Emerging Trends: May 2013

Petri dish burgers, free school meals and a bacon surplus.

> Bacon Lovers, Rejoice

Bacon enthusiasts were alarmed when Britain’s National Pig Association reported late last year that a shortage was unavoidable due to declining pig herds around the world. But the crisis has been averted. The USDA’s February edition of Hogs and Pigs Report—yes, there is such a thing—found that the pig herd and breeding inventory were higher than expected. So feel free to continue creating bacon-flavored concoctions—here’s looking at you, bacon ice cream. 

> Free Meals for All

All students in West Virginia will eat for free if the state legislature has its way. The lawmakers passed a bill in April that would serve free lunch and breakfasts to all students, regardless of their payment status. This idea is nothing new to child nutritionists, as advocates have long hoped universal feeding would take hold across the country. The problem has always been funding. Advocates of the West Virginia bill think they have an answer: Each of the state’s 55 county boards of education would be required to set up foundations to solicit private donations for the sole use of purchasing food for students. About 53% of West Virginia’s students qualify for free or reduced-priced meals. 

> Burgers from a Petri Dish?

Looking for a new source for beef? One day you may be able to look no further than your local university. It sounds far-fetched, but physiologists in the Netherlands are working on a lab-sourced variety. Mark Post and his team at the Maastricht University say they are close to growing a burger, according to Time. Post’s team has already grown small amounts of meat tissue. The process, as one would expect, is a bit technical. It involves extracting cells from an animal and then cultivating and growing those cells into meat tissue. The procedure isn’t cheap and it will likely never be able to mass-produce beef to any degree, but, hey, who wouldn’t want to eat a lab-grown burger?

> Public OK with Limiting Unhealthy Food in Schools

There has been a lot of discussion since last year’s implementation of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act about what types of foods should be served in schools. Students, and some parents, have been vocal in their disagreement over parts of the law mandating healthier foods in schools. But a new survey suggests that sentiment might be changing. In a Gallup Poll conducted in March, two-thirds of Americans said they would vote for a law that would limit the kinds of food that can be served in schools to ensure those items meet certain nutritional standards. When asked about competitive foods—those items sold in vending machines, snack bars and bake sales—fewer people said they would vote for a law mandating healthier options. Fifty-seven percent said they were in favor of such laws.  

37%: The portion of consumers who say they are drinking less specialty coffee today than they did six months ago, according to new research conducted by Technomic for American Express’ Market Briefing. 

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Industry News & Opinion

The University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., will soon switch over from magnetic strip-based student ID cards to chip-based ones, The Observer reports.

Along with being more secure, the new cards will allow students easier access to dining halls, enabling them to simply tap their cards on a reader to gain entrance. Students will also be able to add flex points and Domer Dollars—which can be used at eateries on and off campus—to their accounts via a mobile app.

The new cards are expected to be available by the time school begins next fall.

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Industry News & Opinion

University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., has replaced a fajita bar in one of its dining halls with a superfoods bar, Tommie Media reports.

Aiming to provide more options for athletes and students with dietary restrictions, the new bar offers diners a choice of protein with a variety of toppings, such as beans, fruit, couscous and quinoa.

The superfoods bar has made a few appearances on campus since it was first tried for the school’s football players last summer.

“Word of mouth is getting out, and every day I get a few more people,” Ryan Carlson, a cook at the...

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gluten free diet

From Stouffer’s.

A large part of menuing allergen-friendly cuisine is deciding which gluten-free items to serve.

In particular, college dining hall operators must decide whether to make gluten-free items in-house or to order gluten-free items from a manufacturer. Some factors to consider are: the size of the university, the demand for gluten-free options,and the ability to have separate gluten-free storage and workspaces in the university dining hall kitchen.

According to FoodService Director , 77% of college and university operators purchase their gluten-free...

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Reading Hospital in West Reading, Pa., is using robots to help deliver patient meals, BCTV reports.

The eight robots, named TUGs, will be used to transport meals from the hospital’s nutrition services department to patient floors at Reading HealthPlex for Advanced Surgical & Patient Care.

Moving at three miles per hour, the robots will follow preprogrammed routes to the HealthPlex, where room ambassadors will remove room service carts from the TUGs and deliver them to patients. The TUGs will then return to nutrition services with dirty dishes for cleaning.

The...

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