Warning! All vegetarians might like to move on to the posting above or below this one now - this is for meat eaters only!
For those of us who like our protein in concentrated easy to digest portions - and that's an ever more rapidly growing constituency - crunch time (or was that lunchtime) is here. In the West animal feed technologies and animal husbandry practices mean that for every 2.5 kg of plant proteins we feed to our livestock (we are talking beef here), we get 1kg of high quality protein for human consumption. A lot of what the livestock is eating is made up of proteins and other nutrients that wouldn't available to us if they didn't process it for us first (not without a lot of mechanical or chemical processing, and who wants that?). The amount of vegetable protein verses the resulting meat protein is called the conversion ratio i.e. 2.5:1.
The crunch comes where it almost always does these days and that's from developing nations. As affluence has spread so has meat consumption; however, the typical conversion ratio in developing countries is around 8.5:1! To put this into perspective, if all of us were to eat the same amount of meat as the average person from a developed country but grown at a developing country's conversion rates, nearly third of the Earth's land surface would need to be put over the production animal feed stuffs.
We need to 'grasp the nettle' and come up with an equitable solution that will allow us to 'have our c(ste)ak(e) and eat it'. Maybe GMOs are the way to go (higher yields, more protein), or maybe its technology transfer (show developing countries how to do more with less). Any ideas?
(And for all those NEO-CONS out there - 'leaving it to market forces' is how we got into this mess in the first place).
There is an increasing amount of news out there, fed to us 24 hours a day. Unfortunately, less and less is 'investigative' journalism looking into the deeper reasons behind why things are happening. At The Coffee House we pick out some of the more controversial news stories for debate. Politics, economics, development and environment are our main focus. Grab a coffee (or tea!) and join us. Just don't be shy!
Tuesday, March 21, 2006