Eating 'Rich': Class and Diet

Eating 'Rich': Class and Diet
by Moses Seenarine 1/10/18

Food security is a problem of distribution, not just production. Around 17% of densely populated India is undernourished, even though per capita flesh consumption is relatively low. In contrast, fewer than 5% of people in the US, where 22% of the world’s cattle is raised, are at risk of going hungry. 

Overall, the clear trend globally is for rising animal consumption among the urban middle class. Eating animal-based meals is a status symbol. Even with India's religious prohibitions and cultural politics against the eating of cow flesh, 'non-veg' has become a status symbol in the thriving cities. On top of this, across the world, people typically eat animals as part of a feast, holiday or celebration. School cafeterias serve animal carcass every day with few plant-based offerings, raising expectations for a daily dose of flesh. 

Even though plants are cheaper, a high-pressure, fast food lifestyle is causing adults to lose their taste for vegetables, and they are forgetting how to cook them. The economic gap between developed and developing countries is reflected in their animal consumption. While people in developed countries fulfill upwards of half, 56%, of their protein needs from animal sources, people in developing countries obtain only 18% in this way. 

Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, the BRICS, are five big developing countries. Economic growth in the BRICS is reflected in their animal consumption, and together, they account for 40% of the world’s population. Between 2003 and 2012, BRICS animal consumption rose by 6.3% a year and is expected to rise by another 2.5% a year between 2013 and 2022. 

The upsurge in carnism is due to the expansion in poultry consumption worldwide. Cow carcass is the one category that on a worldwide level showed no gain in consumption levels from 1970-2000. This trend reflects the fact that while cattle consumption rose in developing countries such as China and Brazil, it fell modestly in North America, Oceania, and Europe. 

Chicken consumption in China and India is determined by lifestyle to a larger extent than by population growth. Similarly, in Russia, the world’s biggest cow carcass importer, demand depends on prosperity from oil and gas export revenues, since the population peaked in 1991 at around 150 million. While animal carcass is cheap in Brazil, it is expensive in South Africa. Several economic crises in South Africa have ensured that the rising demand for animal flesh is almost entirely limited to cheaper chicken carcass. 

Between 2005 and 2050, food demand may soar 60 to 100% higher than the FAO's estimate of 50% from 2005/2007 levels. There are many uncertainties, but food projections are more sensitive to socio-economic assumptions than to climate warming or bioenergy scenarios. With higher population and lower economic growth, food consumption per capita drops on average by 10% for crops and 20% for livestock. This shows that a consumption tax on food animals can greatly lower livestock intake and associated climate-altering gases.

Excerpt from "Meat Climate Change: The 2nd Leading Cause of Global Warming," by Dr. Moses Seenarine, [ ]

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