Pepperoni shortage strikes small pizza places across the US: report

Pepperoni lovers may have to learn to be OK with plain pizza for a bit. Various shortages have struck during the coronavirus pandemic, ranging from toilet paper (which was caused by panic buying during the early days), coins, and even aluminum cans. Now, pepperoni has apparently fallen victim to the pandemic. Pizza shops across the United States say they’re paying higher prices for the popular topping and have noticed that the supply has become tighter, Bloomberg reports. Restaurants from New York to South Dakota have reportedly seen a significant increase in price, with the cost nearly doubling in some areas. According to the news outlet, other meat products saw temporary price increases during the pandemic. While ground beef became more expensive earlier in the year, the price has reportedly started to drop. Pepperoni, on the other hand, continues to be expensive. R-Pizza in Vermillion, South Dakota, told Bloomberg that supply issues forced the restaurant to change suppliers for the first time in nine years. There are apparently two factors causing the shortage. The first is that pork processors have had to deal with a reduced number of workers during the pandemic. Pepperoni is reportedly a complicated meat product to make, so some suppliers have reduced the amount being produced. The other possible reason is that the demand for pizza has risen during the lockdowns and pandemic. With more people staying home for dinner, many families are apparently ordering the popular delivery food (with a significant number requesting pepperoni as a topping). So far, larger chains have not been impacted by the pepperoni shortage, as they buy ingredients through long term contracts, Bloomberg reports. Matthew Hyland, the owner of New York City’s Emily, explained to Bloomberg why the restaurant hasn’t raised the cost of its pizza. He said, “It’s an American right to have pepperoni on pizza. Pepperoni is such a huge part of pizza it’s important to us that we keep it accessible.”

Starbucks Pumpkin Spice products return to grocery stores

Starbucks is giving consumers the opportunity to have a taste of fall before the season officially arrives. The Seattle-based coffee giant made its pumpkin spice product line available in grocery stores at a time when a growing number of consumers are drinking coffee at home, largely due to the coronavirus pandemic. The lineup includes its pumpkin spice flavored creamer, K-Cup coffee pods, ground coffee and other flavored drinks. The company has also debuted new products including a maple pecan flavored coffee and salted caramel mocha flavored creamer. However, Starbucks has not yet revealed when its famed Pumpkin Spice Latte will return to menus. The release of the products comes as the pandemic, which led to widespread lockdowns and forced restaurants and cafes to shut down for prolonged periods, has forced a growing number of coffee drinkers to consume their cup of joe within the confines of their home. Starbucks said its U.S. market share in packaged coffee grew 21% in dollar sales in its fiscal third quarter, outpacing the coffee category as a whole, which grew 13% in the same period. A survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of Nestlé in April indicated that third of respondents said they were brewing more coffee at home now than before they were under quarantine, the Daily Meal reported. Still, some companies that performed well over the lockdown orders did so because of how well they catered to the adjusting times. For instance, J.M. Smucker Co., which makes Folgers, Dunkin’, and Cafe Bustelo coffee, performed well through May, according to Intelligencer, which noted that the company was selling more coffee to more households to brew at home.

Its the little things…

Pale ale, IPA beer drinkers more likely to be adventurous, study claims

Pale ale and IPA beer drinkers are more likely to be risk-takers and sensation-seekers, according to a new study. Despite ale drinkers being perceived as calmer than their lager cousins they still have an edge, scientists believe. The unexpected results of the study involved personality assessments and blind taste tests to discover links when it comes to bitter taste. Researchers traditionally thought people who experience bitterness more intensely are more likely to avoid it and choose different tastes. But the Penn State Sensory Evaluation Center discovered people who seek novel sensations and perceive bitter tastes more intensely are more likely to prefer bitter, pale-ale-style beers and drink them more often. John Hayes, associate professor of food science, said: “Traditionally, most researchers find that people who experience bitterness more intensely avoid bitter food or drink — so with heightened bitterness, they like it less, and therefore consume it less. “But here, we find that people who seek higher sensations and are more risk-taking, they like bitter beer such as India pale ales, if they also have greater bitter taste perception.” In previous studies, links have been found between the liking of spicy foods and the high-sensation-seeking, risk-taking personality traits. Lead researcher Molly Higgins said: “Our data contradict the classic view that bitterness is merely an aversive sensation that limits intake. We found that increased bitterness perception does not always lead to decreased liking and intake — rather, it’s a positive attribute in some products for some consumers.” In the study, 109 beer consumers rated liking and intensity of two pale ales and a lager, and the intensity of two bitter solutions – quinine and hops extract Tetralone – under blind laboratory conditions. Participants, an even gender split, were also asked to complete intake and personality questionnaires. Researchers chose a lager style beer with low bitterness, Budweiser, a moderately bitter ale Founder’s All-Day IPA Session Ale, and Troeg’s Perpetual IPA as the strongly bitter ale. “The interaction revealed liking of the pale ale increased with sensation seeking but only if quinine bitterness was also high,” Higgins said. “Intake models showed increased odds of frequent pale-ale intake with greater quinine bitterness and lower liking for lager beer.” “These data suggest liking and intake of pale ales is positively related to sensation seeking and bitter taste perception.” The researchers say that this interest in bitter foods could give new rise to promoting healthy bitter foods. “Avoidance of bitter foods can impact health negatively, because bitter foods such as cruciferous vegetables, green tea and grapefruit contain healthy compounds like flavonols, which are reported to have antioxidant and anticarcinogenic properties,” Higgins added. The findings were recently published in Food Quality and Preference.

National Free Slurpee Day: Why is it canceled this year?

Don’t think of the day as July 11. Think of it as 7-11 instead, and it’ll be obvious why the convenience store chain 7-Eleven designated it National Free Slurpee Day. Each year since 2002, the company has observed it it by having thousands of participating locations give away the brand’s signature frozen drink. The event has grown so popular that 7-Eleven handed out “close to 9 million Slurpee drinks” on July 11, 2019, according to the brand’s spokesperson. It won’t be happening this year because of safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the chain is doing its best to ease fans’ disappointment. “As a special bonus to delight our customers in a safe and socially responsible way, we will be dropping a free Medium Slurpee coupon into every 7Rewards member account, redeemable from July 1 – July 31,” a 7-Eleven spokesperson told FOX Business. Additionally, the company is donating 1 million meals through Feeding America to help people facing economic hardship because of the pandemic.

FAIL!!!  Click on the text above for more info.

Americans stockpile frozen pizza, causing potential shortage, amid coronavirus

It’s not delivery, it’s out of stock. The coronavirus pandemic has reportedly caused shortages on various items as people stock up on supplies as they shelter in their homes. This has created an increased demand for food items that can be stored for long periods of time without going bad. People apparently really like pizza. During the month of March, Americans bought $275 million worth of frozen pizza, Adweek reports. This is reportedly an increase of 92 percent from the same time period the previous year (some brands have reported increased sales of as much as 190 percent). According to Adweek, the increase in sales of frozen pizza is comparable to the recent rush of toilet paper. As news of the coronavirus and the impending shutdowns broke, Americans apparently stocked up on toilet paper, causing an increase in sales of about 104 percent. Ashley Lind, director of demand sciences at Conagra Brands which makes popular frozen pizza Celeste Pizza, told the outlet, “It’s not hard to imagine that many people are looking for easy, convenient solutions that are also crowd-pleasing family favorites. Also, when living in uncertain times—as many of us are right now—we’re seeing a rise in consumers turning to much-loved comfort foods. Frozen pizza checks a lot of these boxes for consumers.” The increased demand has caused some stores to struggle to keep the freezer section stocked. A spokesperson for Newman’s Own maker told Adweek that it doesn’t expect any major interruptions in supply in the near term, they did point that the company’s supply chain is stretched and that the supply chain’s supply chain is also stretched. The prospect of a frozen pizza shortage caused a reaction on social media, with some users seemingly jokingly comparing it to the same issues with toilet paper or hand sanitizer.

As more and more businesses and communities are opening up, this is probably water under the bridge now.  But, we’ll keep an eye on it..

National Doughnut Day 2020: Where to get free doughnuts

If you go nuts for doughnuts, there’s a “hole” lot to love about National Doughnut Day. Celebrated annually on the first Friday of June, several chains have already rolled out their plans for June 5. Beyond the traditional giveaways happening this year, some special promotions for health care workers and first responders fighting the coronavirus pandemic on the front lines have been sprinkled into the mix. Click here to see which places are offering doughnut specials today:

Who doesn’t like a doughnut?  I already had two this morning!  Happy National Doughnut Day!      🙂

Raw cookie dough: Aside from the egg, there’s another important reason you should never taste it

Raw cookie dough. It’s as bewitching as it is vexing. On one hand, it smells sublime — but on the other, it contains raw egg, and shouldn’t be eaten until thoroughly baked. But it’s not just the eggs you should be wary of. Unless you’re whipping up a batch of gluten-free cookies, cookie dough usually contains raw flour, which can also make you very sick. Yes, raw flour. According to both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), raw doughs containing flour — i.e. cookie dough, pizza dough, tortilla dough — should not be consumed, or given to children to play with (as a substitute for Play-Doh, for instance), as it can possibly contain harmful bacteria such as E. coli. “Flour is derived from a grain that comes directly from the field and typically is not treated to kill bacteria,” Leslie Smoot, Ph.D., a senior advisor with the FDA’s Office of Food Safety, said of the risk associated with eating raw flour. The FDA also warned against eating raw eggs and their association with salmonella, but urged that “consumers should be aware that there are additional risks associated with the consumption of raw dough, such as particularly harmful strains of E. coli in a product like flour.” The CDC cites two recent E. coli outbreaks (in both 2016 and 2019) that sickened over 80 people in recent years, both traced back to flour. To that end, the agency also advises you to throw away any of the recalled flour linked to E. coli outbreaks, in case there’s some still kicking around in your cabinets. Symptoms of E. coli poisoning can be severe, the FDA says, and include “diarrhea (often bloody) and abdominal cramps,” as well as vomiting. Extreme cases can lead to a certain type of kidney failure that largely affects children under 5, the elderly, or those with compromised immune systems. Plus, most cases don’t present until several days after ingesting E. coli bacteria, the CDC says. With that in mind, it’s best to thoroughly cook or bake your raw doughs before eating, clean up any floured workspaces when finished, and avoid allowing children to play with raw dough as a substitute for clay. Oh, and don’t eat raw cookie dough, as tempting as it might be. Just wait out the agonizing 12 to 14 minutes for your cookies to bake. We know you can do it.

Daughter-in-chief: Ivanka Trump pushes food distribution program

The U.S. Agriculture Department is unveiling a new food distribution program with an emphasis on aiding small businesses – an issue that is being pushed by a very prominent White House adviser. Her name: Ivanka Trump. Under the “Farmers to Families Food Box Program,” the federal government buys meat, produce and dairy products from farmers and ranchers and then provides it to local distribution centers that pack and deliver food boxes to those in need. It “really creates a virtuous cycle,” Trump told USA TODAY in an interview, citing a “robust demand” from food producers, consumers and “the most vulnerable in these challenging times.” Trump and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, who also participated in the interview, said the program will also address gaps in the food supply chain spawned by the coronavirus. “There was a misallocation of supply and demand, temporarily,” Perdue said. The program is a symbol of how the president’s eldest daughter is making her presence felt on a number of issues during the coronavirus pandemic. She has pushed for more aid to small businesses in programs designed to manufacture personal protective equipment, the paycheck protection program, and economic injury disaster loans. Trump, who called UPS chief executive David Abney about volunteering trucks to make food box deliveries, said she and others are “pulling all the levers” they can. And, no, the last name doesn’t hurt. “I think when you work in the White House, you tend to have your calls returned,” Trump said. “And I think most Americans are patriots and want to answer the call to action when things are requested of them.” She added: “I’m not shy about asking people to step up to the plate. The whole country needs to be galvanized in the effort, both to combat this deadly virus, but also to rebuild … to rebuild our economy as we emerge.” Trump spoke a day before the formal kickoff of the Food Box program, part of the stimulus plan known as the CARES Act. She will visit a distribution center in Laurel, Maryland, as the first food box deliveries go out the door. The USDA has already awarded $1.2 billion to food distributors to buy meat, dairy and produce products that farmers have been unable to sell because of government lockdowns. The distributors will pack the food into boxes for delivery to food banks, community and nonprofits that have had trouble getting food because of problems with the supply chain. “We’ll be up to $3 billion in total as it rolls out,” she said.

Outstanding!!  Major kudos to Ivanka for her work on this important issue.  For more, click on the text above.   Excellent!!      🙂

Trump announces $16 billion in direct payments for farmers hurt by pandemic ’caused by China’

President Trump on Tuesday announced $16 billion in direct payments for farmers and ranchers to compensate them for lost business from the coronavirus outbreak that he said was “caused by China.” During an event at the White House, Mr. Trump also directed Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to pursue cutting off trade deals with countries that ship beef cattle to the U.S. He said the U.S. beef industry is “very self-sufficient.” The direct payments, funded by the $2.2 trillion CARES Act that was approved in March and a commodity credit law, follows farm bailouts totaling $28 billion in 2018 and 2019. Those earlier payments compensated growers and ranchers for losses from tariffs imposed by China during the administration’s trade war with Beijing. “Now we’re standing strong with our farmers and ranchers once again,” Mr. Trump said during an announcement at the White House. Growers lost much of their customer base when restaurants were ordered to close during the outbreak. Much of the money will be used to purchase food to supply food banks around the country. The president said of the pandemic, “It should have never happened. You know that, I know that. The people that caused the problem, they know that, too.” “These payments will compensate farmers for losses related to the global pandemic caused by China,” Mr. Trump said. “We’ll be providing billions of dollars for corn, cotton, soybean and specialty-crop farmers, cattle ranchers, just about every category I can think of.” Robert Mills Jr., owner of Briar View Farms Inc. in southern Virginia, said the money is not a bailout. “We always expect the unexpected, and we didn’t expect this [pandemic],” he said. “It’s not a rescue program. It’s going to help these farm families be able to make good, wise financial decisions. This country relies on what these farmers and ranchers do every day.”

It sure does!  What was also left out of this article from today’s announcements at the White House was Ivanka Trump’s comments about efforts to package up food into “20-25 pound boxes” that would otherwise be going to waste, and is now going to food banks to give to those in need.  As has already been mentioned (see previous article above), it is an effort that the First Daughter has been speerheading, and something she deserves credit for.

Coronavirus may force hog farmers to kill 10M pigs by September

U.S. pork farmers may be forced to euthanize as many as 10 million hogs by September as a result of production-plant shutdowns brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, according to the National Pork Producers Council. At least 14,000 reported positive COVID-19 cases have been connected to meatpacking facilities in at least 181 plants in 31 states as of May 13, and at least 54 meatpacking facility workers have died of the virus at 30 plants in 18 states, according to an investigation by the Midwest Center for Investigative reporting. Dozens of meat production plants closed before President Trump invoked the Defense Production Act in late April allowing large facilities to remain open during COVID-19 in an effort to address supply chain and liability issues, but farms and plants still face overcrowding threats as some plants remain closed or have significantly slower production. Pennsylvania Farm Bureau Vice President Chris Hoffman, who won America’s Best Pig Farmer of the Year award in 2019, told FOX Business that production in these meat processing plants is back up to about 70 percent, but until production gets back up to 100 percent, the industry will see backlog issues. “We process over half-a-million hogs per day, and right now, from what I heard on Tuesday, all plants are running but at different levels. We’re at 70 percent. If you take half-a-million hogs every day, and you’re only running at 70 percent production, 100,000 hogs get pushed to the next day, and then that gets pushed back to 200,000 the next day,” Hoffman said. He added that these backlog issues vary depending on which area of the country farmers are operating in and which plant they are shipping to. “I’ve heard folks say the recovery of some of these plants is faster than expected. That is a great sign that the number [of euthanized hogs] could be less,” Hoffman said, but added that the wellbeing of the people who work in these processing plants is what’s most important. About 170,000 hogs that have reached the country’s harvest standards can’t be marketed due to plant closures and slow production, the NPPC said in a press release. The organization added that housing for these market-ready hogs is “not an option” because “younger hogs coming up through the supply chain need someplace to go for care and feeding.” Producers are then faced with the choice to watch their animals suffer due to a lack of proper care or euthanize them, which the NPPC notes is the “only humane option” for farmers who produce food. It can take almost a year to care for a pig from the time it is born until the time it is ready for harvest when it has reached about 270 pounds, according to national guidelines, the release says. Hogs that weigh more than 270 pounds “cannot be processed through the nation’s primary harvest facilities due to constraints in the equipment and concerns with worker safety,” the NPPC release says. Hoffman said it takes 10 months to raise a pig to be ready for harvesting. “Every week, we have a certain amount of hogs in our facility that need to be processed. It’s not like you can turn the spigot off. It takes 10 months for the [growth] process to be completed. The lack of processing creates an overcrowded situation,” he explained. The amount of time and work farmers put into raising pigs is what makes the euthanization issue more delicate than many people may realize. Even though the pigs are raised to eventually be butchered and sold to customers as food, Hoffman says a farmer’s animals become like family because of the dedication required to take proper care of them before harvest. “These are generational farms,” Hoffman said. “Here we are with farmers who are posed with a situation they never thought they’d have to deal with, and that’s euthanizing animals. My concern as I look at the industry is: It’s a real toll on a farmer, day in and day out. These animals are like our family, they are designed for meat, and it breaks your heart to make these kinds of decisions.” Different farms approach these schedules in different ways, and some pork producers are operating normally despite the pandemic, but the industry as a whole is facing dark times. Pork harvesting was down nearly 40 percent from the prior year as of May 6 due to the pandemic. Low harvesting numbers are expected to result in the euthanization of “10,069,000 market hogs … between the weeks ending on April 25 and September 19, 2020, resulting in a severe emotional and financial toll on hog farmers,” the NCCP release notes. Members of the organization called on Congress to allocate more than $1 billion to the Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish, as well as $505 million for euthanization and environmentally responsible disposal expenses.

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