The latest: June 23, 2017

Twice a week, we analyze food news so you don't have to. For context and our rundown of best food journalism around the web, subscribe below.

Breaking: Kansas jury rules in favor of 7,000 farmers against Syngenta

The case alleged the agribusiness company prematurely marketed a new strain of genetically modified corn. Now, it’s on the hook for $218 million.

By H. Claire Brown | Read more

We’ve all heard the staggering statistics about food waste. A new study says they’re wrong.

How do you get to $165 billion? Or 40 percent? That depends on who you ask.

By Joe Fassler | Read more

Newsletter subscribers get this digest in their inbox before it’s published online.
Sign up—it’s free.

John Mackey’s Whole Foods is gone and it’s not coming back 

Maybe it’s just me, but in recent visits to Whole Foods, I wondered if if I was looking at something whose time had passed. After Amazon, we can now say that for sure.

By Patrick Clinton | Read more

Sorry, Breitbart: immigrant farmworkers are much less likely to use SNAP. In July of 2016, as he gave his speech accepting the Republican presidential nomination, Donald Trump used the opportunity to paint a bleak portrait of present-day America—and gave an aspect of food policy a rare mention, if only in passing. “President Obama has almost doubled our national debt to more than $19 trillion, and growing,” he said. “Yet what do we have to show for it? Our roads and bridges are falling apart, our airports are in third-world condition, and 43 million Americans are on food stamps.”

The SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program, formerly known as “food stamps”) program makes for particularly useful political fodder: it can be offered up as evidence for pretty much any argument, depending on how favorably (or not) you view the program. For one legislator, high participation numbers help tell the story of empty cupboards in the land of plenty. For another, they’re a sign of entitlement run amok.

And so it’s perhaps not surprising that SNAP has made its way into our highly charged national debate about immigration. In some ways, the program has become collateral damage in ongoing arguments about the presence (and plight) of undocumented workers. A new study fans the flames. Read more.
—Kate Cox

Seasoned with Special K. There might be some ketamine in that “natural” chicken, Deena Shanker reports for Bloomberg News. That’s according to a lawsuit filed by the Organic Consumers Association, Friends of the Earth, and Center for Food Safety, alleging that a third of inspections of chicken from Sanderson Farms locations across the Southeast yielded positive results in residue tests for traces of non-natural ingredients including ketamine.

According to Shanker, the plaintiffs filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for test results from the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), which is part of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The results also showed the presence of chloramphenical in five cases, “a potent antibiotic that can cause bone marrow suppression in humans and isn’t approved for use in animals that will become food.”

It’s really, really hard to win a “natural” lawsuit, mostly because the term means very little from a legal standpoint. Perhaps more interesting: USDA didn’t respond to Shanker’s request for more information on whether or not Sanderson received “enforcement actions” for any of those test results. We can only hope the plaintiffs FOIA’d those documents as well.
—Claire Brown

Big Brother is watching Big Chicken. Tyson Foods has installed new video monitoring technology in its 33 poultry processing plants, a kind of Facebook Live for slaughterhouses. The third-party auditing system, which a report in Food Manufacturing says is the country’s largest, is likely a response to recent animal cruelty accusations: after damning undercover footage surfaced last year, Tyson was forced to fire employees who handled birds with unnecessary violence.

In theory, employees will remain on better behavior when they know they’re being watched. But the technology doesn’t address the underlying complaint of many animal welfare activists: While aberrant acts of aggression against chickens makes for dramatic PETA video, the more common complaint is that factory farming’s very norms are cruel. Most people don’t like to see images of chickens crammed into battery cages or hung on a line to have their throats slit en masse. Which may be why Tyson has also signaled its intention to start experimenting with a more photo-friendly form of slaughter: suffocating their birds with carbon dioxide.
—Joe Fassler

CHOcaine. When a baller needs a boost before she hits the club, should she invest in a bump? Club drugs, though: they’re so unpredictable. How does she know if her powder of choice is cut with something cray, like Fruit Loops dust, or laundry soap? And then there’s the expense. So, what’s an urban professional interested in breaking dawn on the dancefloor to do? Snort chocolate, yo.

But we’re not talking about what’s in that years-old tin of Hershey’s Cocoa in your cabinet (or in mine, that is). This stuff is pure, uncut. Okay, it’s not. Just wanted to feel what it felt like to say that. It is cut with stimulating energy drink jewels guarana and taurine, plus B vitamins and amino acid L-Arginine.

U.S. News and World Report last week managed to cover Florida company Legal Lean’s chocolate snorting powder, Coco Loko, without using the word, “trend.” Whoops, wait. I’m remiss. There it is in the second graph…

You want to read this for two unparalleled source quotes: 1) “I can see it taking off, as long as it doesn’t get too controversial,” says Nick Anderson, director of marketing for the five-person Orlando company. Totally. It’s just a brown powder you put up your nose, Nick. What could go wrong? And, 2) from a “leader” of a large alcohol distribution company who asks not to be named because beverages are his primary business: “It’s gotten really good reviews. It’s like having a lot of chocolate without the calories.” Sweet! Because obviously the only reason people eat chocolate is for the blood flow-elevating amino acids.

I can’t right now with the “leader.” Oh, but I can with that quote.
—Kate Cox

Just the one-liners

This just in: USDA is halting all imports of Brazilian beef. Read the agency’s press release.

Billion-dollar smile. George Clooney has a lot to grin about these days: the healthy arrival of twins Ella and Alexander, not to mention hundreds of millions more dollars in the bank. The actor-slash-entrepreneur co-owns tequila brand Casamigos, which sold this week to Diageo for $700 million in cash plus $300 million more if it continues to sell, the New York Times reports. The tequila company, the story goes, was born by accident after Clooney and buddy Rande Gerber (who’s married to Cindy Crawford) started importing too many bottles of the tequila they made in Mexico. The authorities told them to legitimize, and four years later the brand was worth a billion bucks. Best of all, the founders claim the tequila is hangover-free. Next round’s on George.

Costco chickens coming soon. Costco is still planning to process its own chicken in Nebraska, and farmers are taking out millions of dollars in loans to grow chickens for the big box chain, NPR reports. But though the Costco plant represents a beacon of hope for a lot of its neighbors, many unknowns remain.

It’s all in the wrist. A robot chef has learned to throw pizza dough, Scientific American reports. Enough said.

Wikicommons/CSIRO Marine Research

This invasive green crab makes a mean empanada

But it’ll never go mainstream without a little help.

By Claire Brown | Read more

The Counter Stories by our editors.