“We are in a wonderful position in the U.S. that allows us to take advantage of food trends; the big question is, will our society let us take advantage of these opportunities?” asked Alex Avery, director of research and education at the Hudson Institute. He recently addressed a beef business meeting in my hometown.
Avery was referring to agriculture’s "social license," the approval granted by consumers to continue to raise food using production practices accepted by today’s society. Here are the top five things I learned from Avery's talk:
1. Global food demand will at least double, and perhaps even triple, in the next 50 years. This increased food demand offers great opportunities for food producers, yet it also presents interesting challenges as there is very little new farmland to develop.
2. India and China are the most populous nations in the world, yet they don’t have the farmland to feed themselves. There lie the opportunities for America’s farmers and ranchers. Increased affluence in these countries will mean more disposable income that will be spent to add variety to the diet, and that means a boom in meat demand.
3. Today's environmentalists advocate for farming and ranching to return to 1960 practices. Looking at yields from the 1960s, we would need 15-20 million square miles of new farmland using the production methods of those days.
4. Looking at how farmers and ranchers might meet this increased food demand, Avery said there are only a few options: take more land away from nature to use for farms, produce more land per acre per animal or convert to a vegetarian and vegan society.
5. World farm land will only increase 2.5% by 2050, so producers will need to continue to adopt efficient practices to increase food production and meet global demands.
What do you think of Avery’s topic points? How do we continue to earn consumers’ trust? How can we communicate the necessity, the wisdom and the efficiencies of modern food production methods to our consumers? How can we continue to meet increased global food demands? Given this scenario for world population growth, what opportunities do you see for U.S. producers?