retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Reuters reports that "overall U.S. food inflation will remain near the historic norm in 2014, even as prices for meat and seafood are pushed higher by disease and widespread drought, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said on Friday."

"The agency forecast wholesale pork prices to jump by 10 percent to 11 percent in 2014, hurt by declining supplies after a virus has killed some 7 million piglets in the past year," the story says. "Wholesale beef prices are forecast to jump by 8 percent to 9 percent in 2014, although rising imports are helping to offset some of the decline in domestic supplies … U.S. fish and seafood prices were forecast to rise by 3.5 percent to 4.5 percent this year, up from last month's forecast of a 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent gain," mostly because of "decreased supplies of certain species and increased consumer demand as other meats have become more expensive."


• The Chicago Sun Times reports that Tyson Foods plans to close three US plants - in Cherokee, Iowa; Buffalo, New York; and Santa Teresa, New Mexico - that have "struggled financially." The move comes as Tyson acquires Hillshire Brands for $8.5 billion, and Tyson said the closings "will enable it to move some of the operations and equipment at the plants to other, more cost-efficient Tyson plants."


Reuters reports that "OSI Group, the parent company of a scandal-hit Chinese food supplier, said it is withdrawing all products made by its subsidiary Shanghai Husi Food Co.

"Shanghai Husi is at the center of a major food safety scandal, which has spread from China to Hong Kong and Japan, over allegations it mixed fresh and expired meat."

According to the story, OSI "vowed to take 'swift and decisive action' including legal measures against those responsible for the scandal, and said a new management team would be brought to China."


• The New York Times reports on a Chicago-area gathering of fast food workers, noting that it "was by far the largest gathering of fast-food workers, and it was largely underwritten by the Service Employees International Union, a powerhouse with two million members known for unionizing hospital workers, home care aides and janitors. Mary Kay Henry, the union’s president, said the S.E.I.U. has adopted the fast-food workers’ cause to lift low-wage workers and combat income inequality … She attacked the C.E.O.s of McDonald’s and Yum Brands, which owns KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, for receiving executive compensation of more than $10 million a year. They make more than twice as much in a day as many fast-food workers earn in a year."

However, the Times notes that while "the S.E.I.U. does hope to somehow unionize throngs of fast-food workers … those efforts may prove difficult given that most fast-food employees are scattered among thousands of different franchised restaurants. Moreover, the franchisees and fast-food chains are likely to mount a fierce battle against unionization."


• From the "Now We've seen Everything" file, the Associated Press reports that Seattle Police have learned that it was an Amazon employee from out of town who flew a small drone out of his fifth floor hotel room window and buzzed the Space Needle there.

According to the story, "Police contacted the man and he admitted operating the drone equipped with a camera Tuesday. He told authorities he wanted to try out the craft he recently purchased … The man agreed not to fly his drone in public while in town."
KC's View: