Thinly sliced: Danone grants research access to 1,800 strains of yogurt

This is the web version of a list we publish twice-weekly in our newsletter. It comprises the most noteworthy food stories of the moment, selected by our editors. Get it first here.

Clean meat cleans up. Since Beyond Meat’s wildly successful IPO on May 6, we’ve seen a rash of news announcing big, sometimes unexpected investments in unfarmed meat. It’s unclear whether everyone’s rushing to jump on the bandwagon or just rushing to capitalize on the media hype, but here’s what we’ve learned: Cargill has invested in a lab-grown beef company. Impossible Foods just raised an additional $300 million. McDonald’s introduced a vegan burger in Germany, one of its top five international markets. Burger King’s Impossible Whopper, which just debuted in St. Louis last month, has already arrived in Miami, Montgomery, and Columbus. And Chik-fil-a—not known for its progressive values—is researching plant-based chicken substitutes.

Pumped up kicks. Popular sneaker brand Koio is the latest footwear company to dip its toe into the world of food: On Thursday, it launches a fresh collaboration with renowned pastry chef Dominique Ansel, who is the inventor of the Cronut. In case you didn’t know that food-themed shoes were a thing,The Los Angeles Times has a comprehensive history of foot-food partnerships, including a delightful Dunkin’ Donuts-inspired Saucony. Coincidentally, a majority of NFE staff tried their very first bites of Cronut today—are Cronut kicks the next step?

Gut feeling. The microbiome—trillions of bacteria, fungi, and viruses that live in our body—is the subject of intense medical curiosity. Is it the key to solving cancer? Or just improving the way we feel? It’s been hard for scientists to study what’s going on in there, because blood tests are imprecise, and petri dish recreations are unreliable. Harvard scientists might have an answer—a synthetic microbiome that gives researchers a five-day window to study gut flora. Take a closer look at the “organ on a chip.”

Speaking of guts. Danone is going open source. In honor of its 100-year-anniversary, the French company is granting researchers access to 1,800 yogurt strains. If the access helps researchers develop new products—either as food, or for farming purposes—the company could be in a position to help scale them up. That’s potentially more cost-efficient, and faster, than building a new brand from scratch, Food Dive reports.

Wanted: firmer ground. In the wake of historically devastating flooding in the Midwest, farmers are looking for “new solutions to a millions-year-old phenomenon,” according to AgWeb. That phenomenon? A landscape now covered by sand, many tons of it, spread across the state in dunes that reach 10 feet tall in places. Various remediation efforts are being explored, but according to a Nebraska extension agent: “If you have 3 to 5 feet of sand, that might be the new normal.” Our own Sam Bloch spoke with KCRW about farmers who were working to get out from under that deluge.

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