The Future of Food: Takeaways from What We Can’t Know for Certain

Innovation, plant-based, sustainability, protein, CRISPR, consumers, millennials, gen-z, technology, vertical farming…

I can easily list the keywords used by speakers at the Future of Food Summit in New York City. While they were providing viewpoints from various places of research and industry, the message was clear: We might not be able to predict the future accurately, but we do know what factors change how we, the consumers, view the food we eat.

I traveled to the Big Apple to attend the summit, hosted by Meredith Corporation’s EatingWell magazine and the International Food Information Council Foundation, with two goals in mind:

    1. Understand how the food dialogue is framed by organizations with the largest voices (the magazine alone has 8 million-plus readers)
    2. Listen to an array of perspectives about food, technology and innovation, and agricultural practices

I must say, I succeeded in both.

The Panels

The summit showcased the magazine’s feature stories from its October 2019 edition through a series of panel discussions. For example, the panel session “Sustainable Food Production” was an expansion of the magazine’s articles about technology use on the farm, vertical farming, and using heritage breeds to eliminate the use of antibiotics in chicken.

Each panel had four-to-five speakers ranging from academic and industry scientists to marketers and c-suite execs. One farmer/agvocate joined the panel discussion on protein sources.

To keep in line with the example above, the sustainable food production speakers were all scientists specializing in vet med, animal science, plant molecular biology, and—ok, Mark Oishma from AeroFarms has an MBA instead of a higher degree in ag science (from my understanding), but he provided well-informed, science-based answers during the conversation.

The variety of speakers made sense—represent science and innovation while focusing on the present and future needs of consumers based on current trends. The choice of speakers also implied the question of what technology is capable of providing in any stage of food production.

While I didn’t agree with the viewpoints that a couple of the speakers presented (because I think it skewed the summit’s purpose of utilizing credible science to meet food challenges), it was still good to take time to listen to how people choose to view current and future food trends and challenges.

For the Greater Good

Meredith and IFIC deserve praise. I love that they took the time to provide a summit for farmers, nonprofit professionals, students, marketers, etc., that focused on food and agriculture with a pro-science frame. The perspectives shared, including those that clashed with other speakers on the same panel, were discussed in a way that showcased the complexity behind some controversial topics.

And their featured articles focusing on technology like CRISPR provide a positive, beneficial, and science-based look at what gene-editing can accomplish for future consumer needs. (It should be noted that some articles provide misleading advice about combating climate change that has been proven to be less effective than previously thought, but let’s stay focused on the positive conversation.)

Eating Well and IFIC’s collaboration supports a marriage between plant- and animal-based foods to solve food challenges and advance all stages of our food production system. Because, let’s face it, plants and animals depend on one another.

Before You Go…

A lot of the topics mentioned at the summit—such as gene-editing, antibiotic use in chickens, food labels, and sustainable farming practices—have been part of CAST’s collection of papers for decades. You can check out some of the featured ones below or search our publications page for more.




By Kim
Photos: leafy green photo from, others taken by author

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