Eat the Week: Walmart and Obama in Cahoots, Bison Meat on the Rise, the Most Powerful Food Folk, and the Food Network’s Ratings Plunge
1. Now that we consumers have developed an unshakable taste for bison meat, the bison industry is struggling to figure out how to feed us all. There aren’t enough ranchers specializing in the tasty, lean, alt-meat right now — which is why the price per pound has been rising. The industry is now actively trying to recruit people into the bison biz — so if you’ve ever dreamed of running a ranch, now’s the time to get your foot in the door. In other unusual meat news, Tucson-based restaurant Boca Tacos y Tequila has been serving up weird meat for six months as part of its “Exotic Taco Wednesday” series. Alligator, kangaroo, rattlesnake, and frogs have all been folded into tortillas since the program began, but this week Boca announced its strangest dish yet: African lion tacos. The lions aren’t endangered, so there are no laws against serving them (although we think it’s kinda rude to eat the king of the jungle for lunch). One wild thing Boca won’t be serving any time soon — bush meat. There’s always been a high demand for the black market ape flesh, but this week a raid in Central Africa uncovered a large collection of chimp and gorilla body parts. The five people arrested in connection with the endangered flesh face jail time.
2. The Daily Meal put together a scary slideshow of foods that can kill you. While Namibian Bullfrogs, blowfish, and fermented shark aren’t huge parts of our diets, the list includes many familiar items. Seemingly innocent dietary staples like apples, cherries, potatoes, and almonds all made the cut alongside foods we already know are risky— like nutmeg, rhubarb, and cassava.
3. Unpasteurized honey is also on the list, and that’s not the only bad news for bees this week. The Independent reports that the recent string of colony collapses may be due to a new generation of pesticides that is making bees sick. The information comes directly from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Bee Research Lab, but they’ve been sitting on the results for two years. We learned this week that Florida citrus is also in a state of turmoil. The culprit? Pests and diseases are running rampant on more than 100,000 acres of abandoned citrus trees and threatening neighboring groves.
4. People in the food television business had a crappy week — fourth quarter ratings for the Food Network were dismally low. Meanwhile Gordon Ramsay’s face ballooned up like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Although the swelling looks to be plastic surgery related, Ramsay swears it’s a result of being doused in gasoline. Man, this guy has had a shitty year. Jamie Oliver, who’s become the darling of healthy eating advocates everywhere, staged a stunt that resulted in massive failure this week. Oliver filled a broken-down school bus with 57 tons of sand (intended to represent the sugar the “broken down” Los Angeles Unified School District provides to kids in flavored milk) in front of an audience of only twenty people.
5. Speaking of unhealthy, it’s time to check in on the fast food world. Starbucks revealed a new 31-ounce cup this week. The Trenta has a volume of 916 ml while the human stomach has a volume of only 900 ml. A victory for yuppie truckers everywhere! While we’re on the subject of too much liquid, GOOD’s seriously rad new food vertical published a video of a flooded Brisbane McDonald’s. Meanwhile, Chipotle locations in Minnesota are swimming with protesters after a recent decision to fire hundreds of workers (protesters claim it was 700, other sources say the number was closer to 350), many of them illegal. The tagline seen on many signs was, “You cannot sell Mexican food and then sell out Mexican workers.”
6. The Obamas hosted a State Dinner for Chinese President Ho Jintao this week and boy, was it an event. The menu was “quintessentially American” and featured herbs from the White House garden. Poached Maine lobster, dry-aged rib eye, and old-fashioned apple pie anchored the meal, which was lubricated with some choice bottles of vino from California and Washington. In honor of the occasion Time magazine assembled a slideshow of the Top 10 Memorable State Dinner Moments — the infamous Salahi party crashing scandal and a dance between Princess Diana and John Travolta made the list.
7. The China State Dinner wasn’t the only big food feather in the First Lady’s cap this week. Michelle took the stage alongside Walmart bigwigs to announce the store’s decision to offer more healthy foods. This will be a major win for the First Lady if the mega-chain, which is America’s largest grocer, follows through on its promise, but major voices in the food world are already questioning Walmart’s intentions and calling out the plan’s potential impact on the quality of food. Time will tell.
8. Would you drink whiskey from a can? A Panama-based company thinks you will. The new product from Scottish Spirits is actually the size of a regular beer can — that’s eight full shots of whiskey — and it isn’t resealable. We just hope they don’t start selling these at sporting events. Scientific American reported this week that researchers found 8% of fans leaving pro football and basketball games to be over the legal alcohol limit. That number translates to 5,000 soused spectators leaving each NFL game. Only 362 fans from 13 different games were willing to be tested, so the actual percentage of drunk sports fans is probably much higher. Finally on the adult beverage front, BBC News reported this week that new grape varietals need to be developed or the future of wine may be in jeopardy.
9. On the softer side of refreshment news, a U.K. ad regulatory group wants Vitaminwater to cut out the health claims, due to the enormous amount of added sugar in each bottle. While we’re on the topic of bullshit label claims, you may want to chuck those blueberry freezer waffles. The LA Times reported this week that many of the “blueberries” in bagels, cereals, breads, and muffins are not actually blueberries but just concoctions of sugar and dye. Cereal giant Kellogg’s is ponying up some serious dough for fudging facts on their labels — they already shelled out $10.5 million in November for claiming Mini-Wheats help improve attentiveness in children and now they have to return another $2.5 million to consumers who purchased Rice Krispies between June 1, 2009 and March 1, 2010, destroy all boxes making immunity claims, and donate another $2.5 million worth of products to charity. While you’re looking at labels, be sure to look for the “organic” on your milk. A new study out of the U.K. reveals that organic milk — which we love because it doesn’t come with a laundry list of chemicals and hormones — actually has nutritional advantages over traditional milk.
10. The Daily Meal published a big, exciting listicle this week of America’s 50 Most Powerful People in Food. As you’d expect Oprah, Michelle Obama, Alice Waters, and Martha Stewart all made the list, but so did the CEOs of a bunch of companies, including Monsanto, Walmart, and Whole Foods. We also learned this week that the co-CEOs of Whole Foods made $4.6 million in 2010. Which puts them in good company: Monsanto’s CEO made upwards of $13 million and Walmart’s CEO makes more in an hour than a typical Walmart employee makes in a year — $16,826.92 an hour, that’s $35 million per year.
Photo: A. Poulos