5@5: First COVID-19 meatpacking plant probe launches | Is conventional meat nearing extinction?

Each day at 5 p.m. we collect the five top food and supplement headlines of the day, making it easy for you to catch up on today's most important natural products industry news.

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USDA Office of the Inspector General probes COVID-19 protection of meat inspectors

USDA’s Office of the Inspector General is undertaking a probe to examine the safety and treatment of meat plant inspectors during last year's virus outbreaks, according to Modern Farmer. USDA's team of Food Safety and Inspection Service inspectors were required to stay on the job under the Trump administration early on in the pandemic; hundreds of them contracted COVID-19 as a result and three died. Topics being investigated include where the $33 million in CARES Act funding for the FSIS went, whether the FSIS had enough protective gear for inspectors, what happened if an FSIS inspector tested positive and how the executive order affected the FSIS’s duties. 

Is the burger nearing extinction?

A markedly meat-less future is the inevitable consequence of rising alarm over climate change, with meat substitute companies already transforming the space into something of a gold rush for investors. Fermentation-derived proteins in particular are expected to attract the most funding because of their versatility. One expert writes for The New York Times that COVID-19 is rapidly changing consumers' attitudes about going meat-free, and plant-based alternatives to a wide array of products could soon rise to the household penetration of popular milk alternatives like almondmilk.

Why don't America's public schoolchildren get universal free lunch?

The COVID-19 pandemic has both exposed and widened the fault lines in the school lunch program, as districts have scrambled to find creative ways to equitably feed hungry children while staying within their budgets. This has led many to reconsider the merits of universal school meals and the potential financial benefits (not to mention the impact on child hunger) that may arise from this policy. USDA analyses of the past year will be important for getting a sense of the potential price tag of this venture. Eater has the full story.

Why former Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario’s next act is plant-based meat

When we say plant-based meat is the hottest market around, don't just take our word for it. Natural products industry veteran Rose Mercario has officially joined the board of plant-based meat startup Meati, which uses mycelium—the root-like part of mushrooms—to create fungi versions of steak and chicken breasts. Last October the company raised a $28 million Series A round led by Acre Venture Partners, including investments from former Annie’s CEO John Foraker and two of the Sweetgreen cofounders. Get the details at Fast Company.

Target to launch another food and beverage brand in April, Favorite Day

Target announced this week it will be launching another private label food brand on April 5 called Favorite Day. All products included in the umbrella of this brand will be priced under $15. Target's flagship food and beverage brand, Good and Gather, generated $2 billion in sales in 2020. Learn more at MarketWatch.

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