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<Book Review> Food crisis, the future has already begun 2

 

1. Expansion of meat consumption causes hunger - livestock feed puts pressure on staple grains

Human appetite has increased along with economic development. World agriculture in the 20th century almost succeeded in eliminating absolute hunger caused by food shortages on Earth by increasing the production of rice and wheat, which are the staple foods of mankind. It can be said to be an epoch-making point in human history. However, the tragedy called social hunger continues today as people in the poorest countries, refugees who escape from their home countries to save their lives, and people in developed and emerging countries who lose their jobs and become socially underprivileged due to poor health do not receive sufficient nutrition. And as some emerging and developing countries, following developed countries, became economically prosperous and overeating and predation spread, new food problems emerged. This is the expansion of meat eating. Since the 1980s, global agriculture has shifted its focus to increasing the production of corn and soybeans (using soybean meal after milking) for livestock feed rather than increasing the grains that humans eat as staple foods. Unbeknownst to many people, producing feed for livestock has begun to become a pillar of agriculture on par with human staple food.

 

At the end of July 2022, a grain carrier that departed from the Ukrainian port of Odessa after five months of war, mediated by the United Nations and Turkiye and guaranteed by Russia, was loaded with corn for livestock feed, not human staple food. This symbolically shows the current state of world agriculture and food. As the demand for meat rapidly increases and the cultivation of feed such as corn expands, farmland may one day be taken away from rice and wheat, which are staple foods for humans, as feed for livestock, or more farmland may be developed for the cultivation of feed. This will further destroy the global environment through additional deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions. The seeds of a new food crisis have begun to grow behind meat-eating.

 

2. Chicken leads the increase in global meat production

There are many different types of meat consumed around the world, including chicken, pork, beef, lamb, goat meat, camel meat, and duck meat, and among them, chicken is the one whose production has expanded the fastest since the 1980s. The proportion of chicken in the world's total meat production increased from 16.7% in 1980 to 35.4% in 2020. In contrast, the proportion of pork decreased from 38.5% to 32.6%, and beef also decreased by 13.2% from 33.3% to 20.1%. Although pork's market share has decreased, it still has a share on par with chicken in total meat production. We have entered an era where chicken and pork dominate meat consumption around the world. The three largest meat producing countries are the United States, China, and Brazil. In 2020, the three countries accounted for 45.4% of global meat production, close to half. What is noteworthy is the increase in meat production in China. Over the 40 years from 1980 to 2020, China's share of the world's meat production more than doubled from 10.0% to 22.4%. Brazil also doubled from 3.9% to 8.6%, but the United States decreased by 3.4% from 17.9% to 14.4%.

 

3. Meat consumption led by emerging and developing countries

Since the 19th century, the global meat industry has expanded as the middle class emerged due to population growth and economic development. In particular, the United States, which solidified its position as the world's largest economy and increased national income in the 20th century, has led the world in meat consumption. In 2019, the United States ranked first in the world in meat consumption per capita, reaching 128 kilograms, which is twice that of China, which consumed 64 kilograms. Brazil eats 100 kilograms of various meats per person per year. Japan's is 51 kilograms, and Korea's per capita meat consumption in 2022 is 58 kilograms, similar to Japan's. And in Australia, Argentina, Canada, and New Zealand, like the United States, meat consumption has increased since the early 20th century, reaching around 100 kilograms in the 1960s, and there has been no significant change in quantity for more than half a century.

 

However, the biggest changes in the 40 years since 1980 are in emerging and developing countries, led by China. In 2019, China's annual per capita meat consumption was 64 kilograms, 3.5 times more than 14 kilograms in 1980, surpassing Japan and Korea. Also, in the same year, Mexico had 70 kilograms, Myanmar had 62 kilograms, Vietnam had 57 kilograms, and Malaysia had 54 kilograms. Many developing countries have almost caught up with us or have already surpassed our level. Because these emerging and developing countries have larger populations than developed countries, the expansion of meat consumption is leading to changes in the structure of global meat supply and demand. The most notable country among them is China.

 

4. India, a country where meat consumption is not increasing

India's per capita meat consumption was about 4 kilograms for more than half a century from 1961 to 2015, making it one of the countries with the lowest meat consumption in the world along with neighboring Bangladesh. Because India consumes little meat, it supports a population of about the same size with grain production that is about half that of China, and even exports grain. In India, chicken consumption has been increasing recently. Chicken is a meat recognized by Hindu precepts, and it was already felt during a 2009 survey that the number of people accepting chicken, especially among young people, has increased.

 

The increase in meat consumption in populous and developing countries means that the demand for livestock feed will increase significantly. If humanity increases meat consumption indefinitely, there will eventually be a limit to feed grains. Ultimately, the development and mass production of artificial meat that satisfies the taste and nutrition of meat is unavoidable. Plant-based meat derived from plants such as soybeans and peas has already been commercialized and sold by large hamburger chains. Furthermore, new challenges are beginning to replace livestock farming, such as cultured meat made by cultivating cells collected from animals, and although some people are reluctant, they are also beginning to explore insect diets that eat insects as protein. In 2022, humanity faces a food supply crisis due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but we must respond to an even bigger crisis in the future.

 

5. Another crisis brought about by global warming

The 6th Assessment Report, published by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in August 2021, concluded that human activities are causing global warming by increasing greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2). All of humanity's need for food is a factor that accelerates global warming, and the result is that it returns like a boomerang in the form of a food crisis. Humanity is both an unintentional perpetrator and a victim.

 

The growth of staple grains is closely related to temperature, and temperature rises decrease the yield (yield per unit area) of crops other than wheat, although this varies depending on the cultivation area. The hardest hit is corn, followed by soybeans. And changes in rainfall due to climate change are also a factor that has a significant impact on agriculture. When rainfall decreases and a drought occurs, the amount of water that can be supplied through irrigation as well as rainfed agriculture (farming that relies solely on rainwater) decreases. Conversely, when heavy rain or flooding occurs, farmland may be flooded or topsoil (soil located at the top of the soil profile, which is rich in organic matter and microorganisms, affecting soil productivity) may leak.

 

Conversely, a certain amount of increase in carbon dioxide concentration has a fertilizer-like ‘fertilization effect’ on plants that synthesize carbohydrates through photosynthesis with carbon dioxide and water in the air, and has the effect of increasing yield in wheat and other plants. Due to global warming, land that was previously cold and unsuitable for cultivation may turn into excellent farmland. However, the negative effects on humanity are much greater and more dangerous than these positive effects. Nevertheless, the reason why global warming measures cannot come together is because the impact of warming varies depending on the region and position. Another thing to consider is that the use of chemical fertilizers, livestock burps, and manure are sources of greenhouse gases, accelerating global warming. In any case, we have entered an era where warming measures are needed in the agricultural sector by reducing greenhouse gases. Sustainable agriculture is the easiest way to prevent the food crisis and global warming. We must now actively respond to reducing greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane.