For Part 1, click here.
It’s pretty easy (sort of) to look at 6 billion, 7 billion, 9 billion, and think that we’ve really got a job to figure out how to feed all these extra people. But, (there’s always a but, isn’t there?) think about the parts of the world that have changed significantly in the past decade. China for instance, has had a significant amount of people who just a few years ago lived in rural areas, and are now living in the cities, having higher paying jobs, and have grown accustom to a different diet. In the past decade, many of these people, for the first time in their lives, have the ability to regularly have meat protein in their diets.
In America, we have been so fortunate to have a food system in place that many of us cannot ever remember a time of not having access to meat. Now we can throw out arguments all day long about whether the American population eats as they should, but the reality is that there are a lot of people in the world who are getting a taste of a more rounded diet, and I don’t believe that they are going to go back to not having meat protein in their diets unless something dramatic happens to their incomes.
My mom graduated high school in 1960. She tells the story of a girl who attended her school who daily would bring mayonnaise sandwiches. This was a time and in a school that did not offer school lunches, everyone packed their own lunch. It wasn’t that this girl liked mayonnaise sandwiches. It was that they were too poor to have anything else to eat. No meat, no cheese, not even vegetables from the garden – just mayonnaise between two pieces of bread. This is unfathomable to me. In my world, there have always been school lunches, and our cupboards have always had a huge variety of food. I have such a difficult time understanding what it would be like for most of my meals to be a basic staple of a concoction of some type of rice or bean mixture. Then to have meat protein added into the mix. On top of that to move from an environment like rural China into a city, and have access to restaurants and city market food vendors, it really has to be something!
So how does that tie to this rapid expansion of population across the world? Not only do we have a huge population growth, but we also have a desire for more meat protein in their diets. Some of the experts have suggested that this won’t be like feeding people who have diets like we do today, but it might be like feeding around 12 billion people with better diets.
As farmers, we are constantly assessing what we can do better to improve – better production and less inputs. We operate as a business because what we do has to be profitable or we won’t continue for very long. Near the beginning of my first post, I mentioned that every agricultural meeting that I have attended in the past few years has focused on how we, as farmers, can and will feed this growing population. Please know that this is something that farmers take seriously and are thinking about on a regular basis, yet it’s just quick story on the world news once in a while. Farmers are still thinking about how they are going to feed this growing population.