America’s chicken shortage and May Day gone wrong

in May 5th, 2021

Here's what we emailed out the week of May 5, 2021. Sign up for updates directly in your inbox.

Ocean plastic could take on a whole new, better meaning. A type of seaweed has been worked into a biodegradable bioplastic and turned into a sleek, transparent, carbon-negative raincoat — a symbol of the power of biomaterials in shielding us from climate change. How? The bioplastic generates no emissions from both creation and disposal, unlike conventional clothing which accounts for at least 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. We're hopeful with these changing tides, but in the meantime, here are other stories floating to the top.


From the year of chicken to the... year of no chicken?

Thu Apr 29

Americans be warned: another shortage is on the way. Fast food executives are struggling to restock chicken and expect demand will exceed supply. What’s leading to fewer chickens? 

  • First, the pandemic. Poor slaughterhouse conditions led to 60,000 meatpacking workers testing positive for coronavirus and at least 291 dying. Now there’s a labor shortage that’s not letting up.
  • The pandemic has also increased demand for comfort food, especially through delivery and takeout options. The Super Bowl alone experienced a 2% increase in chicken wing consumption, hitting a record of 1.42 billion wings.
  • Then there’s the “chicken wars,” which started in 2019 when Popeye’s released a new chicken sandwich that sold out within a month. Competitors quickly got in on the action: KFC’s latest chicken sandwich is already selling twice as fast as their last and McDonald’s latest entrant is expected to sell out. Even places like Taco Bell and Cinnabon introduced their own special chicken sandwiches.
  • Finally, deadly winter storms ravaged the South in February. During the coldest week that month, 70 million fewer chickens were slaughtered than intended.

What can be done? There have been at least two ideas brought to the table, both centered around the lack of workers. One of the largest chicken producers in the U.S., Pilgrim Pride, has invested $100 million into creating chicken processing robots that could eliminate the need for 5,600 jobs. Meanwhile, a number of companies have banded together around a “second chance” initiative to hire from the 100 million Americans with criminal records. 

Some additional resources...


May Day rallies turned into cries of mayday

Sun May 2

The first of May, or first Monday of May, in many places is celebrated as May Day. For some it’s a traditional spring affair marking the first day of summer. For many Europeans, it marks International Labor Day, a day when workers’ rights rallies take place across the region. But the rise in coronavirus unemployment led to tensions that broke into violence in a number of European cities. 

  • In France, protestors were opposing a change in government unemployment benefits while demanding social and economic justice. Over 106,000 people protested (with 17,000 in Paris alone).
  • In Germany, those upset with COVID restrictions were vocal not only about workers' rights, but also the continued lockdown restrictions. One group even demanded a revival of the culture and club scene while 10,000 cyclists in Berlin rode against capitalism.
  • And in Turkey, which is suffering the third highest unemployment rate in Europe, workers’ rights rallies were held despite a strict ban on all gatherings as COVID cases soar across the country.

The more violent protests led to injuries and arrests, such as in Germany where 93 officers were injured and 354 protestors were detained. In many rallies, law enforcement broke up smaller groups over worries of extremists. Largely though, the rallies across Europe are peaceful and of mixed political parties and organizations. 

Some additional resources... 

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I can’t stop buying these seaweed coats - I really need kelp!

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