Trends for 2007
1. Artisan and local offerings. Interest will continue to grow in farmers markets, locally sourced food, grass-fed beef, as well as artisan offerings. Farmers markets will expand to fill the desire for fresh foods. Artisanal offerings will boom among specialty-food fans, but some offerings may be too niche-y to thrive, and some fields too crowded - cheeses for example - for their own good, in the event of another economic downturn.
2. Clone wars of a different kind. In the aftermath of the FDA's approval of cloned animals for food production, expect discontent from informed consumers - we're hoping for a full-blown backlash - a push campaign to educate consumers, and resistance from the EU.
3. One agency to rule them all. The spinach and Taco Bell outbreaks have America scared of food again, and Congress is pushing for a unified food-security entity. There's a good chance this year will see the merging of the FDA and the USDA.
4. Deceitful labeling. With their entry into organics less than a year old, Wal-Mart already has been accused of illegal and misleading organic labeling. A complaint was filed with the USDA by the Cornucopia Institute. In England, fraudulent labeling has already resulted in one large fine and ongoing investigations.
5. Further global weirdness. Despite dancing penguins and Al Gore's cinematic roadshow, strange weather will not disappear in the near future, though glaciers and ice shelves will disappear. Efforts to reverse climate change will gain more attention in the build-up to the 2008 U.S. Presidential campaign. Efforts will increase in China - which blames corruption for their current environmental problems - and the EU.
6. More faux farms. Along with misleading use of the word organic (No. 4), look for big food processors to invent new bucolic-sounding brand names to market their industrial wares. Sysco's "White Marble Farms" pork is just the beginning: the U.S. Trademark Office has almost 3,000 currently registered names containing the word "farm," with more being added all the time.
7. Not-so-cheap factory meat. As the ethanol boom sucks up ever more corn, feedlot and other CAFO owners will pay more for their grains. Labor costs also are on the rise, with crackdowns on illegal immigrant workers. Tyson and Swift & Co. have already indicated that they'll have to pass these costs to consumers and fast-food chains.
8. More E. coli outbreaks. Despite increased vigilance and joint efforts by industry and government, given the nature of the highly industrialized food system, we're bound to see more outbreaks in both meat and produce.
9. Farm Bill dejá vu. We predict the new Farm Bill will cut subsidies a tiny bit for a few of the booming commodity crops like corn and soybeans - in order to beef up conservation efforts without increasing the overall budget - but that the overall philosophy will not change.
10. New discoveries for the Ethicurean - which turns one in May - especially if the Butter Bitch is talked into moving to a new city.
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