Keeping up with food trends these days is a lot like trying to monitor the latest in cell phone features or maybe even teenage fashions. They all change so quickly that you’ll likely find yourself way behind the curve if you take a breath or even blink.

But it’s heartening to see that one food trend — consumers’ increased emphasis on eating protein-rich meat, milk and eggs — really has some legs.

A new Nielsen survey showed that 35 percent of American households are now following a protein-focused diet and half say they consume a form of protein at each meal.

You see it everywhere. More families in America are getting off to a good start by fueling up with a breakfast of eggs and bacon. They are putting lean beef, pork and chicken on their lunch and dinner menus. And protein-rich meat snacks are the hottest items on convenience store shelves.

The protein sweet spot

All of that is very good news for Iowa agriculture because the state’s farmers are in a sweet spot of the protein trend. They are the national leaders in responsible pork and egg production, and make Iowa one of the top states in beef and dairy. And there is a growing turkey and broiler sector in the state.

Maybe just as important is that Iowa is at the country’s epicenter of corn and soybean production. That makes Iowa the place to be if you want to raise animal protein.

The benefits of this protein demand surge are spreading well beyond agriculture. It’s creating new jobs and increased economic activity all over, and especially in the state’s rural communities.

Some clear examples are the new Seaboard Triumph Foods pork plant, which opened earlier this month in Sioux City, and the new Prestage Farms pork plant that the North Carolina company is building near Eagle Grove in Wright County.

Both will create hundreds of well-paying jobs: 1,100 for Seaboard Triumph and 900 for Prestage. And the plants are sparking lots of other economic activity, with added other jobs in trucking, mechanics and other areas, not to mention stronger local demand for livestock and feed grains.

Exciting stuff. But maybe it’s not a big surprise to most of us in Iowa and around the heartland that Americans are rediscovering animal-based proteins and the vital role they play in a healthy, balanced diet. Our grandmas always told us that.