GMO labeling continued to guide influencer discussions, often leading to further dialogue on the role of transparency in food labeling. Ag Day drew support for agriculture, with a strong showing on Twitter. A smattering of reports also prompted debate on policies ranging from food safety to food waste. Read about these topics and more in this edition of Influence Feed.
Food safety and labeling drove recent influencer conversations, especially when news broke of an outbreak of Escherichia coli (E. coli) at northwestern Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc., restaurants. A U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) request for comments on the term “natural” and the carcinogenicity of meats and pesticides, too, stirred discussion. Read about these and more in this edition of Influence Feed.
Mainstream media coverage of food exploded when a World Health Organization (WHO) agency labeled processed meat “carcinogenic” and red meat “probably carcinogenic” to humans. The announcement dominated influencer discussions over the past week and even prompted The Late Show host Stephen Colbert to put bacon in his pipe and smoke it. Read about this story and more in this edition of Influence Feed.
In recent weeks, activist groups have reinforced a push for greater transparency in the food and agriculture industries. In a ruling that animal rights groups touted as a victory for free speech, a judge overturned Idaho’s “ag-gag” law. Meanwhile, celebrities lobbied the Senate concerning labeling foods with genetically modified organisms (GMOs). See why each side of these issues questioned the other’s motivations in this edition of Influence Feed.
It’s a good time for cholesterol, in the sense that foods high in cholesterol might not be viewed as quite the scourge they once were. Newly revised dietary guidelines are attracting plenty of influencer reaction, not only because of the new perspective on cholesterol but also the call for diets heavier on plant-based food and lighter on meat. Which sounds like the perfect occasion for an apple, right? That depends on whom you ask. See why one kind of apple in particular is getting a lot of attention.
You’ll find these issues and more in the latest edition of Influence Feed.
With planting season finally underway, crops are commanding attention in food and agriculture discussions. The Open Source Seed Initiative stirred excitement from farmers and academics with its launch at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Genetically modified organism (GMO) technology and the organic label continued to stimulate debate, with agriculturalist perspectives gaining momentum over activist views; GMO technology was the topic of a uniquely balanced and respectful dialogue at the University of California, Berkeley, while organic labeling came under unprecedented criticism. Meanwhile, the European Union made waves by effectively banning the import of U.S. apples over use of a pesticide.
Earth Day was on April 22, and influencers widely celebrated and acknowledged the day while using it to assert their viewpoints. At the end of April, the World Health Organization announced that antibiotic resistance is now a worldwide threat, which attracted substantial coverage. In The Netherlands, Maryn McKenna examined innovative broiler chicken housing systems. All the while, the agriculture business was making wide use of the hashtag #plant14, sowing plenty of interest in the crop season among influencer circles.
The past two weeks saw a relative absence of pivotal new issues in food and agriculture, but several topics maintained high-level dialogues among influencers. The discussion regarding the definition of wholesomeness and healthfulness continued on several fronts, while food manufacturers felt pressure in the form of identifying and limiting added sugars. Traditional grocery and quick-service chains continue to capitalize on “free-from” labeling to compete with growing competition from “supernatural” outlets. In addition, skeptics of the current school lunch program became increasingly vocal, requiring its defenders to underscore its benefits and successes.
Critics specifically challenged poultry production during this period, demanding—and receiving—responses from industry leadership. The Meat Racket continued to make waves in major media outlets. Meanwhile, the Modernization of Poultry Slaughter Inspection rule met heavy criticism in Congress.
Between announcing the federal government’s first major updates to the Nutrition Facts panel in 20 years and the restriction of in-school advertising of foods that don’t meet healthy guidelines, first lady Michelle Obama had a busy couple of weeks. Those announcements made waves throughout food and agriculture circles, as did a few other players who approached the issues with eye-catching facts to get results. Azodicarbonamide would probably have not been removed from Subway’s ingredient list had a blogger not pointed out that the common dough conditioning agent was also used in the manufacture of yoga mats. The USDA, in an effort to resuscitate its Food Waste Challenge program, calculated the waste figure in the trillions of calories. And a publicity writer compared the cancer risks of eating animal protein to those of smoking, generating a massive discussion about a well-debated topic in an academic study published in Cell Metabolism.
The past two weeks have been tumultuous for food and agriculture, featuring the convergence of special interest agendas and consumer food trends into a series of high-profile business developments. In particular, Chick-fil-A’s announcement that the chain will begin selling only antibiotic-free chicken by 2019 and the growing importance of gluten-free foods have epitomized the economic viability of the “free from” moniker.
While gluten-free and antibiotic-free are hardly the same, both claims are used to help position a food’s wholesomeness. Claims such as these are among food and dietary trends that romanticize a time that is perceived as simpler and healthier. For instance, the gluten-free trend is closely related to the Paleo Diet, which encourages eating similarly to how our hunting and gathering ancestors ate. Even though such ideas aren’t necessarily supported by science, they’re backed by a complex marketplace that values the image of a quaint, wholesome life.
The last half of February also has seen even more special interest action, a new book criticizing the poultry industry – and new research from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the American Meat Institute suggesting that the role of animal protein in the American diet may be trend-proof.