With the world’s population soon to top eight billion, we should look at what we eat and how much we produce.
What We Eat
In the U.S., we are consuming more chicken and less beef:
Somewhat different from the U.S., the world’s emerging markets will be consuming more meat as they climb the economic development ladder:
What We Produce
As the U.S. consumer uses relatively less animal feed and water, people that live in countries with emerging markets will use more:
Our Bottom Line: Agricultural Productivity
Perhaps one of the first environmentalists, Reverend Thomas Malthus told us in 1798 that population grows geometrically while resource production expands arithmetically. He thought that resource prices will rise and supply will become increasingly inadequate.
I’ve summarized what Malthus predicted:
Instead though, new technology has brought monumental strides in agricultural productivity. The USDA tells us that farm output from 1948 to 2019 was up by 175 percent although inputs rose by just four percent. The key though was the composition of those inputs. The use of machinery and intermediate goods have soared while land and labor are down.
Historically, farm output was up:
Farm population was down:
And farm size was up:
And moving from 2 pounds in 1957 to 9.3 pounds in 2005, we are breeding bigger chickens.
The statistics I cite vary, depending on the site. They are consistent though for indicating trends.