Your Views on Food Information Credibility


Thanks to all of you who responded to our recent survey on credibility and trustworthiness regarding our food and the food system that produces it. You spoke up loud and clear, with firm points of view and some insightful comments.

Since we began Dirt to Dinner years ago, you have made it very clear how important it is to have timely, accurate, and believable information about food. But to be of value to you, our information must be credible. You want us to meet your standards and expectations. We must work constantly to make sure we understand what enables our posts and other information to do that. That’s what our survey wanted to explore.

The findings

Here is a recap of the top-line findings from our survey – and some of the comments you made about this important subject.

Our survey focused on a few simple questions:

  1. What are your major sources of information about food and our food system?
  2. How do you rank those sources for credibility and trustworthiness?
  3. What are the major factors you use in assessing credibility and trustworthiness?

We will take a look at your responses below. But first, let’s take a step back and set the stage with a few general observations about the big messages within all the numbers.

First, who you know counts most.

You told us that your greatest sense of credibility and trust comes from people you know best or people and organizations that you already know.

People matter more than institutions, like businesses or big or distant organizations. The closer the personal relationship to the source of information, the greater the trust and credibility. First-hand information from actual people is valued far more than indirect, impersonal pronouncements from faceless institutions.

Second, credentials matter. 

When it comes to understanding our food – especially things like health and nutrition – professional standing means a great deal. You trust scientists, educators, doctors, and healthcare professionals. Close behind, you once again value the opinion of people close to you, notably family and friends.

None of that is a big surprise…but the gap between the credibility and trustworthiness of those groups compared with other sources of information was significant. We’ll look into that below.

Next, the facts…

Science and objectivity that so often come with credentials are paramount.

Credentialed people are seen to be driven by reason rather than emotion. Facts count, and impartial analysis of those facts is critical to presenting informed judgments. Fairness and impartiality are cornerstones of trust. And once again, people close to you – friends and family again – are known well enough to provide a greater degree of trust than strangers.

…and the farmers.

You trust the people who actually produce the food far more than most others along the chain from dirt to dinner.

When it comes to food, farmers are in elite company. You indicated an innate willingness to trust people at the front lines of providing us with the food we need.  Farmers and ranchers rank competitively with scientists, healthcare professionals, and educators as preferred sources of information.  People who have actually lived within the world of agriculture matter more to you than those who haven’t.

And some things that just jumped out at us:

  • The more distant and impersonal the source of information, the lower the level of credibility and trustworthiness. Businesses and business leaders, advertisers, industry and special interest groups, and to a certain extent government institutions, fared relatively poorly in your assessment of their credibility and trustworthiness as an information source.
  • Search engines, social media and podcasts seem to be important, but not yet as important as other valued sources of information. Most source categories in our survey generated strong opinion one way or another about their importance in shaping credibility and trust. But search engines and social media showed a remarkable balance between being “extremely important” or “not at all important.”
  • For all the criticism heaped upon our modern media, you indicated that national and local media remain an important source of information for you. Cable television sources, however, fared very poorly in our survey for credibility and trustworthiness.  Once again, it appears that sources who do the best job of establishing some form of quasi-personal or ‘family-like’ connection with viewers fare better than loud, argumentative, and clearly opinionated talking heads.

The ‘Uh-ohs’

We tested the same issues with a slightly different focus to assess the consistency of opinion.

  • Some of the lowest rankings for trustworthiness on food-related matters include ads, media personalities, social media influencers, and government officials:

  • Some of the lowest rankings for credibility on food-related matters include celebrities and influencers, corporations, and environmental groups.

Compare the low-ranked sources of information with those ranking highest in trust in the above chart: scientists/researchers (77% trust), friends & family (71%), and doctors/healthcare professionals (68%).

…and credibility in the information reported from educational institutions (73% credible) and farm/trade organizations (74%).

Respondent comments

Many of you also had your own personal comments to make about the survey and what’s important to you about your information sources when it comes to food. Here is just a sampling of what you had to say:

Bringing it back to D2D

Thank you once again for helping us with our continuous efforts to make Dirt-to-Dinner better and better. Your opinions are some of the most helpful guides we have to identify the kinds of posts you value, the sources we rely upon and the standards we set for the content we produce. With your help, we’ll make our site the most credible and trusted source of information about food and our food system available anywhere. To view charts derived from the survey data, please click here.

Have a wonderful 4th of July!

– The Dirt to Dinner Team

Eating for Healthy Mitochondria

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Are you ready for a pop quiz? Which bodily component is responsible for producing over 90% of the energy in your body cells, makes up 40% of each heart muscle cell, can change shape to move around when needed, can grow and divide when more energy is required AND can produce hundreds of variations of proteins? If you guessed mitochondria— ding ding ding — you are correct!

You have over 100,000 trillion mitochondria within your body right now that seamlessly work to create energy to keep your body functioning.

That amounts to a staggering 1,000 to 2,500 mitochondria in each of your cells, chugging away to keep all of your organs working as they should.

Back to Biology Class

Here is Mitochondria 101 for you! You may recall that all human cells (save for red blood cells) contain an organelle called mitochondria, the “energy factory” of the cell. The primary function of this squiggly bean is to turn food and other fuel sources into cellular energy in the form of ATP (adenosine triphosphate). ATP is a biological term for energy that our cells use to function.

We like to think of them as the digestive system of cells. Why? Well, they are designed to break down carbohydrates and fatty acids efficiently.

This process of breaking down nutrients, better known as oxidative phosphorylation, takes place in a complicated matrix within the mitochondria, where a chemical called NADH is produced. NADH is used by specific enzymes embedded in the mitochondria’s inner membrane to generate the required ATP. ATP is unique in that it cannot be stored; instead, it is immediately used as energy for our cells.

Foods that Fuel

Food is just one component of how to improve mitochondrial performance. Exposure to toxins can impact its function, so avoid heavy metals where possible. Muscle mass is also a contributor; research has shown that even those with mitochondrial damage, as is the case in people with Parkinson’s, it can increase ATP production through strength training, as muscle cells contain more mitochondria than other cells.

Genetics is also a major factor affecting mitochondria. In fact, a subset of diseases categorized as “mitochondrial disease,” including Alzheimer’s, Muscular dystrophy, Diabetes, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and certain types of cancers are genetically transmitted.

But the food you eat is critical for your mitochondria. Research suggests that we should look at optimizing vital, productive macronutrients through specific vitamins, minerals, and amino acids to support mitochondrial function that limits oxidative stress and promote ATP production.


CoQ10 is the primary antioxidant in human cells.

But what do antioxidants have to do with mitochondria and energy production?

Oxygen is a critical component in energy production and the oxidative phosphorylation process.

Antioxidants help protect mitochondria from any damage that can happen during this process – such as any strain on the cell from excess energy use.

This energy coupling leads to ATP formation as a carrier for both electrons and protons. And (bringing you back to biology 101 again), ATP can be converted into ADP—helping to support energy production further.

It is recommended that we get between 90-200 milligrams of CoQ10 per day. Foods rich in CoQ10 include soybeans, broccoli, peanuts, fatty fish, and oranges.


Lipoic Acid and Acetyl L-Carnitine work hand in hand to improve age-related decline in mitochondrial bioenergetics.

In other words, they aid in the recovery of fatty acids, increasing energy production and metabolic rate while reducing oxidative stress.

Lipoic Acid plays a crucial role in recharging other important antioxidants for mitochondrial health, like CoQ10 and vitamin E.

Acetyl L-Carnitine (“L-carnitine”) is an antioxidant that scavenges free radicals and promotes liver detoxification while boosting T-cell activation to help maintain immune function.

We should strive for between 600-1,800 milligrams of Lipoic acid per day, and about 3g of L-carnitine per day.


Resveratrol induces pro-oxidant effects and antioxidant impact on mitochondria.

Resveratrol improves mitochondrial respiratory activity, boosting cellular reprogramming efficiency and cell growth.

Resveratrol is in many of our favorite Mediterranean diet foods, including red wine, blueberries, dark chocolate, and peanuts.

While there is no formal recommended daily dose of resveratrol, in order to see a biological effect, academics suggest a rather large spread of 5mg and 100mg per day.


Vitamin E‘s abundant health benefits

With regard to mitochondrial health, vitamin E has three key functions: it prevents thyroid hormone-induced changes, reduces the production of free radicals, and elicits beneficial reactions in our cells.

Essentially, it is the cell’s first line of defense when it comes to protecting the mitochondrial membrane from the damage free radicals cause.

How much of this vital nutrient do we need? Aim for 15 mg per day just by simply mixing
sunflower seeds, avocado, and kiwi in a smoothie.

Covid Considerations

Recent studies suggest that a combination of age-related and lifestyle-induced (diet, exercise, sleep, etc.) factors can impact your mitochondrial health and, ultimately, your immune health.

As the immune system is heavily reliant on mitochondrial function, maintaining a healthy mitochondrial system may play a key role in resisting the virus, both directly and indirectly, by ensuring a good [Covid] vaccine response.

– Department of Life Sciences, Research Centre for Optimal Health, University of Westminster, London

While no studies have concluded that mitochondrial fortification can help with the onset of Covid, it has been concluded that peak mitochondrial function can improve immune health and help to battle both acute Covid and “long Covid.”

Harmful Foods = Malfunctioning Mitochondria

To stress the importance of the above food groups for mitochondrial health, it is essential to understand just the number of functions that the mitochondria in your cells impact.

While diet alone cannot change illnesses from genetics or excessive toxic exposure, it can fortify your mitochondrial function and serve as a supplemental treatment for these diseases.

There are also foods we should avoid in excess, as they can adversely impact mitochondrial function:

Excess sugar is well known to have unfavorable effects on critical functions of our body, most notably our gut and brain health. This is no exception to your mitochondrial health. Sugar inhibits the mitochondria from quickly burning energy, especially in fructose form. Sugar then winds up being stored as fat and producing damaging free radicals.

Be sure to balance your vegetable intake with the fruit servings in your daily diet and opt for whole fruits rather than processed fruit products.

Simple carbohydrates have also been found to be problematic with mitochondrial health. White flour, when eaten, quickly turns to glucose once digested—it might as well be table sugar. Mitochondria tend to function better on a lower carbohydrate diet, as they are able to efficiently create energy rather than frivolously burning junk. Try to keep carbohydrates between 225 and 325g daily.

Flying the friendly skies on green fuel

You put your household garbage in the trash. Just imagine that within a few years, that garbage will no longer just sit in a landfill; instead, it will be used to power the jet to take you on a business trip to London or on vacation to Tahiti. Or consider that the used cooking oil to make your french fries from McDonald’s will be collected, refined, and turned into Jet A fuel, the fuel all jet and turbine airplanes use.

And as you drive through America’s heartland, you see farmers in tractors planting soybean seeds, some of which will be used to fuel the airline industry.

Why is SAF so important in the drive for sustainability?

Commercial and transportation aircraft today use a lot of fossil fuels. A lot of fossil fuels.

Every single day, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration deals with more than 45,000 flights involving 5,400 aircraft and 2.9 million people. That’s more than 16 million flights annually, 10 million of them on scheduled airline flights. The airlines handle 12 million pounds of our supply chain each day as well. On a global scale, the numbers are even more impressive – 500 million passengers, riding in aircraft that can consume as much as a gallon of fuel every second. It sounds inefficient, but really because of the passenger load, a large plane like a 747 gets 100 miles per gallon per person.

In 2022, there were 28 million flights, most likely the amount will increase back to the pre-covid number of 40 million flights. A seat on a flight between New York and London emits about 1/10th of one’s annual emissions, around 1.65 tonnes of carbon dioxide. According to The Nature Conservancy, the average person in the U.S. emits about 16 tons.

“The average level of consumption for a new car is approximately 35 miles to the gallon, which means that in order to burn 18,000 gallons of fuel, which would be used in a single flight between New York and Europe, a car would have to travel more than a half-million miles.”

Simple Flying Editorial Team, May 9, 2021

Now, can you imagine flying through the sky and not adding any CO2 to the atmosphere? That could happen. Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), also known as synthetic fuel or synfuel, is touted as the solution to the aviation industry’s contribution to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and ultimately holding back climate change.

A Big, Hairy Audacious Goal: The SAF Challenge

The Sustainable Aviation Grand Challenge led by The Department of Energy, The United States Department of Transportation, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture is encouraging enough production of SAF to:

  • Achieve a minimum of 50% reduction of GHG compared to aviation fuel
  • Supply at least 3 billion gallons of SAF by 2030
  • Replace all petroleum-based jet fuel, about 60 billion gallons a year, by 2050.

By using alternative feedstocks, SAF can reduce emissions between 40% to 80%.

The purpose is not only to reduce environmental impact but also to support energy independence, create jobs in agriculture, forestry, infrastructure, research and development and other areas where America already exceeds at production’

The global airline and transport aviation industry uses about 60 billion gallons of fuel per year. Pre-covid, 98 billion gallons were burned a year while transporting people and products around the globe. To replace just 10% at today’s usage would mean we need 6 billion gallons of SAF, globally. Where are we now?

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is a trade association for 290 transportation and passenger carriers across 120 countries and represents 82% of total air traffic. In 2021, IATA estimated that the SAF industry made about 26 million gallons. This equates to…less than 1% of total global volume.

Even so, the industry seems optimistic and IATA states that airlines have about 3 billion in forward purchase agreements and at least 45 airlines now have experience with SAF. Markets and Markets projects SAF revenue to go from $219 million in 2021 to $15,716 million by 2030, at a very aggressive growth rate of 60.8% during the forecast period. But not every country can afford, or desires (think OPEC countries), to fill their planes with SAF. As shown in the chart, Europe, followed by the U.S., lead in creating the SAF demand.

Ideals and reality don’t always align – at least, not at first. As laudable as the purpose behind the SAF Challenge may be, several practical matters still require further attention.

For example, matters of reliability – and safety – need to be clarified, if only to reassure the flying public that the shift to SAF won’t endanger anyone. Consider the special composition of today’s jet fuel – Jet A — and remember that it didn’t come into being without a reason.

What is Jet A?

Jet A is the fuel that all airplanes use. All jet fuel must have good performance and be able to operate in all conditions. It is a particular mixture of gasoline and kerosene derived from the classic barrel of oil. It also contains a complicated combination of over two thousand chemicals and additives.

Of course, when you are flying at 25,000+ feet over the ground, or even 1,000 feet, you want to make sure the aviation fuel has just the perfect combination to fuel the flight. Jet and turbine engines are delicate machines that have been refined for eight decades. They won’t run on just any fuel formula. It must be clean enough so it won’t clog the engines, have a low freezing point for cold temperatures such as -65 F up in the Earth’s troposphere, contain an anti-icing additive, and high octane for fuel-efficiency.

What is the source of SAF’s Wonder Fuel?

It is called feedstock. And it can come from almost anywhere. There are three different generations of feedstocks available. The first generation is ready to go and the second and third will need better technology both to create SAF as well as to scale.

Some of these sources are incredibly hard to believe they could be burned as Jet A. A garbage bag full of old clothes? Yes, jet fuel and diesel can be made from household garbage. This amazing technology combines a gasification process and is converted into synthetic gas. This ‘syngas’ is then upgraded to a transportation fuel using a well-known technology developed in the 1920s called Fischer-Tropsch. Besides municipal waste, this technology is what converts agricultural residues and small woody crops.

But we have a long way to go before the technology can scale up to all the material in landfills. Right now, the focus is on dry biomass. The USDA  and the U.S. Department of Energy created a Billion-Ton Report that states that one billion tons of biomass can be collected sustainably each year to produce 50-60 billion gallons of low-carbon biofuels. Some of which will be used for the aviation industry. An added benefit to using dry biomass is the added revenue for farmers. It can increase income in rural America and support farming communities.


But The Sustainable Aviation Grand Challenge reignites the long-term debate about how we use our agricultural products. Should our enormous productive capacity be channeled to feeding people…or machines? Do our environmental concerns trump our obligation to feed a hungry world?

Can we do both?

Sustainability also applies to food security, not just environmental protection. Will crops used as a feedstock interfere with feeding animals and people? Because there is such a variety of feedstocks, the reliance will not be on just one. Having said that, right now, the technology available to scale is mostly in favor of oils from soybeans, canola, palm, as well as other agricultural residues.

Turbulence ahead: Sustainability Requirements

The glidepath to the SAF Challenge won’t be without headwinds and turbulence, either. It’s all about the life cycle analysis, meaning that the fuel must be sustainable over its entire lifecycle. Reducing emissions is the sustainability option that receives the most attention, but other considerations are legal, social, environmental, and managed planning.

For instance, especially in the developing world, is the feedstock made with paid labor? Does it interfere with their food? What about the environmental considerations?

Regarding plant feedstock, it is not enough just to say that the plant takes CO2 out of the atmosphere and the airplane puts it back while burning the fuel. That alone would be carbon neutral. But there is the fuel made to plant and harvest the crop, as well as transport and refine it into SAF. And, while plastic feedstock from landfills sounds very exciting, the fossil fuels to make the plastic contributes to more GHGs in the lifecycle than biomass’s carbon-neutral lifecycle.

Even so, compared to drilling, refining, and transporting oil, depending on the feedstock, SAF can save between 40% to 80% in emissions.

Right now, SAF is called a ‘drop-in’ fuel that is blended with Jet A to create up to a 50/50 ratio. It is called a ‘drop-in’ because at this maximum ratio no modifications need to be made to the engine or other components. However, most airlines and engines are currently approved to a 10% SAF mixture.

Who decides if SAF is safe to fly?

The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) International makes products safer and improves international standards to make goods easier to trade around the world. As one of the largest standards-development organizations in the world, it has established the criteria for the use of SAF and is relied on by the FAA for their testing requirements.

If the SAF is deemed equivalent to conventional jet fuel, then it is certified to drop in without any regulatory approvals.  If you are curious about the technical aspects of SAF, click here for the U.S. government review of the technical pathways.

It is expensive!

And then there’s the small issue of economics. Is SAF a realistic alternative in terms of cost – or just another greater expense waiting to contribute to ever-increasing inflation?

Expect more for your airline ticket. SAF can cost up to eight times more to produce than petroleum. But it can depend on the type of ‘fuel’ being converted. As of this writing, in the United States, the average retail cost of Jet A is $7.20 a gallon and the average SAF is $8.30. An extra $1.15 or $3.15 a gallon doesn’t seem like much, but if you are filling a Boeing 737 with 6,800 gallons of fuel, it will certainly force passengers to pay more.

On the KLM website, they state that SAF is two to three times more expensive. As a result, they are advising their passengers that they are adding a few euros to their ticket prices based on the distance. The benefit is that each passenger will reduce the CO2 emissions of their flight and contribute to SAF.

Like any new technology, government incentives help reduce the cost. The Low Carbon Fuel Standard in California is incentivizing fats, oils, and grease technology. In addition, the Department of Energy has a $250 million budget allocated to technologies associated with SAF. If incentives are not enough, governments might start taxing the ‘dirtier’ fuel.

Who is ready to fly and meet The Challenge?

Everyone. The FAA, USDA, EPA, trade associations, airlines, food processors, governments and airlines around the world, and the petroleum industry. Just to highlight a few:

  • The IATA is committed to net zero emissions by 2050. The association plans on achieving Fly Net Zero with 65% SAF, 13% new electric and hydrogen technology, 3% infrastructure and operation efficiencies, and 19% offsets and carbon capture.
  • Right now, Airlines for America, another trade association for U.S. airlines, has also approved SAF, but only up to 10% of a blend with Jet A.
  • Started in 2006, the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI) is a coalition of 450 U.S. and international aviation trade representatives, energy companies, universities, and NGOs. CAAFI encourages the use of alternative jet fuels to promote ‘energy security and environmental sustainability for aviation’.
  • As stated on its site, “Clean Skies for Tomorrow” is an initiative from the World Economic Forum that provides a crucial global mechanism for top executives and public leaders to align on a transition to sustainable aviation fuels as part of a meaningful and proactive pathway for the industry to achieve carbon-neutral flying.
  • The European Landscape is participating, as well.

What is next on the flight plan?

New technologies to make SAF work well are under development, but not yet ready for prime time. For example, hydrogen is a very promising replacement for electric batteries. Airbus plans to burn hydrogen in their engines for fuel within the next 15 years. The only byproduct here is water! Here is a chart by McKinsey of new fuels and propulsion technologies.

Before there are clear skies….

This ‘audacious goal’ still must answer a few questions before taking off:

  1. Can this fuel scale to the level of millions of gallons delivered throughout the world with a new supply infrastructure to the refiners?
  2. Is there a long-term food versus fuel debate?
  3. How long before production costs are in line or cheaper than petroleum?
  4. Will SAF always need government incentives?
  5. Right now, this is a ‘drop in’ fuel of up to 50%. What happens to engines after the 50% mark? Do they have to be rebuilt? What if you have an old engine and go to fill up with more than 50% SAF? Will airports need two different fueling systems?

Can genetically engineered salmon save the world?

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Disclaimer: Dirt to Dinner has no commercial interests or links to the organizations or enterprises we write about – only a desire to call attention to innovative approaches to dealing with challenges facing our food system.

We last spoke with AquaBounty President and CEO Sylvia Wulf and CCO David Melbourne in December 2020, just before Covid’s global eruption. Much has happened since then, including the announcement of the opening of a new facility in Ohio and the first distribution of their genetically engineered (“GE”) salmon into the market. We sat down with Sylvia and David again recently to talk about all that’s happened in the last two years.

The formation of genetically engineered salmon

Founded by Elliot Entis in the early 1990s, AquaBounty has been committed to manufacturing the first commercially produced GE salmon. However, the first salmon AquaBounty harvested in 2020 was conventional salmon, which was done to commercialize the Indiana farm before GE salmon eggs were stocked.

Their main facility is in Albany, Indiana – a 122,000-square-foot property that raises 1,200 metric tons of salmon each year. They’re currently sending head-on, gutted fish direct to customers and working with several processing partners who produce fillets required to fill customer orders.  But this will change when AquaBounty opens its new, first large-scale commercial salmon farm in Pioneer, Ohio in 2023.

Pioneer, Ohio groundbreaking event: Jason Robertson, CRB; Tim Derickson, JobsOhio; Lu Cooke, Governor’s office; Megan Hausch, WEDCO; David Kelly, Innovasea; Leonard Hubert, Senator Portman’s office; Sylvia Wulf, AquaBounty President and CEO; Sam White, CRB; and Ed Kidston, Pioneer Mayor. 

With this new facility, AquaBounty will fully manage the filleting process for the salmon. When they do, they’ll start looking for uses for the unused part of the fish, including composting. Pioneer will not only have RAS, or Recirculating Aquaculture System, technology but will also be close to AquaBounty’s major markets, continuing to allow it to generate  a lower carbon footprint than what we see in salmon produced overseas and flown in.

During the Covid shutdown, AquaBounty continued to grow their conventional fish, but the drop in demand created by closed restaurants helped drive up AquaBounty’s inventory. In response, Sylvia and David elected to donate the entire conventional harvest – about 52,000 pounds of fish – to food banks. The decision helped feed people during difficult times. It also provided time to test, learn, and refine their salmon harvesting techniques. These lessons paid off with the very first harvest of GE salmon that followed.

Exterior plans for Pioneer, Ohio facility. 

Sustainability and Technology

AquaBounty’s production method is also more sustainable and better for the environment than catching salmon from the ocean. Land-based harvesting has shown to be more sustainable long-term than harvests that rely on sea cages. AquaBounty salmon also has a lower carbon footprint since they’re not using air freight for distribution, and they use fewer natural resources since production is in a controlled environment.

The technology that AquaBounty uses allows for a more sustainable fish, as well. They use a recirculating aquaculture system (“RAS”), which means that the water is constantly recirculated, cleaned, and filtered, and then goes back out cleaner than when it came in. This not only allows for cleaner water but also uses less water since it’s recycled. The new farm in Pioneer, Ohio, will draw on the latest technology in RAS and will also give the company opportunities for green and renewable energy down the road.

RAS fish are different from other farmed fish because the clean, recycled water removes some unwanted matter from inside the fish. This helps give it the clean, mild flavor. The technology AquaBounty uses has also allowed them to better understand the fish’s microbiome and how it can be changed in the feeding regimen. The consumer can be assured a clean, nutritious fish that’s sustainably produced and will help meet the growing demand for seafood.

Who’s buying GE salmon?

Personally, I haven’t seen a “GE” label or “bioengineered” disclosure on any of the salmon in grocery stores, so where is this GE salmon going? AquaBounty says that its primary focus for distribution is currently on the foodservice channel, seafood distributors, and wholesalers. They’re currently selling all  of their GE salmon to distributors and wholesalers, and being the only company in their specific market, they’re selling out weekly.

So, are we unknowingly eating GE salmon at a restaurant? Maybe. Restaurants don’t have to disclose the source of their seafood offerings (Yes, it could be from a fish farm in China or any other lesser-traced supplier.) Nor do restaurants have to tell you that you’re eating AquaBounty salmon.  It is important to note, however, that the salmon AquaBounty sells to its customers is labeled as GE and contains the Bioengineered disclosure. Taste alone won’t help, either – GE salmon may even taste better than some of the salmon being served to us today.

What do consumers think?

AquaBounty conducted a survey in 2019 to find out what consumers think about GE salmon. The results: most consumers don’t even know what a GMO really is or what it means to be “genetically engineered.” Many consumers also said that they know they’re not supposed to like foods that have been genetically engineered, but they’re not sure why. Seventy percent of consumers said they had the intention to purchase this salmon.

The concern is not the ingredient profile but the environment. Some consumers worry that the GE salmon will escape from their indoor tanks and end up in the oceans and genetically mix with wild salmon. But AquaBounty is land-based, not ocean-based. Their fish swim in tanks with seven layers of containment, meaning the chances of the fish escaping are nearly impossible.

Environmental benefits aside, will consumers taste a difference? It’s not widely discussed, but land-based fish can often have a ‘muddy’ flavor that some consumers contend doesn’t taste ‘clean.’ AquaBounty doesn’t have this issue.

At harvest time, AquaBounty fish are removed from the grow-out tank (where they are fed and, well, grow), then placed in a clean-tank conditioning unit with fresh water.

For the next 12 to 14 days, the fish swim around in waste-free water. The result: a clean flavor: “Seafood that has a strong seafood flavor can be a turn-off to consumers, so people enjoy the mild flavor,” says Melbourne.

From a nutritional standpoint, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference either. AquaBounty GE salmon essentially has the same nutritional profile as other farmed salmon from Norway or the Atlantic Ocean. The only slight difference you may see is in the fat content. Farmed salmon, in general, is fattier than wild salmon, meaning it has a higher omega-3 concentration. And we want this omega 3 fatty acid in our diet for its myriad benefits.

However, it still is a very slight difference. In fact, when the FDA did their review of AquaBounty’s GE salmon, they found that it’s not any different at all than regular farmed salmon.

Why do we need companies like AquaBounty?

Our global population is growing at an alarming rate. By 2050, we’re expected to have a world population of up to 10 billion people; that’s a lot of mouths to feed. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that it’ll take 60% more food to feed these extra two billion people.

The American Heart Association recommends that everyone eat seafood twice a week to lower the chances of developing diet-related illnesses, especially heart disease. Salmon is not only one of the most highly recommended kinds of seafood to consume, but it’s also already second in per capita consumption in the U.S., with shrimp being number one.

So, let’s do a little math here. If there are 10 billion people on the planet, and they all eat the recommended two servings of seafood per week, which would be 104 servings in a year, that’s over one trillion total servings per year. That’s a LOT of fish.

If people start eating the amount of seafood they need every week, where will we get it from? The oceans, rivers, and lakes are already overfished. We need innovations and new solutions; otherwise, there won’t be enough. This is the reason why AquaBounty does what it does.

We can’t shun or turn a blind eye to innovations and ways to grow or produce our food. Companies like AquaBounty will be the reason we have enough food to feed the world. We need new technologies and innovations to constantly keep up with growing demand through a myriad of solutions, without vilifying one another.

Forbidding genetically-engineered foods will not make the world healthier; it’ll just make it a less fed, more hungry, and food-insecure place.

What does the future hold for AquaBounty?

First, AquaBounty embraces e-commerce and wants to sell its fish directly to consumers. Through a sales channel like this, they will be able to sell more fish to the consumer, allowing them to build a relationship and learn how to engage the consumer with the product they’re providing. This includes educating the consumer on their product and the process.

An elevated look inside the planned Pioneer, Ohio facility. 

Sylvia and David also noted that the two things that the world sees as a negative actually helped AquaBounty – Covid-19 and climate change. They found that Covid allowed people to understand the benefits of biotechnology and its targeted way of solving challenges while also being safe and effective.

In terms of climate change, they found that people finally began to understand if we don’t think about our food and supply chain differently, we not only won’t be able to feed the world, but we definitely won’t be able to do it in a way that’s sustainable.

“We can’t eliminate the tools that will allow us to feed the world sustainably.”

– David Melbourne

There’s also a large opportunity for growth for AquaBounty. They’re looking at opening four to five more salmon farms in North America and possibly expanding to the Middle East and South America, as well. Will this allow the United States to hit pause on China, where we get the majority of our seafood?

AquaBounty also says there’s an opportunity for other species to be raised using this kind of technology — not genetically engineered per se, but with similar land-based RAS technology.

Two of these species include shrimp and tilapia. For shrimp, AquaBounty says it can apply its expertise in land-based farming and the understanding they have of biology and water technology to produce more sustainable shrimp.

If AquaBounty can farm tilapia like their land-based salmon, they can produce a more economical fish that’s produced locally and is safer than what we import from China.

As AquaBounty continues to grow and build more salmon farms, their technology will continue to improve. The capital costs will come down, making their GE salmon more attainable for consumer consumption and possibly less expensive than other fish we find in the grocery store. We can’t wait to see where the future takes AquaBounty.

5 Benefits of Eating Eggs

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

Happy National Egg Day! Eggs are one of our favorite proteins, not only for their versatility but for all of the great health benefits they have. Let’s take a look at what those are:

1. Eggs are high in nutrients

Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods that we can add to our diets. They’re high in vitamins A, B5, B12, and B2, folate, phosphorus, and selenium. They also have a good amount of protein at 6 grams, found mostly in the white part of the egg. This is all while being relatively low in calories, at 77 calories per egg.

2. Benefits “good” cholesterol

We have both good and bad cholesterol. Good cholesterol is called HDL, and bad is called LDL. We obviously want to limit the amount of LDL in our diet. We get both from eggs, but the positive far outweighs the negative because we obtain more HDL than LDL.

3. High in choline

Choline is a water-soluble vitamin. It’s often coupled with B vitamins, and our bodies need it to help build cell membranes and create signaling molecules in our brain. One egg contains 27% of our recommended daily value of choline with 147 mg.

4. Lowers risk of heart disease

This also goes along with LDL cholesterol. The high amount of LDL cholesterol is linked to heart disease, especially when people have higher amounts of small, dense LDL particles. We know that eggs raise LDL a small amount, but eggs also decrease the amount of smaller, dense LDL particles in the body.

5. Contains all the essential amino acids

We’ve written on D2D before about how we need all nine essential amino acids to have a healthy diet. These nine amino acids come from protein, mostly animal proteins. Eggs also contain all nine amino acids, making them a quick and easy source.

Heavy metal exposure: what to know

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Heavy metals are virtually unavoidable—they are present in things we come into contact with every day— cookware, old paint, aluminum cans, foil, batteries, and many foods in our regular American diet. Some sources seem less obvious, like pesticides and organic foods. And noisy leaf blowers, too – they push heavy metals into the air we breathe.

It would be a fool’s errand to try avoiding each and every source of heavy metal around us. That said, there are ways we can help our bodies flush out excess heavy metals and protect us against free radical formation.

Heavy Metals in the News

In May, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released an action plan called Closer to Zero. This plan details the agency’s actions to reduce exposure to arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury from foods eaten by babies and young children, the population most vulnerable to its harmful effects. In the FDA’s words, the new acceptable levels will be “as low as possible” for this age group as they better formulate their recommended limitations that will include the rest of us, as well…

The FDA’s four-stage plan approaches the improvements from a research and regulatory perspective. Their first step is to continue evaluating existing data from routine testing of the food supply and leveraging other agencies and stakeholders to determine how to decrease these levels. The FDA will publicly provide information about monitoring, research and enforcement action.

In Phase 1 of the FDA’s Action Plan, we provided action levels for lead in juice…. In Phase 2, we will adjust the action levels, as appropriate, to finalize guidance to industry on the lead action levels. After a period of monitoring that may also include enforcement, we will reassess as part of Phase 3 whether those levels should be adjusted downward.”

– The Food and Drug Administration

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notes that metals are occurring in all ecosystems from both natural concentrations and from human activities that redistribute these metals into water sources, air, and soil. The trouble for consumers and food producers alike is that heavy metals show no visible evidence, unlike sediments or nutrient build-up. They’re hard to spot and even harder to avoid.

Sources of Heavy Metals

Many heavy metals naturally occur in the Earth’s crust from the weathering of metal rocks, volcanic eruptions, deposits from the atmosphere, and leaching into soil and groundwater. But fertilizers, irrigation, emissions from industrial work, combustion of fossil fuels, mining, smelting, and other human activities also contribute to contamination.

No standards currently exist for agricultural sources in water or soil for heavy metal levels. Setting and monitoring those limitations is part of the Closer to Zero plan. But particular considerations, like metals naturally occurring in the soil – and then our food –  will complicate the determination of specific levels.

Common food sources tested and proven to have toxic heavy metal presence include processed fruit juices, which can have high levels of arsenic. Baby food is another very surprising source: up to 95% of the baby food samples tested showed positive for arsenic, lead, or cadmium.

Some consumers wonder if organic baby food is a better choice to avoid heavy metals—not necessarily. Consumer Reports reported that “organic foods were as likely to contain heavy metals as conventional foods.” Many baby foods contain brown rice, an arsenic source. Whether it’s organic or conventional, the ‘bran’ or outer shell of the rice can retain high levels of arsenic from the soil. Because of this, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the FDA have recommended limiting rice intake for infants.

Probably the most common source we hear about for heavy metals in everyday foods is mercury in larger fish, like swordfish, shark, and the ever-popular tuna.

Heavy metals also exist in our drinking water. Research has shown that over 2,000 water systems have high levels of lead. Many of these water systems serve as irrigation for our crops, which impacts the levels of heavy metals in soil.

In turn, this affects the levels of heavy metals in the food grown in that soil, and ultimately determines the amount of heavy metals we ingest when we eat the foods grown in that soil.

Most foods that we eat have at least some trace amounts of heavy metals because of this process. And while trace amounts have not been found to have serious short-term health effects, the accumulation of these compounds over time may cause health issues.

Health Issues and Answers

Health issues caused by heavy metal buildup in the body have been heavily studied. Called “chronic toxic effects” or “heavy metal toxicity,” research has found that these metals can negatively impact a variety of organs. These include gastrointestinal and kidney dysfunction, autoimmune issues, thyroid problems, mitochondrial function, nervous system disorders, vascular damage, immune system dysfunction, certain types of cancers, and skin lesions.

Heavy metals can also lead to oxidative stress induced by the formation of free radicals,  which contribute to many chronic health issues and inflammatory issues that impact the above noted disorders.

Those with excess fat are more likely to have toxic buildup due to the “sticky” nature of white fat tissue. Epidemiological studies have shown a relationship between heavy metal exposure and the incidence of obesity and metabolic syndrome.

Foods that Fight

To protect yourself from toxic heavy metal buildup, be sure to focus on exercise, getting between six and eight hours of sleep per night, and eating these foods to increase your brown fat.

Thankfully, there is a subset of foods that, when ingested, latch on to these heavy metals in the digestive process and remove them. These include:

  • Antioxidants: As nature’s most dense antioxidant, blueberries are a powerhouse for eliminating free radicals from our bodies. Other foods high in antioxidants include dark chocolate, pecans, strawberries, artichokes, kale, raspberries, beans, beets, spinach, and red cabbage.
  • Chlorella: a single-celled green alga found in leafy greens. It contains proteins, fats, carbs, fiber, chlorophyll, and various vitamins. Studies have found that chlorella can weaken the heavy metal toxicity of the liver, brain, and kidneys.
  • Probiotics: Good gut health all starts with pre- and probiotics. Probiotics (specifically lactobacillus strains) can bind to heavy metals and help flush them from the body during the digestion process. Add foods like kombucha, cottage cheese, kefir, miso, and sauerkraut into your diet.
  • Selenium: An important mineral in neurotoxin elimination. Excellent sources of selenium include Brazil nuts, spinach, pork, beef, chicken and turkey, eggs, mushrooms, and yogurt. Cilantro is also a good source of selenium but beware, however, of the social media trend saying that it specifically removes heavy metals from the brain. This is unfounded, and academics state that while a 2014 study showed that cilantro extract can alleviate lead-induced oxidative stress in certain tissues of rat brains, the study is not robust enough for conclusions on human brain tissues.

While it may seem more straightforward to take your antioxidants, chlorella, probiotics, and selenium in supplement form, opting for the whole food versions of these vitamins and minerals is always the best course of action. The FDA does not monitor the purity or quality of supplements, and the bioavailability in whole foods is greater.

Heavy Metal Concentrations

Wondering how you can get your heavy metals tested? Acute levels of heavy metals can be measured by a simple blood, urine, or hair sample test. However, to capture the accumulation of heavy metals in your system, a “provoked” urine test or “chelation challenge test” is best.

Some of us who live in areas of higher accumulations than others may want to consider getting our blood work done for heavy metal accumulations. The below maps show accumulations of arsenic and lead in the soil and cadmium in the air in different parts of the United States.

Some researchers recommend getting tested or having your heavy metal levels read if you live in these concentrated areas, if you live in an older home that may have aging water pipes, work in an industrial plant, or live in a region where emissions are highly likely.

Other recommendations outside of our food choice are simple tips like limiting the dust in our home, removing our shoes that may collect metals, being aware of any local fish advisories regarding mercury, and being mindful of any surrounding lead exposure in your environment (paint, workplace hazards, home remedies, and cosmetics, jewelry, etc.), and being sure to read the labels on products coming into your home to see if they contain heavy metals.

Ultimately, the goal is to equip yourself with knowledge. So instead of living in fear, you can feel prepared knowing that you are taking measures to proactively fortify your system and limit heavy metal exposures in environments that you can control, like your home.