I’m not very good at making predictions. I’m a lawyer, and our job description includes predicting all the worst possible scenarios. So usually my prophecies turn out a bit dark.
Instead I’m going to focus on things I’m thinking about for 2022. What trends will continue? What changes are on the horizon? Are there challenges ahead? Here’s my list.
USDA’s Bioengineered Label is hitting shelves.
Starting this month you’re likely to see a new label on the shelves–USDA’s BE labels. The labels indicate that a food product or one of its ingredients was genetically modified. My non-prediction prediction is that this is going to go one of two ways. Either the BE label will become completely standard and people won’t pay any attention to it, or activists will malign the happy and sunny little icon. In reality, I think both things will happen. The hysteria about GMOs will slowly start to die down as people become accustomed to the label (which, quite frankly, is already happening), and the activists will have less and less influence. (Is that a prediction, or just wishful thinking??)
The continued vilification of animal agriculture.
I’ll admit there’s nothing very 2022-ish about this particular point. If we’re being honest, activists have vilified animal agriculture for decades now. That won’t change this year. But right now it seems more acute. Maybe it’s just the rise of real alternatives to animal products. Or maybe it’s because animal agriculture is the boogeyman of a now mainstream problem–climate change. Whatever the reason, I’m concerned we’ll see an increasing anti-animal-agriculture narrative. On the other hand, I’m optimistic because animal agriculture is so well represented on social media and that’s definitely a good thing! I’m wondering if there’s a way to more effectively counter the negative.
How high can prices actually go?
Most of us have noticed inflation at the grocery store and the gas pump. Multiple that by a lot and you’ll know how agriculture is facing sticker shock on its inputs. The prices actually started rising on things like fertilizer and Round-Up in 2021, with some blame placed on supply-chain issues. Unfortunately, 2022 looks even worse. Some reports have fertilizer prices up 300% from already-high 2021 prices. Do you risk lower yields or splurge for expensive inputs and hope your yields will cover the cost? Those decisions aren’t easy. So will the higher prices force more farmers out of the market? And how long will it last?
The trajectory of alternative meat companies.
As with so many trends, alternative meat products (ie. plant-based meat or cell-based meats) were met with so much fanfare when they first entered the market. But 2021 wasn’t a good year for them. Both Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods (two of the leading companies) saw stocks plummet in value, even as they introduce new products. The drops may indicate that the companies have reach peak market saturation. In other words, this is as big as it gets for them, which is really all that great. It’ll be interesting to see how they navigate 2022 and whether they can recapture any momentum.
So what do you think? What’s on your mind for 2022?