I came across this quote on the blog of Bon Appetit Management Company. It is from a purchasing report of a major food purchasing group:
A devastating global food crisis unlike anything we have seen in decades is coming. The truth is that we are not just facing rumors of a global food crisis [it] is actually starting to unfold right in front of our eyes… 2013 is currently expected to mark only the second time in 38 years where annual beef, pork, and chicken output all decline. Meat will therefore be increasingly viewed as an indulgence around a year from now.
While the quote may be a bit unduly alarmist, the likely consequences of last years droughts on this years food supply and food prices are not getting enough attention, in my opinion. As the post notes, 80% of U.S. agricultural land experienced drought conditions last year. In Australia the situation is even worse and has been for years. The combination of drought and diversion of crops to the production of ethanol has caused skyrocketing feed prices, leading many farmers to reduce the size their herds, which may lead to signficantly reduced supplies of meat this year (and therefore higher prices).
The post notes that pasture-based farms raising grass-fed livestock are less sensitive to flucuations in grain prices. That is true. But if those farms experience drought then there is less grass for the herds and they too may have to reduce herd size. Here on our farm I was very conservative and put up enough hay to last a couple of years. Or so I thought. Because of the drought we had very little pasture growth in the fall and I’ve had to feed far more hay than ever before. I think there is a very good chance we’ll run out of hay before spring.
Of course an increase in meat prices won’t lead to starvation in America. It may lead to eating less meat, however, which wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.
In other parts of the world, however, where nearly all of a person’s income is spent on food, an increase in grain prices will be devastating and could definitely lead to starvation and unrest. As is usually the case, it is the poorest who will suffer the most.
All of this is further evidence of the need for resilient diversified local food economies. Dependency upon imported products of industrial agriculture, which is itself dependent upon cheap fossil fuels (and good weather) puts communities at great ,and unnecessary, risk.