Saturday, May 31, 2008

Farm-to-Food Guest Memo: Urban Farming: Gordon Graff's 'Edible High-Rise'

Toronto, Canada scientist Gordon Graff has created plans for a 58-floor concept building called the SkyFarm. The urban high-rise farm would produce a variety of crops in the heart of the city and could provide enough food for 35,000 people every day, according to Graff.

Natural~Specialty Foods Memo (NSFM) Editor's Note: Below is a sidebar to Kate Burt's feature article about urban farming and Fritz Haeg's scheme to turn residential front lawns into domestic mini-farms. NSFM has seen two comprehensive urban farming concepts thus far--this one we wrote about in Septemeber, 2007, which is a mixed-use residential building/vertical urban farm designed by Seattle, Washington's Mithun design firm--and now the edible high-rise prototype developed by Canadian scientist Gordon Graff, described in Ms. Burt's piece below and pictured at the top. Although neither one of the "urban farms" has yet to go from the design stage to reality, the concept is gaining interest. With the soaring cost of food and diminishing agricultural land, one or both of these developments just might happen sooner rather than later.

Pie in the Sky: The world's first edible high-rise
The Independent-UK/Sunday
By Kate Burt
Sunday, 1 June, 2008

The potential of city-based farming could be vastly expanded if we extend upwards as well as using ground-level plots.

Of course, one major problem with growing produce on our roofs is the quantities of soil needed, which would add unfeasible amounts of weight. However, hydroponic technology – using nutrient-enriched water instead of soil – could be the solution.

Toronto scientist Gordon Graff has created plans for a 58-floor concept building – the SkyFarm – which would grow crops in the heart of the city and could provide enough food for 35,000 people every day.

Crops would be irrigated by water recycled through the building's hydroponic system and, with no soil, many diseases are ruled out – meaning no need for chemical pesticides.

Rumours abound of a similar skyscraper farm being developed in Las Vegas. It is said that the 30-storey structure would be not just about agriculture, but would house pigs too – though some have suggested the vertical pork farm could be a hoax. Punchlines on a postcard, please.

Farm-to-Food Guest Memo: An American in London Wants to Replace Residential Front Lawns With 'Edible Estates'

In his new book, "Edible Estates," Fritz Haeg lays out his scheme to turn residential front lawns into domestic farms. Why not? Water could soon become the new oil, lawns have to be mowed weekly, and the price of food continues to soar, after all. Shouldn't that front yard space, water and labor be producing something edible? Although, if the scheme does catch on, the fresh produce industry might not be too happy. (Photo: Courtesy Megan Quinn.) (Copyright: Megan Quinn.)

The urban farmer: One man's crusade to plough up the inner city
The Independent-UK/Sunday
By Kate Burt
Sunday, 1 June 2008

More pictures

Fritz Haeg isn't perhaps the obvious representative of a revolution in global farming. As an architecture and design academic and practitioner, the American has had his work exhibited at Tate Modern and the Whitney Museum of American Art, and has taught fine art at several US universities. Yet it is last year's community-collaborative project on an inner-city council estate in south London that best showcases his current passion: the urban farm.

Last April, in a discussion about the global food crisis, Gordon Brown announced: "We need to make great changes in the way we organise food production in the next few years." High on the list of viable changes is the idea of inner-city agriculture. Which is the theory behind Haeg's concept, detailed in his new book Edible Estates: it proposes the replacement of the domestic front lawn in cities with "an edible landscape". Last year, to illustrate this point, Haeg was commissioned by the Tate to create a permanent "edible estate" on a triangle of communal grass in front of a housing estate near Elephant and Castle, bordered on two sides by a main road along which London buses thunder every few minutes.

The aim was to engage and involve the local residents – and together they miraculously transformed a patch of grass previously favoured by dogs and drunks into a luscious agri-plot housing apple and plum trees, a "forest" of tomato plants, aubergines, squashes, Brussels sprouts, runner beans, sweet peas, a "salad wing", herbs, edible flowers and 6ft artichoke plants. It is also quite beautiful: "The design was inspired by the ornate, curvy raised flowerbeds you find in front of Buckingham Palace," explains Haeg. Interestingly, although this space is still accessible by passers-by – unlike the traditional allotment, which Haeg feels is outdated – there has been no theft or vandalism. The London project was mirrored in several locations around the US.

"All the projects I do are rooted in the way that an architect thinks and works," says Haeg. "How we live and the spaces we make for ourselves." And right now, he believes, we need to re-evaluate exactly that, and urgently so – particularly in our overcrowded cities.

As part of its "One Planet Living" initiative, the World Wildlife Fund calculated our average personal carbon footprint in Britain. Perplexingly, it found that food production and its transport accounts for our greatest use of carbon – 23 per cent per person – beating personal transport, home energy and even shared services (the running of schools, hospitals, banks and so on). These results, combined with food shortages and escalating costs – the price of apples and eggs has risen by 30 per cent in the past year – mean action must be taken, says Haeg. Ornamental urban space is a luxury we can no longer afford, he believes: we need to be growing food on our lawns, greens, driveways and even public parks.

Haeg is not the only one to think it is time for change. The global Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) strategic alliance estimates that, by 2015, more than half the world's population will be living in urban areas, provoking one of the greatest challenges in the history of agriculture as we try to find a way to keep a lid on food miles and produce enough food for everyone. "Now, more than ever," urges Sustain, the alliance for better food and farming, "we need to grow more food closer to where people live." And in this climate, it seems that everyone from town planners to head teachers, TV chefs to agri-entrepreneurs are getting excited about farming food in the big smoke.

But is it realistic to turn over our spare urban soil to the cause – and is there really enough of it to do so? Erik Watson, an urban design director at the town-planning company Turley Associates, strongly believes that inner-city agriculture is the future. As such, he is already advising his clients on ways to incorporate farming into their developments and is particularly excited about the potential for transforming existing space enclosed in the traditionally British city structure, the "perimeter block" (a row of buildings constructed around an enclosed, private square – typically divided into private gardens). "Look at an aerial view of London and you'll see there's an enormous amount of private open space contained within these blocks. It is perfect for this urban agricultural revolution," he says.

Re-apportioning private space might not be as far-fetched as it sounds. Later this month Sustain is hosting a conference, called Growing Food for London, where ideas to be aired include the possibilities of using derelict council facilities, social housing land and unused private gardens for commercial agriculture, as well as the planting of fruit and nut trees in parks and along roads, creating community gardens in public parks and replacing ornamental plants with edible crops. It will also look at alternative food production such as mushroom growing, beekeeping and planting edibles in window boxes, as well as ideas for the little-explored area of rearing livestock in urban areas.

While beekeeping is on the rise in British cities – it is estimated that there are 5,000 beehives in London alone – other urban animal-based edibles are rare. Hunting might be the answer here – squirrel meat has already been seized upon as a sustainable, free-range delicacy in rural Cornwall – could it catch on in cities? Might pigeon pie become a Trafalgar Square speciality; has anyone thought of fox cutlets?

Perhaps more realistic is organised urban livestock rearing. "There are issues with planning – noise pollution and so on," says Zeenat Anjani from Sustain, "but you could definitely raise chickens and other small animals. We hope the Growing Food conference will open more people's minds to these sorts of ideas and get the right people in the same room to talk about what they can do."

Many are already talking about it. Inspired by the "victory gardens" of the First and Second World Wars, when civilians were urged to "dig for victory" to survive the food shortages, Jamie Oliver's newest venture is to inspire the residents of inner-city Rochdale to eat like our wartime forebears and grow their own, while Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's new River Cottage series challenges five Bristol familes to transform a derelict patch of land into a fruitful smallholding.

In Middlesborough, the Groundwork South Tees trust has begun an urban-farming education programme to teach people how to cultivate herbs, vegetables and fruit even if they do not have a garden, by providing containers for patios, balconies and windowsills. There are also sustainable-food grants available to those who want to educate others how to produce their own food in cities, and how to compost effectively to improve typically poor-quality urban soil. '

If it comes off, perhaps one of the most high-profile initiatives – still at bid stage – is the Feed the Olympics proposal. It is a radical blueprint from several green organisations outlining how 6,000 acres of land in London could be put to work to grow enough food to provide the 14m-odd meals that will be needed during the 60 days of the 2012 Games, instead of importing it. This would involve creating 2,012 new food-growing spaces across the capital, including community gardens, allotments and roof gardens.

Revolutionary? In this country, yes – but we're lagging behind countries such as China, Japan and Cuba, which already have farms integrated into the social, economic and physical structures of their cities; as early as a decade ago Beijing town planners had begun to incorporate agriculture into the urban landscape. The Chinese government also offers courses to aspiring urban farmers and plans to cultivate gardens on nearly 10,000,000sq ft of roof space over the next 10 years.

Similarly, Argentina's Programa de Agricultura Urbana (PAU) was set up to support city-based farmers in the aftermath of the country's financial collapse. And in Cuba, when the US-led trade embargo resulted in severe food shortages, the government responded by investing in urban farms, providing state-owned plots and teaching relevant skills in schools.

But will it work in Britain? Carole Wright, who manages the communal garden created by Haeg in south London, says it already is. "It cost less than £5,000 to create and it is capable of feeding three blocks of flats with 24 households each," she says. "We run family gardening sessions, Sunday sessions, after-school clubs and also container gardening, so residents can grow things on their balconies too. High- density housing is no barrier – you can grow things out of an old baked-bean can. The more people we can get, the more we can produce. It's not about the size of the land – it's about the maintenance." She has had no shortage of regular, enthusiastic volunteers – surprisingly most of whom are children.

Wright was delighted when one girl, a moody teenager who described herself as a "cybergoth", grew her own beetroot. "You'd never have known she was excited about it," says Wright, "but I spotted her one evening with her friends, holding the thing in her hands. 'What are you doing with that?' I asked. 'Well,' she said, 'I grew it – I wanted to show my mates.' She comes down every day now to water her sunflowers."

It's not just about financial and health benefits – Wright has also noticed social benefits. "People who have not spoken for five years are suddenly chatting again, discussing what they've grown. And it brings together people from different cultures too – they lean over the fence and reminisce about the vegetables they grew in their countries as children – okra, bananas, yams, sweet potatoes."

Wright describes one gardener, an elderly widow, who has planted an almond tree as a memorial to her late husband and says he would have loved to see how the space had been transformed. "One guy has even replaced the photo of his family on his mobile phone with a picture of the garden. It's given them so much pride."

The impact of the garden has been enormous, says Wright. People from further and further away are coming along to get involved, learn new skills and socialise. "They see it and it's like a lightbulb and they say, 'We want our own edible estate.' Well, it makes sense, doesn't it?"

The world's first edible high-rise

The potential of city-based farming could be vastly expanded if we extend upwards as well as using ground-level plots.

Of course, one major problem with growing produce on our roofs is the quantities of soil needed, which would add unfeasible amounts of weight. However, hydroponic technology – using nutrient-enriched water instead of soil – could be the solution.

Toronto scientist Gordon Graff has created plans for a 58-floor concept building – the SkyFarm – which would grow crops in the heart of the city and could provide enough food for 35,000 people every day. Crops would be irrigated by water recycled through the building's hydroponic system and, with no soil, many diseases are ruled out – meaning no need for chemical pesticides.

Rumours abound of a similar skyscraper farm being developed in Las Vegas. It is said that the 30-storey structure would be not just about agriculture, but would house pigs too – though some have suggested the vertical pork farm could be a hoax. Punchlines on a postcard, please. KB

Interesting? Click here to explore further (see link at bottom of Ms. Burt's story.

Natural~Specialty Foods Memo (NSFM) Editor's Note: NSFM wrote a piece in September, 2007 about a vertical, mixed-use urban farm and residential complex designed by the Seattle, Washington USA-based firm Mithun. There's also a reproduction of a drawing of the firm's design in the piece. You can read it and view the drawing of the vertical farm/residential complex here.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Retail Memo: Upscale 'Food Emporium' Expanding 'Food to Go' Into More Stores; Plans Standalone, Small-Format Version of the Prepared Foods Concept

The once great but lately struggling Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company (A&P) seems to have found a success story in its 29 store Food Emporium upscale gourmet and prepared foods supermarket format, which it's in the process of taking even more upscale and gourmet.

Most specifically, a key ingredient of the format's success is coming in the in-store fresh, prepared foods category, with a concept and store section called "Food to Go," which the food retailer launched in its busy Food Emporium location in the Trump Palace building in Manhattan's Upper East Side.

A&P operates 16 of its 29 upscale Food Emporium stores in Manhattan; nine of the gourmet-oriented supermarkets are located in New York State, and four are in nearby Connecticut.

The "Food to Go" in-store fresh, prepared foods section has been doing so well in the Trump Palace store that A&P plans to roll the concept and department out to as many of its other 15 Food Emporium stores in Manhattan as is feasible, according to Hans Heer, who's the general manager for Food Emporium as well as a senior vice president for A&P.

Heer says the rollout of the "Food to Go" departments will be slow, and that they might not go into all of Food Emporium's New York City gourmet supermarkets because of space limitations. The fresh, prepared foods departments are decent-sized. Therefore, most of the stores will need some expansion in order to accommodate the departments.

Space is at a premium in Manhattan. Therefore, it's not clear if there will be additional space to expand in all 15 of the stores so the in-store fresh, prepared foods sections can be added. However, Food Emporium plans to put the gourmet prepared foods sections in as many of those Manhattan stores as it can.

According to Heer, Food Emporium has thus far earmarked two Manhattan locations (yet to be named) where the retailer plans on adding the "Food to Go" departments later this year. More should be on the way early next year.

Additionally, A&P is looking at a second strategy for the Food Emporium "Food to Go" concept. That strategy is to open standalone small-format "Foods to Go"-style prepared and specialty foods stores in the city. The stores would feature fresh, prepared foods made in-store, along with selling a limited assortment of other specialty and gourmet grocery items, cheeses and various other upscale products. Prepared foods are the centerpiece of the concept though.

When we say small-format, we really mean small. After all, 15,000 square feet is considered a good-size supermarket in dense Manhattan (Whole Foods Market's huge food emporium in the city aside). It's likely the stand-alone "Food to Go"-style stores would be in the 1,500 -to- 3,000 square foot range.

We call the standalone fresh, prepared foods stores "Food to Go"-type stores because Heer says the retailer won't use the "Food to Go" brand on those stores like it does in its Food Emporium stores. ("Food to Go" inside Food Emporium is sort of a store-within-a-store department.) Instead, the new, small-format fresh, prepared and specialty foods markets will operate under a separate name and have a separate and distinctive logo, according to Heer.

Food Emporium is targeting the opening of two or three of the stand-alone "Food to Go"-type stores in Manhattan for this year, according to Heer. Additionally, the goal is to open up to five of the stores in 2009 in Manhattan.

The "Food to Go" shop inside the Trump Palace Food Emporium store offers a myriad of gourmet, ethnic, specialty, natural and organic prepared foods items. The ready-to-eat and ready-to-heat prepared foods' selection ranges from New York Deli-style sandwiches and gourmet soups, to sushi, ethnic cuisine entrees and side dishes, healthy gourmet foods, and complete gourmet dinners to go, along with much more.

A&P recently decided to take its current 29-store Food Emporium "gourmet 2.0," from what was already a fairly upscale format. This added upscaling and further gourmet emphasis includes new design packages in and outside the stores, a more upscale and eclectic specialty, gourmet, ethnic and natural foods product offering (including its own gourmet private label), the "Food to Go" store-within-a-store fresh, prepared foods sections, and other higher-end touches and merchandising options.

Additionally, the Food emporium stores feature old fashion butchers shops which carry prime cuts of beef and the highest quality poultry and pork available. The Food Emporium stores also offer shoppers a gourmet prepared foods catering service.

The upscale markets also sell specialty and high-end wines, craft beers, artisanal cheeses, fancy deli meats, gorgeous floral arrangements, it's own line of specialty and gourmet grocery products and other specialty offerings.

According to Heer, the Trump Palace Food Emporium, which contains the first of the "Food to Go" fresh, prepared foods sections, is the first of its 29 stores to get the retailers "gourmet package" makeover, which it's in the progress of giving all the other stores, starting with the remaining 15 Manhattan units.

The Trump Palace Food Emporium also is the 29-store gourmet banner's highest sales-performing store as well currently, according to Heer.

The Trump Palace Food Emporium, which opened in 2004, is 25,000 square feet on two levels. There's an escalator to get to the second floor as well as an elevator.

Food Emporium also recently gave its website an upscaling . The site looks very gourmet and lists all the upscale features the stores offer in a very attractive presentation.

Food Emporium also offers online gourmet grocery shopping on the website. Shoppers can order online and either pick up their purchases at a store location they designate or have the order delivered to their home or office. Food Emporium offers free delivery for orders of $50 or more, which doesn't take much when one is buying gourmet groceries and prepared foods.

The new A&P/Food Emporium stand-alone small-format fresh, prepared and specialty foods stores will be interesting to observe when the two units open sometime this year. After all, as we write about often on Natural~Specialty Foods Memo, there's a small-format food and grocery retailing revolution going on internationally and in the United States.

This small-format food and grocery store revolution is happening across all formats in the U.S. for example--Save-A-Lot and Aldi as no frills, discount grocers, Trader Joe's as small-format specialty and natural foods grocer, Tesco's Fresh & Easy as hybrid basic grocery and fresh foods retailer, Safeway's new "The Market" format as hybrid upscale basic grocery, fresh and specialty foods grocer--and many more.

A&P's Food Emporium small-format fresh, prepared foods spin-off will fit in at the upper-end of this small-format food retailing revolution: gourmet prepared foods as the store's centerpiece with a limited assortment of specialty, gourmet and natural food and grocery products along side.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Retail Memo: Latest Sales Figures Show A Flight to Discount Grocers, Including Small-Format Aldi and Lidl, in the UK Market

A no frills, small-format Aldi limited assortment discount grocery store in Spalding, UK, which is in the district of South Holland in the southern part of the county of Lincolnshire, about 110 miles from London, England.

Discount supermarkets in the United Kingdom (UK), including no frills, small-format grocers Aldi and Lidl, are seeing a sales surge as the weakening economy puts a crimp on consumer food budgets in the nation and market.

According to just-released market research data from respected UK international research firm TNS WorldPanel, Aldi- UK experienced year-on-year sales growth of about 19% in the 12 weeks to May 18, 2008, while small-format discount grocer Lidl saw sales growth of about 9%.

Both Aldi and Lidl are Germany-headquartered small-format, no frills discount grocers, offering a limited assortment of mostly store brand (but name brand as well) food and grocery products across all dry and perishables categories.

If the impressive Aldi and Lidl sales gains aren't enough to demonstrate a current shift in UK shopper choices and supermarket preferences in the price-impact retailer direction, two other price-focused discount grocery chains, Iceland and Farm Foods, also posted double-digit sales gains over the same 12 week period, according to TNS WorldPanel data.

One the other hand, Tesco, which is the leading food and grocery retailer in the UK, and Sainsbury's, the UK's number three supermarket chain, saw slight decreases in sales during the same period.

Aldi, which currently operates 300 of its limited assortment, price-impact, no frills small-format discount grocery stores in the UK, was the clear sales increase winner, according to TNS WorldPanel director of research Edward Garner. According to Garner, Aldi's 18.9% sales gain for the period translated to sales of ~577 million pounds.

Even more impressive, the grocer's market share rose from 2.5% to a current 2.8%, says Garner.

While a 2.8% share of the market isn't much in the grand scheme of things, compared to number one Tesco's 31.1% for example, Aldi continues sales period-after-sales period and year-after-year to grow its share of the market in the UK. Further, with only 300 stores, Aldi has about 20% of the total store count in the UK as Tesco has, and only slighlty more than that compared to number two Asda and number three Sainsbury's.

Aldi currently is in a major growth program in the UK, with plans to at least double the number of stores it has in the nation over the next 4 -to- 5 years.

Lidl also is growing its store count aggressively in the UK, and has shown regular sales increases, although not as high as Aldi's, for the last few years.

After Aldi, the next best performer for the 12-week period ending May 18 was Iceland, according to the TNS WorldPanel data. The price-impact grocer's sales increased by a healthy 12.2%, to ~352 million pounds for the sales reporting period, according to Gartner.

This is significant because Iceland hasn't been a player of note in UK food and grocery retailing. However it appears the current economic downturn in the nation, which is leading shoppers to choose more price-focused supermarkets, is benefiting the fledgling discount food retailer.

Farm Foods, another discount grocery chain that hasn't been much of a player historically in the market, saw its sales increase a significant 10.7%, to reach ~100 million pounds, a record for the price-focused supermarket chain.

Small-format discount grocer Lidl had the least sales increase of the four price-impact discount grocery chains. However, at 9.6% the German fighting tiger small-format grocer wasn't too far behind. Lidl's sales for the period were ~478 million pounds, not all that far behind Aldi's considering Lidl has fewer stores in the UK than fellow German grocer Aldi.

Despite the worsening economic conditions in the UK, taken as a whole the nation's supermarket chains still did fairly well, with sales up 6.6% overall in the 12-week period, according to TNS Worldpanel research director Garner.

Sector leader Tesco PLC saw a slight drop in market share of 0.2%, to 31.1% of the total food and grocery sales market, but still turned in period sales of ~6.4 billion pounds, which is a 6% year-on-year sales increase.

UK industry researchers and observers do say they are seeing a current shift from the mainstream supermarket sector--chains like Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's and Morrisons--to price-focused discounters like Aldi, Lidl, Iceland and Farm Foods, with a particular shift to Aldi.

TNS Worldpanel's Garner says Aldi's heavy investment in new stores "is being rewarded with strong growth in the current climate."

"This is virtually solely fuelled by new shoppers visiting the stores rather than existing shoppers spending more," adds Garner in offering his estimation about UK shoppers' trending towards discount grocers like Aldi.

Aldi and Lidl are the two best positioned to grow their store counts and capitalize on it if this trend by more shoppers to shop discount grocers continues or increases. Both German chain's are heavily capitalized and growing rapidly internationally.

In fact, Tesco is so concerned about the threat from these two fighting small-format tigers it's currently in the process of designing its own small-format, limited assortment, no frills discount grocery chain in the UK.

Tesco operates the small-format Tesco Express format throughout the UK. But those stores are more of a hybrid neighborhood grocery store/convenience store rather than a no frills, price-impact small-format retail format. Therefore, they don't compete for the same general market that Aldi and Lidl do.

However, since Tesco's internal research started showing a couple years ago the Aldi and Lidl stores were cutting into sales in all its formats, the giant retailer decided to create its own small-format discount grocery store format. There's no word as to when the first store of the new format will open in the UK. Most market observers though say the first one should open by early next year if development continues on track. Tesco isn't currently talking about the project.

It's going to be interesting to see if the sales growth trend which currently is favoring the price-focused retailers in the UK continues into the next reporting period.

Most economists don't expect an improvement in the nation's economy for the rest of the year, so the climate and conditions should remain steady for a repeat perhaps of this period's sales numbers and direction. If not, perhaps the movement towards the price-impact food retailing sector in the UK will then be seen to be more of a fad than an actual trend.

Food Innovation Guest Memo: Is the Future of 'Meat' in the Laboratory Rather Than on the Ranch?

Graphic by: Scott Wallace/Christian Science Monitor

By Gregory M. Lamb/Staff Writer, Christian Science Monitor
Thursday, May 29, 2008

The human appetite for “meat with feet” has never been great news for animals. But more and more, it’s also being viewed as a detriment to human health and the environment, leading some activists to wonder if a better way to produce meat might be found. One intriguing possibility may be found in the laboratory.

Last month, the animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals announced it was offering $1 million to the first person to make lab-grown chicken meat and sell it to the public by June 30, 2012. The taste and texture, PETA said, must be “indistinguishable” from real chicken flesh, and the lab-cultured meat must be “sold commercially … at a competitive price in at least 10 states.”

While PETA appears be in little danger of losing its money, so-called “in vitro” meat may yet be coming to a hamburger or chicken nugget near you, says Jason Matheny, cofounder and director of New Harvest, a nonprofit group forming a network of researchers and spreading information about cultured or in vitro meat.

At meeting in Norway last month sponsored by the In Vitro Meat Consortium, a group of universities and others studying the idea, “the consensus was encouraging that this is a technology that probably could be developed in the five-to-10-year time frame,” says Mr. Matheny, who is also a PhD candidate in public health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Those at the meeting also heard about a promising paper on the economics of creating meat in a lab rather than growing it in a barnyard. The study, which assumes that the process would involve a mix of current and conceivable future technologies, shows that a cultured meat product could be price competitive with conventional meat, Matheny says.

Europe is the hotbed for this kind of research, with government-funded Dutch researchers taking the lead. In that densely populated country, “If you’re a half a kilometer from a pig farm, you’re going to notice,” Matheny says.

But researchers don’t envision creating faux chicken wings or a T-bone steak. “The technology to produce something like that doesn’t exist, nor is it clear when something like that would exist,” Matheny says.

Instead, they are trying to create a lab-grown version of ground meat, the kind found in hamburgers, sausages, and chicken nuggets. Such products account for about half of all meat consumed today, Matheny says.

Roughly 56 million farm animals worldwide are slaughtered for human consumption each year, says a 2006 report from the United Nations’s Food and Agricultural Organization. Raising livestock, it said, accounts for 18 percent of the human-caused greenhouse gases that cause global warming. That’s a greater share than all forms of transportation combined.

Demand for meat is expected to boom in coming decades, with the number of livestock doubling by 2050, the UN report concludes, as workers in rising economies such as China and India acquire the taste for animal flesh.

Already in the United States, “the present system of producing food animals … is not sustainable and presents an unacceptable level of risk to public health and damage to the environment, as well as unnecessary harm to the animals we raise for food,” said a report from the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production late last month.

Such warnings have scientists working on a meatmaking process that starts with just a single cell taken painlessly from an animal. The likely candidate, a muscle stem cell, would be placed in a mix of amino acids, sugar, salt, water, and proteins that act as growth factors.

Over time, the cells would divide and produce millions of daughter cells, which then are placed on a scaffold. After the cells attach themselves to thin grooves in the scaffold, they are bathed again in the growth mix while being periodically stretched and contracted. This movement creates tension so that the cells form fibers, as happens when muscles are exercised.

After several weeks, a thin sheet of real muscle tissue develops that can be pulled off the scaffold and processed: stacked, rolled, or ground up. Fat cells for flavor and connective tissue for added texture could be grown along with the muscle or grown separately and added later.

The nutritional value could be precisely controlled as well. “With cultured meat, you could have a hamburger with the fat profile of salmon,” Matheny says, adding that a healthy form of fat could be used instead of the less healthy version that naturally occurs in meat. Bioengineered meat might seem incompatible with vegetarian, vegan (no dairy products or eggs), or organic, low-tech lifestyles.

But cultured meat would be aimed primarily at those not ready to give up the sensory pleasures of meat’s flavor and texture. “We don’t expect the whole world to go vegan overnight, and in vitro meat can provide a way to eat ethically while still providing a meat-fix that people are looking for,” says Lindsay Rajt, a spokeswoman for PETA.

“We’ve been trying to get people to become vegetarians for centuries, and it hasn’t worked very well,” says Elizabeth DeCoux, a vegan and an assistant law professor at Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville who teaches and writes about animal rights. “I think people who love animals and haven’t been able to give up meat-eating are probably going to be a big, big market [for cultured meat].”

More exotic uses might be found for the technology, too, Matheny says, including what he calls the “Jurassic Park scenario.” Meat could be produced from the DNA of extinct animals or endangered species, sparing dwindling stocks that are now hunted for meat.

But “the real market for something like this is the people who like the taste of meat and are buying their KFC or McDonald’s chicken nuggets and want a product that is safer and healthier,” he says.

Whether consumers would reject cultured meat as unappetizing “Frankenfood” remains to be seen, but Matheny says the challenge can be met.

“Bread is a bioengineered product. It doesn’t grow on trees, and we accept it,” he argues. Yogurt is cultured in factories that look like pharmaceutical plants. Ultimately, he says, “consumers accept products that have really pronounced benefits.”

Natural~Specialty Foods Memo Editor's Note to Readers: Is this just a "pie-in-the-sky" idea from Peta? Or does lab-created "meat" have merit? Is there a market for "meat" created in a labortory? How would consumers react? Would it be the next food safety issue like GMO's? Should it even be called "meat?" Any ideas for a good name for fake or lab-created meat?

Feel free to chime in with your responses to these questions and your general opinions on the possibillity and potential that the future of "meat" might just be in the labortory rather than on the ranch, using the comment link below.

Wine, Spirits & Craft Beers Memo: Finally A Beer Worthly of Literally Being Called 'Out of This World'

A Russian student who's working with professor Manubo Sugimoto at Japan's Okayama University shows off a handful of barley grown aboard the International Space Station. (Photo: Courtesy Okayama University)

Perhaps it's merely a gimmick? But even if so, it's an interesting one.

Japan's Sapporo Holdings, one of that country's leading makers of beer, spirits and non-alcoholic beverages, plans to brew a limited addition (only about 100 bottles) of the world's (maybe the known universe's) first and only space beer, made from barley grown at the International Space Station which is floating about in space.

Researchers at the Russian Space Agency, along with NASA in the U.S. and Japan's Okayama University, have been experimenting with growing various food crops aboard the space station for the last couple years. The researchers are conducting the experiments for a variety of reasons, including looking to the future when people might spend years in space, therefore needing to be able to grow their own food.

Barley is one of the crops the researchers have been focusing on growing aboard the space station. In fact, according to Manabu Sugimoto, an associate professor of biology at Japan's Okayama University, barley is very well-suited for farming (and eating) in space in that it can tolerate changes in temperature, along with being a good source of essential nutrients and fiber.

The barley crop was first started on the International Space Station in 2006 by the researchers. The international space station is a zero-gravity environment inside, which obviously isn't the case with earth-based farming. Despite that fact, Professor Sugimoto says the barley crop has done well. He doesn't say the barley is "out of this world" though.

Professor Sugimoto is involved in the space station farming research. He's also the connection to beer maker Sapporo. Since he is a key researcher on the barley growing project (and has some of the barley in his possession), he's given the Japanese company the green light to use some of the space station-produced barley to make its 100 bottle run of the limited edition space beer.

The professor says there isn't any taste difference between the barley grown aboard the space station and barley grown on earth. In other words, the space barley won't effect the taste profile of the Sapporo otherwordly beer in and of itself.

Junichi Ichikawa, the Sapporo Holdings executive heading up the space beer project, says the beer maker plans on having the 100 bottles of beer brewed and bottled by November of this year.

The Japanese beer and beverage company has been a financial supporter of Okayama University's and Professor Sugimoto's crop research aboard the international space station, according to Inchikawa.

He says Sapporo doesn't plan at this time to market the 100 bottles of space beer. We bet it would be quite a collector's item though; and if sold would likely fetch a high price from beer lovers with money to burn.

Sapporo Holding's Junichi Ichikawa also says the company plans to learn from its beer making project using the space station-grown barley, with a focus "on the earthly applications of what is learned."

We aren't sure exactly what the beer maker will learn in brewing a beer made with the barley produced aboard the zero-gravity International Space Station. But we sure like the spirit of adventure behind the project. And, since the company doesn't plan on selling the 100 bottles of space beer for an out of this world price, but rather says it won't market it at all, it sounds to use like the project is far more than a mere gimmick.

Since the Sapporo beer will be the very first commercial product produced from any of the crops grown aboard the space station to date, we see it as an historical event.

The beer also will give Sapporo the bragging rights, if it wants them, to say it's brewed the only beer in the world that can literally be called "out of this world."

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Supply-Side Memo: Food Industry Giant H. J. Heinz Co. to Launch New Energy Conservation, Alternative Energy and Greenhouse Gas-Reduction Program

Natural~Specialty Foods Memo Editor's Note: Pittsburg, Pennsylvania USA-based H.J. Heinz Co., one of the world's biggest international food companies as well as a major player in the natural and organic foods industry and specialty foods sector, plans to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases it produces company-wide by 20% by 2015, according to the report below from today's Pittsburgh Tribune Review, a daily newspaper in the food company's hometown.

Although a 20% carbon footprint reduction over the next seven years doesn't sound like much, one has to consider how difficult it is to make such changes in a giant, global supply chain system such as the one H.J. Heinz operates.

Further, the fact the giant food company plans to rely on alternative energy for 15% of its total energy needs by 2015 is a pretty big deal.

Could companies like H.J. Heinz do more, such as shoot for say a 35% carbon reduction over the next seven years? We think so. However, it's a mistake to discount the giant food company's 20% reduction goal, as 20% of the total carbon output--not top mention the energy savings which will be a result of such a reduction--is a big deal.

Even more important is the company's leadership role. H.J. Heinz is a global food manufacturing industry leader and we expect other companies its size who've yet to announce similar initiatives to take notice of what Heinz is doing.

The report by Pittsburgh Tribune-Review staff writer Rick Stouffer sumarizes the steps H.J Heinz says it will take and the programs it will implement in order to achieve its 20% reduction in carbon footprint by 2015:

Heinz launches effort to cut waste, energy use
By Rick Stouffer
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
The H.J. Heinz Co. today announced a goal to reduce greenhouse gases by 20 percent by 2015, part of what the company calls its sustainability vision to maintain the health of people, the planet and the company.
From using potato peels to generate energy, to reducing the amount of our packaging, every day we're finding new ways to reduce the environmental footprint and improve the efficiency of our company," CEO William Johnson said.
To achieve its goal, Heinz will focus:
• Reducing energy consumption by 20 percent through improved operations.
• Reducing packaging by 15 percent through the use of alternative materials and reductions in existing packaging.
• A 10 percent reduction in transportation by improving its distribution network. By transporting fuller trailers with more direct routes and using more rail transportation, Heinz expects to save more than 2 million gallons of fuel globally each year.
• Mandating that 15 percent of all energy used comes from renewable sources, such as solar, biomass and biogas.
At the Heinz facility in Ontario, Ore., the company is developing a process to convert potato peels into biofuel, which then will be distributed to a natural gas pipeline for sale and distribution. The project is expected to generate enough fuel to heat 4,000 homes.
• In its agricultural operations, Heinz projects a 15 percent cut in greenhouse gases, a 15 reduction in water usage, and increasing by 5 percent tomato yields by using hybrid seeds that require less water, fertilizer, pesticides and fuel to harvest.
• A 20 percent reduction in water usage through reuse and improved sanitation.
• A 20 percent reduction in solid waste by increased recycling and waste reuse

Green Memo Guest Essay: When We Reach the Other Side of 'Peak Oil,' Our Whole World Will Be Different

Natural~Specialty Foods Memo Editor's Note: Oil industry experts have been arguing for a few years now that the world may be reaching what's called a "peak oil" era. "Peak Oil" refers essentially to that point in time when the maximum rate of global petroleum production is reached, after which time the rate of production enters its terminal decline.
Others argue the world hasn't reached "peak oil" status as of yet. What is known is the cost of oil per-barrel is at an all time high currently. In fact, it's nearly double what it was a year ago. Further, just three -to- four years ago the per-barrel cost of oil was about $45, compared to about $160 a barrel today.
The world's major oil producing nations--Saudi Arabia and other Middle East country's and Kingdoms, Mexico, Venezuela, Russia and a few others--also are refusing to increase global oil production, saying things are fine where they are at currently.
Oil and the fuel (gasoline and diesal) and the energy produced by fossil fuel by are the lifeblood of the global food and grocery industry. Petroleum-based energy is used to manufacture food and grocery products, is part of much of its packaging, and is used to heat and cool manufacturing plants, warehouses and supermarkets, not to mention the intensive use of fissil fuel-based energy and fuel on the farm.
Gasoline and diesal fuels, made from oil, are the transportation fuels of choice in the food and grocery industry. Without an abundant suppley of such fossil fuels the industry will have to find alternatives to power its trucking fleets, which get food from the farm to the grocery store. Most shoppers also get to the supermarket in automobiles powered by gasoline.
In other words, few industries use more petroleum-based energy than the global food and grocery industry--from farm to shelf--especially in the United States and in other western industrialized nations.
Therefore, no industry has more of a vested interest as well as a responsibility to find alternatives to petroleum and its refined by-products, which many food and grocery industry companies are currently doing throughout the supply chain. However, petroleum still rules in the food and grocery industry, as it does in agriculture and in most every other industry in the world.
James Howard Kuntsler, author of the novel, "World Made By Hand," about the United State's post oil future, offers a guest essay about the global future at the other side of "peak oil." His essay is below:
Everywhere I go these days, talking about the global energy predicament on the college lecture circuit or at environmental conferences, I hear an increasingly shrill cry for "solutions." This is just another symptom of the delusional thinking that grips the nation, especially among the educated and well-intentioned.
Within their thoughts is a strident plea and desperate wish to keep our "Happy Motoring" utopia running by means other than oil. The truth is that no combination of solar, wind and nuclear power, ethanol, biodiesel, tar sands and used french-fry oil will allow us to power Wal-Mart, Disney World and the interstate highway system -- or even a fraction of these things -- in the future. We have to make other arrangements.
The public, and especially the media, misunderstands the "peak oil" story. It's not about running out of oil. It's about the instabilities that will shake the complex systems of daily life as soon as the global demand for oil exceeds the global supply. Such as:
>How we produce food
>How we conduct commerce and trade
>How we travel
>How we occupy the land
>How we acquire and spend capital. And don't forget governance, health care, education and more.
As the world passes the oil production record and watches as the price of a barrel of oil busts another record, these systems will run into trouble. Instability in one sector will bleed into another. Shocks to the oil markets will hurt trucking, which will slow food distribution, commerce, manufacturing and the tourist industry in cascading effects. Problems in finance will squeeze any enterprise that requires capital, including oil exploration and production and government spending.
As the interrelated systems fail, our wishful thinking will increase. And that's the worst part of our quandary: the American public's narrow focus on keeping all our cars running.
Even the environmental community is hung up on this. The Rocky Mountain Institute has been pushing for a "hypercar" for years -- inadvertently promoting the idea that we really don't need to change.
Years ago, U.S. negotiators at a U.N. environmental conference said the American lifestyle is "not up for negotiation." This stance is, unfortunately, related to two pernicious beliefs. The first is the idea that when you wish upon a star, your dreams come true. One of the basic differences between a child and an adult is the ability to know the difference between wishing for things and actually making them happen.
Companion to "wishing upon a star" is the idea that we can get something for nothing. This derives from America's new favorite religion: not evangelical Christianity but the worship of unearned riches (this belief's holiest shrine is Las Vegas). Combine them, and the result is the notion that when you wish upon a star you get something for nothing. This underlies our inability to respond to the energy crisis.
These beliefs also explain why the presidential campaign is devoid of meaningful discussion about energy and its implications. The idea that we can become "energy independent" and maintain our current lifestyle is absurd. So is the gas- tax holiday.
The pie-in-the-sky plan to turn grain into fuel came to grief, too, when we saw its effects on global grain prices and the food shortages around the world.
What are intelligent responses to our predicament? First, we'll have to reorganize our everyday activities. We'll have to grow our food closer to home, in a manner that requires more human attention. In fact, agriculture needs to return to the center of economic life. We'll have to restore local economic networks -- the links that big-box stores systematically destroyed -- made of layers of wholesalers, middlemen and retailers. We'll have to occupy the landscape differently, in traditional towns, villages and small cities. Our giant metropolises are not going to make it. The most successful places will be those that encourage local farming.
Fixing the passenger rail system is the one project we could undertake right away that would have the greatest impact on oil consumption.
We don't have time to be crybabies about this. The talk on the presidential campaign trail about "hope" has its purpose. We cannot afford to remain befuddled and demoralized. But we must understand that hope is not applied externally. Hope resides within us. We generate it -- by proving that we are a competent, earnest people who can discern between wishing and doing; who don't figure on getting something for nothing; and who can be honest about the way the universe really works.
This essay first appeared in the Washington Post. The opinions in the essay are those of the author only.

Human Resources Memo: Two U.S. Supreme Court Decisions Could Have Major Influence on Future Human Resource Practices in the U.S.

Natural~Specialty Foods Memo Editor's Note: The United States Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled in favor of two workers, one an African American employee of the Cracker Barrel restaurant chain and the other a female U.S. Postal Service worker over the age of 45, who had filed two respective lawsuits against their employers, one over race discrimination and the other over age discrimination.

In their respective lawsuits the workers charged they were retaliated against by their employers based on ethnicity or race and age. The court ruled overwhelming in the majority for both employees and against their employers.

Numerous court watchers and employer/employee relations experts are saying Tuesday's Supreme Court decision will change the behavior some employers show regarding their minority and older workers. These experts also are saying the decision should alert employers to the steps they take when deciding to fire an employee, especially those who are in what's called a "protected class," such as minority race status and age, in the U.S.

The Associated Press (AP) has a report on the Supreme Court ruling, which is a significant and important one for employee/employer relations. Read the full AP report below:

Court OKs suits on retaliation in race, age cases
Tue, May. 27, 2008
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON -- An unexpected blend of liberal and conservative Supreme Court justices gave workers more leeway Tuesday to sue when they face retaliation after complaining about discrimination in the workplace.

In two employment cases, one involving race and the other, age, the court took an expansive view of workers' rights and avoided the narrow, ideology-based decisions that marked its previous term.

The justices read parts of an 1860s civil rights act and the main anti-age bias law to include the right to sue over reprisals even though neither provision expressly prohibits retaliation.

Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for the court in a case involving a black employee at a Cracker Barrel restaurant who was fired, said that previous Supreme Court decisions and congressional action make clear that retaliation is covered.

The idea that a provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, known as section 1981, "encompasses retaliation claims is indeed well-embedded in the law," Breyer said in the 7-2 ruling.

The outcomes contrasted with rulings last term in which conservative majorities insisted on literal readings of federal laws over the objections of liberal dissenters who favored more expansive interpretations.

On Tuesday, Justices Samuel Alito and Anthony Kennedy joined their more liberal colleagues in both rulings. Indeed, Alito wrote the court's opinion allowing a federal employee to pursue retaliation claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The vote in that case was 6-3.

Chief Justice John Roberts dissented in the age case, but was part of the majority in the race retaliation case.

Roberts and Alito "have been so true to the plain language of the statute. I was really surprised," said Karen Harned, executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business Legal Foundation.

Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented in both cases. "Retaliation is not discrimination based on race," Thomas wrote in the Cracker Barrel case.

The decisions also displayed other emerging trends of the term - rulings favorable to workers in employment discrimination cases and the absence of 5-4 decisions. There has been only one 5-4 decision so far.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce vice president Robin Conrad said she has been puzzled by the court's repeated rulings against employers, particularly after last term's string of victories for business interests.

Conrad said Roberts, in particular, may be reacting to the criticism of the court after the 5-4 decision last year against Lilly Ledbetter, a longtime Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. employee.

In an opinion written by Alito, the court threw out Ledbetter's pay discrimination claim because she missed a strict deadline in civil rights law.

"I would have to think there is some connection there because our batting average this term is pretty bad in labor and employment cases," Conrad said.

William L. Taylor, a veteran civil rights lawyer in Washington, said the Cracker Barrel decision shows that the Roberts court will not engage in "an across-the-board decimation of civil rights ... I think it's cause for at least a small celebration."

The Chamber of Commerce and National Federation of Independent Business argued that the absence of an explicit prohibition on retaliation was significant and said employees should have to file suit under another law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That law requires prompt notification of the employer, has a shorter deadline for filing suit and caps the amount of money that a successful plaintiff may recover.

The Bush administration was on the side of the workers in the Cracker Barrel case.

The case grew out of the firing of a black associate manager at a Cracker Barrel restaurant in Bradley, Ill. Hedrick Humphries claimed he was fired after he complained about race discrimination by other Cracker Barrel supervisors.

Humphries filed a lawsuit claiming both discrimination and retaliation. Both claims were dismissed by a federal judge and only the retaliation claim was appealed.

The Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Humphries could pursue his retaliation claim under section 1981. The high court upheld the appeals court ruling.

In the age retaliation case, Alito concluded for the court that a U.S. Postal Service employee may pursue her lawsuit.

The anti-age bias law does specifically bar reprisals against private sector employees who complain about discrimination. But it is silent as to federal workers. Alito said the law applies to both categories of employees.

The case involves Myrna Gomez-Perez, a postal worker in Puerto Rico who alleged she was being discriminated against because of her age. Gomez-Perez, who was then 45, said that after she filed a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, she suffered a "series of reprisals" from her supervisors.

Gomez-Perez sued under the ADEA, claiming retaliation in violation of the law.

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston upheld a lower court's dismissal. The Supreme Court reversed that ruling Tuesday.

The administration, which is backing workers in other age bias cases at the high court, said the ADEA does not afford federal workers protection from retaliation. It said Congress could have extended protections to federal workers, but didn't.

Both decisions relied, in part, on a 2005 ruling that called retaliation another form of intentional, unlawful discrimination under Title IX, which bars sex discrimination in education. Title IX, like the two laws at issue, also doesn't explicitly talk about reprisals.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote that 5-4 decision. She has since retired and been replaced by Alito.

Some employment lawyers thought that the change in the high court personnel could be significant.

The cases are Gomez-Perez v. Potter, 06-1321, and CBOCS West, Inc. v. Humphries, 06-1431.

Leadership 2.0 Memo: More Food and Grocery Industry Leaders Need to Adopt Digital, Interactive Communications Strategies in This Digital Age

Over the last few days we've written about Whole Foods Market, Inc. CEO John Mackey's return to blogging, with his "The CEO's Blog," on the supernatural food retailer's corporate website.

We also wrote a piece about Mark Price, the Managing Director (CEO) of United Kingdom supermarket chain Waitrose, and his "The Grocer's Blog," along with a companion piece about how Waitrose is using a blog called "The Hog Blogger," written by a real pig farmer who supplies bacon to the grocery chain, as a way of communicating its local foods' procurement and merchandising efforts--especially the upscale grocer's "Save our Bacon" local British pork campaign--to consumers, the media and other stakeholders.

We call these forms of corporate communication--corporate blogging by CEO's and others using interactive digital media and other "new wave" communications technologies--Leadership 2.0. In other words, it's using interactive digital means rather than analogue-only ways to communicate with consumers, shoppers, employees, the media and other stakeholders.

Leadership 2.0 strategy also is interactive rather than one-way, which analogue communications generally is. Blogs and other digital and online technology like message boards and video sites like YouTube allow for instant, real time communications between leaders, CEO's and their various stakeholders.

Since we live in a digital rather than analogue world, this technology and interactive means of communications not only makes sense, it rapidly becoming the norm.

What we call Leadership 2.0 is something food and grocery industry executives need to consider doing more. For example, we haven't been able to find another food retailing industry CEO--other than John Mackey in the U.S. and Mark Price in the UK--who currently is communicating directly with stakeholders via a blog, where comments are welcomed. (If you know of another industry CEO doing so, please let us know.)

The May 21 Harvard Business Review Online has an interesting post by Gill Corkindale in which he says he heard a report Monday morning on the BBC about British Prime Minister Gordon Brown going YouTube. Prime Minister Brown (PM) has launched a website called 10 Dowing street on the popular video sharing site where British citizens (and others we imagine) can directly ask him questions in the "Ask The PM" section, offer comments, and make suggestions, all of which he says he will answer.

This is an example of what we call Leadership 2.0 applied to running a nation.

YouTube also is playing a huge roll in the current Presidential election in the United States. Democratic front-runner Barack Obama was the first to make very successful use of the video sharing website in his campaign. Hillary Clinton soon followed, and Republican presumptive nominee John McCain also is now using YouTube to promote his campaign for President.

This is an example of Leadership 2.0 as a marketing campaign in the political arena.

Numerous companies big and small also are using YouTube for marketing campaigns. However this differs from what we call Leadership 2.0 in that it's more of a digital and online extension of traditional marketing than a "new wave" interactive communications effort like CEO-blogging, Prime Minister Gordon Brown's use of YouTube, and the efforts being made primarily by Obama and Senator Clinton to use the video sharing website to communicate with potential voters as well as to market to them.

Most corporate CEO's have yet to do anything similar to what Gordon Brown is attempting for example with YouTube. However, we expect to see more companies--and CEO's--follow the Gordon Brown YouTube and Mackey and Price CEO-as-blogger examples, as the realization communicating--especially with younger people--in the digital age requires the use of online written and video tools.

We suggest you read Gil Corkindale's post here in the May 21 Harvard Business Review online, along with the reader comments, as we think it's a good, illustrative example of what we call Leadership 2.0 in the digital age.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Slow Food Memo: Slow Food Nation Gearing-Up For its Late Summer Extravaganza in San Francisco August 29 to September 1

The slow food movement's big "Slow Food Nation '08: Come to the Table" four day food, wine and sustainable living extravaganza set for August 29 -to- September 1 in San Francisco, California is progressing along solidly, as the group continues to add artisan food producers, farmers and others to its list of exhibitors and participants.

Slow Food Nation also is announcing Saveur magazine, a food and wine publication and the event's lead media sponsor, will be running monthly full-page advertisements in the publication leading up to the celebration.

Additionally, Edible Communities, publisher of 50 magazines in the U.S. and Canada, will run advertisements in 30 of its summer issues.

Edible Communities is a publishing and information services company that publishes numerous community-based, local-foods publications in distinct culinary regions throughout the United States and Canada. Through their publications, supporting websites, and events, they connect consumers with family farmers, growers, chefs and food artisans.

Lastly, Meatpaper magazine, a new quarterly print journal focused on art and ideas about meat, is running a backpage ad featuring Slow Food Nation in its summer issue. Inspired by the current “Fleischgeist” that is sweeping the country, Meatpaper publishes lush visuals and articles about everything meat.

Slow Food Nation's August 29 -to- September 1 event will take place at two primary venues in San Francisco, the Civic Center Plaza, which is downtown and surrounding the city's classic city hall, and at Fort Mason, a historic facility overlooking San Francisco Bay.

The slow food group also plans to publish a book called "Come to the Table," in advance of the late August -to- Sept 1 celebration of the slow food lifestyle in San Francisco.

Below is an update on some of the group's plans for "Slow Food Nation '08: Come to the Table" in San Francisco:

Farmers, Artisans and Activists Come to the Table
Seventy farmers and artisans have confirmed for the 'Slow Food Nation Marketplace' at Civic Center Plaza, according to event planners. Hundreds of the country’s top artisanal cheeses, chocolate, ice cream, preserves and more have been chosen and crafted for the Taste pavilion at Fort Mason.

Additionally, a slate of speakers has been booked to share their vision of a Slow Food Nation during the "Food for Thought" panel series and "Changemakers Day" panels, which are being programmed based on the nominations the group received from members of the non-profit community. For more information:

Watch Our Garden Grow
On Labor Day Weekend San Francisco’s downtown will be engulfed in farm stalls—complete with Elephant Heart plums, Gravenstein apples, dry farmed tomatoes and heirloom melon.

The Slow Food Nation 'Victory Garden' in the Civic Center Plaza is already being seeded at City Slickers Farms and Ploughshares Nursery, two San Francisco sustainable growers, and will be planted on-site outside City Hall on Saturday, July 12, according to the event's organizers. Alice Waters and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom will be on hand to break the ground, and an expected additional 300 volunteers will be their to get their hands dirty. For more information contact:

New Web Site and Ticketing
The event's first day of ticket sales is Wednesday, June 4, when a completely updated Slow Food Nation web site goes live.

While most of Slow Food Nation '08 will be free and open to the public, the food in the 'Taste Pavilion' (at Civic Center Plaza) and the "Food for Thought" speakers' series featuring Michael Pollan, Carlo Petrini (the founder of the international Slow Food movement) and others, will be ticketed on a first come, first served basis, event planners say.

Upcoming Events
As Slow Food Nation grows over the summer, the group plans to participate in a number of events around San Francisco and the Bay Area.

For example, next week is the “Slow Down on the Delta” event on May 31, a four-course farm dinner and tour organized by local Slow Food chapters to benefit Slow Food Nation, followed by a June 2nd forum at the S.F. Public Library with Alice Waters and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom entitled: “A Vision for Good, Sustainable, Fair Food." For more information email: by May 29).

Lastly, at Slow Food San Francisco’s annual Golden Glass event on June 8, visitors will be able to buy tickets and get more information about Slow Food Nation, in addition to tasting some delicious wines. For more information:

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day 2008 USA Memo: Thanking Those Who've Served and Those Currently Serving

"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."

- PRESIDENT ABRAHAM LINCOLN, a speech delivered at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pa., on Nov. 19, 1863, four-and-a-half months after Union forces defeated a Confederate army over the three days of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Memorial Day 2008: A Selection of Newspaper Editorials From Around the USA

Memorial Day cartoon By: Jeff Koterba/Omaha, Nebraska World-Herald

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Retail Memo: Meet Waitrose's Two-Legged 'Hog Blogger'; He's An Integral Part of the UK Food Retailer's 'Save Our Bacon' Campaign

No, United Kingdom supermarket chain Waitrose's "Hog Blogger" isn't a real hog. But he is a real pig farmer, as well as being the upscale food retailer's chronicler of all things porcine on its website.

You might say Waitrose's "Hog Blogger" is the "whole hog." He's 33-year old Fergus Howie, a second generation pig farmer from the English countryside town of Essex.

About his recent debut as a blogger in February, 2008, second-generation pig farmer Howie says:

"I thoroughly enjoy pig farming, it's great fun. As a farmer, I take tremendous pride knowing my pigs have had a lovely life. Our Wicks Manor bacon is dry cured by hand and smoked over oak and beech - in my experience, people are happy to pay a little extra for good quality. I'm proud to be the Save Our Bacon hog blogger. Over the coming months I'll be sharing my tales of life on the farm and I look forward to hearing what you think." Waitrose stores feature the farmer's Wicks Manor bacon mentioned above.

The full-time hog farmer and part time Waitrose blogger is part of the supermarket chain's "origins of our food" policy and program. Under that policy, Waitrose has three principles regarding the foods--especially locally-produced food products--it sells in its 165 upscale food stores and supermarkets in the United Kingdom.

Those three principles are: knowing the provenance of the foods it sells in its stores; food traceability, not only knowing where it comes from but keeping track of its origins in a quantitative manner; and responsible sourcing, which the retailer says means buying locally-grown and produced products whenever possible, along with making sustainable and Fair Trade foods a priority in its procurement and merchandising practices.

When it comes to hogs and pork (bacon, sausage, chops), Waitrose has launched a local foods campaign called "Save Our Bacon," which is designed to save, protect and sustain the British hog farming industry, which has been challenged and threatened by a variety of factors like economics, urbanization, animal disease and the rise of cheaper imports of pork products to the UK.

The Waitrose "Save our Bacon" campaign and the retailer's policy of selling local pork products is where Waitrose's "Hog Blogger" comes in. The full-time hog farmer, part-time blogger, who's local hog farm supplies bacon and other pork products to Waitrose, posts once a week or so on his blog, depending we imagine on how busy he is on the hog farm. [Click here to read and learn all about the grocer's "Save our Bacon" local foods campaign.

Below is the "Hog Blogger's (who remember is a first-time blogger so be gentle) inaugural post when he kicked off the blog on February 20 of this year on the Waitrose website:

Life on the farm
Published: 20 February 2008 20:18:06

Hello this is my first ever blog so stick with me. I’m a pig farmer, Dad started the pig farm about 45 years ago, I was brought up with pigs and my brothers and I used to ride them as small children (Dad said it gave them exercise and would make them better mothers), it was a bit like bucking bronco, and you had to watch where you fell. Our pigs are all farm assured as you would expect, and live...

You can read the "Hog Blogger's" latest post titled, "Who's the Boss," along with all his others to date at the blog here.

Waitrose prides itself on personally knowing every British farmer who supplies local pork, beef, poultry, eggs and dairy products to the upscale supermarket chain.

In fact, all of the beef the grocer sells in its stores comes from British Farms, for example. All of the sausages sold in the stores also come from British farms. Waitrose's bacon comes primarily from UK farms but some comes from Denmark as well. You can read more about the grocer's meat procurement here.

Waitrose, which was founded as a single small grocery shop in west London in 1904 called Waite Rose & Taylor and has been owned by the John Lewis Partnership since 1937, also owns and operates its own farm, the 4,000 acre Leckford Estate,which supplies free-range hen eggs, honey, flour, apples, fresh mushrooms and much more to Waitrose stores.

This weekend, which is the back holiday in the UK, Waitrose is holding a food faire for local vendors and customers at its Leckford Estate. The grocer also conducts regular tours of the estate farm and has a shop on premises which sells fresh produce and other foods produced on the farm.

In terms of the "Save our Bacon" campaign, in addition to pig farmer and "Hog Blogger" Howie, Waitrose has built a strong coalition to move the campaign forward in the UK. The coalition includes celebrity chefs, foodies, farmers, politicians, food industry types and many others. [You can read a recent "Save the Bacon" campaign update from Waitrose here.]

The campaign's strategy is to build local consumer awareness around the issue of saving Britain's hog-raising industry, as well as to promote sales of local pork, and to create laws and policies which will sustain and grow local hog farming and related industries and businesses.

Waitrose regularly writes about the issue and campaign in its popular consumer magazine Waitrose Illustrated and even has a "Save our Bacon" pledge here online which consumers can sign. There's also a "piggy quiz" at the link, where you can test your "pig knowledge."

Meanwhile, pig farmer and "Hog Blogger" Fergus Howie's last blog post was May 14, which is nearly two weeks ago. In other words, the world's only full-time pig farmer/supermarket chain blogger of all things pig (or the whole hog) is due for a new post.

In fact, he's a little late, based on his normal schedule. However, we understand mid-to-late May is a busy time on the pig farm, so we understand.

But we do hope Fergus Howie can break away from his work with the real pigs, so that "Hog Blogger" fans like us, who miss "pigging out" on his posts about life on the pig farm, can get a fresh taste of his latest comings and goings about life on the farm.

To be honest though, we haven't eaten much pork since discovering and regularly reading the "Hog Blogger" blog in March.

Retail Memo: More On John Mackey's Return to Blogging...United Kingdom's Waitrose Chief Exec Mark Price Goes His Own Way in His 'The Grocer's Blog'

On Thursday, May 22, we wrote this piece about Whole Foods Market, Inc. CEO John Mackey's return to corporate blogging in his Whole Foods Market blog on the retailer's website. Our piece has thus far received a number of comments on it, which you can read here, and we've received a few email notes about it as well here at Natural~Specialty Foods Memo.

The commentors and writers (via email) all thus far seem to be in agreement that Mackey's return to blogging under his own name is either a good thing or if not good is at least pretty much just fine with them, thank you.

However, the opinions regarding his past posting of comments about pre-merger Wild Oats Markets' management and operations and about Whole Foods' then impending acquisition of the rival grocery chain, are receiving mixed reviews--some think its no big thing, others say it might have been an ethical breach but certainly nothing illegal.

Others are expressing the view that perhaps the Whole Foods CEO got away with something because neither Whole Foods' board or the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) punished the CEO in any way for posting on the Yahoo Finance message boards under an assumed screename.

The fact is, the SEC cleared Mackey, so there no longer is an investigation. Further, the Whole Foods' board has cleared Mackey as well. The board did put a new policy in place which prohibits corporate executives from posting on message boards like Yahoo Finance using an assumed screename.

Other writers out in the blogosphere are posting about Mackey's return to blogging, as well the pieces and posts we've offered here at Natural~Specialty Foods Memo (NSFM).

Here's today's take on the issue from Peter Katfka, who writes the "Silicon Alley Insider" blog about all things digital, such as blogs and related technology. Click here to read the piece the "Silicon Alley Insider" posted today about John Mackey's return to blogging.

Additionally, Paul Glazowski who writes for the online publication Mashable, Inc., has a post in the blog about John Mackey's return to blogging today as well. You can read that piece here.

The United Kingdom's 'Lord of the Blog'

Lastly, as Natural~Specialty Foods Memo (NSFM) has written about before, John Mackey isn't the only food retailing chain CEO who publishes a blog on a company website. No sir indeed.

Mark Price, who is the Managing Director (British business speak essentially for CEO) of the upscale United Kingdom-based supermarket chain Waitrose, also has his own blog on the company website, called "The Grocer's Blog." (Mackey is the only food retailing chain CEO in the U.S. though we are aware of who writes a blog. And Price the only one we are aware of who does so in the UK.)

Waitrose Managing Director (MD) Price, who named himself the "Chubby Grocer" because of his ample girth, originally started "The Grocers Blog" as a way to communicate the daily ins-and-outs of a weight loss program he started last year. In the blog, Price has provided readers with the most personal details of his weight-loss regime; everything from how hard it is to avoid donuts, to his walking and swimming attempts, successes and failures.

Price couldn't be expected to merely limit himself on the blog to discussing his diet and exercise regimes however.

The Waitrose MD, who also goes by the nickname "The Golly Grocer" (part because of his girth, part because of his good sense of humor), is a man of many opinions, and jokes, both in general and about his rivals in the UK supermarket industry, such as Sir Terry Leahy, the CEO of Tesco PLC. and Sir Richard Rose, the Chairman and CEO of British food, hard and soft goods retailer Marks & Spencer, who Price calls the "King of Pants" in honor of M&S's private label slacks being named "the best" in the UK last year. Price loves offering his rivals a good dig in the blog.

In his "The Grocer's Blog," Price writes short posts about his weight loss efforts, trips to Waitrose stores, personal vacations, business conferences, and offers frequent friendly digs at UK supermarket leaders like Sir Terry of Tesco, Sir Richard Rose of M&S and others.

In fact, Price seems to be one of the few British food retail chain CEO's who has yet to be knighted by the Queen. After all, there's even a 'British Lord' in the bunch, Lord Sainsbury, scion of Sainsbury's, the UK's number three supermarket chain after Tesco (number one) and number two Asda, which is owned by Wal-Mart, Inc.

Asda's CEO isn't a Sir either...yet. We almost forgot, billionaire Sir Ken Morrison, the recently-retired former Chairman and CEO of the UK's fourth-largest supermarket chain, Morrisons, also was granted the title some years ago by order of the Queen.

You can read Waitrose chief Mark Price's latest 'The Grocer's Blog" blog post here, along with his past posts and comments on them from readers.

Since Whole Foods Market, Inc., which already has one store in London, UK and is making a major push to open more in the nation, and Waitrose are now rivals and will increasingly be so as Whole Foods opens more stores in the UK, perhaps we will eventually see a "blog off" between rival CEO's Price and Mackey?

Being the UK's most upscale, premium and natural foods' merchandising-oriented grocery chain, Waitrose is arguably the grocer which has the most to lose sales-wise from Whole Foods' expansion in the UK. Therefore, Will John Mackey soon or eventually join the cast of Price's rival CEO's, many of whom are the Waitrose chief's friends like Sir Richard of M&S, as good natured fodder for the "jolly grocer" on his "The Grocer's Blog?" Stay tuned. We will be.

NSFM Editor's Note: Read more about Waitrose Managing Director Mark Price's corporate blogging, including a report on his self-proclaimed Easter Sunday, 2008 weight loss goal challenge, here in two pieces we wrote on the topic in March, 2008. Also read this piece about Whole Foods Market, Inc.'s expansion plans in the United Kingdom.