Livestock Triangle

Meat Society: Number 23 in a series exploring issues related to curbing demand for animal products, an important climate change solution for individuals and nations alike, especially in Western states where meat and diary consumption dwarfs other regions.

Excerpt from Meat Climate Change: The 2nd Leading Cause of Global Warming by Moses Seenarine, (2016). Xpyr Press, 348 pages ISBN: 0692641157

There is a “triangle of industrial animal agriculture” that connects the world’s biggest players in the food animal and feed industries: the US, China, and Brazil. The three nations form three points of a triangle, with the US serving as a major exporter of mature, industrialized, livestock production chains.(514)

The US is one of the world’s top cow flesh producer and the second largest pig flesh producer, comprising 18.6 percent and 9.4 percent of world production, respectively.(515) Between 2002 and 2012, the number of animals on the biggest US factory farms swelled by 20 percent. Both US livestock exports and domestic consumption are projected to grow throughout the next decade.(516)

China is a rapidly growing economy with a huge appetite for livestock products and a major market for US production. China became the world’s largest importer of soybeans, used for livestock feed, in 2000, and the top animal carcass producer in 2009.(517) The rapid expansion of intensive animal farming facilities is part of an effort to catch up with the livestock production model now standard in industrialized countries. In 2014, China produced 56.7 million metric tons of pig and 6.9 million metric tons of cow flesh, representing 51.3 percent and 11.5 percent of world production, respectively.

Despite this, with restricted natural resources domestically, especially water, to meet the demand for livestock, China is heavily importing food animal carcass and live animals from other countries as well. Together, China and Hong Kong in 2014 were the top importers of cow and pig flesh. During the first half of 2013, Hong Kong became the largest export market for Brazilian food animal carcass.(518)

Brazil is the world’s largest chicken flesh and soybean trader, the second largest cow carcass exporter, and the fourth largest pig flesh dealer. Brazil is a country with intensifying conflicts between the economic returns of spreading livestock- and feed-centered agricultural production and the need to protect some of Earth’s most ecologically critical ecosystems.

Currently, upwards of 40 percent of Brazil’s soybean harvest is crushed domestically to create soybean meal, half of which is used in the country as food animal feed. Most of the rest are exported. A large percentage of the products of intensive agriculture in Brazil, like pig carcass, chicken flesh, and food animal feed, is exported. In contrast, China only exports a small fraction of these products.

Turning farms into factories has helped the US achieve huge agricultural yields, producing at low cost and high “efficiency” with regard to time, if not energy or environmental efficiencies. As the small players drop out or merge with the big players through vertical or horizontal integration, concentration in the food animal industry is exacerbated. As with energy, transport, communications, health and other vital sectors, the food system is increasingly controlled by fewer, larger transnational food corporations (TFCs).

With broadening market strength and dominance, food integrators are able to influence policy-making and policy implementation in favor of their bottom lines. Subsidies are a key case in point. In 2012, US government subsidies for livestock, soybeans, and corn were US$ 58.7 million, $1.5 billion and $2.7 billion, respectively.(519)

The US model of integration easily found a place in Brazil and has thrived there. Although the export of this model to China has encountered some obstacles, construction of large facilities by national and international agribusinesses is mounting with government policy support.

But this triangle of industrial animal agriculture is not sustainable, and is self-destructive for humans. The externalized costs of factory farming will put progressively heavier burdens on consumers, producers, and even on those who choose not to produce or consume factory farmed products or any food animal products at all.

Chapter 14: DIET OR POPULATION? page 138

Hidden Population: Obesity

Meat Society: Number 22 in a series exploring issues related to curbing demand for animal products, an important climate change solution for individuals and nations alike, especially in Western states where meat and diary consumption dwarfs other regions.

Excerpt from Meat Climate Change: The 2nd Leading Cause of Global Warming by Moses Seenarine, (2016). Xpyr Press, 348 pages ISBN: 0692641157

Considerable scientific attention is given to calculating the number of people and rate of population growth, but much less effort is expended on estimating average human mass. This disparity exists despite evidence that average body mass is climbing at a sharp pace. Weight is measured using body mass index (BMI). The overweight have a BMI over 25, and the obese have a BMI above 30.

For the first time in human history obese people outnumber underweight people. Almost 11 percent of men and 15 percent of women worldwide are obese, while under 9 percent of men and 10 percent of women are underweight, defined by a BMI of under 18.5. Severe and morbid obesity are associated with highly elevated risks of adverse health outcomes.(509)

Due to the rapid expansion in animal domesticates population and carnism in both industrialized and industrializing countries, human body weight is becoming a serious public health concern. Moreover, excess human population mass could have the same implications for world food energy demands as an extra half a billion people living on the earth. Obese populations need more food to support their extra mass, and thereby amplify climate-altering gases discharged from food production. Overweight bodies also need more fossil fuel to transport them in cars and planes. So maintenance of a healthy weight has crucial health and environmental benefits. Globally, BMI for both men and women have climbed sharply for four decades. 

In 1975, men had a BMI of 21.7 and women had a 22.1 BMI. In 2014, those figures ware 24.2 for men and 24.4 for women. This means that the average person became 1.5 kg (3.3 pounds) heavier each decade. If present trends continue more women will be severely obese than underweight by 2025. 

According to the CDC, in 1960, the average American male weighed 166.3 pounds, which is the same as the average mass for American women in 2010 at 166.2 pounds. The average weight for women in 1960 was 140 pounds, so there was an 18.5 percent gain for females over half a century.(510)

In 2010, the average weight for men jumped to 195.5 pounds, adding almost 30 pounds, a 17.6 percent gain in 50 years. Over 35 percent of American females and males over the age of 20 are obese. An astonishing 70 percent of American adults, who are over 20 years of age, are either overweight or obese. On top of this, around 20 percent of American children between six to 19 years old are obese. 

In 2012, the US came in third, following the Pacific island nations Micronesia and Tonga, for having the highest average weight in the world. By comparison, Americans are 33 pounds heavier than the French, and 70 pounds bigger than the average Bangladeshi.(511)

In 2005, global adult human biomass was 287 million tonnes, of which 15 million tonnes came from being overweight. This extra mass is equivalent to that of 242 million people of average body mass, or five percent of global human biomass. Biomass from obesity was 3.5 million tonnes, the equivalent of 56 million people of average body mass.

North America has 6 percent of the world population but 34 percent of biomass from obesity. In contrast, Asia has 61 percent of the world population and 13 percent of biomass from obesity. One tonne of human biomass corresponds to 12 adults in North America and 17 adults in Asia. 

If all countries of the world had the same BMI distribution as the US, the added human biomass of 58 million tonnes would be equivalent to an extra 935 million people of average body mass. Further, they will have energy requirements equivalent to that of 473 million adults.

Compared with a normal population distribution of BMI, a population that is 40 percent obese requires almost 20 percent more food energy. In a population of one billion, the greenhouse gasses (GHGs) from food production and car travel due to increases in obesity is around 0.4 Giga tonnes (GT) and 1.0 GT of CO2e per year. This is equivalent to between 1 and 2 percent of the recent emissions from the total human population.(512)

A reduction of average weight by 5 kg (11 lb) could reduce transport CO2 discharges in the 34 high-income OECD countries by more than 10 million t. GHG pollution could be diminished another 4 million t through reduction of associated food waste in OECD countries. And, while the shift from cow flesh to other forms of animal flesh in industrialized and countries in transition has lead to food animal lifecycle emissions savings of 20 million t CO2e between 1990 and 2005, GHG releases due to obesity-promoting foodstuffs have increased by more than 400 million t CO2e in advanced developing countries.(513)

Overweight Americans and others in the global North are causing far more planetary heating than people with average body mass. Dietary changes are essential to reversing this dangerous trend. However, this issue is tricky to address since 'fat-shaming' can be a counter-productive strategy.

Chapter 14: DIET OR POPULATION? page 137

Hungry Masses

Meat Society: Number 21 in a series exploring issues related to curbing demand for animal products, an important climate change solution for individuals and nations alike, especially in Western states where meat and diary consumption dwarfs other regions.

Excerpt from Meat Climate Change: The 2nd Leading Cause of Global Warming by Moses Seenarine, (2016). Xpyr Press, 348 pages ISBN: 0692641157

Malnutrition affects one in every three people worldwide, afflicting all age groups and populations, and plays a major role in half of the 10.4 million annual child deaths in the developing world. And, malnutrition continues to be a cause and a consequence of disease and disability in the children who survive.(494) The most visible form of hunger is famine, a true food crisis in which multitudes of people in an area starve and die.

There are over 850 million people who are chronically hungry. This is the largest number and proportion of malnourished people ever recorded in human history. Plus, being underweight is a major problem globally. A quarter of women in India and Bangladesh are underweight. And a fifth of men in India, Bangladesh, Timor-Leste, Afghanistan, Eritrea and Ethiopia are underweight.(495) Being underweight put a person at risk for multiple health problems including anemia, infertility and osteoporosis.

In the entire developing world, or Global South, hunger and poverty are intense and may worsen as economic growth across the world stalls. From 2005 and 2008 food prices almost doubled. To make matters worse, from 2007, there has been a sizable slowdown in food aid, bringing hunger reduction "essentially to a halt for the developing countries as a whole."(496)

As many as 2.8 billion people on the planet struggle to survive on less than $2 a day, and upwards of one billion people lack reasonable access to safe drinking water. There is an enormous and persistent food gap between the Global South and the developed North. To illustrate, the average person in the industrial world took in 10 percent more calories daily in 1961 than the average person in the developing world consumes today.(497)

The large numbers of poor and malnourished people in the world are unacceptably high, but these numbers may be much higher due to under-counting. Misleadingly, the UN set the threshold for hunger as the minimum calories needed for a "sedentary lifestyle." In reality, the number of hungry people could be as high as 1.5 billion, or in excess of 25 percent of the world's adult population if the threshold was set as the minimum needed for "normal activity."

And, numbers of the hungry would jump to 2.6 billion, or nearly 45 percent of the global adult population, for the minimum calories needed for "intense activity." Currently, 4.3 billion people live on less than $5 a day. Although higher than the World Bank poverty criteria at $1.25 a day, one report showed that a realistic poverty measure would be around $10 a day.(498) This standard indicates over three-quarter of humans live in poverty.

One-fifth of the Earth's 7 billion people have no land and possessions at all. These "poorest of the poor" are nonliterates lacking safe drinking water and living on less than a dollar a day. Many spend about 80 percent of their earnings on food, but are still hungry and malnourished. The average US house cat eats twice as much protein every day as one of the world's poorest of the poor, and the cost to care for each cat is greater than a poor person's annual income.(499)

Half of the world's population have enough food to provide energy, but suffer from individual nutrient deficiencies. Billions of people lack iron, iodine, vitamin A, and other vital nutrients. In addition, racial, caste, ethnic, and religious hatred, along with monetary greed, cause food deprivation for whole masses of people around the globe. And, food insecurity is about to get worse. 

The UN estimate that climate transformation will affect poor countries the most, and inflate food insecurity. Oxfam predicts world hunger will worsen as planetary heating inevitably affects crop production and disrupt incomes. The organization suggest the number of people in the peril of hunger might climb by 10 to 20 percent by 2050, with daily per capita calorie availability falling across the world.(500) 

Food inequality is also increasing. Worldwide, 2 billion people live primarily on an animal-based diet, while double that sum, or 4 billion people, live primarily on a plant-based diet. The UNEP estimated that calories lost from feeding cereals to animals could feed an extra 3.5 billion people.(501) Another analysis calculated that 4 billion people could be fed with the crops devoted to livestock. The single biggest intervention to free up calories would be to stop using grains for cow carcass production in the US. By far, the US, China, and Western Europe account for the bulk of the 'diet gap,' and corn is the main crop being diverted to animal feed.(502)

By moderating diets from food animals, choosing less resource-demanding animal products, and maintaining non-feed systems, around 1.3 and 3.6 billion more people could fed. And ending consumer waste of animal calories could feed an additional 235 million people.(503)

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that the number of people fed in a year per hectare (2.5 acres) ranged from 22 individuals for potatoes and 19 for rice, to one and two persons, respectively for cow and sheep flesh. The agency added that the low energy conversion ratio from feed to carcass is a concern since most of the cereal grain being produced is diverted to livestock.(504)

A Bangladeshi family living off rice, beans, vegetables and fruit may live on an acre of land or less. In sharp contrast, the average American, who consumes around 270 pounds of animal carcass a year, needs 20 times that.(505) The current global average animal consumption is 100g (3.5 oz) per person per day, with about a ten-fold variation between high-consuming and low-consuming populations.(506)

For most people in developing countries who obtain their protein from plants, eating animal flesh is a luxury. A kilogram (2.2 lb) of animal carcass can cost from $2 to $5 in the local markets, which is several days’ wages. A typical African eats only 20 kg (44 lb) of animal flesh a year, well below the world average.(507)

These findings suggest that over-consumption and dietary habits are of the essence for understanding resource use and greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution, as opposed to expanding population being the primary driver as is popularly argued. That is, population's importance is related to lifestyle expenditures, and specifically to the over-consumption class.

A 2011 report concludes, “The mass consumption of animals is a primary reason why humans are hungry, fat, or sick and is a leading cause of the depletion and pollution of waterways, the degradation and deforestation of the land, the extinction of species, and the warming of the planet."(508)

Chapter 14: DIET OR POPULATION? page 135-6

Diet or Over Population?

Meat Society: Number 20 in a series exploring issues related to curbing demand for animal products, an important climate change solution for individuals and nations alike, especially in Western states where meat and diary consumption dwarfs other regions.

Excerpt from Meat Climate Change: The 2nd Leading Cause of Global Warming by Moses Seenarine, (2016). Xpyr Press, 348 pages ISBN: 0692641157

Substantial modifications in population size, age structure, and urbanization are expected in many parts of the world this century. These variations can affect energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) outflows. In particular, aging, urbanization and variations in household size can substantially influence GHG footprints in some regions. Aging will occur in most regions, due to declines in both fertility and mortality. 

Aging is expected to be particularly rapid in regions like China that have recently experienced sharp falls in fertility. On the positive side, slowing population growth could provide 16 to 29 percent of the GHG reductions suggested to be necessary by 2050 to avoid dangerous climate transformation.(490)

There is an inverse relationship between the two main drivers behind increased land requirements for food – as socioeconomic development improves, population growth declines. At the same time, diets become richer. Typically, consumption of animal protein, vegetable oil, fruit and vegetable swells, while starchy staples become less essential.

With higher purchasing power comes higher consumption and a greater demand for processed food, animal flesh, cow milk products, chicken eggs, and fish, all of which add pressure to the food supply system. This over-consumption severely affects global sustainability, equity, and food security.(491) 

During a span of 46 years, from 1961 to 2007, a review of data from the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) showed that in most regions, diets became richer while available land for food diminished. In many regions, dietary change may override population growth as a major driver behind land requirements for food in the near future.(492)

Potential land savings through yield improvements are offset by a combination of population growth and dietary change. These dynamics were the largest in developing regions and emerging economies. Also, additions to the total per capita food supply is not occurring everywhere around the world. In some rich, developed regions, such as Northern Europe and Oceania, food supply levels remain constant.

In most developed regions, the share of animal products is extraordinary high. From 1961 to 2007, food animals constituted one-third of the available calories in the Global North, compared to 10 percent or less in many of the poorer regions in the global South. These dynamics are set to change. The FAO projects that world population will expand 34 to 41 percent by 2050 to reach 8.9 to 9.1 billion. Food demand will soar upwards by 70 percent, and daily per person calorie intake will rise to 3,130 calories.

Food is a major part of climate warming, but it is also essential for survival, security and equity. Although the consumption per capita of cereals is likely to stabilize, population growth will escalate the demand for both food animals (almost doubling) and cereals (50 percent) by 2050.(493)

Chapter 14: DIET OR POPULATION? page 134

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