Drivers of Food Consumption Trends

Newsletter No. 86

This newsletter discussed the FAO publication "The State of Food and Agriculture - 2009" publication that focused on livestock as it contained some interesting data.

The data illustrated the increasing consumption of meat in developing countries as a percentage of total food consumption.  Interesting to note in Figure 1 is the total consumption of cereals has moved very little, with consumption of roots and tubers having fallen marginally.  The significant increases have come from eggs and meat.

Figure 1 - Comparative Consumption of major food items in developing countries

Comparative Consumption of major food items in developing countries

The report states economic growth as the driver for this growth in consumption of animal products.  Whilst this is certainly true, another driver discussed in some depth are the improvements that have been seen in production methods of pigs and poultry in particular.  These improvements in efficiencies, which include development of genetics, have meant meat is produced at significantly lower cost than 50 years ago.   Chicken, for example, used to be a treat, today it is an everyday source of low cost meat protein.

Another important driver for increased meat consumption and helps in establishing measurable levels of meat consumption is the increasing urbanisation of populations.  When living in a rural situation, families are able to maintain poultry and livestock in their backyard – sufficient to feed their families.  Clearly it is not possible to accurately record production or consumption of livestock reared in this way.  However, it is possible to measure the increase in population movement to the urban environment to illustrate the increased demand for commercially produced animal protein.

Technological change is the single most important factor in expanding supply of cheap livestock products. (page 18)

These technological changes have come at every stage of the production chain from crop productions, food production, livestock management systems, genetic improvements, animal processing, packaging and distribution to sophisticated retailing outlets.

To meet the increasing demand for commercially produced animal protein, developing countries have been able to buy turnkey operations and/or develop joint venture partnerships to provide production locally.  We have witnessed developing countries attempting to approach ostrich production in a similar manner. The challenge with our industry at this time is that turnkey solution do not yet exist. Our industry still requires a company or companies to provide this leadership, developing commercial levels of production with the necessary proven primary production systems in place, including genetics, in the same way the pig, poultry, beef and dairy producers have achieved.  Our first hurdle is to achieve primary production efficiently, with reliability and cost effectively.  The markets for our products are there - once the industry is able to supply the right volumes with uninterrupted supply and at the right price.  Adequate financial backing of such systems currently remains the barrier to forward progress and the opening up of the significant market potential for Ostrich production.  Ostrich meat can supply quality meat protein to a large population base unable to consume pig meat.

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