U.S. meat consumption has peaked. Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show that meat eating across the country fell from the 2004 high point of 184 pounds (83 kilograms) per person to 171 pounds in 2011.
Early estimates for 2012 project a further reduction in American meat eating to 166 pounds…
Today there are three sources of growing demand for food: population growth; rising affluence and the associated jump in meat, milk, and egg consumption; and the use of grain to produce fuel for cars.
In early January, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that its Food Price Index had reached an all-time high in December, exceeding the previous record set during the 2007-08 price surge. Even more alarming, on February 3rd, the FAO announced that the December record had been broken in January as prices climbed an additional 3 percent.
Will this rise in food prices continue in the months ahead? In all likelihood we will see further rises that will take the world into uncharted territory in the relationship between food prices and political stability.
Everything now depends on this year’s harvest. Lowering food prices to a more comfortable level will require a bumper grain harvest, one much larger than the record harvest of 2008 that combined with the economic recession to end the 2007-08 grain price climb.
If the world has a poor harvest this year, food prices will rise to previously unimaginable levels. Food riots will multiply, political unrest will spread and governments will fall. The world is now one poor harvest away from chaos in world grain markets.
(This article, originally entitled U.S. Car Fleet Shrank by Four Million in 2009 – After a Century of Growth, U.S. Fleet Entering Era of Decline ran on the Earth Policy Institute website in January. Its author, Lester R. Brown is president of the EPI and author of Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization.)
By Lester R. Brown
America’s century-old love affair with the automobile may be coming to an end. The U.S. fleet has apparently peaked and started to decline. In 2009, the 14 million cars scrapped exceeded the 10 million new cars sold, shrinking the U.S. fleet by 4 million, or nearly 2 percent in one year. While this is widely associated with the recession, it is in fact caused by several converging forces.
Future U.S. fleet size will be determined by the relationship between two trends: new car sales and cars scrapped. Cars scrapped exceeded new car sales in 2009 for the first time since World War II, shrinking the U.S. vehicle fleet from the all-time high of 250 million to 246 million. It now appears that this new trend of scrappage exceeding sales could continue through at least 2020. (See data.)
The soybean is a versatile crop. It helps add nitrogen back to the soil. It’s a cheap source of animal feed. In various forms, it eventually becomes suitable for human consumption, albeit it mostly indirectly, in the form of chicken (or eggs) we consume or beef on the table.
So what’s wrong with a hard-working legume gaining a little popularity? As is often the case, too much of a good thing is, indeed, too much.