New technologies to help with food production?

There are tons of things going on in the world right now including droughts in California and the huge earthquake in Nepal, but do we ever wonder how that may affect our food supply? A couple weeks ago I wrote about the drought in California and what it could mean for our grocery bills this year, but now there may be some hope that technology can help ease some of those fears.

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The largest problem in the fight for food is the amount of waste around the world. We have figured out the best ways to make the most amount of food but according to Fortune, we waste approximately 30-50% of the food we grow around the world.  A lot of the food that becomes wasted though is by retail stores or fast food restaurants who can’t use or sell products due to a cosmetic defect.

Another reason for waste is the loss of food due to spoiling. Items can spoil during the farming as well as transit. One idea to fix this would be to employ better cooling techniques by installing coolers in the farming and transit process, but that could become quite costly.

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An idea to save the waste from foods is to convert the wasted food into biofuels or use it in animal foods. In order to do this though, there will need to be a process put into action that will also need rules and regulations.

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Smartphones can also be a good addition to farming because it can allow farmers to better plan their harvest and distribution to stores. However, most of the farmers I know would say they don’t have time for smartphones and all that planning. They just want to farm.

On the other hand, technology is starting to be thought of in the shopping process by making handheld scanners that can give you the nutritional value of items. I think there are already apps that can do this, but there is a huge medium to make this more active in the food buying process by allowing you to see where a shipment came from or what was used to fertilize it.

I expect in the future we will see more technology integrated into the way we grow, buy, and eat our food. We certainly have the technology we just need to find the right way to integrate it into our food world.

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West Virginia delicacies, Ramps and Morel mushrooms

In West Virginia you can find people rummaging through the woods right now in search of two of springs most sought after foods, Ramps and Morel mushrooms! West Virginians are crazy about the two food items and have festivals and huge feeds throughout the season.

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A group of Ramps in the woods.

Ramps, often referred to as a wild leek or onion is small and almost resembles a scallion in size. The ramp has larger leaves and can become quite large as the ramp grows to full size.

Ramps are most commonly found in the forest in moist dirt. They grow in patches that can be spotted from yards away. They begin to pop up when there is still snow on the ground and only last during spring temperatures. They don’t stand summer heat very well.

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Ramps can get large in size.

Ramps are most commonly fried with potatoes and bacon and served with side dishes such as applesauce, beans, and cornbread. However, recently Ramps have been given the royal treatment in some high class restaurants by being turned into soups and other delicacies.

Another great compliment to go with Ramps are Morel mushrooms. The mushrooms kind of look like a sponge and are wildly sought after during spring. Families go on mushroom hunting trips together and hope to come back with a whole loot.

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Morel mushrooms after a hunting trip.

Morel mushrooms typically like moist and shaded spot in the woods, especially near trees and flowers. In West Virginia if you look near downed trees or tree trunks you are most likely to find some mushrooms.  The mushrooms also typically like the north face of hills and mountains.

The mushrooms are generally soaked overnight in salt water and then dusted in flour and fried. They have a steak-like texture to them.

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A large Morel mushroom.

Morel’s are usually harder to find than ramps, but none less delicious. However it should be noted, you should never go out into the woods and pick items unless you know exactly what you are hunting.

Flights with Free Alcohol?

This week it was announced that United Airlines would bring back free beer, wine, and liquor after several others already offer it. When you first hear the headline it doesn’t tell you that it’s only for long haul international flights. United has had consistently low ratings compared to other airlines. They think that offering the same thing as some of their competitors will launch them back into the running for competition.

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This change will happen on June 1st of this year. Along with the alcohol they will start offering better food. United describes it as a “hearty three course meal”, but you can also still buy their regular snacks. The alcohol and upgraded meal will both be complimentary however.

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When airlines serve complimentary alcohol though people often don’t know when to stop, and I can think of nothing worse than someone on a long flight that you then have to listen to for hours on end. Not to mention that it can cause danger for themselves, other passengers, and the crew. The airlines are trying to get stronger guidelines to where people who make a ruckus can be arrested in the place in which they land.

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United offers a wide selection of alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages, and it seems they are already free with premium tickets, but the new rule will even include economy tickets.

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The one thing everyone is wondering though is will airline ticket prices go up in order to cover the complimentary meal and drinks, and my best guess is you can almost guarantee it!

Baseball food is being knocked out of the park!

It seems like every baseball season the first thing we hear about isn’t the team or how they are expected to do during the season, it’s almost always the newest out of control food various parks have added to their menu. This year certainly hasn’t disappointed in that regard.

In 2014, there were some crazy things rolled out on park menus. There was a 3lb banana split, the fan vs. food burger, and even gourmet meals like a sausage wrapped in a pretzel roll and then loaded with crab dip.

So far this season the Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Wilmington Blue Rocks have advertised their new menu additions.

First was the Wilmington Blue Rocks who this year have rolled out a Krispy Krème Bacon Donut Hotdog. While they are a minor league team they have really attracted a lot of attention with the dog. Many people say they will go to the game just to taste the sweet meal. It first starts with a Krispy Krème donut with glaze as a bun, stuffed with a ballpark hotdog and raspberry jelly, and then topped with a mound of bacon. The Arizona Diamondbacks also have their own sweet dog, it is called the Churro dog. The Churro dog has the hot dog replaced with a churro and is topped with frozen yogurt, whipped crème, and chocolate syrup.

Next, the Philadephia Phillies came out with their giant burger the Wayback Triple Triple. The burger is one bun, 9 burger patties, 9 slices of cheese, a slice of tomato, and a piece of lettuce. The burger is said to be 2,200 calories, 139 grams of fat, and 187 grams of protein. It will be sure to attract some traffic for them.

Lastly, the Pittsburgh Pirates have released several addition to their already vast ballpark menu They have added a Cuban Pretzel Dog, a hotdog topped with diced ham, house smoked pork, mustard, and homemade pickles. They have also added a grinder burger and a cheesesteak.

However, Pittsburgh is the only one at this point who has added a gourmet selection. They gourmet selection is to be made by local chefs. They are also adding a large dessert selection to their offerings, such as a 6in slice of red velvet cake.

Summer is sure to be fun with all the offerings at baseball parks. The only down fall is hopefully your ready to work it off on a gym session, and have the money to buy the items while some of them are kind of pricey.

The California drought: Will it affect our food prices?

There has been a drought going on in California for the last four years, but up to this point it’s not been so bad. The food world worries about what will happen to food prices if California can’t break out of this drought.

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As of yesterday, the Governor imposed the first mandatory water restriction, while they have been under a State of Emergency drought alert since March 27th. The restriction will only save about 25% of the water usage, but with a record low snow fall this past winter they are beginning to really hurt for any kind of water. The government is asking citizens to not water lawns or gardens, cut back on showering, and washing vehicles. The government is prepared to hand out fines for those who don’t abide by the restrictions.

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Scientists are saying that climate change and global warming are only making the drought worse. The main combination of not enough rain and the intense heat is a terrible combination that led to the drought. Scientists predict that droughts will be something we see the west plagued with as global warming becomes worse.

California is the main producer of things like almonds, avocados, broccoli, garlic, and walnuts. Not to mention the rough turn it can have on the Napa Valley where there are many vineyards. Government officials say that food prices were going to rise this year anyhow, but the California drought could make those prices worse.

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There will be a shortage of these types of California crops, which will result in higher prices on the available product. However, there could be a real possibility that in the coming years California’s drought could get worse and there may not be these products.

The water restriction put in place by government won’t affect the agriculture world, but the lack of snow fall that melts and gets into the ground has already really hurt farmers by them having to water crops so early in the growing season. The other problem is a lot of farmers have switched from crops like wheat to higher value crops like tree nuts to make more money.

The good news though is that some other areas that aren’t experiencing droughts may start planting some of the crops that won’t be able to be produced in California to pick up the slack, but experts still say it won’t be enough to keep prices down.

 

Food company mergers

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This week food giants Heinz and Kraft combined their individual companies to create a mega company. However, they still aren’t the largest company in the United States. The merger only makes them the third largest company in America and the fifth largest of it’s kind in the world.

Warren Buffet who acquired Heinz a few years ago organized the merger of the two food giants. They will operate under the new name of Kraft Heinz and are expected to pull in over $28 million a year. The two companies will operate out of Chicago and Pittsburgh as they always have.

However, some critics are saying the best thing to do is change Kraft products around because there is less of a need for bottled cheese because young adults are more worried about the type of ingredients used to keep the cheese good for years and years. The easiest way for Kraft to still stay a giant while combined with Heinz is to: create healthier foods, use combining to their advantage, combine the brands, expand some of their product lines, appeal to the millennial, and create mini brands within the company.

In the coming months we will see if this was a smart merger, and how they work out all the kinks of the combination. Until then, we’ll just pretend everything is fine and hold hands.

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Fast food bans: Do they work?

Recently in the news there have been a lot of talk about fast food bans to help curb obesity, however that simply didn’t work for South Los Angeles. The ban started in 2008, but ultimately failed. The city was trying to ban these foods from the affluent parts of town, but weren’t worried about the economically depressed portions of town. Even though the ban was put into place a study released by RAND corporation revealed that the ban did nothing to slow the reach of obesity or fast food consumption.

There are several reasons a fast food ban wouldn’t work, and towns are starting to see that. Most towns have fewer fast food restaurants per capita than people actually believe. Getting rid of fast food joints all together would hurt any economy because it is a part of the shopping culture. Look at any mall, there are at least 2 restaurants in them. Instead of banning restaurants there needs to be encouragement for people to eat healthier or the fast food joints to offer some healthier options.

The fast food ban debate is sure to go on as people are pretty evenly divided on the issue.