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Thread: You've probably heard of peak oil (hasn't happened yet). You may have heard of peak wild fish (happened in 1990s). But are we near peak beef? @davidfickling took a look at some of the trends. Below are a few thoughts. 1/
@davidfickling It's clear that per capita beef consumption has peaked in places like the U.S. and Europe, where it's been declining since the 1970s (and largely replaced in diets by chicken). I discussed some of these trends here: wri.org/blog/2018/01/2… 2/
@davidfickling But globally are we near peak production & consumption? If you look at the graph below, it seems like it. However, I'm not sure that presenting beef production like a compounding bank account tells the clearest story. The denominator has grown a *lot*, thus % growth is down. 3/
@davidfickling Here's another visualization of the same FAOSTAT data, but just simply showing total production each year since 1961. The world saw temporary peak beef in the late 1970s...and around 1990...and a plateau around 2010...but then...growth continued. 4/
@davidfickling As the article discusses, there's a lot going on, and the wildcard is how fast per capita consumption will increase in emerging economies as incomes rise and people move to cities. Will they converge on levels in North America and Europe? Or stay much lower? 5/
@davidfickling One way to look at this is to simply look at trend lines & extend them out. Here's some super-scientific line-drawing in Excel to 2050, using trendlines from 1961, 1990, 2010. The world approaches ~90 million tons in 2050. I also include a couple other projections in green. 6/
@davidfickling The FAO 2012 projection (ideas.repec.org/p/ags/faoaes/2…) combined expert projections of per capita consumption patterns in 2050 with expected population levels and wound up with 106 million tons of beef by 2050. 7/
@davidfickling Our 2019 projection (sustainablefoodfuture.org) built on FAO 2012 but adjusted food consumption up to 1) account for 9.8B ppl instead of 9.15 (more recent UN projection), & 2) ensure adequate kcal availability in all regions in 2050 (it was low in SSAfrica & SAsia in FAO 2012). 8/
@davidfickling As in the article, the wildcard really is about consumption levels in emerging/developing economies. The reason our projection is high is it assumes more growth in SSAfrica & SAsia. (Note graph shows ruminant meat consumption including lamb/goat too, but the majority is beef.) 9/
@davidfickling And the point is: we don't really KNOW when peak beef will happen, but if consumption levels stay high in rich countries and converge towards them in low-middle-income countries, then we will by definition see a lot of growth still. 10/
@davidfickling And if you are advocating for peak beef, by definition you are advocating for 1) high ongoing per capita consumption in rich countries and inequality of consumption across regions, or 2) reduced consumption in rich countries and greater equality of consumption. 11/
@davidfickling And, as we and others have found, levels of beef (and other ruminant meat) consumption have a large bearing on agriculture's resource demands and environmental impacts as the global population climbs toward 10 billion. 12/ wri.org/blog/2019/04/6…
@davidfickling Of course, beef *production* practices also have a huge bearing on those resource demands and environmental impacts, as noted in the blog above. Our 2050 BAU projection included a *lot* of efficiency gains (higher than historical trends). But that's a story for another day. 13/
@davidfickling So I'll close by saying I basically agree with the take below: future growth in global beef production/consumption isn't written in stone, per capita trends across different countries are up/flat/down, maybe the world is near peak beef, & maybe not. 14/14
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