This is the web version of a list we publish twice-weekly in our newsletter. It comprises the most noteworthy food stories of the moment, selected by our editors. Get it first here.
FKA Grubhub. Hey, you know that food delivery juggernaut called Grubhub? Well, turns out it’s getting squeezed by competitors like DoorDash and UberEats, and may be about to put itself on the market, according to The Wall Street Journal. Grubhub won’t deny or confirm the rumors, but its CEO did say the food delivery sphere is a “weird bubble that’s about to burst.” Okay. He also called customers that use multiple delivery apps “promiscuous,” which seems a bit rude.
Wild hunt. Hailed as a miracle plant, the global demand for wild American ginseng has exploded in recent years. With that, poaching has become commonplace—as have farmers’ aggressive responses to it. According to National Geographic, “demand in China is so great that U.S. wildlife managers worry that wild American ginseng could be on a path toward extinction.” Coupled with the difficulty of growing this protected plant species—traditionally cultivated, and sold for $250 per pound in Asia, whereas the wild variety fetches closer to $8,000 a pound—farmers often choose to plant seeds in forested areas. It’s these “wild-simulated” crops that are often targeted for theft by hardened criminals, leading growers to take extreme measures, and sometimes resorting to violence. As poverty plagues the regions in which ginseng grows, this problem continues to root deeply.
Bullets and bagels. We don’t want to give away too much about this gripping history of bagels in New York City, as it’s a wild yarn with multiple twists and turns—no spoilers! Just know that it involves the mafia, a cohort of scrappy bagel rebels, and some gentle ribbing of The New York Times. After all, the paper of record called a bagel an “unsweetened doughnut with rigor mortis” when it was introduced to Times readers in 1960.
Fishy business. Have you been waiting with baited breath to get yourself some genetically engineered salmon? Good news for you: Biotech company AquaBounty has announced that it will harvest its first batch of GMO fish sometime in the “final months” of this year. For years, the company had been entangled in regulatory netting over its GMO seafood. Only in March of last year, did FDA lift its import ban on the product, the first shipment of which landed last June. Now, tech magazine IEEE Spectrum takes a deep dive into the water recirculation system that AquaBounty is harnessing in an effort to recycle the gallons and gallons of freshwater it’ll need. Why is that a big deal? The company is working overtime to convince eaters that genetically engineered salmon is more environmentally sustainable than other options in the seafood aisle.
The human touch. It’s been a bad week for Silicon Valley’s robotic restaurants, Fast Company reports. Cafe X, of robotic coffee bar fame, closed three locations and laid off employees this week. And Zume, the company with the pizza-making robots, laid off 80 percent of its staff. But the news is not all doom and gloom for our metal-fingered friends: Walmart this week announced a nearly-fully-automated grocery order fulfillment center in New Hampshire. Bloomberg has the story, complete with an oddly stylish promotional video.