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Commodity update

Certain agricultural products are staples in your restaurant kitchen. Commodities like meat, nuts, dairy foods, potatoes and other types of produce show up regularly on your order list. Here’s a brief overview of how these ingredients are trending, gleaned from information provided by the commodity boards that serve the growers, ranchers and farmers of these products.

  • Idaho has been the leading volume producer of potatoes in the United States since 1957. In 2011, the state is expected to harvest 325,000 acres of Russets, red potatoes, yellow potatoes and fingerlings. That adds up to about 11 billion pounds— an anticipated 8% increase in volume.
  • About 40% of the crop is sold as fresh potatoes, while the majority of potatoes are sold as frozen, dehydrated and value-added refrigerated product. Pricing should be moderate for the entire crop year for the more popular small and medium sizes; slightly higher for the giant steakhouse potatoes. For more information on potato varieties and availability, click here: http://directory.idahopotato.com/dir_variety_index.php
  • The price of animal proteins is on the rise, and lamb is no exception.  “Prices will continue to be strong in 2012 due to tight supplies on imported lamb and strong demand,” said Megan Wortman, executive director for the Denver, CO-based American Lamb Board.
  • A recent survey conducted by the American Lamb Board found that restaurants are moving beyond rack of lamb, with growing use of alternative or value cuts. “While rack of lamb remains the most popular cut on menus, chefs are utilizing more ground lamb, shoulder, leg and offal,” reports Wortman. For more information and recipes, click on http://www.americanlamb.com
  • Total fresh pear production in Oregon and Washington is expected to increase by 8% from 2010. The 2011 crop estimate is 19.2 million standard box equivalents or 422,166 tons, according to the Pear Bureau Northwest.
     
  • The top three varieties of Oregon and Washington pears are Green Anjou, Bartlett and Bosc. Green Anjou are anticipated to make up 54% of the crop, Bartlett, 19% and Bosc, 15% of the total crop.
     
  • Wisconsin maintained its ranking as the country's top cheese-producing state in 2010, with a total of 2.6 billion pounds, according to the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. While Cheddar and other commodity cheeses remain strong, the state is increasing its production of specialty cheese, defined as a value-added product that commands a premium price.
     
  •  Wisconsin-made specialty cheeses accounted for 552 million pounds in 2010, an increase of 48 million pounds—10%—over 2009. Specialty cheese now accounts for 21% of Wisconsin's total cheese production, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, USDA. The most widely crafted are Blue, Feta, Hispanic types, specialty Mozzarella varieties, Parmesan wheel and specialty Provolone cheeses.
     
  • The almond crop is projected to be a record 1.95 billion pounds this year, notes the Almond Board of California. Operators are using that bounty across all menu categories and dayparts.
     
  • Almonds have a versatile, adaptable taste profile that bridges the flavors of many other ingredients—sweet or savory—without overpowering the application, making them ideal for inclusion in on-the-go snack products. According to a recent study conducted by the Sterling-Rice Group, when consumers were asked to describe their ideal granola bar, participants chose almonds twice as often as other nuts because they believe they are “more nutritious,” “have better crunch,” and “keep me full longer.”  
     
  • The raisin industry is focusing on honoring professional bakers and their raisin recipes. America's 4th annual Best Raisin Bread Contest recently honored 37 finalists, with twelve bakers winning prizes in categories including artisan, commercial, breakfast and student. "The competition has grown each year and attracts the top bakers in America," said Larry Blagg, senior vice president of marketing for the California Raisin Marketing Board, sponsors of the contest.