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Unfinished Beef

As has been the case in recent weeks, the Nasdaq continues to pull ahead of both the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average. This isn’t a surprise as artificial intelligence (AI) continues to drive the frenzied activity of investors who are gobbling up technology companies without regard to fundamentals or price.  However, that’s not to say they are foolish in chasing these companies.  The growth in generative AI is happening faster than anyone expected.  As we approach a world in which AI is unavoidable in our homes and workplaces, those companies that deliver on the promise will reap the vast rewards.  We are living through a transformation that will rival the industrial revolution itself.  Historians may look back on the first part of the 21st century as a landmark shift in how we work and live much like we view the start of the 20th century.

Along those lines, I read this week that convenience is one of the most important factors influencing consumer purchasing decisions.  Let that sink in for a moment.  Historically, consumers have put a premium on value or price and sometimes quality or exclusivity.  However, something shifted during the pandemic.  If we’re being honest, a lot shifted during the pandemic including working from home, civil discourse online, the polarization of society, and the apparent inability to share the road with our neighbors.  But the real surprise is how we now consume.  From DoorDash to Uber Eats, we increasingly seem to be looking for easy.  Amazon has filled that role for a long time, but it now appears this demand for convenience is finding its way into more and more of our lives. One analyst said, “Allowing consumers to save time and make life easier is a valuable product.”  That’s food for thought.

On a slightly different topic, we learned that RTX (formerly Raytheon Technologies) is being sued for allegations of age discrimination.  “Americans are living and working longer than ever, yet unfair and discriminatory hiring practices are keeping older workers from jobs they’re qualified for,” William Rivera, senior VP for litigation at AARP, said in a statement.  In this age of DEI, it seems the last acceptable form of discrimination is that of older workers.  I bring this up because I know a lot of people plan on working later in life.  In fact, whether explicitly or implicitly, our government wants workers to work longer as it tries to increase the full retirement age for Social Security.  This comes at a time when fewer people have adequate savings to maintain their lifestyle in retirement, voluntary or otherwise.  If your idea is to continue working into your 70’s and 80’s, your employer may have other plans.  It’s never too late to find ways to pare back spending, save a bit more, and review your retirement plan with your advisor.

Back when plant-based meats were being introduced to us, I often wrote about them in this weekly recap.  The nature of these products was new and revolutionary, if not a bit strange.  However, it quickly became apparent that while they are not meat-based, they aren’t necessarily healthier.  We learned this week that ultra-processed foods made from plants increased the risk of cardiovascular disease by 5% while increasing the risk of early death by 13%, according to a joint study by the Imperial College London and the University of Sao Paulo.  Before you say, yeah but… The study assessed the diets of more than 118,000 people from Britain between the ages of 40 to 69 years old.  Before you come after me with pitchforks, it still holds true that a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables does reduce heart disease-related deaths.  Just don’t eat the ultra-processed stuff and you’ll be fine.  That goes for all food I suppose.

In closing, now that I ruined your plant-based nuggets, I should mention that Joey Chestnut has been banned from the annual Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest this Fourth of July, as the 16-time champion is now representing another brand.  What is this brand and why the consternation?  According to ESPN, Chestnut agreed to a sponsorship deal with Impossible Foods which makes plant-based alternatives to meat and fish, including plant-based hot dogs.  Fortunately for us, and perhaps Joey himself, Nathan’s Hot Dogs and Major League Eating will gladly take him back when he is not representing a rival brand.  And to my surprise, Nathan’s hot dogs are manufactured by Smithfield which is a subsidiary of a Chinese meat and food processing company.  So much for Fourth of July celebrations around the grill!  Now you know. 

Bruce J. Mason, MBA