An article about ‘peak meat’ ran in The Atlantic and Quartz today, adding yet another peak to the mounting list of constrained and over-consumed resources on the planet:
Besides the health risks of eating too much red meat, i.e. heart disease, there is the environmental impact affecting everyone, meat-eaters and vegans alike. In the last couple years there have been increasing calls for the developed countries to dramatically cut their meat consumption by 50% to reduce greenhouse gases from industrial meat production. The fertilizers used to grow the feed crops for cattle “produce the most potent of the greenhouse gases.”
Retail sales of meat and poultry have risen in the U.S. in recent years, but the actual volume sold has been decreasing. The increased sales totals have been a result of increased prices due to higher production input costs. Look at the graph below and you’ll see that farmed fish have overtaken beef production. Part of this may be due perhaps to a more health-conscience public, but I believe the primary reason is because of increased production costs which are ultimately from increased energy costs or constraints of peak net energy:
As grain and soybean prices have risen well above historical levels in recent years, the cost of producing grain-eating livestock has also gone up. Higher prices have nudged consumers away from the least-efficient feeders. This means more farmed fish and less beef. In the United States, where the amount of meat in peoples’ diets has been falling since 2004, average consumption of beef per person has dropped by more than 13 percent and that of chicken by 5 percent. U.S. fish consumption has also dropped, but just by 2 percent…
…Cattle consume 7 pounds of grain or more to produce an additional pound of beef. This is twice as high as the grain rations for pigs, and over three times those of poultry. Fish are far more efficient, typically taking less than 2 pounds of feed to add another pound of weight. Pork and poultry are the most widely eaten forms of animal protein worldwide, but farmed fish output is increasing the fastest. – source
In the next graph we see that while farm fishing is on the rise, wild caught fish have been on the decline due to overfishing, destruction of ocean ecosystems, and what has been called peak fish.
So the world is replacing beef and wild-caught fish with farmed fish or aquaculture. But just as cattle farming and the overharvesting of the oceans for 7 billion people create their own far-reaching environmental impacts, so too does farmed fish:
As cattle ranches have displaced biologically rich rainforests, fish farms have displaced mangrove forests that provide important fish nursery habitats and protect coasts during storms. Worldwide, aquaculture is thought to be responsible for more than half of all mangrove loss, mostly for shrimp farming. In the Philippines, some two thirds of the country’s mangroves—over 100,000 hectares—have been removed for shrimp farming over the last 40 years. …Another problem with intensive confined animal feeding operations of all kinds, whether for farmed fish or for cattle, is not what gets extracted from the environment but what gets put in it. …Along with the vast quantities of waste, the antibiotic and parasite-killing chemicals used to deal with the unwanted disease and infestations that can spread easily in crowded conditions also can end up in surrounding ecosystems. The overuse of antibiotics in livestock operations can lead to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, threatening both human and animal health. In the United States, for instance, 80 percent of antibiotics use is in agriculture—and often not for treating sick animals but for promoting rapid weight gain. – source
On his website Peak Food, John Gossop lists the reasons why we are headed for a global famine in 2025:
In response to the increasing demand for food, wealthy countries have gone overseas on a land grab to secure soil and water resources:
…in the past 10 years, up to 227 million hectares of land were sold in developing and emerging countries, or signed away as long-term leases. The total area is roughly six times the size of Germany. In the past two years, competition has intensified further, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. According to Oxfam, more than 60 % of the land deals concern countries that suffer poverty and hunger. This is considered worrisome since international investors are basically interested in exporting commodities to richer economies. – source
Peak food production seems to have been reached due to the water-energy-food nexus, according to Marita Wiggerthale, trade and food expert for Oxfam Germany:
Peak food production has already been reached because there is increased competition between food, fuel and feed,” Wiggerthale said, pointing to biofuel production that diverts 15 percent of the world’s corn to engines and the world’s growing appetite for meat, which pushes farmers to grow food for animal feed at the expense of other food crops. – source
I’m not sure what new crops will survive in a climate pattern of extreme drought, floods, and fluctuating temperatures, but some think we can GMO are way out of this mess.
“Beekeeper Industry is Doomed and Cannot Survive for another 2 to 3 Years…”
And to add to the threat of the world’s food supply, a mass die-off of the bees is underway, probably from the nemesis effect of our pesticide and chemical-saturated environment. Don’t these news reporters look a little too relaxed reporting this horrific story in the video below?
Sacramento California is now witnessing first hand, the daunting implications of colony collapse disorder. It is estimated that California produces about 80 percent of the world’s almonds. There are 6,000 almond orchards in that region and many of the farmers are finding that there simply aren’t enough bees to pollinate their crop. A fourth generation beekeeper lost 70% of his hives while another lost 100%.
The negative effects of the honeybee shortage were predicted last year so measures were taken to try and offset this dangerous scenario. 11,000 hives were brought to California from all over the country; of these 11,000 hives, hundreds were found dead upon arrival. There are an abundance of theorized causes of colony collapse disorder, from disease, to mites, to pesticides. In a recent U.C. Davis study, in which a large sample of hives was examined, 150 different chemical residues were found on the bees.
The effects of honeybee loss are near cataclysmic as it is estimated that one third of the entire world’s food supply comes from pollination. Pesticides are a key suspect in the hunt for the culprit and fortunately there is something that we can all do to counter their use. We can buy organic, buy local, and grow our own food. Practicing self-sustainability and support for local sustainable farmers is a key factor in staving off the potential for worldwide food shortages… – source
As the bees go, so goes humanity.