Across the Table: A Diverse Food Space

When I heard Dr. David Hughes extol the virtues of adjectives over nouns, it wasn’t an English lesson. It was economics.

Hughes, known as “Dr. Food,” travels the world talking to decision makers at companies like McDonald’s, Kraft and Nestle. His expertise is getting into the minds and pockets of people who eat. So I paid attention as Hughes talked to our Ohio Farm Bureau board of trustees and told them, “The profit is in the adjective, not the noun.”

For today’s affluent consumer, a “good steak” isn’t good enough. It has to be free range, or dry-aged or environmentally friendly. Breads and grains have to be high fiber or ancient. We want fruits and vegetables that are heirloom or organic. Hughes’ point: for these and endless other attributes, people pay a premium. Unless they can’t.

Today, 800 million people in the world are going hungry. The United Nations projects food demand will be 70 percent higher in just 33 years. For these folks, the only adjective that matters is “enough.”

These are diverse demands, and they’ve led to diverse agriculture. Today across Ohio you’ll find farmers transitioning to crops and practices that meet the desires of the most highly selective foodie, while neighboring farmers are adopting advanced science and technology to supply nutrition to the masses. But if David Hughes is right, we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Imagine a day when your protein source never mooed, snorted or clucked. It chirped. Hughes makes a case that crickets could become competitors to cattle, hogs and chickens. He points out that cricket powder is protein rich, may require fewer resources to grow and could be less expensive. Think this is far-fetched? Ohio is already home to the nation’s first FDA approved edible insect farm.


I set aside my own personal yuck factor at a recent food trends event at the Center for Innovative Food Technologies near Toledo. I’m on the CIFT board and I always enjoy open-minded food discussions. So, I sucked it up to sample cricket-based foods like snack chips and chocolate protein bars. I came away impressed, although I might have suggested they rethink the black specks in the chips. Personally, I’ll stick to meat, eggs and dairy for my protein, but if crickets can help feed families around the world, who am I to judge?

To me, there’s room for everyone in the food space. Whether you choose to raise or consume food labeled conventional, sun-kissed, free range, multi-grain, local, low carb, heart healthy, traditional, pasture raised, GMO free, gluten free, fat free, sugar free or anything free, there’s not only room, but a need. A diverse food and farm community should be appreciated and united: never should one part of that community criticize another to gain a marketing advantage.

In Farm Bureau, everyone’s welcome.


Listen to Dr. Hughes discuss the monumental changes food production, manufacturing, retaining and consumption space are undergoing on Town Hall Ohio.