Jumat, 07 Oktober 2011

Dietary patterns

No other factor will determine the future demand for animal foods as much as the degree of westernization of diets in developing countries in general, and in populous Asian nations in particular. Informed discussion of this prospect must start by acknowledging the fact that, in spite of broad similarities, there are substantial differ-ences in meat and fat intakes among Western countries. This means that there is no generic Western diet to which the developing countries might aspire. Although all major indicators of quality of life are very similar for all of the af uent nations of Western Europe, per capita supplies of meat differ by about 40%: Norwegians get less than 60kg/year, French almost 100kg/year (FAO, 2001). And whereas Greeks con-sume less than 5 kg of butter and lard a year per capita, the Finnish mean is close to 15 kg. Such comparisons make it clear that the European pattern, although very similar in total energy and protein intakes, spans a range of distinct categories from the Mediterranean to the Scandinavian diets.
Taking such differences into account, Seckler and Rock (1995) suggested that two different patterns of food consumption should be considered when forecasting the future composition of food intakes in developing countries. They define what they call the Western model as the daily mean supply of more than 3200 kcal/capita with more than 30% of food energy coming from animal foodstuffs. But a great deal of evidence confirms that another model – what they label the Asian–Mediterranean pattern, with overall food energy availability below 3200 kcal/capita and with animal products sup-plying less than 25% of food energy – appears to be a more powerful attractor for many developing countries.
Food balance sheets of the last two generations show that animal food intakes in the economically most successful developing countries have not been moving rapidly toward the Western consumption pattern. Egypt and Turkey have basically the same proportion of meat in their typical diets as they had 30 years ago. Japanese meat intakes have stabilized at around 40kg, as did the Malaysian average. Official output statistics would appear to put China into a different category and forecasts based on these numbers see China as a gargantuan meat-eating nation, but a closer look shows that the country will not move rapidly toward the Western attractor. China’s official output statistics, and hence also FAO food balance sheets based on them, credit the country with per capita output of about 47 kg meat in 1999, but the China Statistical Yearbook puts actual per capita purchases of urban households at 25 kg (unchanged in a decade!) and the meat consumption of rural families at less than 17 kg, up from about 13 kg in 1990 (National Bureau of Statistics, 2000). This means that the eventual doubling of average nationwide per capita meat consumption would result in a rate only marginally higher than the current value claimed by official statistics.
Forecasts of China’s future meat consumption have also been affected by simplistically extrapolating Taiwan’s experience. The island’s very high average per capita meat intake (about 80 kg) is not only the highest in Asia, it is even higher than the British mean, and its very low direct cereal consumption (less than 110 kg) is below the OECD’s mean of some 130 kg (FAO, 2001). Moreover, differences of scale between the two countries (1.2 billion vs. some 20 million of people) and the still very limited purchasing power of most of China’s peasants are two other factors militating against a further rapid rise of China’s per capita meat consumption.
Finally, it must be noted that the total consumption of meat, although still slowly rising in the US, has been declining in Europe (for example, in Germany it is down by 15% since 1980), which means that the Western pattern is actually shifting gradu-ally toward the alternative attractor. Consequently, there is a fairly high probability that tomorrow’s developing world, although definitely demanding higher animal food intakes, will not look toward yesterday’s French, Dutch, or US example. Widespread assumptions that rising disposable incomes will be readily translated into rapidly, and virtually universally, rising demand for meat may not come to pass. Whatever its actual level may be, lower than anticipated demand for animal foods would be much easier to meet, especially once a concerted commitment is made to improve the efficiency of feeding as much as practicable. But whatever the pace and the extent of coming dietary changes may be, the increasing carnivory could have a much lower demand on agricultural resources and could also result in much reduced environmental impacts if we were to feed the animals much more efficiently.


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