Since the early 1960s, pork production in China has risen by about 30-fold.
About half the world’s pigs are eaten in that country each year, half a billion in round numbers.
As you’ve read here in The Western Producer, small farms in that country, along with many larger ones, are being wiped out by African swine fever. Oddly, this meets China’s previously stated goals of shifting pork production away from non-commercial operations to more sustainable, large-scale farms and to more national consumption of what that Chinese authorities perceive to be human-healthier poultry and fish.
China might have reached peak-pork and will forever be at or below this level, once the herd is rebuilt.
Along with moving large portions of the population to urban life, China is also boosting its middle-class numbers and with it the demand for animal protein. Even with a flat or declining population, it will likely result in increased demand for the culturally attractive meat, along with all animal proteins and overall calories.
But China is far from the only animal agriculture story. South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa eat very little meat. Africans only consume about seven percent of their daily calories from meat. In the western world it is about 25 percent.
A small increase in African and south Asian diets would be a big rise in meat consumption. Without a preferred, traditional meat of choice, such as pork in China, they will likely shift to meats that best fit their lifestyle choices and economic capacities.
Economists are suggesting that more inexpensive meat and input-taxing livestock, such as a chicken or fish, will end up on busy urbanites plates, rather than the larger, slow-cooking cuts of pork, beef, goat or sheep.
The good news for farmers of the latter is there are more than enough new, global middle-class consumers to keep them in business too.
As well, says the World Health Organization, meat is improving peoples’ health. Children grow faster and better when given the calories and nutrients from milk, eggs and meat. The overall health of populations improves dramatically in poorer countries as animal agriculture becomes affordable.
The whole world might be healthier if we all ate more plant proteins, but first, most of it will likely shift to more meat.
Now, if we could just grow some livestock producers.