nina | December 30th, 2011 - 9:00 am

Corn users could see some softening in prices if the tax credit supporting the ethanol industry – the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC) expires on schedule at the end of the year, according to an economist who follows the ethanol market closely.

 With loss of the VEETC incentive of 45 cents a gallon of ethanol added to motor fuel, we should see demand soften and more price competition among the plants emerge.  “It looks like something in the range of 20 cents a bushel or somewhat higher is likely.

Virtually all of the fuel ethanol in this country is distilled from corn.  Production of ethanol and by-products is expected to use up 37 percent of the nation’s corn supply in the 2011-12 crop year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

VEETC can be claimed by fuel companies and others who add ethanol to motor gasoline.  The credit nets the fuel industry $500 million per month in 2011. Barring last-minute action by Congress as it races towards adjournment for the holiday break, the credit will expire on Dec. 31.

Ethanol distilleries have been running flat-out as blenders seek to make maximum use of the credit before it lapses.  According to the weekly reports of the U.S. Energy Information Administration, production of ethanol in the last month has been running more than two percent ahead of same period in 2010.

Without the credit, the fuel industry will buy only the amount of ethanol mandated by the federal Renewable Fuels Standard, which sets the minimum amount of ethanol and other renewable materials that must be added to motor fuel every year.

Currently we are producing at a rate of more than 14 billion gallons of ethanol per year, the 2012 mandate is 13.2 billion gallons.  Due to the 2011 excess production, the blenders will be able to carry over some credits that they can use to offset 2012 obligations.

More than 70 members of Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, signed a letter to Congressional leaders earlier this month urging them to “allow ethanol subsidies set to expire to do just that and to resist calls to expand or create new ethanol subsidies in the eleventh hour.”

The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), which represents ethanol makers, spent nearly $259,000 in the third quarter on lobbying for extension of the credit among other issues, according to the Associated Press.

Source:  meatingplace.com – 12-22-11


nina | December 30th, 2011 - 9:00 am

A typical American plate is not like USDA’s MyPlate.

During a year, the average consumer achieves 70 percent of the daily recommended intake for dairy, fruit, grains, proteins and vegetables on only 2 percent of their days, or about 7 days a year. When a MyPlate day is achieved, consumers are likely to have eaten more than three meals a day.

 MyPlate, USDA’s graphic interpretation of its new guidelines for a healthy daily diet, recommends half of a healthy daily diet consist of fruits and vegetables and the other half grains and proteins. The government advises consumers to enjoy their food but avoid oversized portions.

According to a study by NPD Group (which has tracked consumer eating habits for more than 30 years) more than 65 percent of adults in their consumer panel were classified as overweight or obese, according to the group.

Through ongoing research NPD Group has found consumers are more aware of what constitutes a healthy diet, but also know that what they say and what they do when it comes to eating are often different.

Source:  meatingplace.com – 12/26/11



nina | December 28th, 2011 - 9:00 am

1 pound white flaky fish, such as mahi mahi
 lime, juiced
1 tablespoons chili powder
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
8 flour tortillas


Shredded white cabbage
Hot sauce
Sour cream
Thinly sliced red onion
Thinly sliced green onion
Chopped cilantro leaves
Tomato Salsa
A delicious, easy recipe for Fish Tacos.

Whisk together lime juice, chili powder and cilantro and pour over the fish. Let marinate.  Batter and fry.
Place the tortillas on the grill and grill for 20 seconds. Divide the fish among the tortillas and garnish with all of the garnishes.


nina | December 27th, 2011 - 8:09 pm

The USDA today announced two new rules to makeU.S.beef safer.

The announcement accompanied the first report of the two-year-old Food Safety Working Group, led by the White House and staffed by agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Taking effect in 2012, the new rules:
Declare “adulterated” and unfit for sale any beef that tests positive for any shigella toxin-producing E. coli bacteria. Current rules cover only a single strain of the potentially deadly bug, yet the other strains cause about 112,000 illnesses each year.

Begin a “test and hold” policy for beef. Beef lots selected for testing will be withheld from market until test results show them to be free of germs and drug residues. Under the current system, beef that tests positive for bacteria or contaminants has to be recalled. The FDA estimates that the test-and-hold policy would have prevented 44 recalls from 2007 through 2009.

The USDA has improved food safety in the last two years and new standards for poultry establishments may prevent as many as 25,000 food-borne illnesses each year.

In 2009, the FDA issued an egg safety rule to help prevent salmonella outbreaks. The agency expects the rules to cut egg-related salmonella illnesses by 60%. That would prevent about 79,000 illnesses a year.

The USDA is well on their way to building a modern food safety system. Millions in theU.S.still suffer from food-borne illnesses each year. Thousands are hospitalized and too many die. Too often we find ourselves trying to track down the source of an outbreak once it happens rather than preventing it. 

Food Poisoning Dangers, Common and Uncommon
The report by the Food Safety Working Group is littered with the acronyms of subgroups and tools created to prevent, track, and respond to food-borne illnesses. The efforts include:

Enhanced disease surveillance by the CDC.

  • A reportable food registry to enable tracking of contaminated foods to their sources.
  • Efforts to recognize and control drug-resistant bacteria and viruses.
  • Ensuring the safety of imported foods. Imports make up 15% of theU.S.food supply, including 75% to 80% of seafood, 50% of fresh fruit, and about 20% of vegetables.

Whether these efforts will receive adequate federal and state funding remains a question. Most of the federal efforts depend on a partnership with state health departments, which face funding crises in many states.

Source:  WebMD Health News – 12/21/11


nina | December 23rd, 2011 - 9:00 am

#62310, Crybay Shrimp, Coconut Breaded, 16/20 count
Serve 5 shrimp with 3oz of papaya salsa

2 lb Papaya, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 1/2 cups Pineapple, diced (1/4 inch)
2 Scallions, finely chopped
1 small Garlic clove, minced
2 T fresh Lime juice
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Black Pepper

Mix Together and let stand for one hour before serving.


nina | December 22nd, 2011 - 9:00 am

Squash is one of the oldest cultivated crops in the western hemisphere AND An important staple of nearly every Native American tribe.  

Squash seeds were buried with the dead to nourish their journey in the afterlife, and also were believed to increase fertility. The earliest squash had sparse flesh and was bitter and unpalatable, and cultivated only for its seeds. As cultivation spread, better-tasting varieties developed.

Characterized by hard shells, hollow inner, seed-filled cavities and sweet flesh, the many varieties of winter squash include acorn, banana, turban, butternut, Hubbard, spaghetti and kabocha. Winter squash are harvested at a more mature age than their summer cousins. The hard shell lends longer storage capacity, and the vibrant yellow and orange flesh is richer in vitamins.

Winter squash are an important source antioxidants that includes alpha and beta carotenes; just one cup provides more than double the daily requirement of vitamin A, important for eye health.

The most flavorful squash will have a firm, smooth rind that allows most varieties to be stored for one week up to six months, if kept out of direct light and extreme temperatures. Once cut, store squash covered, in the refrigerator, for one to two days. Cooked winter squash, whether steamed or baked, needs little more than a dash of seasoning to enhance flavor. Try it pureed in soups, stuffed with sweet and savory ingredients.

Source: Chicagotribune.com, 12-15-11


nina | December 21st, 2011 - 9:00 am

While 2011 marked another year of operational challenges for the restaurant industry, there is a renewed sense of optimism as fast casual operators head into 2012.

As we look back on 2011 and reflect on its impact on the industry, several stories and trends stand out among the rest. Here are five successes.

1. Fast Casual heats up. This was the year of fast casual for casual-dining chains which have jumped to launch their own versions of the eateries.  Even quick-service restaurants have attempted to compete with their fast casual counterparts, upgrading interior designs and menus to reflect a higher quality experience for guests. In fact, visits to fast casual restaurants grew 17 percent throughout the last three years while the rest of the industry experienced its steepest traffic declines in decades. The increase and consumer demand for fast casual offerings exceeded the unit growth of leading fast casual chains.  Look for more casual-dining chains to launch fast casual restaurants in 2012.

2. Social responsibility. Stores do not tell customers what to pay for their meals. Rather, guests are asked to pay what they’d like to donate, whether it’s the full suggested price, less or more. A large coffee company led an industry-wide initiative to help victims of Japan’s tsunami and earthquake in March. Meanwhile, other chains partnered with Share our Strength to help end childhood hunger. National Restaurant Association partnered with the organization to help further its goals.

3. International growth. Chains in the fast casual segment set their sights on international shores as concepts signed franchise agreements for the Middle East, Singapore, Australia and Mexico. The increase of franchise agreements for international markets proves fast casual is not just a U.S. phenomenon. The expansion plans are a step in the right direction considering that for the past two years restaurant chains scaled back their expansion efforts in the United States, opting to wait out the recession. But toward the end of 2010 and throughout 2011, announcements were made almost weekly communicating franchise agreements destined to expand the dining footprint in countries across the globe.

4. Children’s nutrition. The trend of offering healthier menus for children has been mentioned for several years in the National Restaurant Association’s industry forecast. More chains in 2011 launched or expanded their children’s menu. NRA unveiled its Kids LiveWell healthy menu initiative in partnership with Healthy Dining. So far, 28 restaurant chains have signed up for the program, designed to offer healthier menu selections to children. The primary focus of the program is to encourage an increase in consumption of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, grains and low-fat dairy, and to limit unhealthy fats, sugars and sodium.

5. Consumer health. The USDA has replaced its 19-year-old Food Pyramid with MyPlate. While no specific action was taken by fast casual operators, the USDA’s new MyPlate guideline was unveiled in June by First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The USDA’s MyPlate icon is designed to be a guide to help Americans make healthier food choices. The initiative promotes an increase in fruit and vegetable intake, and encourages a switch to whole grains and fat-free or low-fat milk, and a reduction in sodium intake and sugary drinks. One-quarter of the plate is devoted to protein intake, including lean meats, fish and poultry.

One flop.  Americans were taken with America’s Next Great Restaurant and its winner, Soul Daddy, but not enough to keep the 3-unit chain afloat. Upon winning as America’s Next Great Restaurant in May, Soul Daddy opened locations in New York, Los Angeles and in Minnesota’s Mall of America. Two of those locations closed in early June with the Minnesota location closing a few weeks later.

Soul Daddy was the brainchild of Detroit resident Jamawn (Jay) Woods. The restaurant’s original premise was soul food such as fried chicken and waffles; however, several menu changes were made to reflect a healthier offering of items.

While the show’s four judges/investors, Bobby Flay, Curtis Stone, Lorena Garcia and Steve Ells, did not publicly reveal the level of their investments in Soul Daddy, each one was expected to contribute the same amount for a total of $880,000. In addition to Ells’ contribution, Chipotle also plunked down $2.3 million in exchange for equity interest. The closures gave a momentary black eye to the restaurant industry and its judges. Here’s hoping 2012 is a better year.

Source:  FastCasual.com 12/16/11


nina | December 20th, 2011 - 9:00 am

Farm income is booming, with crop farms – led by corn – and cattle and hog operations enjoying huge gains while poultry farms are seeing lower pay due to the lagging wholesale price of broilers, according to a report by USDA’s Economic Research Service. Net farm income in the United States is expected to top […]


nina | December 19th, 2011 - 9:00 am

According to the National Restaurant Association one in five American’s (26%) plan to give a restaurant gift card as a holiday gift this year.  However, more than twice as many (59%) say they would like to receive a restaurant gift card inside their gift basket.

Restaurant gift cards are high on the list of gifts consumers wish to receive this holiday season.  A gift card to a restaurant is a flexible gift that allows recipients to use it next time they visit  their favorite restaurant or save it for a special occasion.  It’s the perfect gift for those who wish to provide friends and family with an experience rather than a material item.

Women are more likely (62%) than men (52%) to want a restaurant gift certificate as a gift.  In addition, those who would like to receive a restaurant gift card as a holiday gift, 58% prefer that gift card to be for their favorite restaurant.  29% would like gift cards to restaurants they haven’t been to before and 11% said they would like gift cards for a restaurant that they will likely not visit if they didn’t have a gift card.

When it comes to using gift cards, 44% of those who wish to receive a restaurant gift card as a holiday gift said they would use it within a few weeks; 43% said they would save it for a special occasion; and 12% said they would use it as soon as possible.

This information is based on a survey of 1,006 American adults on December 8-11 abouth their dining and restaurant gift card plans for the upcoming holiday season.

Source:  PRNewswire.com, 12/15/11


nina | December 8th, 2011 - 9:00 am

Seven out of ten top trends identified on the NRA What’s Hot 2011 Survey made clear what chefs across the country are focusing on for their 2011 menu development: local sourcing of produce, meats and seafood, sustainability, and simplicity. Terms like house-made, artisan, chef-grown, and made-from-scratch have all popped up on menus this year. And […]

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