business news in context, analysis with attitude

With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

•  From Bloomberg:

"The US beef industry should be celebrating, but it’s not.

"For years, the world’s biggest beef producer pushed back on the health claims and 'meat' labels used by plant-based alternatives because it worried about losing customers. But the industry got it wrong. Faux meats, with their tiny market share and waning consumer buzz, weren’t the real enemy.

"Turns out, beef’s fiercest foe was — and has been — chicken. It surpassed beef in per-person consumption in the US in 1993, and that gap is only widening. Americans on average are expected to eat 100 pounds of chicken this year, while beef hovers around half that amount.

"Chicken’s advantages over beef are daunting and expanding. The price difference keeps increasing, and beef is already about three times as expensive. That and chicken’s versatility boosts its use in home cooking, processed foods and restaurants. Its popularity has surged in recent years, morphing from bland, even boring, into the cool kid. Fans line up for the Popeyes fried chicken sandwich and post TikToks on how to dupe Chick‑fil‑A, diminishing the beef industry’s one true edge over chicken: taste.

"Meanwhile, eating beef has been tied to heart disease for 40 years, and cows get blamed for climate change (as gripes about chicken often get overlooked).

"In response, a heavily fragmented industry has struggled to rebrand and been slow to innovate and jump on trends that should be big winners, like the craze around protein-rich foods."

•  The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that "on Friday, the union representing more than 2,500 workers at Lunds & Byerlys in the West Metro area voted to authorize a strike if negotiations with the company can’t be resolved."

According to the story, "The contract between the union and the company expired in March, and the two groups have been negotiating since January. Lunds & Byerlys leadership wants to transition employees to a company-controlled health care program. The union opposes this proposal because they say it would remove union members’ say over their benefits, said Michael Butler, an assistant deli manager at the Navarre location who serves on the union’s bargaining committee. In a statement, the company said its plan 'is more reliable, provides greater flexibility, and reduces our team members’ out-of-pocket expenses'."

Seems to me that health care is one of the most expensive parts of any employee compensation package, as well as being a wild card depending on circumstances often beyond companies' control.  (Insurance companies not always being known for a sober-minded approach to costs and benefits.)  I don't blame Lunds & Byerlys for trying to figure out a way through this thicket - as a small independent retailer, these things can very quickly turn into a competitive disadvantage.  I hope the union and management can find a quick and equitable solution that helps the business long term, and in doing so, makes it an even better place to work.

•  From Fox Business:

"A grocery store in the San Francisco Bay Area has installed metal emergency gates at its entrance in an attempt to deter rampant shoplifting.

"A Safeway in Vallejo also shuttered one of its entrances, according to KPIX reporter Betty Yu, who tweeted an image of the safeguard, which sounds an alarm if a shoplifter attempts to leave.

"The supermarket chain location, which is owned by Albertsons Companies, joins other locations in the San Francisco area that have taken similar measures in recent years amid the city's rise in thefts.  The Bay Area, which has seen property crime rise 10.4% since last year, has also been afflicted with a spike in smash-and-grab robberies, where shoplifters armed with bats and other weapons make off with thousands in merchandise from high-end stores.

The gates are part of 'long-planned security improvements' for the store, a Safeway spokesperson told Fox Business.

"This automatic gate closes after each person enters the store. Barricades also make it harder for shoplifters to make a run for it. Safeway also closed off an exit and blocked it with water bottles."