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Russia-Ukraine tensions have been darkening the mood of the stock market lately, although historically geopolitics don’t seem to put much of a dent into US returns.
We found a sunny-side-up business story buried in the food headlines about Super Bowl spreads, avocado shortages, and Valentine’s chocolates. It was a feature from AP about cage-free eggs becoming the norm in the US.
The percentage of hens in cage-free housing has reportedly gone from just 4% a little over a decade ago to 28% in 2020, and is expected to reach 70% in the next four years. We don’t know how much happier these chickens are, but it’s an important first-step. This about-face from the industry, which initially fought to increase the size of the cages, is attributed to many years of stockholder and stakeholder pressure (see last week’s edition for a refresher on the power you have as an investor). In short, companies got the message that it's what the customers want and they are willing to pay for it. Bringing the old way of doing things into today’s modern age of mass production required a lot of engineering, labor, and investment dollars, but change is here.
It's safe to say that what’s going to be different on our plates in the next decade is also being decided right now by customers, activist and investor pressure, and human ingenuity. We’re seeing tech and a sustainability focus from consumers drive changes in many areas with plant-based or lab-raised meat, low-waste packaging, electronic monitoring replacing stalls, and even farming.
There are a number of publicly traded agriculture companies that have strong ESG ratings from MSCI and agrotechnology (“agtech”) startups raised nearly $5 billion in funding in 2021, up from $3.3 billion in 2020 and $1.7 billion in 2019. According to Crunchbase, more than $1 billion of private investment has been sown into the sector in the first month-plus of this year. “One of those main reasons the sector finally seems to have taken root with investors is the changing buying habits of millennials in particular and people in general when it comes to their food’s taste, nutrition and sustainability,” says the story. Further proof that you as an investor and consumer can make an impact on the issues you care about.
News you can use
- It was all about the tech of the future at the Super Bowl this year, with numerous electric vehicle, cryptocurrency and metaverse (and anti-metaverse) ads. The EV push resulted in the most climate mentions at any Super Bowl ever.
- Scientists at a laboratory in Oxford, UK extracted a record-amount of sustained nuclear fusion energy in a breakthrough for the low-carbon technology. Nuclear fusion (combining atoms) is said to be safer than the nuclear fission (splitting atoms) process currently used in plants. We hope they celebrated with a pint at the local pub. Read our breakdown on nuclear energy here.
- Congress just delivered a major win to employees with sexual assault and sexual harassment claims. A landmark bill that bans forced arbitration and allows survivors to choose to go to court will be signed into law by the president soon. The Justice Department says the win rate for workers forced into arbitration was less than 2% in 2020.