Bon Appetit

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.

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7 comments on “Bon Appetit

  1. I saw images on the news several months back where ranchers were selling off their livestock because they couldn’t afford to feed them and the drought made it impossible to continue. They were bony animals…. so sad. I seldom eat red meat, but even now a single grass- fed rib-eye steak is over $10. A year from now…. I’m glad I am ever closer to vegetarianism, but many are not. Perhaps it’s a good thing on one level ,,but the reasons are not. This country cannot afford a devastating drought that will affect food prices along with all the other problems with which we are contending.

    • Bill says:

      All true Teresa. Many are saying that the hotter drier weather is the new normal. In the long run the notion of devoting so much farmland to raising grain to feed animals seems unsustainable. Of course cattle are ruminants and ought not be living on a diet of corn anyway (but that’s a different rant).

      As Wendell Berry says, “We must achieve the character, and acquire the skills, to live much poorer than we do.”

  2. shoreacres says:

    It would help if the EPA weren’t pushing E15.. As you rightly point out, we aren’t simply at the mercy of nature. We’re making decisions (or the bureaucrats are) whose consequences will continue to ripple out into the world.

    But, speaking of decisions – I just made a last run through my emails before heading off to work and found the news of the uranium bill being pulled.

    What a good start to the morning!

    • Bill says:

      Yes Linda, yesterday brought the very satisfying news that they have conceded defeat, at least for now. We were very fortunate that the bill was sent to the Agriculture Committee. The Commerce committee is where the bad guys wanted it and they’ve contributed to 80% of the members of that committee. This morning’s news is that Senator Watkins (who introduced the bill) is asking the Governor to sidestep the legislature and proceed with promulgation of regulations that will “address the concerns.” Not sure if that report is true and hoping the governor has the good sense not to do that. He’s so far refused to take a position on the ban, hoping no doubt to avoid any political damage.
      Very grateful for your support and help on this!

  3. Bob Braxton says:

    “We must achieve the character, and acquire the skills, to live much poorer…”

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