The Caveman Diet: Should Our Diets Really Evolve?


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I’m the first to admit that I’m not all that hip. Or whatever the term is for someone who is on top of all the current trends, fads or latest really cool things in our modern world. Fetch?

After a lot of practice, I can turn on my home computer, and my in-the-know wife shows me interesting things she finds on Facebook, the Metaverse, and other gateways into the cyber age. But for me, the TV remote control is far more important in my life. Friends tell me this ‘streaming’ thing will allow me to watch Gilligan’s Island, or even the Flintstones, non-stop, if I want.

In short, I’m far from being Joe Cool. And a lot of what goes on around me in this modern age leaves me with a lot of questions.

Foraging for answers

That includes questions about the foods I eat. Most of the ideas about food that I see are driven by some enthusiastic advocate for a healthier diet or a better environment and a sustainable food system, or simply a new taste experience involving strange and exotic ingredients available at very special prices—the labels and messaging are quite frankly overwhelming.

But I have to admit, however, I was truly perplexed when my wife told me we should try the caveman diet. “Now what,” I remember thinking when she first raised my consciousness with this new gastronomic opportunity.

Maybe you already know about the caveman diet.

As I understand it, it basically says you should eat nothing that wasn’t available to our caveman ancestors — and by inference, I suppose, our cavewoman ancestors, too.

Remember, the caveman was a hunter-gatherer who ate what was readily available. And since there were no Walmarts or Krogers on the landscape, that meant a variety of non-processed foods.

Cavemen seemed to rely on what could be hunted or scavenged – a pre-historic reliance on the same organic, free-range, grass-fed food sources so many people today find so appealing.  (I might add “GMO free,” but technically that wouldn’t be correct, since genetic adaptation has been occurring across time, including the caveman era. But that’s another soliloquy for another day.)

In simple terms, it’s a diet rich in protein and low in carbohydrates. Meat and seafood, certainly, but also a lot of nuts, fruits, vegetables, and even eggs, I suppose.

Plan to rely upon a variety of different types of food, and probably smaller portions rather than a single big entrée, like Beef Wellington or Roast Rack of Brachiosaurus, say.

OFF the caveman table: sugar, grains, trans fats and hydrogenated oils, and obviously such modern contrivances as artificial sweeteners, refined oils, and – shudder – alcohol. Another rule of stubby, hairy caveman thumb: never eat anything you can’t pronounce.

The theory seems to be that if it was good enough to drive evolution – and thus to create the marvelous world we have today – it must be a diet of some merit. After all, it served to create robust, dynamic creatures capable of spawning the modern food consumer.

Okay, I’ll give it a shot, I told my wife. She sent me to the local grocery store with a caveman shopping list, which I dutifully filled. But on the way, I stopped at Burger King (and elected to pass on the Impossible Burger, despite the plant-based blessings it promises to deliver) and pondered the implications of all this on how I make my food decisions moving forward. Several thoughts crossed my mind as I ate my double bacon cheeseburger and absent-mindedly munched on my large fries and soothed the sensation of hot food with a cool chocolate frosty shake.

Healthy – and ‘ethical’?

Every day, I seem to hear more advice from self-appointed “experts” and social warriors about what is not just healthy for me but healthy for our planet and our society. I should follow this diet or that diet because it is not just good for my body, but somehow more ‘ethical’ because it supposedly aligns with some societal value judgment. To some, feeding me with the foods I need – and want – isn’t the right way to think about diet. If I don’t agree with someone’s definition of ‘ethical,’ I’m not eating ‘right’ and I must be a bad person?

The enthusiasm I heard for the caveman diet makes me ponder that moral issue yet again. Advocates seem to imply that a caveman diet – with its focus on ‘natural’ foods – is somehow a more ethical food decision. It’s more in line with what our body naturally tells us about what we should eat – what is right, on multiple levels.

If I follow the caveman diet because it is natural and responsive to my body’s essential needs, how do I know what else might be in my best dietary interests? If caveman theory is correct, am I supposed to listen to what my body tells me and eat accordingly? If so, what part of my body do I listen to? And is it okay to consider the other lessons I might learn from my body that might be nutritionally and ethically ‘right’ for me?

What Does My Body Tell Me?

Let’s begin with the obvious starting point: my mouth.

Yes, I have a mouthful of molars that obviously tell me to eat lots of food I can grind up – exactly the fruits, vegetables, and other things that call out to me to be chewed and chewed and chewed some more.

But I also have incisors that do more than make me look like an adolescent or excessively-aged Dracula. They are there to tear and rip things like meat.

Once it might have been an animal carcass. Today it could be a nice filet.

Just a few inches north, my head contains just enough gray matter to let me know how important it is to satisfy my basic nutritional needs and to avoid over-eating – especially those things like chocolate cheesecake and deep-fried Oreos and melt-in-your-mouth sugary donuts and chili-cheese dogs and all the other foods that sustained me in high school and college.

But I also have these taste buds just below that say “oh go ahead…you know you want it, and you’ve earned it. I’m not going to shut up until you do what I say, and you know it, so get on with it. And do you want your golf buddies to think you are some kind of food wuss?

After all, I have this marvelous thing called a stomach, full of the digestive juices and enzymes capable of breaking down almost anything I can shove down there, in remarkable quantities. There are all sorts of other organs that seem to serve mainly to help that process along, transforming the raw materials into nutrients and speeding the removal of what might be left over. If it isn’t needed or might otherwise be bad for me, there are all sorts of other parts down there to deal with that, too.

So why not listen to the taste buds? Or why not at least keep an open dialogue going between the brain and the mouth?

And don’t forget something else my body tells me. Diet and exercise go hand in hand. It’s remarkable how much better I feel when I’m physically active, and especially so when I have the discipline to combine intellect and physicality with appetite in reasonable balance. I bet our culinary caveman also spent a good deal of time running – either chasing down food or trying not to become food. There’s a valuable lesson there, I suspect.

Modernizing the Caveman Menu

While I ponder that lesson, a lot of other people have been hard at work with their own evaluations of the caveman diet.

Vegans jumped in with the idea of a “Pegan “diet – an approach that builds on the basic principles of the caveman diet to focus on whole foods and cut out as many high-sodium, high-sugar foods as possible. Peganism blends the paleolithic diet with veganism to suggest a diet of three-quarters fruits and veggies and a quarter meat and eggs. The goal seems to be a diet that reduces the total calories we consume, with all the attendant benefits commonly associated with weight loss.

The anthropological set has weighed in with its own assessment of what the paleolithic-era diet actually entailed. According to these experts, the caveman diet was far more plant-based than originally thought. Apparently, my ancestors shared my athletic shortcomings and profound inability to run down mastodons and gazelles or almost any other life form. Presumably by scavenging, they managed both to consume only 3 percent or so of their daily diet as meat – and to avoid stomachs that hung over their fur belts.

As usual, the academic community quibbles over the exact percentage with the fervor of a religious zealot. But I’m prepared to accept the general principle that a caveman diet entails a good deal less meat than my insatiable youthful cravings for bacon cheeseburgers, wings, and corn dogs.

I’m far more interested in other studies from the academic and medical worlds that compare the caveman diet with other popular dietary regimes, such as the Mediterranean diet.

As best I can interpret the results, these studies seem to say that any diet that promotes a nutritionally-balanced diet for attaining and maintaining a healthy weight is a good thing.

Maybe something equally important to me also jumped out from the studies: any diet that creates a nutritional imbalance may not be such a good thing. So if I embrace the caveman approach, I can probably give up my afternoon Dr. Pepper habit. But if I avoid milk and dairy products, I also have to ask myself where I’m going to get the calcium and Vitamin D I need for good bones. If I cut out legumes, am I losing many of the minerals and fibers and plant-based proteins I need to help manage my cholesterol?

In other words, the most important element of the caveman diet might be my brain…far more than my stomach or other digestive organs. Look at all the evidence.

Think.

That’s what being an intelligent non-caveman is all about – using our hard-won intellect to ask the right questions and make informed choices.

When in Doubt, Moderation

If my brain and the rest of my body all work together on this thing we call diet and health, we might just be on to something important here. In the absence of absolute truth, perhaps a reasonable approach might rest in simple moderation. If you can find the science or authority figure you need to give you complete certainty in any single dietary approach, then by all means go for it (and share it with us for that matter!). But until you find that certainty, balance what all parts of your body are telling you with simple moderation.

For me, bring on the occasional chili dog. But just not too many of them. I’ll eat the plant-based protein, too. I just won’t proselytize that it is the only food or even the only right food. As our body seems to suggest, there may not be any one perfect diet or any one solution to the quest for dietary health we all share. As the old adage goes, let’s not let our quest for perfection become the enemy of the good. 

Trading Carbon and Talking Plants


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Over the holiday break, my family was lucky enough to escape Omicron and go to the Virgin Islands. Some of us went diving a few times. On our various dives, we saw a wreck from 1867, colorful coral fish, barracuda, a shark, and even an octopus.

Afterward, as we sat on the beach with cold drinks, we enjoyed looking at the crystal blue water and the sailboats bobbing up and down. I thought to myself, if you didn’t spend time underwater, you would never understand what was beneath the seemingly benign surface.

The same can be said for soil.

As you drive or fly over the countryside, you’ll see picturesque farms and beautiful landscapes. And underneath, there is a dynamic, ever-changing microbial environment that affects our health and the Earth’s environment. The world of soil that supports everything green – including 95% of our food– is just as hidden as the abandoned ships and fish beneath the waves.

And just like ocean life, soil is critical to our future. Healthy soil has a tremendous benefit besides growing our food: it efficiently stores carbon, cleans our water, and give us the nutrients we need in our food.

Saving the soil for future generations

As a civilization, we have degraded our soils up to 10 times the rate of rebuilding. Since we have been farming the prairies, the Nature Conservatory reports that the U.S. has lost about 60% of its original organic carbon content in the soil. In the days of the buffalo, the United States had 18 inches in topsoil; today, on average, there is around eight inches. Future generations are facing climate change, nutrition security, and soil degradation.

Yet all is not lost. It is ironic that as we search for a climate change solution, we also urgently need to save our soil. The challenge today is to produce more food for more people with less land under plow with degraded soils, using less water and fewer energy resources. Soil carbon sequestration seems to be an answer for both.

In a previous D2D post, we addressed trading carbon credits between those who emit carbon and those who sequester carbon. According to Carbon Credit Capital, a company that matches carbon emissions with carbon capture programs, the average American emits about 20 tons of carbon each year, equivalent to driving 48,000 miles in a car. To find your carbon emissions, the EPA has a household carbon footprint calculator.

As a solution to climate change, farmers and ranchers are encouraged to measure the carbon they are pulling out of the air and storing in the ground as they grow their crops. They can sell this carbon in the form of a carbon credit.

In a quick search online, I found a couple of examples, one being Truterra, a farmer-driven sustainability platform. They work with farmers to evaluate carbon sequestering practices and match those who believe in the power of ‘farm-to-form’ and are looking to buy carbon credits. Indigo Ag contracts carbon agreements with farmers and identifies buyers to sell credits.

We wondered: What does all this additional carbon do to the soil?

Carbon’s critical role with soil

Carbon is present in every living thing – and it has helped the Earth thrive for the past 3.5 billion years. Plants and trees need CO2.

Someone once told me that our food system is just the commercialization of photosynthesis. Plants absorb sunlight, carbon dioxide (CO2), and water (H2O) to create their own energy.

Plants release the oxygen back into the air (luckily for us, as we need it to breathe). The water absorbed by leaves acts as a transport system to bring carbon down through the leaves to the roots and then into the soil.

Looking underneath the surface, you need a microscope to see the diversity of life. There are more organisms in a single teaspoon of healthy soil than people on our planet!

Soil is full of minerals, organic material, living organisms, gas, and water. One could call it the Earth’s brain, teeming with algae, fungi, nematodes, and bacteria that all merge together to give the plants nutrients.

CO2 is the nutrient that gets pulled down through the roots – a liquid carbon pathway. Plants convert this to sugars which feed the microbiome. The more food the plant provides to the microbiome, the more prolific the root system.

Plants and their microbiome have a symbiotic partnership that enables both to thrive. The plants feed the microbes in the soil. In return, the microbes in the soil feed the plants, much as our gut hosts the individual variety of microbiomes that give us antibodies to fight illness.

Each plant hosts their unique microbial community that surrounds its roots. This is called the rhizosphere – an area looking much like an old-fashioned hairnet, holding 100 times more microbes than in the surrounding soil. It is one of the most biodiverse and dynamic habitats on earth!

Part of the rhizosphere’s community is the mycorrhizal fungi. They increase the amount of space in the soil where the plant can take up nutrients and water.

Carbon as plant food

The more carbon a plant has, the more carbon it pulls out of the air. Carbon helps feed the microbes that keep plants healthy. Basically, the plants ‘pour’ carbon in the form of carbohydrate-rich exudates into the rhizosphere and the surrounding community of mycorrhizal fungi.

Plants and mycorrhizal fungi have had a relationship for 475 million years, working together to influence the Earth’s biosphere.

This partnership can reduce CO2 levels by 90%.

The higher the chlorophyll content in the leaf, the higher the rate of photosynthesis, the more carbon pulled out of the air, and the more mycorrhizal fungi. And so the cycle continues.

The plants then feed the beneficial microbes. The exude is a blend of amino acids, vitamins, and phytochemicals. The microbes hungrily consume this cocktail of nutrients. In return, these microbes protect and defend the plant from pathogens wanting to take them down.

As David Montgomery and Anne Bikle so eloquently explain in their book, The Hidden Half of Nature:

“Plants can’t run or hide but they have defensive strategies such as botanical swords (thorns) and shields (waxy leaf cuticles). Microbial recruits do the job below ground, taking on the role of palace guards to protect their botanical ally. Imagine a plant’s root system as a castle in an underground landscape harboring microbial bandits and invaders.

In this way, plants use carbohydrates (and other compounds) that only they can make to attract and build a community of microbial bodyguards that displace, deter, or take our microbial enemies.

Did you know the carbon in soil enables plants and trees to communicate with each other? As we learned, carbon increases the microbial community. The mycorrhizal fungi can move through the soil and deliver phosphorus to areas of scarcity, letting fungi receive carbon.

This allows plants to have their own secret language through 100 different chemical signals among the microbes in the rhizosphere. They warn each other about pests and fungi so they can put up a protective defense.

What type of farming best suits carbon sequestration?

In part, sequestering carbon is why regenerative agriculture has shown such success to both the plants and the soil. Certainly, pulling carbon out of the air and into the soil is the most efficient way to sequester carbon.

But another entry point for carbon to make its way into the soil is through no-till agriculture. By not turning over the soil with a plow, the organic material remains on the surface, protects the soil from blowing away, and helps it to absorb water. As it decays into the ground, it produces carbon as a nutrient for the soil.

Regenerative agriculture also includes planting cover crops to keep the soil safely covered from erosion and to maintain a living root system in the soil to provide adequate carbon nutrition levels for the hungry microbial communities. Farmers also rotate their crops each year which increases plant and microbial diversity in the soil.

Gabe Brown, a prominent regenerative farmer from North Dakota has increased the carbon and the yield on his farm. You can see the carbon increase as he layered in cover crops, diverse crops, and livestock.

This brings to mind what Dave Albert, from Misty Mountain Farms, said when he drives by his neighbor’s farms, “You can tell a farm has unhealthy soil when there is a lot of mud on the road after a rain — a sign that the soil quality has deteriorated so much that it simply just washes away.”

The agricultural system is a marvel – and the future of our society.

Solving the riddle of climate change – and defining the role of healthy soil in that solution – won’t come about by the efforts of any single government agency, global company, or the efforts of just one person. All have a role to play, certainly. But a solution will come about through a collaborative and cooperative effort across every part of our modern food chain.

How can we help?

The farmer is the foundation for that work. The people who are farming today are on the front lines in combating climate and nutritional deficiencies in the soil. What is done on the farm or ranch to enrich soil (and to protect our air and water) make up the building blocks of the solution. Farming and the ag community are both a positive influence to improve global warming, as well as ensure nutrition for our plants and us.

Your part in helping farmers capitalize on their carbon sequestration is to look at carbon credits to help offset your carbon emissions. McKinsey estimates that in 2020, buyers retired carbon credits for about 95 million tons of CO2. By 2030, they predict the annual demand could go up to 1.5 to 2.0 gigatons of carbon. Or, put another way, the market could be between $20-50 billion.

This is one more situation where we can unite around food. Governments, businesses, and consumers can encourage the efforts made by farmers by rewarding responsible soil-health practices. It is both individual efforts and collaborative achievement that gives us the most modern and efficient food system in history. We got there as a united country.

Ukraine: Quiet Pawn in Quest for Food Security


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What is at issue here? Why is Ukraine valuable?

The current tensions can be traced to a complex combination of geography, history, and geopolitics.

Ukraine is more than just the second-largest country in Europe, with a total area only slightly smaller than the entire state of Texas. It exists at a critical juncture between Europe and Asia – a geographic gateway between two cultures opening all the social, commercial and other opportunities created by trade and political interaction.

To begin, Ukraine offers an abundance of natural resources, including agricultural products such as corn and oilseeds, minerals and other staples of living. Its central location between European and Asian markets makes it a natural source of supply in both directions. Its river system and access to warm-water ports promise steady and reliable delivery.

And as any student of history will attest, such conditions attract a lot of outside interest. The roster of countries seeking to control or occupy Ukraine is a who’s-who of history: Scythians, Samaritans, Romans and many others figure into the country’s long national story.

In the 9th century, different Baltic cultures formed what came to be known as “Kievan Rus” – the first eastern Slavic state, centered in what is now the modern city of Kiev, and in the 11th and 12th centuries one of the most dominant states in all of Europe.

The name became the root word of the modern state of Russia, and by the 18th century, Ukraine was absorbed into the Russian empire. When the Soviet Union dissolved, Ukraine gained its official independence. In 2004, Ukrainians took to the streets in an “Orange Revolution” to demand western-style changes to national government, and in 2014 launched the Maidan Revolution to oust a pro-Soviet government.

But Russia and Ukraine have remained intertwined nonetheless, as progressive, independence-minded Ukrainians clash with a significant portion of the country’s population that retains lingering affinity for their Russian heritage and the old Soviet ways of doing things.

Official estimates say as much as 17% of Ukrainians still speak Russian as their first language, especially in the eastern and southern areas proximate to the Russian border. Unofficial observers contend as much as one-third of the Ukrainian population retain a sense of Russian identity. Regardless of the actual numbers, the Russian presence in Ukraine in both body and spirit remains very much alive.

That reality has played out in the continuing uprisings regarding election results and the unchallenged re-annexation of Crimea by Russia in early 2014, immediately following the ouster of the pro-Soviet government. Crimea was part of the Russian Empire since 1783, and Kremlin officials used many familiar arguments of history and residual identity to justify the militarily unchallenged occupation.

What’s behind Russia’s aggressive posture?

Modern diplomacy would hold that the rest of the world should leave it to the Ukrainians to determine their own future. But as current events and the Crimean example indicate, larger forces are at play.

From the Russian perspective, much of Ukraine remains Russian and should be reunited with their natural and preferred choice in identity. Perhaps more important to Kremlin leaders, Russia simply can’t allow a further drift of neighboring, and former Russian, countries toward the West.

Soviet (and now Russian) geopolitical strategy long emphasized the need and value of a ring of buffer states between the “Mother Country and the decadent West.” The fall of the Berlin Wall ushered in an age of independence, notably still vibrant in the Baltic states. The idea of Ukraine remaining neutral or uncommitted to the West might be tolerable to Russian leaders. But a clear shift to the West by a massive and economically vital neighboring country in such a critical geographic position – through stronger economic ties, or worse, through membership in NATO – is simply unacceptable.

The fear of losing control of a country so rich in industry, agriculture and energy is a foundational geopolitical interest – and would prevent Russia’s status as a true superpower, not just in Asia but all of Eastern Europe as well.

So where does agriculture fit into the picture?

In many respects, Russia’s geopolitical ambitions mask a less visible but important issue in the Ukrainian conflict. It’s food security.

The world needs more food every day. Countries worldwide are hard at work thinking about how to assure access to enough food for their citizens. Many are actually hard at work doing something about it. And many of those see the enormous potential role Ukraine could play in that food security paradigm.

Ukraine’s most productive agricultural regions claim as much as a quarter of the earth’s “black soil.”

Often referred to as “chernozem,” this soil is built up over centuries of the growth and decomposition of grasslands, leaving a deep layer (10 inches or more) of soil rich in organic carbon. By comparison, the U.S. Midwest is down to about 3 inches. Beyond its highly fertile qualities, the unique nature of the soil often minimizes the need for extensive plowing or tilling.

As a result, the soil has maintained its fertility, making Ukraine one of the breadbaskets of the world growing corn, oilseeds, wheat, and barley.

This important agricultural production advantage has made Ukraine a significant factor in the global agricultural system – despite some lingering problems with how the production system is managed.

A Snapshot of Ukrainian Agriculture

  • 33% of total population engaged in agriculture (17.5 million)
  • 80 million acres arable land (#10 globally, #3 as % of all available land)
  • Average topsoil carbon content: 2.3% of weight (US 1.5%, Argentina 1.5%, Brazil 1.2%, Australia 0.6%)
  • Crops 72%, animals 28% of all ag output
  • 45,000 ag enterprises (55% gross output), 4 million farming households
  • $22.2 billion in ag esports 2020 (45% of all exports)
  • #1 exporter of sunflower oil, #4 in corn and barley, #6 in wheat, #7 soybeans (2017)
  • Major export partners: #1 Russia, #2 China, #3 Poland
  • Imports fish, fruit & nuts, tobacco and various other food ingredients, roughly half from EU, one-quarter from Asia
  • Major import partners: #1 China, #2 Russia, #3 Germany, #4 Poland (energy)
  • 10-12% of GDP (3rd largest economic sector); estimated 9.3% Covid year 2020
  • Largest export category (2x larger than next category, metals)

– Sources for data: National Investment Council of Ukraine; International Trade Administration; www.trade.gov

The transition from the state-managed approach of the old Soviet Union days has been a difficult and often frustratingly slow process. Despite ambitious plans to modernize the system to capitalize on the country’s enormous natural advantages, political resistance to change remains firmly in place in select areas, notably among some officials still rooted in the philosophy of the old Soviet-controlled system.

Civil unrest and outright street battles between independence-minded progressives and traditionalists still clinging to a Russian heritage haven’t helped attract investment or accelerate comprehensive change.

But the protracted political back-and-forth can’t mask Ukraine’s enormous productive potential – and the role the country could play in meeting the food security goals of major international players, such as Russia and China. In addition to the geopolitical ambitions of so many countries, the attractiveness of Ukraine as a major source of food needs can’t be overstated.

Studies by academicians and various international organizations vary in their estimates of just how much untapped potential resides with Ukraine’s agricultural sector. One analysis reported by the International Trade Association placed just the country’s total grain output potential at 140 million tons – more than 60% above current levels. Improvements in production of food and feed grains could pave the way to similar explosions in productivity in the production of oilseeds, animal proteins, vegetable crops – and more.

In other words, despite all the problems created by its political and sociological history, Ukraine is a significant factor in the global agricultural picture.

The productive potential still present in the country has attracted the active interest of any number of people, commercial organizations and governments concerned with long-term food security.

Remember, nations can exert control through many means, not just the use of military force. Economic ties also can bind nations together, and both Russia and China have been actively seeking to use economics as well as troops as a key part of their foreign policy agenda. Note that over the past three years, Russia has quietly assumed the role of Ukraine’s number-one trading partner and largest export market. China is number two.

How does this affect me?

Political disputes and threats of conflict are nothing new, and it’s easy to dismiss something unfolding halfway around the world from our dinner tables. But we all have a stake in how this is resolved. Make no mistake, Russia and China are searching to expand their borders and food security cannot be taken lightly. If Russia succeeds in dominating Ukraine, when and where does it stop?

From Russia’s perspective:

  • National security
  • International standing
  • Practical economics: access to energy, food, minerals
  • Food security

From the West’s perspective:

  • National sovereignty
  • Human rights and self-determination
  • East-West balance
  • Investment/economic opportunity

And for the food consumer…

The immediate risks to the average food consumer are small. Our global food system continues to function well overall. As important as Ukraine is on the global food system, any significant disruptions to the global food picture are unlikely.

The bigger risk is long-term consequences of outright conflict and punitive economic sanctions. Conflict in any part of the Middle East could easily lead to further complications in unraveling the supply chain issues still lingering post-Covid. Higher energy costs in particular would work through the food system (and the entire economy), raising the prices we pay every day.

There’s also the risk of unintended consequences. Past international disputes have led to punitive actions that proved counterproductive in the long term. For instance, Germany halting the Nor Stream 2 pipeline, which brings natural gas from Russia to Europe, could influence natural gas prices around the world.

Restrictions on the flow of money and goods are double-edged swords. Ask any farmer how well past trade embargoes and trade restrictions have worked for producers and rural communities – and how those costs rippled back through the food system. Food consumers need to call for cool heads to prevail in international disputes, for everyone’s sake.

5 Big Questions for 2022

Whether you’re looking for quick information, or want something to impress your friends at dinner, here’s our Featured 5 of the Week!

Each year brings new innovations in the food and agriculture world, and this year is no different. But figuring out what to expect in 2022 takes some thoughtful consideration with each important question. Here are the five major ones we have:

1. What are the trade implications for Xi and Putin?

These two leaders are looking for homogamy and to expand their borders through military presence and social and economic pressure. What will this mean for trade, tariffs, and agribusiness?

2. What does food security mean for China and the rest of the world?

Our world is growing…and fast. By 2050, the global population is expected to increase to nearly 10 billion people. How will a country like China, that exports over $26 billion from the United States in the ag market, find food security in 2022?

3. How can we sustainably feed the world without expanding agriculture’s footprint?

The cattle industry along with farmers and ranchers everywhere have come under attack for emitting methane and contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. What innovations will help us reach carbon-neutral agriculture?

4. Will regenerative agriculture scale to make a meaningful difference in creating and building up our soil?

More and more farmers are turning to regenerative agriculture because it allows them to grow more nutritious food with healthier soil. But is it enough? How many farmers will it take to make a real difference?

5. What does the future hold for the alternative protein industry?

As alternatives to chicken, pork, beef, and eggs, more companies are creating or promoting plant-based options. Will these proteins continue to be adopted by the consumer? Are we coming closer to a world where these animal-based proteins are significantly displaced?

We’ve got questions for you, 2022…

Dear D2D Readers,

We have rounded the corner of the New Year. While we don’t have a crystal ball, we are curious about what the future will hold for food and agriculture as it continues to innovate with new technologies, advances in scientific discoveries, and better information along the value chain from the farmer to the consumer.

Governments and companies are changing the way we address food security, the environment, and consumer health. At D2D, we have covered some of these subjects previously but are now looking harder at how the future will be shaped by those who grow, trade, process, and consume food.

Here are the key questions we see shaping agriculture and our food system in 2022. We’ve included a few links to our previous posts to provide some background information on these topics, but only by exploring ideas can we find meaningful solutions to these challenging questions.

Geopolitical: Trade

What are the trade implications of Xi and Putin, leaders who are looking for homogamy, to expand their borders through military presence as well as social and economic pressure? What does that mean for tariffs, trade, and agribusiness overall? What food and agriculture imports and exports with the United States prevent them from going too far?

As countries expand their reach to acquire cornerstone commodities such as energy, food, and rare minerals, what will be the U.S. and European response? Are sanctions enough?

What does food security mean for China and the rest of the world?

What does agriculture look like in a communist, socialist, and democratic country? What works and what doesn’t? What lessons can we learn from Venezuela?

What does the United States trade? What are the interesting storylines with imports and exports?  What happens in those different markets?

What role does the FDA and USDA play? What does the consumer need from government regulators?

Climate & Agriculture

How can we sustainably feed the world without expanding agriculture’s footprint?

The cattle industry is under attack for emitting methane. What innovations will continue to improve feed digestibility and methane digesters for cattle and dairy?  What is the role of cattle for grasslands and soil?

Will carbon become a new currency? Will the consumer be trading carbon credits? Will the farmer benefit from sequestering carbon in their fields? What are the economic implications along the entire food value chain – from dirt to dinner?

Will regenerative agriculture scale to make a meaningful difference in creating and building up our soil? Can large-scale farming truly sequester carbon?

How will our understanding of the soil and human gut microbiome give us better farming practices as well as nutritional health?

How are the Environmental, Social, and Governance goals of companies changing how food is grown? What are the implications to both the farmer and the consumer?

How soon will rural America have access to stronger internet, such as broadband?

Consumers: Health & Nutrition

Which companies reward their employees to make the connection between the food they eat and health care costs? By focusing on employee and family food plans, which companies have alleviated short-term sick days and long-term illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and cancer?

What advances in genetics will help scientists and doctors tailor nutrition for individual needs?

Will food continue to unite us culturally and individually or simply become another means of highlighting our different agendas and interests?

What does the future hold for the alternative protein industry? Will they continue to be adopted by the consumer?  Will they significantly displace dairy, poultry, beef, and pork? Will the consumer adopt them wholeheartedly or will people eat a mix of proteins? Which countries have the most innovation and acceptance?

What will the aquaculture industry look like? Will the consumer demand more transparency on imported, wild-caught, or farmed fish?

Consumers want to know where their food comes from. What advancements will be made regarding food traceability? Blockchain, DNA testing, and sensors for animal traceability are just a few of the technologies that will bring full disclosure to the consumer.

How can the food system shape and create a healthy narrative for the consumer? Which companies are taking the lead in creating healthy and ‘good for you’ foods that can be found in the center of the grocery aisle?

Home delivery is not just the milkman or your favorite Instacart shopper. What are creative and innovative delivery solutions for both groceries and take-out meals?

What are you particularly concerned about as we move into 2022? Write to us at [email protected]om to add in your own ideas!