Odd facts learned about food and ag in 2022
I’ve always had a strange memory. I can tell you that China is the world’s largest exporter of apple juice, but I can’t remember how long I’ve been married. (I do remember meeting my husband when I was 18, which was about two years ago, give or take 25 years.)
Recently, I’ve seen other journalists sharing lists of interesting facts they’ve learned from their reporting this past year.
I thought it would be fun to dig through my notes and come up with my own list — but make it rural.
Here’s a list of 11 interesting food, nutrition and farm facts I discovered in 2022. Feel free to use them as conversation starters. (My apple juice fun fact is always a hit and, I’m sure, is never embarrassing to my husband and daughter.)
1. Researchers estimate it currently costs about $28 per pound to grow cell-culture fake meat in a lab.Most of that cost is from the labor, processing equipment and growth medium (eww!) to “culture” the meat. In comparison, a 1-pound package of 80% ground beef costs $4.50 per pound (or $3.50 on sale!) at my local Fareway store as I write this.
2. Speaking of fake meat, consumers aren’t buying it.Sales of plant-based meat alternatives dropped 20% from November 2021 to November 2022, according to Jayson Lusk, a Purdue University ag economist. One of the leading alt-meat companies, Beyond Meat, let go 200 employees, or 19% of its staff, this fall because of declining sales.
3. Meat consumption is becoming a more politically polarizing issue.Consumer surveys show that meat demand is higher among conservative Republicans than among liberal Democrats, Lusk said at the 2021 Iowa Pork Congress. And that political gap in meat demand is widening over time. However, overall U.S. meat consumption continues to rise.
4. The maker of Totino’s Pizza Rolls (a personal favorite in my family) developed 25 different pizza roll recipeswhen it struggled to find ingredients because of supply chain disruptions, according to the New York Times.
5. Again because of supply chain bottlenecks, pro golfers were advised to keep their leather glovesrather than give away autographed gloves to fans because of a leather shortage.
6. The current recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein is 55 to 60 grams per day,says Donald Layman, emeritus professor at the University of Illinois who specializes in muscle-centric nutrition research. However, that’s the minimum to prevent protein deficiency. Research shows that adults need about twice the RDA level, or between 90 to 160 grams of protein a day, as we get older to prevent muscle loss. Real meat and dairy are excellent sources of complete protein.
7. Oatmilk is all the rage at fancy coffee shops.Yet consumers likely don’t realize that oat pulp leftover from processing — or milking an oat? — often ends up in landfills. Food waste is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
8. Iowa farmers are growing more acres of cover crops(3 million acres in 2021, or 300 times greater than a decade ago) to benefit soil and water quality. Iowa State University (ISU) agronomists are also studying the impact of cover crops on weed suppression to help reduce the need for crop protection products.
9. Turkey farmers have discovered that the taste (yes, taste!) of water can impact the growth and well-being of their birds.Farmers today are experimenting with tweaking the pH balance of water to make sure it’s appealing to turkeys.
10. Iowa pork farms are hiring swine welfare specialiststo inspect barns daily and ensure that the pigs are healthy, comfortable and well cared for. Comfortable pigs equal high-quality pork.
11. Pork farmers are so stringent about keeping pigs healthythat in many barns, employees must run their sack lunch (which I assume is a ham sandwich) through a UV disinfectant light before entering, among other strict biosecurity measures.
We will never have a shortage of oddities, achievements and opportunities in agriculture. I can’t wait to see what’s new in food and farming in the New Year.
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