As we come to the time of Peak Food, after which the amount of basic food available for each person in the world declines as population continues to rise, it is crucial that the conversion of feed in to meat is as efficient as possible.
This is where poultry has a big advantage. It can take less then 2kg of high quality feed to produce 1 kg of poultry meat compared with up to 10 kg for beef and somewhere in between for pork.
Dr Merdo MacLoed, editor-in-chief of British Poultry Science recently presented the result of a year long study into the importance of research in UK poultry and said,” At a time of concerns about climate change, the environment and human population growth, we should be positive about what the poultry industry has to offer.
“The industry has been on the defensive for many years but objective analysis shows that poultry meat and egg production have important advantages over other ways of producing animal protein.”
We agree that poultry should be the main method of meat production in the future, but we also believe that there will need to be less meat in our diets so that more grains and legumes can be eaten directly by humans.
We wrote a lot about China in our book “Famine in the West”, simply because China and the other fast growing nations of the East will have a massive impact on food availability in the future.
The extraordinary growth of China is hard for us in the West to grasp because every change is multiplied by such large numbers of people. There are now 49 Chinese cities with populations of over one million, and now the more wealthy are moving into vast suburbs with larger houses and more land. Many then need a car and although now their are only 12 million private cars, sales are growing at 26% per year. These relatively rich people consume far more of everything than they did when they were in villages, including food. They want a more western diet with more meat and alchohol, needing much more land per person just when the amount of farmland per person is going down due to desertification in the north west of the country and the massive loss of good, flat, fertile land for the expansion of cities.
It should be remembered that until recently, only about one billion of us were big consumers of food, energy and other resources. The other five billion were relatively low consumers. The world is adding about 90 million people to it’s population each year, but more significant is the similar amount of people in the world each year who move up to become consumers on a similar scale to us. This is the problem we face, more people wanting more of everything when in the case of food at least, there will be less.
When a real food crisis hits the world, it will be countries like China with huge foriegn exchange reserves that will be able to buy what food is available.
The present world population of about 6.6 billion is expected to rise to about 9 billion by 2050 which would imply that food production would need to rise by about 50%. But Professor Robert Thomson told this year’s Sentry Conference that a tripling of food output would be needed.
This is because as people become more wealthy their demand for more and better food shoots up. Professor Thompson explained that much of the interior of China has been left behind as the coastal regions have grown wealthier and that more than one third of China’s population still lives on less than $2 a day. He said that as the majority of people in developing countries grew out of poverty and passed the $2 a day mark, they would make significant demands on the world’s food economy.
We at Peakfood have previously said that this – when combined with the many threats to food production - will cause famine if urgent changes are not made.
A recent study by the McKinsey Global Institute projected that India’s middle class will grow from 50 million today to an amazing 583 million by 2025.
As each person becomes more affulent, he or she uses much more energy and food, and because this pattern is happening throughout much of Asia and some other parts of the developing world, it is really hard to imagine how the earth can provide the needed resources. By then the total population will be around 8 billion.
Our present population of 6.6 billion , with a low proportion of heavy consumers is already causing serious damage to the environment so the prospect of 8 billion with a higher proportion of heavy consumers should be causing world leaders to be taking urgent action to improve energy efficiency at all levels. So far efforts are hopelessly weak.