A conversation with Eric Jackson, board chair of BioNutrient Food Association, about nutrient density, the research, the practical implication, soil carbon credits, cell-based and plant-based meat replacements and more.
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This episode is part of the Nutrient Density in Food series!
This series is supported by the A Team Foundation, who support food and land projects that are ecologically, economically and socially conscious. They contribute to the wider movement that envisions a future where real food is produced by enlightened agriculture and access to it is equal. The A Team are looking to make more investments and grants in the space of bionutrients. You can find out more on ateamfoundation.org.
Why should we focus our work on nutrient density in animal protein? What is the ‘dark matter’ of nutrition, and why did Eric Jackson, after a successful career, choose to take on the role of board chair at the BioNutrient Food Association instead of retiring?
ANIMAL PROTEIN IS A GREAT STARTING POINT, 40% OF FOOD SPEND
Animal protein is a huge category, and Eric and his team are focusing on that side right now. From various sectors, animals are in crosshairs at the moment. Compared to other products, animal protein is one of the more direct farm-to-human consumption options.
“If you take a look at food spend in the food service world, and in the consumer world, animal protein accounts for a very large portion of the spend, 40% approximately, of the overall spend.” – Eric Jackson
“If you think about particularly ruminants, particularly cattle, and the land use component of those animals, it’s quite exciting to think about what can be determined in terms of practices that both impact nutrient density as well as ecosystem outcomes.” – Eric Jackson
DARK MATTER OF NUTRITION
A new field of computational nutrition has emerged, focused on creating a molecular map of food and deciphering its meaning. Some researchers have taken a closer look at the approximately 2,000 compounds found in food. However, when considering the USDA reports, which list only about 150 of these compounds, the ‘dark matter’ refers to the other 1,850 compounds whose roles are not well understood. Understanding the interactions between all these compounds is a challenging task, and this field of study is still in its early stages.
“The study of what’s in our foods and how it gets there. And what does it leave behind? So, when we talked about the ecological component of this, you know, if you’re growing a crop, it’s part of a living system, it’s not just an individualized thing that sits outside of the system, what is that system outcome? What is a healthy plant? What does it give back to the overall system? So it’s a two-way, more than a two-way… I mean, there’s an atmospheric exchange, there’s a hydrologic exchange, there’s a chemical exchange in the soil.” – Eric Jackson
“So, like with anything that, as an individual component might be interesting, the phytonutrient component might be interesting, right? But understanding how all these things interplay together, both in the setting of agriculture, in the setting of food, and in the setting of human health, is quite, quite complex.” – Eric Jackson
TECH HAS ENABLED EFFICIENCY BUT NOT RESILIENCY
Eric’s perspective is that technology continues to evolve. However, he believes that there is a need for friendlier technologies towards the natural system. Most of the technologies deployed so far have either been neutral towards or against the natural system. There are only a few technologies designed to optimize natural systems as part of their mission.
“I think technology always has a role to play, how technology is used and for what purpose sort of determines its efficacy. And we’ve been really focused on efficiency. And we’ve I think sacrifice resiliency, as a result of that efficiency. And technology has enabled efficiency, but technology has yet to prove itself to be able to enable resiliency.” – Eric Jackson
“So, if you want to create something in a lab, and it has a price and a value, more important than price, if it has a value that can be measured in the same way in which we measure food coming out of a natural system, have that. But, if I step back and look at this, from a sociological perspective, one of the things that always concerns me is technology is controlled by somebody, and technology by its very nature is an intellectual property that is owned”- Eric Jackson
OTHER POINTS DISCUSSED:
Koen and Eric also talked about
- Glyphosate’s impact on the microbiome
- The importance of understanding protein and nutrient claims
- The problem with inset vs offsets
- Eric Jackson on how to finance many more grain and soy farmers to transition to organic and beyond
- Eric Jackson – Doing over 150M in sales of organic grain and soy, started 18mon ago
- Dan Kittredge on why our biggest lever against climate change is paying for food quality
- Dan Kittredge – Making farmers focus on nutrient dense food
- Stephan van Vliet – The first randomised clinical trial comparing agro-ecological grown and supermarket food
- QA Webinar The Regenerative Agriculture and Human Health Nexus: Insights from Field to Body
- Zach Bush on why all health issues come back to how we treat the soil
- Pietro Galgani on paying the true price for food and agriculture products and how to get there
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The above references an opinion and is for information and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be investment advice. Seek a duly licensed professional for investment advice.