How The Heat Of Climate Change Is Affecting The Bakery Industry

baker small business owner
baker small business owner - Salomonus_/Getty Images

Many of us are familiar with the knock-on effects of a warming climate, from melting ice caps to the more frequent incidence of severe forest fires. As temperatures continue to climb, we will start to see other unanticipated effects, not just with the production of our favorite food and drink items but how they are prepared as well. Enter the baking industry. Baking requires a high degree of precision and can be difficult even when the environment one works in is stable and predictable. But with the change in the average global temperature (and larger temperature swings in some parts of the world), an additional layer of uncertainty is thrown into the mix.

Bakeries exist everywhere, and the result of a rise or proof of bread dough can vary widely with a few degrees of difference. In 2021, for example, a Chicago bakery was forced to toss out over 2,000 dry, hard croissants and retool their baking recipes due to discernible differences in the product's water and protein content and how it develops gluten. Not only is it becoming more challenging to keep baked goods from over-rising or drying out, but the quality of raw ingredients is suffering in these hotter growing conditions. The E.P.A. has reported that the climate in the lower Midwest region of the U.S. has gotten more precipitation in the winter and less in the summer and that the area in this region where wheat can properly grow has shrunk.

Read more: 11 Cleaning Tips For Keeping Your Oven Spotless

Hot Bread, Hot Bakers

worker at industrial bakery
worker at industrial bakery - Andresr/Getty Images

Don't forget that bakeries are run by people standing in front of hot ovens. Even on a cold day, bakers are feeling the heat. In the summer, when it's already hitting record temperatures, the idea of standing in front of an oven every day that's 500 degrees Fahrenheit is a tough sell. According to a study funded in part by the American Bakers Association, worker shortages in bakeries are the norm, with two-thirds reporting difficulty hiring or a lack of necessary staff. And for those who take these positions, heat-related injuries have become an equally rising threat, as extreme heat causes fatigue and a loss of motor skills.

Climate-controlled spaces — to keep the dough and the workers at an appropriate temperature — are the tech we have to tackle the issue. Still, because many bakeries operate on thin margins, installing or upgrading this equipment is beyond their budget. As bakeries struggle to attract workers and afford increasingly necessary infrastructure, rising wheat prices will likely not improve soon as we add another surprising consequence to a warming planet.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.