Future of food: Lusk shares agriculture industry outlook

Jayson Lusk, an economist, distinguished Professor and Department Head in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Purdue University, discussed what may lay ahead for the agriculture industry going into 2021.

Lusk was a keynote speaker during a webinar hosted by the Center for Food Integrity.

He expects food retail prices to trend downward.

“They’ve already started to come down some from that spike,” Lusk said. “I think they will continue to do so, mainly because we’ve already seen meat prices start to fall.

“Still, there’s higher demand at the grocery stores at the moment. That will remain true until restaurants and other food away from home get up and going. But I don’t expect the really dramatic spikes we saw to continue in the future.”

Lusk expects an accelerated trend to e-grocery.

“It’s possible for me to imagine a food system in the future where a lot of our processed items come to us by e-delivery, and grocery store footprints are more focused on the fresh things we like to see and pick out ourselves,” he said.

Lusk also expects a rising interest in local food and direct farm delivery.

“It’s still a very small share of our overall food sales, but I think there’s rising interest there,” he said.

The pandemic has shed light on vulnerabilities in the food system, largely in processing plants where labour has been dense.

“There will be increasing interest in labour-saving automation,” Lusk said. “It’s really hard in meat, because you’re talking about products that aren’t uniform in size, colour or weight. It’s a hard problem, but it’s not an impossible problem.”

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