The Incredible Shrinking Menu

In light of declining sales, McDonald’s is streamlining its menu options, says Jenn Harris:

“In a statement, McDonald’s said it would simplify its current menu by offering one Quarter Pounder with cheese instead of the current four. Variations include a bacon-and-cheese burger, a deluxe Quarter Pounder and a Double Quarter Pounder with cheese.

“The company also said it would test offering one premium chicken sandwich versus three — though the current McDonald’s menu shows eight premium grilled and crispy chicken sandwiches. The company also said it would cut its snack wraps from three to one. The current menu shows seven.”

“Nothing Beats the Real Thing”

A study by Australian researchers finds that packaged food makers have been fudging fruit and veggie claims:

“Of the roughly 50% featuring a fruit or vegetable claim, a third failed a basic nutrition test based on sugar, salt and fat levels. Many were found to lack the vitamins, minerals and fibre of genuine fruit and vegetables.

“One brand of fruit bar, which claims to provide a serving of fruit, contained 18g – well short of the 30g defined as a dried fruit serving. Another product, a juice ‘made with real-life raspberries,’ contained 13% fruit juice and 14 teaspoons of sugar.”

Shattering the Glass Ceiling

The meat industry is becoming more welcoming to female butchers, reports Leoneda Inge:

“Underly is a fit, 46-year-old master butcher from Chicago. Her father and grandmothers were butchers. She put herself through college cutting meat. These days, she encourages other women to enter the business.

“The meat industry has always needed women, but for generations, women have worked for low pay in slaughterhouses, or in other support positions. Now, a small but growing number of American women are taking ownership in the meat business.”

Sweetener Switch

Hershey is looking to replace high-fructose corn syrup with sugar in some of its products, reports the Guardian:

“A switch to sugar would make Hershey a high-profile example of the move away from high-fructose corn syrup in the food industry. Many people say they avoid it because it has gained a bad reputation for fueling weight gain and diabetes, though health experts says there’s not enough evidence to conclude it’s any worse than regular sugar.”

Cranberry King

Smithsonian magazine explains how Marcus L. Urann revolutionized cranberry consumption:

“Urann was a savvy businessman who knew how to work a market. After he set up cooking facilities at as packinghouse in Hanson, Massachusetts, he began to consider ways to extend the short selling season of the berries. Canning them, in particular, he knew would make the berry a year-round product.

“‘Cranberries are picked during a six-week period,’ Robert Cox, coauthor of Massachusetts Cranberry Culture: A History from Bog to Table says. ‘Before canning technology, the product had to be consumed immediately and the rest of the year there was almost no market. Urann’s canned cranberry sauce and juice are revolutionary innovations because they produced a product with a shelf life of months and months instead of just days.'”

Whole Lot of Nothing?

Michael Schulson dismisses the advertising in Whole Foods as “pseudoscience” and compares the supermarket to the Creation Museum in Kentucky:

“From the probiotics aisle to the vaguely ridiculous Organic Integrity outreach effort (more on that later), Whole Foods has all the ingredients necessary to give Richard Dawkins nightmares. And if you want a sense of how weird, and how fraught, the relationship between science, politics, and commerce is in our modern world, then there’s really no better place to go. Because anti-science isn’t just a religious, conservative phenomenon—and the way in which it crosses cultural lines can tell us a lot about why places like the Creation Museum inspire so much rage, while places like Whole Foods don’t.”

Free Range Isn’t Free

Local food supporters say we should pay more for our Thanksgiving turkeys, reports Margaret Badore:

“Last Thanksgiving, the average American family spent $22 for a 16-pound turkey. That’s less than $1.40 a pound.

“Yet slow food and small farm advocates argue it’s time we start paying more, closer to $10 a pound—or $100-$150 a turkey—if we want to address the many problems associated with factory farmed poultry.

“‘There’s a common dogma that cheap food is an absolute good,’ says Andrew deCoriolis at Farm Forward, a non-profit organization that promotes sustainable and humane agriculture. ‘It’s cheap to the consumer, but it externalizes costs,’ he adds.”

Spud Dud

The USDA recently approved a genetically modified potato, which is “intended to reduce cancer by eliminating acrylamide.” Michael Ruhlman is appalled:

“It causes cancer in rats and therefore, maybe, in humans? We don’t know for certain. In one of these links a scientist guessed that 3,000 people a year get cancer from acrylamide, though on what he based his guess is, well, anybody’s guess….

“And here’s my rant line: We fuck with our food at our own peril.”