Food Chain News - April 12

From convenient new ways to get food to food waste, news in the food supply chain raises some contradictions this week. Check out some of the highlights and share what caught your eye this week in the comments.

Blue Apron's meal kits are among many options for home-delivered dinners. Image: Blue Apron 

Blue Apron's meal kits are among many options for home-delivered dinners. Image: Blue Apron 

Call it the Uber Eats of Indian rail travel. Startup TravelKhana enables train travelers to order their food of choice from restaurants and enjoy the meals while on board. “When it came to good food, there was a huge demand and supply gap,” says founder Pushpinder Singh.

Meanwhile, meal-kit delivery services — a ballooning market space — are addressing more than one challenge for home cooks: what to make for dinner and feeling like an accomplished cook. But the downsides include excessing packaging and a price that may not be universally accessible.

Taco Bell's Tacobot, which allows a Slack user to place an order from within the app. Image: Taco Bell

Taco Bell's Tacobot, which allows a Slack user to place an order from within the app. Image: Taco Bell

If you’re not interested in cooking — or even picking up the phone or switching websites — some fast-food companies are establishing portals through other app environments, including Slack and Instagram.

Supply chain technology is helping franchises manage distributed operations and capabilities among their franchisees. "With technology, our restaurants and franchisees don't have to think very much, eliminating errors," said Chris McNutt, vice president of Brand Programs for CSCS (Applebee's). "It also helps our franchisees price their menus since they know what's coming when."

Restaurant patrons enjoy a meal in Baghdad. Image: Business Insider

Restaurant patrons enjoy a meal in Baghdad. Image: Business Insider

Even in Baghdad, despite ongoing wartime conditions, the restaurant business is booming. "Baghdadis live under huge pressure," said al-Zamili, the chairman of the Baghdad Investment Commission. "Restaurants are the best place to vent daily frustrations and that's the main catalyst behind the spike in these projects."

In the world of food safety and transparency, a group of investors who manage more than $1 trillion in assets has banded together in a campaign to reduce the use of antibiotics in the meat and poultry used by nearly a dozen large restaurants groups in the U.S. and the U.K. Their concern was sparked by a warning by the World Health Organization that overuse of antibiotics is lessening their effectiveness in fighting disease.

And Walmart has pledged to stock only cage-free eggs by 2025, a move that may alter the production methods by eggs suppliers — and pave the way for other stores to change their practices to hew more closely to customer feedback.

Free-range chickens.

Free-range chickens.

“Woody breast,” a tough, fibrous texture that afflicts some chicken breasts in fast-growing birds, is on the rise. While it’s not harmful to humans — and its cause is still unknown — it may be a result of the drive to raise heavier chickens in a shorter amount of time. Is the tradeoff worth it?

Overproduction of food and its subsequent waste accounts for 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, according to new study from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. One-third of global food production is wasted, a figure expected to increase with China and India adopting western food patterns. Nearly 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted annually.

Copia, a food-recovery app, aims to chip away at this food waste figure by connecting companies that have surplus food with organizations that distribute food to those in need. “Hunger is the world’s dumbest problem, especially in the world’s wealthiest country,” said Komal Ahmad, the app’s founder. “It’s a distribution problem. We get food from those who have it to those who need it.”

In the International Space Station's Harmony node, NASA astronaut Steve Swanson, Expedition 40 commander, harvests a crop of red romaine lettuce plants that were grown from seed inside the station's Veggie facility, a low-cost plant growth chamber that uses a flat-panel light bank for plant growth and crew observation. For the Veg-01 experiment, researchers are testing and validating the Veggie hardware, and the plants will be returned to Earth to determine food safety. Photo: NASA

In the International Space Station's Harmony node, NASA astronaut Steve Swanson, Expedition 40 commander, harvests a crop of red romaine lettuce plants that were grown from seed inside the station's Veggie facility, a low-cost plant growth chamber that uses a flat-panel light bank for plant growth and crew observation. For the Veg-01 experiment, researchers are testing and validating the Veggie hardware, and the plants will be returned to Earth to determine food safety. Photo: NASA

The Food and Drug Administration is well on its way to finalizing the rules that make up the heart of the Food Safety Modernization Act, having finalized the Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food rule — the sixth rule of seven — on April 5. The rule aims to prevent food contamination during transportation and will be enforced starting April 6, 2017.

And finally, lettuce is growing on the International Space Station. Everything about its production — AND consumption — is being studied carefully. "The farther and longer humans go away from Earth, the greater the need to be able to grow plants for food, atmosphere recycling and psychological benefits," said NASA’s Gioia Massa.

Don’t forget to check back for Food+City’s Robyn Metcalfe's take on the Food + Enterprise Summit, a two-day investor-entrepreneur meet-up to catalyze connections between entrepreneurs and investors to finance a better local food system, held last weekend in Brooklyn. We’ll share her takeaways from the summit here in an upcoming post.