how we'll get kids to count if they eat nine Oreos, it counted tonight. It was just you know, so this is like that was like checkers and this is like 3d chess version of food marketing. Right? So it's it's absolutely fascinating, but it's the same, you know, push to get, you know, kids to buy stuff that is probably not healthy. And now you also have the added dimension of the social justice issue, which resonates now more than it did probably, when they were just trying to fight cereal on on TV ads, I find it interesting. I also have a 13 year old kid who is one of Charlie's followers. And you know, we talk a lot about you, she's really super sophisticated about what, how this all works and how they get money and that it sponsor, I'm sure some of this stuff does sink into their head, like any marketing, or advertising does. But it is also a super savvy group of young people right now and in who do care about these issues. And you can make the argument that, you know, this is targeting kids who maybe you know, aren't as able as you are to make other food choices and what do you think about that? And the very, seems to me that they are more immune to this perhaps then a generation or two earlier than them. However, I'm sure that there are a lot of those super Carmo iced coffee drinks getting sold the kids just because of this, you know, but it's it's a fascinating story that, you know, it's as old as food marketing. It's just this new kind of modern twist on it. So I love that story. I give it five stars love the story. Yeah, I
was gonna say that one of the experts we spoke to, you know, she pointed out that, that talking to kids about how much sugar in the bedroom is in the beverage is not in any way going to move the dial, but as you say, like talking to them about whether or not they're being deceived. Whether or not companies are being, you know, on the level about it, that that's the best way to Yeah, to kind of see this level of media literacy. They call it with young people, which makes a lot of sense to me that that will and we don't really know how much that will impact their food choices. But even if it gets them start starting to think about it in a different way. That
thank you so much. Just a reminder to people in the audience if you do want to ask any questions of the journalists go to food tech Connect dot club, and you can post on the chat there. Thank you so much Twilight. So now moving on to Kristin, and you wanted to talk about Reuters article, which talks about Chipotle investing in a driverless delivery startup neuro?
I sorry, yeah, sorry about that. I did. And then I also am Daniel asked me to mention, I want to talk about delivery also. And I'm actually gonna start with delivery because we were talking about delivery drivers, but delivery. And I'll preface this by saying I'm not an expert in the UK stock market, but I'm sure some of you are. But delivery is based in the UK delivery company. And they are going to IPO in early April. And the valuation at that time could be as high as 12 12 billion US, like 8.8 billion pounds. And CNBC says that that would make it the largest tech IPO in Europe this year and the largest in Britain for a decade. And then some recent coverage, said that some investment banks are actually choosing to pass on the opportunity to invest in delivery because of concerns over labor and the gig economy. And suddenly, I know you mentioned the Uber ruling in the UK. Interestingly, Uber Eats drivers are exempt from that. So the ruling for Uber was that they had to offer some benefits, including minimum wage and pension to Uber, Uber drivers. And the for some reason, and I haven't been able to dig into it this week yet. Uber Eats careers were exempted from exempt from that. And I think that there's a larger question, obviously, about delivery drivers and how they are one categorized to treated. And it looks like the European market is reacting to that if I would say more than this, the US market. And I think it's very interesting to look at what's happening in Europe versus what's happening in the US because grubhub, which is one of the major delivery companies in the US, which is being acquired hasn't quite closed yet by a European company, that in Europe, all of its drivers are considered employees. So there's a lot of different models that are playing out. And obviously what we've seen in California with prop 22, it's very clear that delivery companies in the US are willing to throw a lot of money and influence into creating favorable, favorable conditions for them to operate. And so delivery is really interesting for me to watch, because it is poised to be such a large public debut. But also the major investors are are saying that they are not interested in supporting what could perhaps be a tenuous
And so I found that more interesting than a than triple A, which,
Kristen, just to jump on that because deliver actually has a huge presence here in Hong Kong. And it's really interesting, having been here a long time watching what what they did to the market. Because basically, before they arrived before food panda came first, but then delivery showed up, and now it's basically them warring against each other. But before that, we had a delivery system here where basically restaurant groups employed their own drivers. And it's really sad what's ended up happening because all the drivers then had to basically switch to delivery where they were no longer employees and had none of the protection. And then the other thing I wanted to share is it was an off the record conversation. But one of the investors in delivery, told me that he had serious concerns about the company because the company was not profitable, as as many of these big, big kind of businesses are not. But they also had the biggest growth and the biggest kind of revenue, sorry, the biggest revenue growth over the year of COVID. Because obviously everyone's ordering food in all their markets. And yet they still weren't profitable with that. So the concern is when is profitability coming? And if there were labor issues on top of that, they would just it just what is the viability of these models? I mean, of course customers want convenience. And you could argue that restaurants were very much helped by these companies because they were shut for so long. But overall, you know, is are these profitable businesses? Right?
I mean, they they haven't they haven't really proven to be much in the US at least Ubers CEO is still saying profitability this year, at least for Uber Eats doordash had that one profitable quarter last year, right at the height of you know, the pandemic era restrictions. But I think like the bigger thing that I think about when I think about the profit and the profitability, and the future is you know, so much of third party food delivery as we know it as it's grown over the last year is hinged on you know it's very precarious right it's based on these employment models that are now being looked at you know across national governments it's based on these relationships with restaurants where municipalities are stepping into to cap commissions and you know it's it's all filled and and they're still not making money even under conditions that are favorable for them so i have some guesses about where it's all going to go but in the meantime i mean you know doordash still hit like an $80 billion valuation at one point i think it's settled closer to around 50 now but it's still a massive massive valuation for a business that is still deeply in the red so i'm very interested to see how blue labor conversation will shape the future of investing in these businesses and whether government action will force them to change the way they operate in order to just survive and hopefully treat their drivers careers employees and restaurant partners better than
they have been
kristen what's your guests you said you have some guesses about where it's going
i think that big delivery is going to be for big restaurant companies and i think that you're going to start to see i mean you've already seen so much emergence of smaller local based organizations or restaurants banding together but basically i think that post pandemic the local the kind of local businesses that we all love to support will start to seek more economically friendly ways for them to operate and big companies like uber and doordash will continue to throw favorable terms towards you know mcdonald's and the bigger the bigger brands that we know get the favorable terms and then i guess the other part of it is that no doordash is investing in actually like creating food they bought a salad robot that they can put into any business right so your doordash customer your pizzeria you want to offer salads there's an autonomous like salad vending machine that you can conceivably license through doordash and add a bunch of things to your menu so i think that big delivery for big restaurants independent restaurants will start to come up with more solutions and realize that like the terms are just untenable but i don't know i don't know if that's gonna play out in the short term or the long term in hong kong it's
actually the opposite it's super interesting because the bigger restaurant groups that have let's say 25 to plus restaurants in the city they actually just invest in creating their own delivery because they don't want to pay the commission's and then the smaller one off to two or three restaurants they just don't have the capacity to deliver to arrange delivery on their own so they they are more kind of limited and end up going on food pandora delivery
thanks so much for bringing this story kristen and being here in the uk i used deliveroo and something that's concerning around this is that all customers have been emailed and they've got an allocation to invest in the ipos they've got a certain amount of that ipo which is reserved for customers and so hopefully more of this will educate you know the consumers maybe not to invest to the ipo so thanks so much for that so moving on
thank you kristen and excited to continue following the story speaking of delivery jen would love for you to share the story that spoon published this week about go puff raising $1.5 billion to do a 30 minute delivery and kind of what the future of micro fulfillment looks like
yeah absolutely thanks and great just shares all around today this has been really enjoyable so yeah go puff is it's part of this trend of these sort of niche delivery services i'll call them but they've raised 1.5 billion this week and their whole pitch is that they operate these micro fulfillment centers which are they're kind of like dark convenience stores you know they're not going to carry a whole the whole inventory that a major grocery would but they're they'll carry the items that are most relevant based on what part of the city they're in and they can supply these deliveries to people in 30 minutes or less they say and they're they're doing it 24 hours a day and it's you know it's food items it's alcohol it's pet supplies and so they are one of a few different companies that have these micro fulfillment companies that have been raising money recently i'm there one in berlin called gorillas that raised $290 million and then fridge no more wheezy jiffy so there's there's a lot of talk around these micro fulfillment places it brings up some questions for me one is that it seems like these this particular well let me back up one there's just been a ton of online grocery in the last year i mean for obvious reasons given that you know With just stay at home orders and you know people wanting to go out into public less. So we've we've, we've seen over the last bout 12 months, just the numbers are online grocery continuing to go up. And I think what's started to come out of this are also a lot of specialized online grocery services. So got your instacart. And you know, I know that also doordash and Uber are also getting into grocery. But then you've got these very specialized services like go puff, or the ones that focus on Food Rescue, like imperfect foods. And it, it seems like there is a lot of competition in the space right now. And that is sort of existing alongside this question of, well, vaccines are starting to roll out, people are starting to go back out, you know, how long term is this idea of buying your groceries online? Or will people just return to the store in droves? So I guess I I sort of, I'm fascinated by by this area, because I just wonder, you know, a company like Bill pasta is basically, it's bringing tech to this idea of what maybe some of us who live in New York have been doing for years, which is just getting delivery from your bodega at two in the morning or something. But it's doing that on a large scale. So curious to see if this is going to be a trend that sticks around or if this is one of the more sort of trends in grocery that's happening kind of in reaction to a pandemic from last year. So I feel like the jury's still out for me. So I'd be really curious what other people think about this
arrow would love to hear from you, as someone who's been in the grocery business for quite some time.
I haven't been in the grocery business, as long as grocery delivery has, I think ANP was doing that 100 years ago. So I think this is just an example of the Silicon Valley tech industry, this whole notion of disrupting industries and extracting value from either side of the supply chain, I get that there's a lot of these niche services, you know, I question in perfect foods in terms of how much they're diverting, you know, food away from, like food banks, or, you know, food recovery efforts, and, you know, adding a, you know, a markup to it. And, you know, I do appreciate, you know, their assortment and their creativity, but just in general, I'm so skeptical about the whole food delivery sector, because of my direct experiences, I launched instacart, and Whole Foods and all the things I warned everybody about, you know, what was their cost? How much they extracting from retail, how much are they extracting from the brands? How are they keeping the data, you know, how are they marketing the data, you know, the fact that instacart is threatening to now go into fulfillment and actually compete with all their customers. And then you have all these other services, and they have labor issues. And you know, they've helped underwrite prop 22, which is creating, you know, the food really creating precarity as status quo in this this sector for workers, you know, and hopefully, you know, the proact capacity of the Senate to overturn that nonsense, or else, we're all going to have prop 20 twos and all our states for gig workers, you know, these delivery workers. So, you know, once again, I just think it's a method of extraction, I think it actually build a niche fill the need for now, but there's no reason why that type of service can be rolled up under some sort of public utility, you know, we couldn't create like double the delivery co Ops, more platform co Ops, I know, there's bunch of worker co ops who are working on that sort of stuff. And, you know, look, a small group of shareholders and executives who are reaping huge rewards and really just creating a ton of exploitation in the supply chain. So pardon me, if I'm a bit skeptical about it, I see the value throughout the pandemic, but it was also quite opportunistic for these folks. And really, if you'd like what they've done with food delivery, wait till you see what they do with alternative meats.
Thanks for those thoughts are all really great to hear those. And thank you, Jen, for introducing that. So now we'll move on to Cathy erway, who has had some amazing coverage over the past year on the impact of the pandemic on Chinatown restaurants. And this week, he wanted to introduce an article about what it's like to be a landlord,
Chinatown right now. Hey, thank
you. Yeah, and Thanks, everyone. It's been a really interesting discussion this week. I love what everyone's doing. And I saw Kim's tweet and I just wanted to respond. When you're speculating about people wanting to cook more at home with ingredients that felt like wholesome rather than like cell culture, cellular ag meat or something like that, I would say probably yes. A lot of people want to cook some like pristine looking ingredients, but there's a heck of a lot of it of foods. I think that people will gladly eat in a restaurant but do not want to take home and cook so like seafood is like a huge category like for some reason in America. But anyway, like I happened to report on it a couple months ago, about calamari, which is like sort of one of those things for the publication tastes. But getting back to this series that I've been doing with the grubstreet, I feel like last week when we were talking about this, I was like a little raw and like, with, with, like the shootings in Atlanta and everything, and, you know, so thank you so much for having me back. I've been doing like this series of conversations with various stakeholders in Chinatown food businesses. So the first was with a second generation co owner of a grocery business called Deluxe food market on Mont Street. And the second was with a second generation Chinatown landlord, who, who is a landlord from any food business, as well as other retail as well as residential buildings. And I think we're just trying to show like real raw and honest reflections over the last year, not, you know, we hear a lot from chefs or restaurant owners. So you know, but that's one part of the equation. So that's really the goal. You know, we're not trying to make anyone seem like definitive or even representative. But it's good to hear more voices and kind of show their whole sort of meandering accounting of the last year. I feel like I've seen a lot more reporting on this lately, because like when I was sort of first reporting on the decline in business, and Chinatown, and also in rise in anti Asian harassment and incidents a year ago for grub Street and sort of focus on the organizations that had been formed, because of it, and various different efforts from individuals like grace young, a cookbook author to combat it, there was the sense of, you know, when I spoke to a lot of people, we, there was a sense of like, a need to speak up for this community for Chinatown and for like elders. And in a lot of people were saying that there was a cultural sense of taboo, that they felt about asking for help and or airing grievances, or even speaking about being hurt. And we did some reporting on this actually, for self evident, which is a podcast that I host, where even like doctors were saying, you know, they had patients come in, who looked like they've been beaten up, and they refuse to say, So what happened? So there's a lot of stigma and hurt in this community. And I think that what's changed over the last year, and I think that I think I was trying to say this last week, but I came out is like a sort of frustration on the part of, like, so many people who have been maybe reporting on this, but not seeing enough, like, improvement, is that there's a sense of people are being more vocal. And I think there's a growing awareness that these problems are occurring, and they need to, they need to be denounced the need to take action about them. Like right now, I was just sort of tuning into this Washington Post live like combating anti Asian racism panel right now that's going on, you know, so like, there's been a lot more discussion around it. And I think that all ties into, you know, how do we, how do we also support the people who are the various different stakeholders who make up the fabric of community that is very much part of America. So, you know, I think that it's good, like, I'm seeing, like, tentatively, like my subject, who was the landlord said, He's, it's been like the, the most horrible year ever, but at the same time, he's he's never felt more invigorated and inspired by the work that's going on within the community. And so hopefully, that's leading us somewhere positive in the future. You know, this is like, you know, coming out of also a change in government, or our president no longer exists. adamantly I'm calling Coronavirus, the China there's something we have, I think even like Meghan McCain apologize for doing or saying something about that. Although it's kind of weird. She like the next day like made it sound like there was some sort of meritocracy to being the host on the view that only one Asian American has ever achieved so far. Well, I was kind of weird. But anyway, a lot of these discussions are coming into the mainstream. And so I'm grateful for that. I'm also grateful that grubstreet wants to publish these interviews, and I'm hoping to share another one in the series soon. Yeah, I'm
curious what what the response has been and why grubstreet wants to help lead this conversation, you know, how they feel like it in the food.
I think that it's really just, I don't know that there was any desire to lead. I wouldn't say that. Anyone? I don't I don't think we're leading it. I think that it was more just like, okay, we hear a lot from chefs and business owners. And that's just one small piece. Like you can't run a business. In fact, like when I first had, you know, it was one of my first there but the first person i talked to you for the series was like you know we don't have like if our employees are afraid to come in we don't have a business it's actually challenging to try to reach the people who are not met managers but i think it's really important at the same time so yeah that was just that i was the general feeling behind doing it
wait thank you so much for that okay moving on to arrow and you had an article this week and folders about how new york is revolutionizing food policy
awesome thank you i honestly i personally just want to get off the start by just keeping the three king soopers clerks who were killed during the the massacre in boulder in mind that there were grocery workers have been through so much this year with pandemic and with anti massacre shoppers and when supply chain disruptions scheduling disruptions fighting about hazard pay getting lost laid off by retailers don't want to pay hazard pay and now this and it's just it's just horrifying so my heart goes out to them and i just wanted to keep them in our thoughts today i'm excited about this policy piece here because it gets us out of the conversation of food as a commodity and along the lines of food sovereignty food as a right and new york city obviously my hometown i don't live there now and so this is like i'm a fanboy from afar really interested in what they're doing this really huge project involving over 300 stakeholders there is coordinated by the office of the mayor and it has five overarching goals food access worker protection and good jobs economic opportunities modern efficient infrastructure and supply chain sustainability from production all the way through disposal and education communication even administrative support to actually implement this so there's an operational component which is meaningful to me as i've been operating for so long new york has huge food insecurity food access food apartheid issues and in terms of over 1.6 million new yorkers experiencing that it's also as many of you know who lived there just an incredibly diverse place with a really distributed and all over the place food system there's there's no real central coordination you know obviously there's varying communities you know ethnic communities neighborhoods there's supermarket chains convenience stores restaurants and bars that have survived COVID et cetera huge policy plan in terms of the distribution infrastructure storage packing packing processing production and there's a ton of food manufacturing mostly small scale in new york and it talks a bit about that and it actually builds off of i feel what brooklyn brooklyn borough president in new york city mayoral candidate eric adams actually put together a really interesting white paper about his own vision for the brooklyn food system but to me the highlight of the food pilot policy planner are my friends from the good food purchasing program have been working in new york now and good food purchasing program is a ngo that has this five tiered framework for supply chain and for me it's close to my heart not only because you know we've worked on it here in austin but it's it's the public sector version of what a whole foods or a natural grocers like a you know a high quality retail chain does for the private sector but you know as a food as a commodity and you know varying levels of costs whereas good food purchasing program works with public institutions to implement this and public contracts mandating certain purchasing standards mandating certain production standards for growers and manufacturers and along the lines of five values including local economies nutrient density value workforce environmental sustainability and so new york ends up being by far the largest public procurement effort enrolled in gfp as i think new york is among the largest procurement groups in the country after i think god and like maybe doj so it's a massive massive project and this could have tremendously beneficial positive effects on the supply chain across the board knowing that there's this much volume of purchasing and i'm very much more of a demand consumer focused person in terms of you know i'm a retailer right so a lot of what we talked about on the food movement the food industry is supply side farmer this production that you know growing standards growing techniques this or that blah blah blah my take on it is that you know consumer bats last the demand will actually drive the changes in what gfp p does is institutionalize that but in the public sector and outside the frame of the marketplace which i find very compelling and that's where i think the conversation for me goes into food sovereignty local communities democratically participating in managing the food system and i think it really builds towards the first real sense i've gotten of any large area this country with a municipality or state or city etc articulating a right to food As the UN FAO says the right to food is realized when every man woman and child alone or in community with others has the physical and economic access at all times to adequate food, or means for its procurement, which is huge. But for me philosophically, it also puts the rest of the this bullshit illusion of individual responsibility, which you know, a lot of food CEOs like to talk about and food activists, and it's always about body shaming, it's always about shaming poor people. Instead, this policy plan articulates how complex the socio economic relationships and supply chains are that actually enable and empower folks to ask access good food, especially in light of, you know, the collapse in supply chain than COVID-19. And, you know, Kate's wonderful article in the counter talking at the farm level illustrates one side of that I've experienced that firsthand in terms of distribution, and retail, and category management's you rationalization. And just in time inventory, and all these like, you know, crazy practices that have disempowered and disabled folks from accessing good food, in addition to the layoffs, and the collapse of the economy. And you know, the social distancing and metering and stores, I mean, et cetera. So this policy plan, I think, is a model for other cities to start looking at. And I know there's a ton of conversation like Johns Hopkins and Michigan State University, like all you know, these New York City, 100, college, NYU, Columbia, CUNY, have all these amazing food policy programs that are actively looking at that to see you know, what works and what matters. And it's great to see New York taking a leadership role on this for the 21st century. I just want to plug my, my podcast, the checkout, we rolled out an episode today with an interview about Amazon. So if you really want to understand racial capitalism, and the sort of two tiered way that the supply chain, you know, beyond just the whole delivery, you know, doordash thing, but like, second largest employer in the US is handling supply chain. You know, besides all the P bottle nonsense, I invite you to check out the interview on the checkout radio this week. Thank you.
Thanks so much, Arielle. I think it's such an important story. And, and such an important model. And I'm curious, because New York is such a big market, do you think that it could have any wider implications for the food system for the food industry? in other ways, aside from policy?
Yeah, I mean, demand side, it has the potential to change production practices. So what we were talking about earlier, agro ecology, you know, in terms of the ecosystem, you know, organic certification, regenerative practices, fair labor, in terms of you know, how farms actually pay their workers, you know, farm workers and most states are exempt from the National Labor Relations Act back Wagner Act, right. You know, New York is trying to address that California has been trying to address that animal welfare in terms of, you know, factory farms and eat plants and the GMP standards actually address all that. Now, the policy plan doesn't cover private sector purchasing, right? It only covers public sector, which still is huge. Imagine if, you know, more private sector actors who businesses retailers bars, actually started adopting these types of purchasing standards, that is how you will change the food system, non GMO, and organic, didn't pop into the marketplace, because a bunch of farmers said so and like, oh, we're gonna grow this way. Hopefully, we could find some markets, it's no there was demand, there's consumer demand, there were retailers, there are outlets, there was food service, you know, you have to create a supply chain. And that's what this does. But once you get out of the marketplace, it does it out of the private sector. It doesn't in a public sector approach, which for me makes it more compelling. Because, you know, there's an entitlement to it, people will get used to this. And it also it'll pop up in school lunches, it'll pop up and you know, public institutions, hospitals, universities, colleges, etc. And people will get used to it and demand it and continue to want more of that. And that, I think, is how you're going to see it's not just about New York, as you ask it's about the fact that it will affect the ecosystem of farms and suppliers on a very vast scale that are supplying those contracts. Yeah. Was
there anyone else that wanted to jump in on this story?
I just wanted to reiterate that Earl has such an amazing depth of knowledge from 25 years in the grocery
and maybe that's even low and the replicability here and really can't be under overstated. I see potential currently can be overstated, I think because it could be I had a friend reach out from reading Errol's piece who is trying to put together a coalition of nonprofits soup kitchens in Berkeley and use this as a model but it can also be as big as you know, DOJ, Why
couldn't it be I mean, the USDA,
I mean, there's so many broader policy implications that this really could impact and so Arielle, maybe could, could speak to also how this could impact like the worker In the supply chains,
and what that what, what,
what could be we've done there, it might be great.
Yeah, I mean, there really isn't anybody in the country retailer, you know, public institution that really addresses labor in the supply chain. The best that I've ever experienced is we had the agricultural Justice Project for a little while for a couple of small brands, but the vast majority of production on farms, and you know, dairy, and you should check out the Migrant Justice podcast we did with the check out last week. Manufacturing, obviously, meat, you know, the, you know, what, Leah Douglas has documented this this year with COVID-19. nobody really talks about that, and outside of federal labor reforms, which are sorely needed, you know, obviously, the proact. And also looking at foreign worker labor, you know, this is the best approach that I've seen, you know, in sort of a private sector NGO framework, but impacting folks looking at like, oh, wow, how are people being treated? What are they being paid? So if we start paying them a fair wage, what does that do to our cost of goods? Oh, it's negligible. Oh, who
Maybe we could do this more. Right. That's what I'm hoping that folks will see, as the studies that have come out, I think it was a tufts or UMass study a couple years ago, show that, you know, just paying farmers like a living wage, and the farm workers, excuse me, farm workers a living wage for produce in like, Western Massachusetts, added less than 2% to the farm gate price. And so if you amortize that 2% across the rest of the supply chain, it's not even a rounding error. Nobody will notice it yet. It makes a tremendous difference in the livelihoods and like quality of life, family life, community life, for farmworkers. And I'm hoping that's one of the key takeaways here as much as any of the other aspects of the the gspp. And I would go and go to the gspp Center for good food purchasing and check out their standards and some of their success stories, but also the fact that it was formulated and implemented by community groups and labor groups first in LA. So it really comes from this grassroots effort. It's not the sort of top down bureaucratic approach. It's very accessible and very democratic, and it's our outlook.
Awesome. Thank you so much for sharing this important story. And thank you to all of you.