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Meatless Meat Reaching More Stores and Plates

Food
Meatless Meat Reaching More Stores and Plates

Beyond Burger in the fresh meat section of a supermarket on July 10, 2019. UBC Media Relations / CC BY 2.0

While meat processing facilities shut down and cause shortages in the beef and pork supply chains, Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are seeing a spike in sales during the coronavirus pandemic, as The Hill reports.


Beyond Meat has seen its shares soar 134 percent since mid-March, as retailers request rushed deliveries to refill shelves across the country, a company spokesperson said, as Marketwatch reported. Beyond Meat shares shot up 26 percent in trading Wednesday.

A 141 percent jolt in first-quarter revenue and profit "exceeded our expectations despite an increasingly challenging operating environment due to the COVID-19 health crisis," said Ethan Brown, chief executive of Beyond Meat, in a statement announcing the results, as Marketwatch reported.

Similarly, Impossible Foods, which is not a publicly traded company, announced that demand for its Impossible Burger has "skyrocketed among home chefs," according to Vox. It will start selling its burgers at Kroger's 1,700 stores nationwide, a huge increase from the 150 stores that sold its burgers at the start of 2020. In total, its plant-based meat is available at 2,700 U.S. grocery stores, including Albertsons, according to Forbes.

"Our existing retail partners have achieved record sales of Impossible Burger in recent weeks," said the company's president, Dennis Woodside, in a statement, as Vox reported. "We expect our retail footprint to expand more than 50-fold in 2020 alone, and we are moving as quickly as possible to expand with additional outlets and in more retail channels."

According to Vox, the way Impossible Foods manufactures its products protects it from the worst of the pandemic. "Its supply chain is obviously unaffected by recent meat plant closures, and its workers are not contracting Covid-19 at high rates because they do not have to work shoulder to shoulder like their meatpacking counterparts."

"We've always planned on a dramatic surge in retail for 2020 — but with more and more Americans eating at home under 'shelter-in-place' orders, we've received requests from retailers and consumers alike," Impossible Foods President Dennis Woodside said in a statement, as The Hill reported.

Now that Costco and Kroger are limiting the amount of meat people can buy, Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are looking to fill in the gaps by offering bulk products. In an earnings call on Tuesday, Brown said that Beyond Meat is introducing lower-priced bulk value packs to grocers as they struggle with supply shortages of animal protein, according to Forbes.

"Our biggest focus is to provide solutions for consumers as they have meat disruptions," Brown said on the call. "There is an opportunity for consumers to be aware of a different model. There are more opportunities to be relevant to customers."

The move away from animal-protein, which is resource-intensive to grow and raise, making it a leading cause of the climate crisis, has helped Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods make headway into new markets. Starbucks in China has started to sell Beyond Meat.

A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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