Commodity Blog

Sep 27 2021

The Food Biz Episode 11 Recap: Evolution of the Food and Beverage Industry with Russ Whitman

On this week’s episode of The Food Biz, hosts Kristyn Tarpey and Ryan Nelson are joined by Russ Whitman, Senior Vice President of Urner Barry.  Urner Barry is the leader in price reporting for the poultry, egg, meat, and seafood segments of the food industry.  Urner Barry’s prices are used in negotiations and contracts throughout the food supply chain.  

The three discuss the evolution of the food and beverage industry, current trends, price-fixing lawsuits in the poultry industry and cell-based meat.

Russ kicks off the podcast by giving some background on how Urner Barry’s price reporting has evolved.  He explains that in the early days of Urner Barry, the only real, attainable, and easy forms of communication were USPS mail or telephone, so that’s how Urner Barry would communicate with major players and create their price reports. 

The conversation transitioned to a discussion on current trends in the food and beverage industry.  Russ explains that he believes today's consumer is focused on convenience.  They don’t want to cook and they don’t have the time as “time is money.”  The advances of the food delivery services during COVID-19 have allowed customers to get food in their hands in a form that is quick, hot, and still palatable.
Another trend Russ sees is the trend in plant proteins. Russ sees plant proteins as a “natural progression in the food and beverage industry.”  People are accustomed to having different choices, and plant protein is just another choice.

Ryan adds that he believes another trend in the meat processing industry is labor shortages.  Russ agrees and adds that he sees labor shortages across the entire food production chain.  Russ explains that labor shortages force businesses to make difficult decisions in regards to pricing.  With more demand than supply, businesses need to increase their food prices.  

Kristyn then asks Russ about his opinion on the price-fixing lawsuits in the poultry industry.  Russ believes that price-fixing has the intention of controlling supply and demand through a price mechanism.  Anyone that is doing that, as far as Russ is concerned, should be prosecuted, especially since food is not a luxury item, but an essential.  

Finally, Kristyn asks Russ if he thinks cell-based or alternative meat will eventually replace traditional meat.  Russ starts by saying we truly don’t know what will happen in the future, but what he likes about cell-based meat is that it is coming from an animal.  Russ believes cell-based production has a greater chance of taking root in the long run; once the education process goes forward, the cost of production comes down, and it becomes more mainstream.

This episode covered a lot of ground, so make sure to listen to the entire episode on Spotify or in the Apple Podcasts App! While you’re there, don’t forget to subscribe. Also, feel free to reach out to us by email at news@barchart.com with any discussion topics, questions, comments, or overall feedback; Ryan and Kristyn would love to hear from you!

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