Fresh Take: Hunting Invasive Lionfish In Dominica, A $4.5 Billion Chicken Industry Consolidation, And The Moldy Grain Coming Out Of Ukraine’s Black Sea Ports

Food & Drink

I’m back after my longest break from working in, well, my entire life, and feeling quite refreshed. How could I not after two weeks of organic juices, huge avocados and hikes to waterfalls and hot springs that start and end with climbing up trees to pick ripe fruit? The commonwealth of Dominica, the so-called “nature island” in the East Caribbean was even more of a magical paradise than I expected. One of my favorite moments: My husband and I spear-hunted for invasive lionfish at our hotel, Secret Bay, and later grilled up our catch for lunch. I marinated the filets in a mashup of mangoes and spicy peppers that we had procured at the Saturday market in Portsmouth.

In Dominica, rugged jungle surrounded us constantly. Locals liken the environment to Jurassic Park. But what struck me was how climate change has already taken such a toll on the island. Dominica is full of natural resources, particularly water. There are many rivers. 365 at least. Most of them are completely pristine. But the signs of climate change were still everywhere. There were once-sandy beaches that had already been swallowed up due to sea level rise and lots of destruction and half-done construction as a response to the last major hurricane to hit the island in 2017.

Colonization on the island was slower to take hold, thanks to the Kalinago Nation, who still count a population of about 3,500. The Kalinago are among the last surviving Indigenous groups in the Caribbean, after successfully fighting back. Today just 10% of the island is developed.

The current government may want to change that. It has been selling citizenship, in some cases in exchange for a real estate investment. A second airport is also under construction, while hotels owned by Marriott and Hilton have both recently broken ground. There’s also the growing presence of other governments, including China and Japan, and their foreign development dollars are often investing in big agriculture projects. While traveling throughout Dominica, I was obsessed with what I found: the jars full of bush rum fermenting with different spices or fruit at bars; the crayfish from the rivers, bigger than any crawfish I ever consumed in Louisiana or Texas. Hyper-local tastes. But with every sip or bite, I thought more about how everything I was experiencing was already starting to change.

A lot has also happened in the food and agriculture industry while I was out. I’m back with two new stories of my own — one on the landmark $4.5 billion Sanderson acquisition, the other on the likely moldy grain making it out of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports. Those must-reads and a whole lot more are packed in today’s issue. Don’t sleep on this inside take on what’s really been going on at Amy’s Kitchen.

I plan to spend my weekend trying to recreate what I miss from Dominica with my own take on spicy creole prawns. I am wishing you a weekend filled with a lot of outdoor cooking, well-iced drinks and sunshine.

— Chloe Sorvino, Staff Writer

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What’s Fresh

Higher Chicken Prices Expected After $4.5 Billion Poultry Merger Wins U.S. Approval. Long-delayed approval from the Department of Justice on Cargill and Continental Grain’s $4.5 billion acquisition of publicly traded Sanderson Farms has the barnyard buzzing. Story by yours truly.

Grain Is Starting To Ship From Ukrainian Ports, But It Might Be Too Late For Starving Millions. As people go hungry in the Middle East and Africa, the exported grain has likely gotten moldy from sitting too long. Then there’s the problem of ships navigating mine-filled ports. Story by Yours Truly.

Hypocrisy At Amy’s Kitchen: Can A Food Company Be Truly Sustainable When It Comes To Worker Rights? Facing increased demand for their products early on in the pandemic, workers say Amy’s Kitchen management sped up factory lines to the point where workers were getting injured. Still independent after 35 years, the family-owned, $500 million vegetarian company known for its soups, burritos, and frozen entrees stands out in an industry that has otherwise been consolidating for decades, as Michele Simon writes.

Black Millennials Transform Brunch From Staid Buffets To Fashionable Insta-Worthy Day Parties. Dubbed “Black brunch,” the hallmarks include flashy attire, Black artwork and music, making the experience and the environment just as important as—if not more than—the meal, writes Jared Council.

Why Trader Joe’s Workers Are Unionizing. Trader Joe’s employees in Hadley, Massachusetts have voted to form the first-ever union in the chain’s history and hope to gain better pay, benefits and workplace safety, reports Errol Schweizer.

A traditional Dominican breakfast of Johnnycakes, fried sweet plantains, salt cod with caramelized onions and spicy peppers, lettuce wraps, a salad of sliced cucumbers and orange peppers, red avocado (which actually has a purple skin), and an array of tropical fruits (mango, papaya and watermelon). Not pictured: the ice cream sandwich we made with a leftover Johnnycake.

Chloe Sorvino leads coverage of food and agriculture as a staff writer on the enterprise team at Forbes. Her book, Raw Deal: Hidden Corruption, Corporate Greed and the Fight for the Future of Meat, will publish on December 6th, 2022 with Simon & Schuster’s Atria Books. Her eight years of reporting at Forbes has brought her to In-N-Out Burger’s secret test kitchen, drought-ridden farms in California’s Central Valley, burnt-out national forests logged by a timber billionaire, a century-old slaughterhouse in Omaha, and even a chocolate croissant factory designed like a medieval castle in Northern France.

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