‘Dragon’s Breath’ Chili Is The New World’s Hottest Pepper

Constantine Spyrou wrote . . . . . .

Up until today, the world’s hottest chili pepper has been known to be the Carolina Reaper. Dialing in at around 2.2 million Scoville heat units, this chili would easily blow your mouth away. You could still consume it at caution, however.

That’s not the case with this new weapons-grade chili that easily eclipses the Reaper in terms of heat. It’s so potent that it has to be kept in a sealed container and nobody has actually orally consumed it yet out of fear that it could actually kill you.

This new pepper, called the “Dragon’s Breath” chili, was developed by hobby grower Mike Smith and Nottingham University, according to the Daily Post. The team is expecting a confirmation letter from the Guinness Book of Records to officially name their pepper as the world’s spiciest.

At 2.48 million Scoville heat units, the Dragon’s Breath is more potent than law-enforcement grade pepper spray and dangerous to consume because it could literally burn your airways, forcing them to close up and inducing anaphylactic shock. The creators haven’t dared to eat it themselves, but one did put it on the tip of their tongue and reportedly spat it out after 10 seconds due to the intensity of its heat.

While you may not want to eat this chili (or do, if you’ve got insane heat tolerance and a love for crazy-hot peppers), it was actually developed for medicinal purposes, as the oils from the chili are so potent that they can actually numb the skin, giving it a use as a topical anesthetic for those who are allergic to current painkillers out there.

The Dragon’s Breath will be displayed at the Chelsea Flower Show next week, but there’s no telling yet if or when this will be available for people to order and consume. My guess is that not very many people will want to given how fiery it is.

Source: Foodbeast

A Chicken That Grows Slower and Tastes Better

A slow-growth chicken, left, and a conventional one

Stephanie Strommay wrote . . . . . . .

The chickens in one pen were, for the most part, doing what they usually do toward the end of their lives on a factory farm: resting on the floor, attacking the feeding pan, getting big fast.

But in the next pen over, smaller, leaner birds of the same age ran around, raising a ruckus as they climbed on haystacks, perched on roosts and gave themselves dirt baths.

“We’re going to have to come up with a sturdier water line,” said Dr. Bruce Stewart-Brown, a veterinarian and senior vice president of Perdue Farms, as he watched two of them swing the tube that supplies water to the pen.

The frisky birds and their more sedentary neighbors here in a barn on the Delmarva Peninsula are part of an experiment that could help change the way Americans eat, and think about, poultry.

Perdue is trying to find just the right slow-growth breed, and it has a strong incentive: A fast-growing cohort of companies that buy vast quantities of poultry, including Whole Foods Market and Panera Bread, are demanding meat from slow-growth chickens, contending that giving birds more time to grow before slaughter will give them a healthier, happier life — and produce better-tasting meat.

“We want to get back to a place where people don’t have to put a marinade on their chicken to make it taste like something,” said Theo Weening, who oversees meat purchasing for Whole Foods and recalls how his mother bought chicken by breed in the Netherlands, where he grew up.

Mr. Weening is realistic, though. “We have to figure out how can we make this happen so we’re not ending up with a chicken nobody can afford,” he said.

That is the big challenge for chicken producers. Dr. Stewart-Brown, of Perdue, said it cost about 30 percent more to feed the Redbro birds; the expense can run even higher for other slow-growth breeds, some of which can take as much as twice as long to reach full weight as conventional birds.

Differences in their musculature may cut into a producer’s profits as well. The Redbro chickens, for instance, have skinnier wings than their conventional cousins, and wings command a high price by weight.

Birds of Different Feathers

How the slower-growth chicken compares to the conventional broiler.

“I don’t know that we’ll be selling any of these kinds of birds in pieces,” Dr. Stewart-Brown said.

Consumers would also have to accept some trade-offs: While the new chickens have a fuller flavor, their meat tends to be distributed differently over the body, with more generous thighs and smaller breasts than the chicken most Americans are used to.

Perdue has been testing different breeds for about the last 18 months, using insights it has gained since it acquired Petaluma Poultry, a boutique business that produces slow-growth, pastured and organic chickens. Perdue expects to start selling a slow-growth chicken in grocery stores sometime in the next few years.

There are already several smaller companies selling such chickens, including Emmer & Company, Pitman Family Farms, White Oak Pastures and Crystal Lake Farms, which was bought in February by the meat supply company West Liberty Foods.

But Perdue appears to be the first, and so far the only, major chicken supplier to test slow-growth birds. The other four big producers have expressed little interest, though Tyson Foods, the country’s largest chicken producer, owns Cobb-Vantress, one of three large genetics companies that maintain a sort of library of bird types that they continue to tweak in response to demand from chicken producers. (It sells eggs or chicks with the genetic components for slower-growing chickens.)

Last year, Bon Appétit Management, which supplies many college kitchens and runs a chain of restaurants, announced that by 2024 it would sell meat only from slow-growth chickens.

“The reaction I got from the mainstream chicken suppliers at that time was kind of deadpan,” said Maisie Ganzler, who is Bon Appétit’s vice president for strategy. “They essentially said: ‘Well, it’s interesting that you want to go in that direction. We don’t.’”

Since then, Bon Appétit has been joined by companies like the Compass Group, which owns Bon Appétit; its competitor, Aramark; Nestlé; Starbucks; Chipotle Mexican Grill; and, last Friday, Subway, the nation’s largest fast-food chain.

The Global Animal Partnership, which sets standards for the welfare of animals raised for meat, said that by 2024 it would give animal-welfare certifications only to slow-growth chickens, a move that would affect some 270 million broilers, or about 3 percent of the nation’s flock.

The chicken industry, fearing that the string of announcements might force the kind of rapid changes that snowballed in the egg business after companies demanded eggs from cage-free birds, quickly produced a report that predicted dire consequences if there was a similar move to produce slow-growth chicken. Compiled by the animal medicine division of Eli Lilly & Company, it estimated that a shift to slow-growth production would require more land, water and feed. The industry also contends that without the efficiency of today’s chickens, which pack on more pounds with less feed over fewer and fewer days, the world will be unable to feed its growing population.

Today’s conventional broiler chickens have been bred over the years to produce the most amount of meat in as short a time as possible, reducing a farmer’s costs and increasing profits. In 1935, the average broiler chicken reached the slaughter-ready weight of 2.86 pounds in 98 days, according to the National Chicken Council. Today’s broilers are an average of 6.18 pounds at the time of slaughter, when they are about 47 days old.

Food is the largest cost for chicken producers, and the Redbro birds don’t eat as much as the two conventional chickens Perdue is using for comparison, Dr. Stewart-Brown said. “They’re bred to put on as much weight as possible in as little time, so they have quite an appetite,” he said of the conventional chickens.

But because the Redbros take longer to mature and are far more active than the conventional birds, they will eat more to produce each pound of meat, he said. And because they are more active, they need more space, which Dr. Stewart-Brown estimated would mean limiting the population of a chicken barn to 22,000, or about 3,000 fewer birds than is standard with today’s breeds.

The Redbro birds stand taller and drink less water — “I like that,” Dr. Stewart-Brown said. Their higher activity levels also help aerate the litter that covers the floor of chicken houses; drier pens, he said, are less likely to create food-safety problems.

Conventional birds need larger feet and shorter legs to support the fast development of their musculature, which is the meat. Their muscles grow faster than their skeletons, so by the time they are slaughtered, they cannot move around easily for long and end up nesting in litter, which can lead to sores on their sternums, and foot and leg problems.

“The breeding companies have done a great job of giving their customers, the chicken producers, what they want, which has been fast growth with lots of muscle tissue,” said Anne Malleau, the executive director of the Global Animal Partnership. The group is working on a protocol for assessing genetics so that it can then establish a list of breeds or standards that will qualify as slow-growth.

Mike Cockrell, the chief financial officer at Sanderson Farms, a large chicken producer, noted that it’s already possible to produce a conventional bird with a longer life span. Sanderson and other chicken companies produce what are called “big birds,” conventional chickens that weigh roughly nine pounds when slaughtered at about 56 days.

“So is that a slow-growth chicken?” Mr. Cockrell asked. “Of course we’ll respond to customers, but I’m not really sure we know what we’re talking about here.”

In marketing slow-growth chickens, Perdue and others will have to make consumers understand why they are paying a higher price. Emmer, for instance, sells two 3.25 pound birds for $59 on its website, while the suggested retail price of a Sonoma Red (from Perdue’s Petaluma Poultry) that weighs four pounds is $16.

Shoppers often say they want better welfare for the animals they eat, then balk at the cost that adds to the price of a pork chop or chicken breast. Ms. Malleau said she believed, however, that a growing number of consumers were diversifying the proteins they ate.

“As a society, we’re going to be making different choices than we did 20 years when it comes to protein in our diets, and in some ways, this move to slow-growth chicken is a gamble on that,” she said. “We’ll see how it turns out.”

Source: The New York Times

Cauliflower Is the New Kale

Claire Suddath wrote . . . . . .

For the past four years, chef Jason Weiner has offered a Meatless Monday menu at his restaurant, Almond, in New York. The idea, he says, is to urge omnivores to accept vegetables as a main course. To do this, he relies frequently on a versatile veggie almost everyone likes: cauliflower. “Cauliflower is this blank slate. It has the ability to take on any flavor, kind of like chicken,” Weiner says. Over the years, Almond’s Meatless Monday menu has included chicken-fried cauliflower, General Tso’s cauliflower, and Buffalo cauliflower topped with Roquefort dressing, which was so popular that it was promoted to the regular menu.

Weiner isn’t the only chef experimenting with the pale crucifer. “It’s absolutely everywhere,” says Elena North-Kelly, managing editor at the James Beard Foundation, a culinary arts organization. “Cauliflower’s moved from the boring side dish, and now we’re seeing it take on a starring role.” Girl & the Goat in Chicago tops it with pickled peppers. Ox in Portland, Ore., covers it in tahini sauce. At the Florence in Savannah, Ga., a cauliflower head is “whole-roasted” and served in a cast-iron skillet.

The vegetable’s ascendancy may be why one of the first changes B&G Foods Inc. made after it bought the brand Green Giant from General Mills Inc. in 2015 was to expand its cauliflower line to include mashed cauliflower, a frozen cauliflower-and-sweet-potato medley, and cauliflower “rice.” Whole Foods Market Inc., which has seen double-digit growth in nationwide sales of the vegetable two years in a row, offers similar products from its 365 brand. Both companies say they’re seeing sales climb evenly across the country, rather than clustered around more foodie metropolitan areas, as has been the case with past trends.

The boom is thanks to converging culinary trends: low-carb, gluten-free, and healthful eating, which often means vegetarian. “It’s similar to what we saw with kale a few years ago,” says Erik Brown, global produce buyer for Whole Foods. And the vegetable’s popularity is reflected on BuzzFeed’s Tasty channel, which posts dozens of DIY options—cauliflower mac and cheese, pizza with cauliflower crust, etc.—to Facebook feeds, where they’ve been viewed hundreds of thousands of times each.

Health food crazes in the U.S. aren’t always practical: Acai berries are grown in South America, and good luck to any Northerner looking for a ripe avocado to top her toast in winter. But cauliflower grows everywhere, from New York to Michigan to California, with staggered growing seasons, so it’s almost always available. It’s also cheap. And most people already know it, if only as a conduit for ranch dressing on crudité platters.

For cauliflower converts, there are two types of recipes: ones that use the vegetable as is, and ones in which it replaces meat or bread. Cauliflower-as-staple-substitute recipes range in authenticity, from that Buffalo cauliflower (definitely not a chicken wing, but still spicy and delicious) to cauliflower grilled cheese, in which grated cauliflower “bread” patties supposedly hold the sandwich together but in reality crumble to pieces (at least for me).

In April, during a seasonal revamp of Almond’s dinner menu, Weiner decided to discontinue the Buffalo cauliflower. To his surprise, customers complained. A few threatened to stop eating at the restaurant. One regular he knows left a scathing comment card urging him to “rectify this disaster.” “I got the message,” Weiner says. A week later, the Buffalo cauliflower was back.

Source: Bloomberg

Avocado Prices Are Skyrocketing

Marvin G Perez and Megan Durisin wrote . . . . .

That bowl of guacamole on Cinco de Mayo will be more expensive this year, as avocado prices rise to a record on surging demand and a smaller crop in Mexico and California.

A 10-kilogram (22-pound) box of Hass avocados from the state of Michoacan, Mexico’s biggest producer, cost 530 pesos (US$27.89) Thursday, according to the government. The price, which is subject to seasonal swings, is more than double what it was a year earlier and the highest in data going back 19 years.

The jump in demand in recent years has been dramatic. American per-capita consumption was 6.9 pounds in 2015, versus 3.5 pounds in 2006, according to the U.S. government. People are being drawn to the fruit not just for its taste but also for its healthy oils and fats, a trend borne out in the U.S. by Starbucks Corp.’s announcement last month it’s selling avocado sandwich spread.

“You have increased consumption in China and other areas of the world, like Europe,” said Roland Fumasi, an analyst at Rabobank in Fresno, California. “They’re pulling a lot more of the Mexican crop, so there’s less available for the U.S.”

Mexico supplies 82 percent of the avocados eaten north of the border. Its shipments into the U.S. surged to 1.76 billion pounds in 2015 from just 24 million pounds in 2000, according to data from the Hass Avocado Board in Mission Viejo, California.

Avocado trees are alternate-bearing crops, with large harvests one year and smaller ones the next. A lighter crop is expected this season, Fumasi said. In California, which accounts for the rest of supply in the U.S., production will be down about 44 percent this year, the state’s avocado commission forecasts.

U.S. restaurant chain Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. said earlier this week the shortage of avocados is putting pressure on costs. Hass avocados retailed in the U.S. for $1.27 each on April 21, up from 98 cents a year earlier, U.S. Department of Agriculture data show.

Cinco de Mayo

None of this is good news for those celebrating Cinco de Mayo next week. The date of the Mexican Army’s victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla in 1862 has become a broader celebration of Mexican-American culture. It’s also turned into one of the top occasions to consume guacamole in the U.S., besides the Super Bowl.

Avocado prices will “remain at relatively elevated levels. It could be all the way through summer,” Fumasi said. Buyers will have to wait until the fall, and hope next season’s Mexican crop is bigger, before there’s enough volume to push prices considerably lower, he said.

Source: Bloomberg

Read also at npr:

California Is On Its Way To Having An Avocado Crop Year-Round . . . . .

Low-sodium Diet Might not Lower Blood Pressure

Steering clear of salty foods might not be as helpful for your heart health as previously thought, a new study claims.

Participants in a long-range heart study did not appear to derive any health advantage from a low-salt diet, said lead researcher Lynn Moore.

“People who were on a lower-sodium [salt] diet in general over the next 20 or 30 years actually had no benefit, specifically in terms of their blood pressure or their risk of developing heart disease,” said Moore, an associate professor with the Boston University School of Medicine.

On the other hand, these people did enjoy better health when they increased their intake of potassium, a mineral that helps the heart in a couple of ways, Moore and her colleagues found.

“Higher intakes of potassium were strongly associated with both a lower blood pressure and a lower risk of heart disease,” Moore said. “The same was true for magnesium.”

But before you reach for the shaker, consider that a leading proponent of low-sodium diets, the American Heart Association (AHA), questioned the study’s validity and said it would continue to recommend limiting salt intake.

“When there are really well-conducted clinical trials that show a direct and progressive relationship between sodium and blood pressure, I would pause before I did anything based on what’s reported in this abstract,” said AHA spokeswoman Cheryl Anderson. She’s an associate professor of cardiovascular epidemiology with the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.

The AHA recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams — about a teaspoon — of sodium a day, and an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 milligrams (mg) daily for most adults.

Moore said her results show that Americans’ average sodium intake — around 3,000 to 3,500 milligrams (mg) a day — should be healthy, particularly if they also get enough potassium and magnesium.

“There seems to be no real added risk in that range,” Moore said. “I think the average American is probably doing OK in terms of sodium, but almost all Americans need to increase their intake of potassium.”

Foods rich in potassium include dark leafy greens, potatoes, beans, squash, yogurt, salmon, avocados, mushrooms and bananas.

The new study comes on the heels of another controversial paper published last May. It suggested that restricting dietary salt to less than 3,000 mg a day appeared to increase the risk of heart disease as much as eating more than 7,000 mg a day. The AHA also disputed the earlier study, which appeared in The Lancet.

Moore’s findings are based on data from more than 2,600 men and women participating in the Framingham Heart Study, a long-range heart health study of people from Framingham, Mass.

Participants had normal blood pressure at the study’s start. But, over the next 16 years, those who consumed less than 2,500 milligrams of sodium a day tended to have higher blood pressure than participants who consumed more sodium, the researchers reported.

The investigators also found that people with higher intake of potassium, calcium and magnesium had lower long-term blood pressure.

But the research team relied on six days of detailed dietary records to estimate people’s intake of sodium and other various minerals, which is a relatively unreliable method, Anderson said.

The gold standard for tracking sodium levels is through urine samples taken across multiple days, she said. Food diaries can be inaccurate.

“They may not have captured sodium intake accurately,” Anderson said.

The study’s positive results regarding potassium have been supported by other studies, Anderson added.

Potassium helps the kidneys flush salt from the body, reducing blood levels of sodium, Moore said.

The mineral also helps relax the blood vessels and make them more flexible, which can help lower blood pressure, Moore and Anderson said.

People who consume a lot of salt — 5,000 milligrams per day — should cut back, Moore said.

Also, “for that subset of the population that’s sensitive to salt in the diet, a really critical thing is how much they’re getting of other minerals, in particular potassium but perhaps magnesium as well,” Moore said.

Moore was scheduled to present her findings Tuesday at the American Society for Nutrition’s annual meeting, in Chicago. The results should be considered preliminary until the data is peer-reviewed for publication in a medical journal.

Source: HealthDay