By Lorrie Baumann
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has just released figures that tell us how well organic farmers are doing in the marketplace. The big surprise? While U.S. sales of organic food products broke records this year, the number of acres of farmland devoted to organic agriculture in this country declined between 2008 and 2014. The USDA found 14,540 organic farms in the U.S. in 2008, compared to 14,093 in 2014. The number of acres devoted to organic production declined from just over 4 million in 2008 to 3.67 million in 2014.
The figures come from the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service, which gathered information on all known certified organic, exempt and transitioning organic farms throughout the U.S. in the first few months of this year. “Exempt” refers to farms that follow national organic standards but have less than $5,000 in annual sales. These farms are allowed to use the term “organic;” they just can't use the USDA Organic seal. Transitioning farms are those that are converting acreage to organic production but haven't reached the three-year period under organic management that's required before produce raised on that acreage can be certified as organic.
While the acreage devoted to organic agriculture in this country has fallen, purchases of organic food have been growing. In the U.S. last year, consumers spent $35.9 billion on organic food, representing 4 percent of total food sales, and an 11 percent increase over the previous year, according to the Organic Trade Association. The majority of American households in all regions of the country now purchase organic food, from 68 to almost 80 percent of households in southern states to nearly 90 percent on the West Coast and in New England, the OTA says.
The total market value of organic agricultural products sold by American farmers in 2014 was $5.5 billion, of which $3.3 billion was for crops, including vegetables, fruit, nuts, grain, hay and soybeans, and $2.2 billion was livestock, poultry and products like milk and eggs. Milk is by far the most important organic livestock and poultry product in the U.S. market.
American farmers have also become global suppliers of fresh organic produce, with more than $550 million worth of organic products exported from the U.S. in 2014, according to an OTA study released in April. The top five organic products exported from the U.S. in 2014 were apples, lettuce, grapes, spinach and strawberries. However, imports of organic product outpaced those exports, amounting to nearly $1.3 billion in 2014. The top five organic imported products are coffee, soybeans, olive oil, bananas and wine. “At the rate that organic is growing, organic will double in size in six years. The current theory that my company is using is that by 2020 we [organic producers] will be at least 10 percent of the U.S. food market. How are we going to do that if we lack the raw materials? We are importing more soybeans than we produce, significantly more than we produce,” said Lynn Clarkson, President of Clarkson Grain.
He noted that in 2013, U.S. imports of organic corn went up by 67 percent, with much of that coming from Romania. India is an important source of the soybeans imported into the U.S., according to Clarkson. “We are turning over our best markets to other countries,” he said. “When you can't find supply, you go to countries that are organic by default. Until we can tell American farmers that there's a secure market, we need to convince them that it's good enough that they can step in.... Every small town has a 'table of wisdom,' and many of those tables are extraordinarily adverse to organic farming. With the downturn in corn prices, farmers are starting to pay more attention to the possibility, and that's making cultural concerns less important as economic concerns grow.”
Also from the USDA report, 10 states account for 78 percent of all organic sales in the U.S. California alone produced $2.2 billion worth of organic products in 2014 from 2,805 certified and exempt organic farms and a total of 687,168 acres devoted to organic production, up from 470,903 in 2008. California farmers accounted for half of all organic crops produced in the U.S. in 2014. Washington, in second place, produced 12 percent of organic crops in the U.S. and totaled up $515 million in organic sales. In order, the top 10 states in organic sales were California, Washington, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Wisconsin, Texas, New York, Colorado, Michigan and Iowa.
California also leads the nation in organic livestock and poultry sales, with $271 million, or 41 percent of all organic livestock sales in the U.S. and $301 million in livestock and poultry products – milk and eggs. Pennsylvania came in second in livestock and poultry sales with $112 million, or 17 percent of all organic livestock sales. Wisconsin came in second in organic livestock and poultry product sales, with $127 million or 8 percent of the U.S. total.
This story was originally published in the November issue of Gourmet News.
My Fit Foods™, a producer and retailer of handcrafted, fresh, grab-and-go meals, has announced the opening and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) certification of its new, 30,000-square-foot central kitchen. The opening of the handcrafted production kitchen allows My Fit Foods to expand and sell its products through new, strategic distribution channels, including corporate cafeterias, vending and micro markets, as well as third party retailers.
The central kitchen will provide freshly prepared meals daily for 38 My Fit Foods locations in Texas and Oklahoma, with the capacity to serve additional retail store locations as well as new distribution channels. This added capacity reinforces the brand's trajectory of expansion and ability to support new store openings in the coming years. Located in Dallas-Fort Worth, the central kitchen is expected to create over 150 new job opportunities in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
"Our new central kitchen enables us to provide consistent, freshly-prepared delicious meals of the highest quality," said David Goronkin, CEO of My Fit Foods. "Since the central kitchen is USDA certified, we will have the ability to sell our offerings through new channels in addition to expanding our retail footprint, making it easier for our growing customer base to find and enjoy My Fit Foods meals."
As the first of its kind in the fresh, nutritionally-balanced grab-and-go meal category, My Fit Foods' central kitchen is certified by the USDA and upholds the company's commitment to produce superior, wholesome meal offerings for its customers. In addition to preparing meals daily, the central kitchen offers a core location for the brand to implement further innovation and development within My Fit Foods' existing fresh and flavorful menu.
For more information on My Fit Foods or to find the My Fit Foods location nearest you, visit www.myfitfoods.com.
With restaurants continuing to seek out ways to offer their customers wholesome, natural ingredients, Emmi Roth USA has recently released a new melting cheese to meet the needs of foodservice professionals with flavor and functionality. Natural Melt™ Creamy Fontina helps operators clean up their menus with a multi-purpose melting cheese that is crafted to melt, naturally. Three simple ingredients - pasteurized cultured milk, enzymes and salt – create an approachable flavor and buttery, velvety texture that is suited for a grand scope of culinary applications.
Developed in collaboration with the company’s team of corporate chefs and master cheesemakers, the cheese is crafted specifically to melt in hot foodservice applications. Special cheesemaking techniques are employed, including reduction of the protein bondage, to create an ideal natural melting cheese. Emmi Roth’s newest creation was launched to help foodservice operators not only elevate a host of menu favorites with a deliciously distinctive note, but also meet consumer demands for natural products.
Natural ingredients and artisan cheese are among the top 20 food trends for 2015 according to the National Restaurant Association’s (NRA) Culinary Forecast. NRA’s forecast also shows that 75 percent consider natural ingredients and minimally processed food as a hot trend, 65 percent consider artisan cheeses as a hot trend and 25 percent consider it a perennial favorite.
“Our team developed Natural Melt Creamy Fontina in response to the trends we are seeing in foodservice,” said Linda Duwve, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Emmi Roth USA. “We take pride in delivering innovative products and meaningful cheese solutions to our customers and are committed to transparency in our cheesemaking practices and wholesome, natural food production.”
Available in 7.5-pound loaves, Natural Melt Creamy Fontina can be easily incorporated into any hot foodservice application that calls for melted cheese, including sauces, soups, dips, mac n’ cheeses, burgers, flatbreads, grilled sandwiches and pasta dishes. Evan Topel, Corporate Chef at Emmi Roth USA, has developed a collection of delicious recipes featuring the new cheese:
For more information about Roth Natural Melt Creamy Fontina, visit www.rothnaturalmelt.com.
The seductive scent of freshly burnt wood over a roaring fire pit wafts from the bell-jar-shaped cloche as soon as it is lifted to unveil the artisanal rendition of a beloved American dessert: Smoked S’mores. At Bourbon Steak at the Four Seasons, Washington, D.C., Michael Mina’s affinity for whimsical takes on nostalgic favorites can be found throughout the menu. Executive chef Joe Palma explores these themes and deftly walks the line between the modern and the familiar, as seen in his latest culinary creation, which reinterprets this campfire classic in bold, deconstructed strokes.
After being cloaked in a plume of smoke from the smoldering ember off a wood-burning grill, the dessert is revealed to delight guests’ inner-child as they feast their eyes on Palma's artfully presented handiwork on a custom wooden board. The familiar smell of fire-roasted marshmallows and warm, melted dark and milk chocolates draw you in for a decadent bite. Of course this is no run-of-the-mill S’more. Almost every component is made in-house—from the Hazelnut Graham Streusel to the Marshmallows and Toasted Marshmallow Ice Cream. In lieu of Hershey’s, Palma tips his toque to Valrhona with the legendary brand’s Caramel & Milk Chocolate.
In a kitchen known for its elegant and perfectly executed steaks and globally sourced seafood, there is something more salt-of-the-earth coming out right now that casts a festive mood for the winter. S’mores needs no embellishment because it is an unforgettable treat of gooey, snap-crunch fun on a plate. Anyone can enjoy all the campfire flavors the season has to offer – preferably outdoors.
Louis Royer, an iconic Cognac house dating to 1853 and led by the fifth generation of its founding family, today announces the winners of the 4th "Show Me the Proof!" High Proof Cognac Cocktail Competition. Gregory Buda (The Dead Rabbit, NYC) won the Grand Prize of an all-expense paid trip to France for two. Second and third place winners were Dustin Olson (Holiday Cocktail Lounge, NYC) and David Nurmi (Porchlight, NYC), respectively, with each awarded a $1,000.00 cash prize.
The competition celebrates Louis Royer "Force 53" VSOP Cognac, a pioneer of the overproof Cognac trend and a spirit that has found an enthusiastic home in the bartending community. It was hosted by Hanna Lee Communications, Inc., an award-winning agency specialized in spirits, food, wine, and lifestyle PR, event management and social media marketing.
Buda's winning cocktail, The Book of Matthew, melded Louis Royer "Force 53" VSOP Cognac, Pineau des Charentes, lemon juice, fig cordial and Dale DeGroff's Pimento Aromatic Bitters. "We are delighted that the competition has resonated so deeply with the bartending community," says Nicolas Royer, U.S. Brand Ambassador, Louis Royer Cognac, who is a sixth generation member of the house's family. "The winners' cocktails exemplified depth of flavor and sophistication while highlighting the spirit's charms and versatility."
The final competition was held at Porchlight, Danny Meyer's first standalone bar located in Manhattan's West Chelsea. It was judged by spirits/cocktail industry luminaries: Dale DeGroff - Legendary mixologist and founder of the Museum of the American Cocktail Paul Pacult - Noted spirits critic and publisher/editor of The Spirit Journal Steve Olson - Founder of aka wine geek and renowned spirits, wine and cocktail expert Jack Robertiello - Widely-respected spirits and cocktail writer Nicolas Royer - Louis Royer Cognac's U.S. Brand Ambassador and a sixth-generation family member Timothy Miner - Bartender at Long Island Bar and winner of the Grand Prize of the 3rd "Show Me the Proof!" High Proof Cognac Cocktail Competition
"Last year I took third place so I was particularly determined to win it this year," says Buda. "I am honored to be selected from such a talented group of bartenders presenting some really great drinks. It is important to me to work with brands that I believe in, and I think Louis Royer makes an exceptional collection of spirits. I'm extremely excited for the opportunity to go to France and see first-hand how it is made."
ShakeStir.com, a leading online community of thousands of bartenders and mixologists, compiled the cocktail recipes and promoted the competition to its members.
Pizza lovers everywhere will have a new item to add to their holiday wish lists: Pizza Hut's new Triple Treat Box, a uniquely-packaged pizza "box" that features pizzas, desserts, sides and more.
Available while supplies last, the tri-level, holiday-themed Triple Treat Box includes two medium one-topping pizzas (available on Hand Tossed, Thin N' Crispy® or Pan), an order of breadsticks or flavor sticks and a Hershey's Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie, all for just $19.99.
"What the holidays are all about can get lost sometimes in the hustle and bustle of the season, but at Pizza Hut, we want to help make every day feel like a holiday," said Jared Drinkwater, Vice President of Marketing, Pizza Hut. "That's why we created the Triple Treat Box. It's a delicious, easy meal to share with family and friends, and while it's always fun to get pizza, getting pizza in a special gift-wrapped box can add even a little more excitement to pizza night."
The Triple Treat Box can be completed with a pair of medium one-topping pizzas featuring the following fresh ingredients: Mediterranean black olives, Peruvian cherry peppers, fresh mushrooms, fresh spinach, fresh red onions, fresh green bell peppers, sliced banana peppers, sweet pineapple, sliced jalapeño peppers, and diced roma tomatoes as well as pepperoni, Italian sausage, premium salami, classic meatballs, slow-roasted ham, hardwood smoked bacon, grilled chicken, beef and seasoned pork. Also, all Pizza Hut pizzas can be complemented with a variety of crust flavors, sauces and drizzles. Crust flavors include: Ranch, Smokehouse BBQ, Hut Favorite, Toasted Parmesan, Salted Pretzel, Honey Sriracha, Toasted Asiago, Fiery Red Pepper, Toasted Cheddar and Garlic Buttery Blend. Sauces are Classic Marinara, Premium Crushed Tomato, Creamy Garlic Parmesan, Honey Sriracha, Barbeque and Buffalo and drizzles include Balsamic, Honey Sriracha, Barbeque and Buffalo.
The Hershey's Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie, which debuted in 2014, is cut into eight slices and is loaded with an average of 165 Hershey's semi-sweet chocolate chips per cookie, offering a delicious and sweet dessert as part of the Triple Treat Box. Pizza Hut breadsticks, which is the company's most popular side item, are available with the Triple Treat Box or customers can opt for the brand's unique Flavor Sticks, which come in the following flavors: Hut Favorite, Fiery Red Pepper, Toasted Cheddar, Toasted Parmesan, Toasted Asiago and Honey Sriracha.
"No pizza company can match the customization and flavor options available at Pizza Hut," said Drinkwater. "We believe the Triple Treat Box brings the pizza and products that customers have always loved from Pizza Hut in a very fun, inviting holiday box that definitely can make every day a holiday."
Edamam, a data service company providing value-added nutrition solutions to businesses in the health, wellness and food industries is releasing its new Diet Recommendations API.
The new API gives diet and health professionals a tool to build customized diet plans leveraging a database of 1.5 million high quality recipes. Edamam has nutritionally analyzed and tagged the recipes and labeled them for appropriateness to all major diets and allergen conditions. A provider or wellness coach can now select a diet -- such as gluten-free, low-sodium or vegan -- a target calorie range and recommended ingredients to quickly obtain a wide variety of meals that fit the needs of the person for whom they are creating a diet plan.
"Building a meal plan for someone with strict diet requirements is not easy and professionals inevitably revert to a few limited tried and true suggestions. With our new Diet Recommendations API, we vastly expand their choices and ease of creating a targeted diet plan, adding both variety and quality. This, ultimately, leads to better meal plans and diet adherence," explained Victor Penev, Edamam's CEO and Founder.
The Diet Recommendations API has 25 pre-built diet filters, targeting key health and wellness needs or allergy restrictions. Whether a person is watching the intake of sugar, is lactose intolerant or simply aiming to keep meals under 500 calories, Edamam's solution provides a wide range of quality recommendations. Each recipe has in addition detailed nutrition information for more than 30 nutrients to further facilitate the work of professionals building the diet plans.
"In addition to the 25 diets we are launching with, we have the capability and are constantly developing custom diet filters. An example is a kidney-friendly filter for people watching phosphorus, sodium and potassium intake. We have the data and can slice and dice it to meet the needs of the market," added Victor Penev.
Motley Brews’ 2016 Great Vegas Festival of Beer returns to the streets of Downtown’s Fremont East Entertainment District even bigger and better than ever before by featuring Nevada’s largest craft beer selection with more than 400 brews from over 100 celebrated local, national and international breweries.
Along with a vast variety of brews, craft beer enthusiasts will have the opportunity to purchase delicious beer-inspired culinary creations specially curated by celebrity chefs and local restaurants inside the Gastropub. Guests looking to learn more about the perfect pairing of craft beer with favorite dishes or creating delicious brew-infused culinary bites will have the opportunity to learn from industry professionals in the BrewLogic sessions.
Great Vegas Festival of Beer guests will keep the energy going throughout the day with a variety of entertainment options, including unique music performances, a silent disco and life-sized pub games.
Additional information regarding tickets for 2016 Great Vegas Festival of Beer will be announced in the upcoming weeks. For more information on GVFB, visit greatvegasbeer.com.
According to the results of a new survey of American consumers commissioned by Visa, respondents report they spend an average of $53 a week or $2,746 per year on lunch. Overall, the most popular spot to eat lunch was home -- 42 percent of Americans said that they typically eat lunch at home. Full-time employees tended to stick close to the office -- 53 percent said that they typically eat lunch at work, including 26 percent at their desks.
Visa is also introducing the free Lunch Tracker app for iOS to help consumers become more aware of their spending. The app calculates the monthly and annual amount spent on lunch based off of consumers' input and seeks to help Americans improve spending habits. Users can take the 30-Day Challenge to start saving money, learn cost-cutting tips and share photos of meals with family and friends to show their progress.
"At home or ordering food, small choices have a big impact. Paying attention to what you are spending is essential to financial wellbeing," said Nat Sillin, global head of financial literacy at Visa Inc. "Most people may not realize that they are spending over $50 a week on lunch. Visa is excited to offer the new Lunch Tracker app to help consumers form better spending habits."
Visa's survey also showed that men both outspent women at the lunch counter and were more likely to eat lunch out. Males outspend females on a weekly basis by an average of 60 percent. One percent of people reported spending more than $50 per lunch on average or more than $9,000 a year, while 32 percent of respondents said that they didn't buy lunch out at all.
Additional findings include: