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August 05, 2008

Changing diets

The world, and especially the developing world, is changing. One of the ways we see this change is in changing buying habits of food by consumers in countries like China, India and Southeast Asia. What's happening, and how can it affect you and me?

Dr. Mike Walden, North Carolina Cooperative Extension economist in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at N.C. State University, responds:

"Well, what's happening is that as consumers in those countries are becoming richer - their average incomes are going up - they are changing what they eat. They are moving away from eating basic foods to more complex foods. And one of the more complex foods they are eating more of is meat. Now the implication of that, however, is that meat to produce takes a lot of, for example, grain. In order to produce one pound of meat, the farmer has to use seven pounds of grain. So, for example, therefore, when people go from eating grain directly - which they had been doing in China and India - to now eating more meat, they are going to have to use more grain. And in fact, the use of grain around the world has gone up dramatically. What does that mean for you and me? Well, it means the prices of things like wheat and corn we are seeing go up. And of course, wheat and corn are, again, feeds into the meat system and the broader meat system. So we are seeing meat prices go up. We are seeing bread prices going up. We are seeing egg prices going up. So this is all part of a chain reaction that economists would argue is really based on changing buying habits for food in those developing countries."

Posted by Dave at August 5, 2008 08:21 AM