Food industry marketers no longer have the sole power to shape consumer tastes and fuel demand for their products. That power has been largely hijacked by new influencers—public health activists, celebrity nutritionists, politicians, food bloggers—who have their own agendas and can influence public sentiment as never before. Their megaphone is sympathetic media, especially online: social media, consumer websites, and an exploding number of alternative news outlets. Only the food companies that recognize this shift have a hope of maintaining or regaining consumer trust and loyalty. Signs that food companies have lost control over their brand images and reputations are everywhere. You can see them in the national, well-organized campaigns for new restrictions: taxes on large-sized sugary drinks; forced labeling of products containing GMOs; calls for restrictions on candy at the checkout aisle. Outside influencers, both well-meaning experts and articulate novices, are scrambling corporate communications and often spreading their own uninformed interpretations about food ingredients, working conditions, fair trade, and other concerns. Using social media to amplify and spread those messages quickly, activists, lawmakers, and others have captured the public’s attention, even when the charges are reckless.
a recently released report once more finds no conclusive evidence of a link between the use of antibiotics in food animals and the emergence of drug-resistant Campylobacter. The article began, “As controversy continues…” but in truth, “controversy” surrounding disease resistance caused by antibiotic use in food animals primarily exists because of misinformation and misinterpretation of research. Here is what the report actually stated. “A team of interdisciplinary scientists at the Medical University of South Carolina and the Charleston VA Medical Center Research Service reviewed published literature for evidence of a relationship between antibiotic use in agricultural animals and drug-resistant foodborne Campylobacter infections in humans, commonly known as campylobacteriosis,” the article stated. Some people infected with Campylobacter can develop severe arthritis; while others may develop Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS), one of the leading causes of acute paralysis in the U.S. “According to the 2013 CDC Antibiotic Resistance Threats Report, two of the eighteen pathogens that are of concern in the United States may have a direct link to agriculture – one of them being Campylobacter,” reported the newswire.
Spam, more than any other product, defines Hormel. Through its 125-year history, the company’s strategy has been simple: protein, preferably with a long shelf life. Its other brands—Dinty Moore beef stew, Mary Kitchen hash, Real Bacon toppings, Herb-Ox bouillon cubes and its eponymous chili—sound like the shopping list for a Cold War fallout shelter. But around 2007, Hormel quietly embarked on a venture that would take it deeper than it had ever been into the cupboards and kitchens of Americans, many of them immigrants, many of them young. It led to a series of acquisitions and a blitz of research and development that helped round out its pantry of products and inoculate it against the fickle modern food trends of a kale-and-quinoa world. One of the first things it did was hire an anthropologist.
Canada is now allowing the use of certain chemical coccidiostats in products labeled as raised without the use of antibiotics. On August 5, the Canadian government agency released a communication explaining the change of its criteria for raising natural, naturally raised, feed, antibiotics and hormone claims in labelling or advertising for meat, poultry and fish products.
Record-high meat prices over the last several years pushed more than a few consumers away from grocery store meat counters. That trend is beginning to reverse now, as falling prices bring buyers back and build per capita protein consumption. A new report from Rabobank Food and Agribusiness Research and Advisory group, "Chickens, Cows, and Pigs ... Oh My!", described 2015 as a "momentous" year for the livestock industry, with the largest increase in U.S. meat consumption seen since the 1970s, at 5% per capita. Going forward, the group projected 1.2% to 1.5% average per annnum growth in U.S. meat consumption. This follows a 9% drop from 2005 through 2014. During that time, beef showed the largest decline at 18%, pork at 10% and chicken at 1.4%.
Cargill says it has stopped using an antibiotic for disease prevention in its turkeys that is also used in human medicine. The company says as of August first, the use of gentamicin was stopped for turkeys harvested for its two largest brands. However, the company says turkeys will still be treated with antibiotics for control and treatment of disease. Cargill says it’s making good on its promise to reduce its overall use of antibiotics in its turkey business and that products covered by this decision will be available starting next year.
The use of food scraps as animal feed has been a common practice worldwide for centuries. The vision of a classic agrarian homestead often features the farmer’s children bringing dinner scraps out to “slop the pigs” and feed the chickens. Yet the practice of feeding food scraps to animals has declined precipitously since the 1980s, when several disease outbreaks were linked to animal feed (specifically, animal products in livestock feed), including foot-and-mouth disease in swine and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly referred to as mad cow disease, in cattle. In an attempt to prevent the spread of such diseases, federal and state laws and regulations that restricted what is often pejoratively referred to as “garbage feeding” were enacted. Some of these policies were overly restrictive, and many of them impose conflicting requirements among neighboring states. Thus, they contributed to a decline in the amount of leftover food being used in animal feed. Indeed, by 2007, just three percent of U.S. hog farms fed food scraps to their livestock.
The president of a Vancouver-based casual dining chain apologized to Canadian beef producers Wednesday over his company’s April announcement that it would begin serving 100-percent Certified Humane beef — a move that meant that it would source from the United States, not Canada. Canadian suppliers would not be able to keep up with Earls Kitchen + Bar’s demand for Certified Humane, antibiotic-, steroid-free beef, the company reasoned. Almost immediately, the announcement was met with intense criticism from both consumers and beef producers, especially in Alberta — the heart of the nation’s beef industry. Within a week of the announcement this spring, the company announced that it would be bringing back Alberta beef to its restaurants (59 of which are located in Canada), and that it would work with local farms “to build a supply of Alberta beef that meets their criteria.”
Dean Food Co. struggled with a glut of milk in the second quarter, obliging the dairy giant to cut prices on the private-label products that make up much of its milk and ice-cream sales. Even though consumers are paying less, they didn’t buy more milk, contributing to what Dean Foods said on Monday was an 8.2% drop in second-quarter revenue to $1.85 billion. Analysts expected profit to fall, but Dean Foods’ earnings announcement still sent shares down as much as 8% in early trading. They regained some ground to close Monday’s session at $18.16, a drop of 3.5%.
Following breakthroughs the Arctic Golden and Granny, Canada-based Okanagan Specialty Fruits (OSF) is one step closer to having another genetically modified apple cultivated in the U.S. The U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) publicly shared OSF’s final version of a petition seeking regulatory approval for non-browning Arctic Fuji apples. APHIS said it had reached a preliminary decision to extend its determination of non-regulated status to the variety.