Packing and Processing
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 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 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 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.
October 30, 2017
As the ghosts and ghouls come out this Halloween, keep your eyes peeled for some of our favorite union-made treats. UFCW members as well as our brothers and sisters of the BCTGM union have been hard at work making sure there’s plenty of sweets for all those trick-or-treaters.
For a longer list of union-made candies, visit Union Plus.
1.) Hershey’s Nuggets / Kisses
2.) Kit Kat
4.) Baby Ruth*
7.) Sour Patch Kids
8.) Tootsie Rolls
9.) York Peppermint Patties
10.) Jolly Ranchers
12.) Mary Jane Peanut Butter Chews
13.) Ghirardelli Chocolate Squares
14.) Jelly Belly Candy Corn
15.) Red Vines
*some made in Mexico. Check packaging for country of origin.
September 14, 2017
September is National Chicken Month. How much do you know about America’s most popular meat?
2. Though chickens were brought along with the early American colonists, by the George Washington’s time, turkey, goose, pigeon, and duck were more popular than chicken.
3. The only continent without chickens is Antarctica.
4. Women and minorities were fundamental in growing poultry in the US into an industry.
Farm women in the early 20th century found that they were able to profit from selling eggs, and small scale egg-laying operations grew into large-scale, women-owned hatcheries.
5. Working in poultry is one of the most dangerous jobs in the US.
Poultry has more injuries than the construction industry, the auto industry, the steel industry, saw mills, and many other high-risk industries, but the UFCW is working to change that.
September 8, 2017
Does this woman look familiar? You’ve probably seen her over the years in TV commercials for Honey Bunches of Oats cereal! But did you know that Diana Hunter is also a member of RWDSU/UFCW District Council Local 374?
Diana will be officially retiring in October. Like the author of this Buzzfeed article, we’ve loved watching her hilariously share about the joys of making this tasty cereal. We wish her the best of luck in her retirement, and thank her for all of her service to our union family!
August 28, 2017
With most kids returning back to school now or in the next couple of weeks, busy parents are stressing about their long to-do lists for ensuring the year gets off to a good start.
Let us help! One of those daily to-do items for many parents is packing their children’s lunches or making sure the pantry is stocked with easy options for after school.
We’re America’s food union, and the hardworking men and women of the UFCW make, process, and package lots of great staples that are both tasty and easy to prepare. We’ve got a few UFCW-made lunch menu and snack ideas to help make your kids’ school year one of the best yet!
- various post cereals (Local 374)
- Yoplait yogurts (Local 386)
- Quaker foods: Life cereals, Oatmeal, Instant oats, Cap’n Crunch cereals, Aunt Jemima syrup (Local 110 )
Simple Sliced Chicken
- French’s mustard (Local 2)
- Heinz ketchup (Local 75)
- Tyson chicken (Local 2008)
- Heinz (Local 705) or Vlasic pickles (Local 87)
Classic Bologna or Turkey and Cheese
- Oscar Mayer products (Local 17A)
- Hoffman’s bologna, Honest John bologna/turkey and cheeses (Local 1)
Peanut butter and jelly
- Peter Pan peanut butter – smooth, crunchy, and honey roasted (Local 1996 and Local 38)
- Welch’s food jams and jellies (Local 1)
Heat and Go
- Chef Boyardee products (Local 38)
- Campbell’s Soup (Local 75)
- Kraft Lunchables (Local 17A)
- Knouse foods: Lucky Leaf applesauce and Musselman’s Applesauce (Local 1776)
- Mott’s applesauce (Local 220)
Snacks and sides:
- Wise Chips: Natural, Sour Cream and Onion, Jalapeno, BBQ, Honey BBQ, Dill , Salt and Vinegar, Onion and Garlic (Local 1776)
- Wise Popcorn: Cheddar, White, Butter (Local 1776)
- Orville Redenbacher products (Local 38)
- Wise Onion Rings: Grilled Steak and Onion, Regular (Local 1776)
- Wise Cheez Doodles (Local 1776)
- Totinos pizza and pizza rolls (Local 1059)
- Kelloggs Cheez-its Crackers (Local 184L)
- Jell-o (Local 152 and Local 17A)
- Breakstones cottage cheese (Local 1)
- Knouse juice, Speas Apple Juice (Local 1776)
- Welch’s Fruit drinks (Local 825)
- Snapple products (Local 220)
- V8 juice (Local 75)
July 27, 2017
On July 24, members of UFCW Local 400 who work at the nation’s only Lipton Tea plant in Suffolk, Va., voted overwhelmingly to approve their first union contract. The Lipton plant in Suffolk has operated for more than 60 years and produces nearly all of the Lipton Tea sold in North America.
The ratification represents the first time in the history of the plant when workers were given the opportunity to vote on the terms and conditions of their employment. The four-year contract includes significant improvements to working conditions and health care benefits, and places strict limits on when management can require employees to work overtime. The contract also provides workers with four days per year to opt out of mandatory overtime, in addition to two weekends off each month in which they can’t be forced to work overtime.
“It was a long process, but we couldn’t be happier with the outcome,” said Anita Anderson, an operator at Lipton for 11 years.
“Our new health care plan is a huge weight off my shoulders. Personally, I take medication every day and I can’t go without my health insurance. But I’m also a dad, and saving $4,000 a year goes a long way for me and my family,” said Terrell Owens, who has worked as an operating technician at Lipton for the past nine years.
“For the last 10 years, we saw so many of our benefits taken away,” said Paul Garrison, a 16-year mechanic. “But now that we have a union, we’re getting them back again.”
Philip Surace, a mechanic at Lipton, said his first experience with a union was when he called UFCW Local 400 last spring. “I didn’t know much about unions, but I knew something had to be done. Enough was enough. I was looking for help and the union sent people right away,” he said. Philip quickly pulled together a meeting with his coworkers to learn about their rights to form a union. “Two months later, we had our union. I would encourage anyone who wants to make their workplace better to do the same thing we did.”
“As a longtime Virginia resident, I know all too well how decades of regressive legislation and outdated federal labor law have stacked the deck against workers, particularly in the South,” said UFCW Local 400 President Mark Federci. “This unfortunate reality only makes me more proud of what the workers at Lipton have accomplished.”
July 14, 2017
Contract negotiations, on first glance, don’t really sound like the most exciting part of being a union member, but the hard-working men and women of Tyson Foods in Logansport, Indiana recently demonstrated the value of being able to negotiate with your employer and how it is possible through negotiating good contracts to make your vision for how to improve your workplace a reality.
UFCW Local 700 members at Tyson Foods submitted contract proposals with their ideas for improvements, and after union negotiations with the company, voted to accept a final agreement that locks in many improvements for the next five years.
The five-year contract includes wage increases, upgrades classifications for several jobs, provides a health care review to ensure that affordable, quality care is protected for members and their families, and offers greater protection for the rights of immigrant workers. The new contract also increases vacation leave after 10 years of service, adds a summer floating holiday, improves the funeral leave policy for employees working shifts longer than eight hours, and provides workers with additional gear.
“Members at Tyson stuck together and won a contract that includes significant raises, increases the amount of paid time off, and improves job protection,” said UFCW Local 700 President Joe Chorpenning. “This agreement provides more opportunity for a better life for Tyson workers and their families.”