Numlock News: August 17, 2020 • Lobsters, Clippers, Chickens

By Walt Hickey

Welcome back!

Meats

Due to restaurant shutdowns, meat and seafood that normally goes for top dollar in restaurants has been redirected to the retail channel, and is in many cases vastly cheaper than normal. About 70 percent of seafood gets eaten outside the home normally, so lobsters are cheaper now without the restaurant mark-up in grocery stores, and with 50 percent of lamb going through the restaurant channel normally, racks of lamb are increasingly accessible: rack of lamb is usually about $20 per pound, but now goes for $13 to $14 per pound. It also means that the cuts of beef that used to be almost solely used in restaurants — short ribs, petite tender, chuck flap, bavette — have found their way to grocery stores.

Julie Kendrick, HuffPost

Bank Error In Your Favor

Back in 2016, Revlon took out an enormous loan that on Wednesday led to lenders suing the beauty company as they feared Revlon was moving assets around, beyond their reach, to use as collateral. This legal fight over hundreds of millions of dollars was developing into a tense standoff, with lenders on one side and private equity-backed Revlon on the other, and then Citigroup apparently goofed up mega-bad and paid $900 million by mistake to the lenders. They claim it was paid due to an “operational error,” and are now very politely asking for their $900 million back.

Becky Yerak and Alexander Gladstone, The Wall Street Journal

Chicken

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service announced last month they are considering allowing poultry plants to process diseased chickens for human consumption, a menu innovation precisely nobody was asking for except “people who sometimes raise diseased chickens.” Today, inspectors have to examine the first 300 birds of a flock for signs of Avian Leukosis, a virus that causes cancerous lesions in chickens. A proposed rule change would eliminate that inspection, and processors would be able to just cut off the lesions. Currently, tens of thousands of chickens are condemned annually due to exposure to the virus. Another proposed rule change would increase the speed of chicken processing lines from 140 birds per minute to 175 birds per minute.

Amanda Little, Bloomberg

Blades

Wahl, which makes clippers and trimmers, normally has around an 80 percent market share in the business of buzzers, and earlier this year they experienced an unheard of explosion in their business when society collectively realized that the shaggy look was unsustainable. In the course of one week, the percentage of households who owned a Wahl clippers increased from 48 percent to 58 percent, with massive consumer demand overwhelming retailers just as their hair professional sales — normally one-third of business — were collapsing. Nevertheless in the initial chaos Wahl ended up losing market share to overseas operations that had kept running, leading to a 17 percent increase in hiring and loads of overtime just to keep up.

Kyle Stock, Bloomberg

Staycation

Fully 63 percent of U.S. adults said they had plans to take a staycation during the pandemic, with 26 percent having already taken one during the pandemic, compared to 17 percent who took a vacation. The staycationers — those realists who rejected false hope instantaneously, immediately wrote the summer off, and promptly made the best of a truly abysmal situation well beyond their control — were led by the Millennials, a generation forged in the fires of crushing societal disappointment, of whom 35 percent have already taken a staycation. I’m a big fan of making the best of it where you live: for instance, I am a news reporter in America, so this weekend I took a scenic jaunt over to the enormous cemetery you drive past on the way to La Guardia Airport, which is pretty much the best I can expect right about now.

Alyssa Meyers, Morning Consult

Spill

The MV Wakashio, a Japanese bulk carrier that ran aground on coral off the coast of Mauritius, has broken in half, according to authorities. Pointe d'Esny where the ship grounded is home to coral reefs, wildlife sanctuaries and critical wetlands. The ship ran aground in late July with 4,000 tonnes of fuel, of which about 3,000 tonnes have been pumped out in recent days. Roughly 90 tonnes of fuel were estimated to still be on the Wakashio, and something like 1,000 tonnes have spilled in a 27 square kilometer area as of August 11.

BBC

Football

The Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences have postponed their fall football seasons, and the impact on university athletics budgets is expected to be apocalyptic. In the 2018-19 school year, Pac-12 athletics departments generated about $1.3 billion for their universities, and Big Ten made about $1.9 billion, and in each case football accounted for the majority, often almost all, of that revenue. Most of the money for the conferences come from multiyear broadcasting rights deals with Fox and ESPN, which pay a collective $5.64 billion to broadcast games that may not in fact occur. If I were a college football player who is not being paid for my work, I would make a mental note of these numbers and work to revisit them at a later time.

Melissa Korn and Rachel Bachman, The Wall Street Journal

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