Watch United Food and Commercial Workers International Union’s (UFCW) Michelle show you how to create a holiday topiary—great for holiday gatherings or as a special gift for someone you care about.
December 12, 2017
1.) Eating latkes during Hanukkah has ties to the seasonal slaughtering of geese
Foods cooked in oil are traditionally associated with the holiday because of the religious symbolism, but one theory for why latkes became popular at this time of year (other than being delicious) had to do with the seasonal availability of cooking oil for common people.
“Let’s examine the real history of latkes. First, the recipe was not created until the end of the 18th or early 19th century. Although potatoes were introduced to Europe in the 16th century, it took close to two hundred years before the edible tuber made its way from animal fodder to prison food, and then to sustenance for the masses, especially the poor. The real reason for latkes is explained by the traditional activity of slaughtering the geese in early December.
For three months before slaughter, geese were slowly and methodically fed at increasing intervals and quantities to fatten them to excess. In fact, it was French Jews who were most influential in the foie gras industry because of this knowledge. Goose feathers and down were used for warmth, the meat was preserved as a confit for winter consumption, and goose fat was rendered to provide cooking oil for most of the year. Even a poor person could find a potato in the field, an onion in the cellar, and some of the precious, newly-rendered goose fat to create the Hanukkah culinary story of ‘Neis gadol hayah sham’―A great miracle happened there.”
2. Applesauce vs. Sour Cream
Some people prefer the sweetness of applesauce with their latkes, while others opt for savory sour cream. But why the divide? Other than taste preferences, since latkes are traditionally served at dinnertime and often with a meaty meal like brisket, families who keep kosher wouldn’t eat their latkes with a dairy product like sour cream because you can’t have beef and dairy in the same meal.
But dairy products have also been traditionally associated with Hanukkah, hence the popularity of eating them with sour cream. In fact, early latkes weren’t made from potatoes, but were made from cheese:
Of course we associate potato latkes with Hanukkah, but in reality latkes descends from Italian pancakes that were made with ricotta cheese. The first connection between Hanukkah and pancakes was made by a rabbi in Italy named Rabbi Kalonymus ben Kalonymus (c. 1286-1328). According to The Encyclopedia of Jewish Food by Gil Marks, the Rabbi included pancakes “in a list of dishes to serve at an idealized Purim feast, as well as a poem about Hanukkah. After the Spanish expelled the Jews from Sicily in 1492, the exiles introduced their ricotta cheese pancakes, which were called cassola in Rome, to the Jews of northern Italy. Consequently, cheese pancakes, because they combined the two traditional types of foods–fried and dairy–became a natural Hanukkah dish.”
Potato latkes are a more recent Ashkenazi invention that gained popularity in Eastern Europe during the mid 1800′s. A series of crop failures in Poland and the Ukraine led to mass planting of potatoes, which were easy and cheap to grow. But before potatoes came on the scene, the latke of choice was cheese.
Brisket makes a regular appearance on many family tables during the holiday. Brisket is kosher because it is from the front of the animal, and because of the lengthy cooking time needed to soften the cut, it makes for a perfect special occasion meal.
4. Brisket prices have about doubled over the past decade, but there are still cheaper cuts that can be just as good if prepared correctly.
Why has brisket gotten so expensive? “You only get a couple pieces off an animal,” says Jon Viner, a UFCW member with more than 30 years of meat cutting knowledge. “And the cost of beef is up right now. I would suggest a chuck roast and cooking it slow, instead. It’s a moist cut, the next thing in line as you’re processing beef chuck.”
If you are looking for a crowd-pleasing recipe to help you prepare that chuck roast, try this French Style Braised Beef adapted from James Peterson’s “Essentials of Cooking.”
5. Union Made Hanukkah
Whether its helping customers shop for seasonal goods or making the foods we enjoy during the holidays, UFCW members are proud to be part of the traditions that are so important to our communities. Keep your eyes out for these UFCW-made products:
- Mott’s and Lucky Leaf applesauce
- Country Fresh and Horizon sour cream
- See’s candies chocolate coins
December 8, 2017
December 7, 2017
As Chicken Council Pushes for Fewer Regulations, Investigation Reveals Lax Enforcement of Existing Rules
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Marc Perrone, international president of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union, issued the following statement in response to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on safety and health in the poultry industry:
“The hard-working people who work in poultry plants have some of the most dangerous and physically demanding jobs in America. This report sadly confirms that many of these skilled professionals who keep our food safe are struggling to keep themselves safe at work. They have earned and deserve better.
“The dangers endured by poultry workers that are highlighted in this report also underscore why a recent request by the National Chicken Council to increase line speeds defies common sense and is being clearly driven by greed. We urge the U.S. Department of Agriculture to take this report seriously and reject that request so that poultry workers and the food we all consume can be kept safe.”
- This GAO report confirms the U.S. Department of Agriculture doesn’t consider worker safety when allowing new and dangerous chemicals to be used in poultry plants, and that OSHA can’t or won’t adequately protect poultry workers from injury.
- The GAO also found a pattern of poultry companies repeatedly denying access to federal safety and health inspectors, leaving workers in at least 15 plants across the South working in potentially dangerous environments.
- This report supports findings by Oxfam that poultry workers struggle to get adequate bathroom breaks, even to the point of endangering their health.
- Other GAO reports in 2005 and 2016 also found significant problems with safety and health in the poultry industry.
- In addition to worker risks, countries with higher line speeds have higher rates of foodborne contamination in poultry plants.
The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries.
Our members help put food on our nation’s tables and serve customers in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico.
Learn more about the UFCW at www.ufcw.org
December 4, 2017
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! For the hardworking men and women in our union family, it’s also a super busy time.
They’re serving customers and families in their communities–not just in grocery stores but across all our industries–to make the holidays happen.
Are you a member making the holidays happen? Share with us on our Facebook page.
November 28, 2017
With the relationships UFCW members build with customers in our stores, we see first hand the difficult decisions many in our communities are forced to make every day in order to provide for their loved ones. That’s one reason we’re eager to help those in our communities in need — because no one should have to struggle alone, especially during the holiday season.
From hosting “giving trees” to organizing food drives, UFCW locals all across the country are kicking into high gear to help make the holidays a little brighter for the folks who could use a little extra support.
In the northeast, UFCW Local 1500 is doing a Toy Drive for the John Theissen Children’s Foundation. Since 1992, the foundation has collected over 920,000 new toys and have donated them to sick and underprivileged children in hospitals and child-care facilities.
Local 152 does an annual Teddy Bear Drive to collect stuffed animals for Santa to give away at the holiday dinner dance for ARC of Burlington County, which provides a variety of disability services including adult day care and in home supportive services.
Earlier this month, RWDSU/UFCW Local 338 delivered 200 turkeys donated by Local 338 members to several food pantries and charitable organizations throughout New York City, Long Island, and Westchester County as part of the union’s annual “Turkey Drive.”
Local 338 members weren’t the only ones out making sure everyone could have a nice holiday feast. On the other side of the country, Local 1428 members in California held a turkey giveaway over the Thanksgiving holiday.
Are you a UFCW member with a story of how union members in your area are giving back? Drop us a line at email@example.com or send us your story on our Facebook page and let us know how you are making a difference.
November 22, 2017
Yesterday, the UFCW’s own Jon Viner, star of one of our recent “How To” videos, took to Reddit to help answer everyone’s meat questions and quandaries.
We’re really proud of Jon and congratulate him on how well the AMA went, and beyond being able to puff up our feathers a bit and brag about how talented our members are, we wanted to share a Thanksgiving round up for those of you who are not on Reddit because this stuff is too good to miss.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Reddit AMAs, they stand for “Ask Me Anything.” They are sort of like an online press conference where anyone can post and ask questions and have them answered real time.
Here’s a few of the best Thanksgiving-related questions posted during the live session:
1. How much turkey should you get per person?
2. What’s better, fresh or frozen?
3. How far behind am I in defrosting my turkey?
4. How long is too long for brining a turkey?
5. What if I’m just cooking a turkey breast?
6. Should I trust the pop up timer?
7. What’s the best part of the bird?
Thanks again, Jon, for sharing your knowledge and experience to help us all pull off a delicious, well-cooked Thanksgiving! If you haven’t seen Jon’s video on how to carve that turkey, check it out:
November 20, 2017
Watch UFCW member and professional butcher Jon Viner show you how to carve the perfect holiday turkey.
November 19, 2017
Every year the UFCW scholarship program offers scholarships to UFCW members or their immediate family members who want to further their education and demonstrate a commitment to their communities and to UFCW values. Since 1958, the fund has distributed more than $2 million in scholarships.*
Past winners have gone on to make significant contributions to society and to the UFCW – entering a range of fields including public service, medicine, law, business and teaching. Many have returned to the UFCW as staffers, organizers, and community activists who contribute to our mission.
*UFCW-employed officers and staff, and their immediate families are not eligible for this program.
Here are this year’s winners:
Melissa Quintero Segura
November 16, 2017
And How Safe Line Speeds Keep Chicken Safe to Eat
Oxfam estimates that each person eats 89 pounds of chicken a year – which means as a country, we’re eating close to 9 billion birds per year. It’s a major, multi-billion dollar industry that supplies us with chicken nuggets, wings, and the foundation for so many of our favorite, home-cooked meals.
It’s easy to cook, it’s affordable, and a mainstay in the meals American families share with one another.
But jobs inside poultry plants are some of the most dangerous and difficult in America. The National Chicken Council, which is the poultry industry’s main trade association and functions to represent its interests to Congress and other federal agencies, wants to do away with a key protection to keep workers safe on the job: line speeds.
Here’s what you need to know:
1.) By law, most poultry plants can run their processing lines at 140 birds per minute. That’s already insanely fast.
Federal law currently sets the line speed maximum at 140 birds per minute at most poultry facilities. To give you a sense of what that translates to in real life, that’s just a hair faster than the tempo for Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” except where each beat is a chicken.
On the line itself, one employee can process more than 14,000 chickens each day. Depending on the job, each worker can process around 35-45 birds per minute – which rounds out to about 2,000 chickens per hour or nearly one chicken every two seconds.
Some plants are even allowed to operate at 175 BPM (for background on why some plants are allowed to be faster than others and for more examples of songs that match different line speeds, check out this great article from The New Food Economy). There are few things that we do each and every day that can even compare to that level of repetition.
2.) As line speed increases, safety decreases. And they want to eliminate line speeds entirely.
While there’s currently a speed limit in poultry plants, the National Chicken Council wants to eliminate them entirely.
As line speeds increase, so does the risk of injury—including serious and bloody cuts and amputations.
But faster line speeds also mean less time for federal meat inspectors and quality control workers to do their jobs and ensure the chicken you’re eating is safe to consume.
Want a better idea how fast poultry lines could move if they eliminate line speed limits? Here’s what 200 BMP sounds like, which is how fast Germany already allows their plants to run (with negative side effects, as explained in #3):
3.) Faster line speed also means inspectors have less time to watch out for food safety issues. That should make anyone feel queasy.
If current line speeds are eliminated, federal inspectors who are tasked with spotting contaminated birds may be forced to examine more than two per second for abscesses, tumors, or other diseases.
The National Chicken Council argues that increased line speeds will help modernize the system, and keep up with international competitors.
But countries which allow faster line speeds have more issues with food safety. Germany allows line speeds up to 200 BPM and their poultry meat is found to have higher levels of Salmonella and Campylobacter contamination.
Retired USDA food safety inspector Phyllis McKelvey spoke out about the dangers of increasing line speed in an interview with NPR earlier this year:
“These machines will pull the viscera, which is the guts of the chicken. And a lot of times the guts hang on their prongs and those machines just get covered up in guts, which is slinging manure all over the product,” she says.
In the live hang section, McKelvey said equipment failures would also occur in the stun bath, where birds are shocked with electricity. That would send fully conscious birds to a machine that would sever their necks.
“If the line is going too fast you have a lot of birds that don’t get stunned,” she says. “So you’ve got some birds going into the scald vats, alive.”
The USDA describes the new inspection system as more science-based in that it requires that all poultry facilities perform their own microbiological testing along with two federal inspectors. This leaves one inspector to view the carcasses.
But with fewer inspectors, McKelvey argues, plants are relying on more chemicals like peracetic acid or food bleach to reduce the chance of food contamination.
“And if they don’t have a proper air system, these chemicals are causing people to sneeze and cough. And even at that rate it gets so bad we’d have to shut the line down,” McKelvey says.
Here’s how you can take action to keep poultry workers safe on the job and chicken safe on your plate:
We deserve safe food, and America’s poultry workers deserve safe workplaces. Write the USDA today and ask them to reject the National Chicken Council’s petition and keep safe line speed limits in poultry plants.
November 13, 2017
Rocky Mountain High cannabis workers in Durango, Montrose, and Carbondale, Colorado, voted to join UFCW Local 7 by an overwhelming margin on Nov. 6. These locations include two of the company’s grow facilities. The 25 workers wanted a voice in the workplace and the same benefits as their 32 colleagues at four Rocky Mountain High cannabis dispensaries in Denver, who joined UFCW Local 7 in September.
The Rocky Mountain High workers joined UFCW Local 7 because they were concerned about pay increases, health benefits, and a safer workplace. The workers also wanted to reduce high turnover and have a path to a career. Many of the workers also expressed an interest in the UFCW’s Free College Benefit.