Wed 27 Sep 2017
Read other related stories: Cooking , General Smoking Information
IS THE FOOD INDUSTRY CULPABLE FOR THE SPREAD OF OAK TREE MORTALITY?
In a previously published article about the food industry, we discussed the negative outcome as it relates to sales dollars when brands elect to go into the wood-fired cooking arena without researching anything about wood for cooking. Let’s take a step further and explore the actual wood and potential risks to that commodity when a brand fails to carry out a menu plan. Thus abandoning the wood-fired cooking concept.
I often wonder if the public is aware of all the pest infestations that are currently plaguing our country as a direct result of the movement of wood. Correction, that occurred due to global trade. Yes, it is the use of imported goods on wooden packaging materials in addition to imported plants that have resulted in infestations around our country. Each year, this risk of infestation continues to rise and frankly, I opine that it isn’t all due to importation.
What if the food industry is really the key exacerbator to this problem?
Emerald Ash Borer, Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, White Pine Blister, Gypsy Moth, Beech Bark Disease, Sirex Wood Wasp, Winter Moth, Dutch Elm Disease, Dogwood Anthracnose, Butternut Canker, Sudden Oak Death, Balsam Woolly Adelgid. These are just some of the infestations that are being tracked in the USA. Let’s take a closer look at one hardwood species that is of great concern to me: Oak.
It is the hardwood of choice when it comes to restaurants likely due to all the hype from the state of Texas when it comes to barbecue. They like their beef (brisket specifically) and they like it cooked over oak. As mentioned in our article “When A Flop Could Have Been A Success,” there were two franchise brands in particular, that banked on only oak for the success of their wood-fired menu items: Red Lobster and Applebee’s Bar & Grill.
The Food Industry
Red Lobster has over 700 locations while Applebee’s Bar & Grill has nearly 2000 locations. Now process those numbers. By sourcing it from whatever suppliers they can locate and then putting it into the food industry distribution network to be delivered with other restaurant goods including foods items like produce, spices, herbs, etc. Given the enactment of the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), we are starting to address some concerns related to the food industry. Unfortunately, the use of wood, more specifically firewood in restaurant kitchens, has not been identified as a need when it comes to health. Why?
Although Red Lobster has kept alive some of its wood-fired menu items and Applebee’s Bar & Grill is still attempting to get some life out of their wood-fired steaks, I state that these plans failed terribly. So, what happened to all the wood that was meant for these restaurants? Did it get thrown into a dumpster at each location to be transported to a landfill? Did employees volunteer to take some as firewood and transported it to their homes ignoring laws in place to stop the movement of firewood? Could some supply still be sitting idle in food distribution centers?
It appears clear that we need to start with this commodity called wood and delineate regulations when it comes to using this for cooking. Rather than mass labeling all wood as appropriate for cooking, when its intended for human consumption. How long before we realize that deforestation from the spread of pest disease has been aided by the restaurant industry? If we start to question what that wood-fired steak, salmon, or chicken was cooked over, we will understand how little is known about the cooking wood being used.