Lowell Catlett says people have become “spoiled brats.” The retired professor from New Mexico State University is referring to consumers in developed nations who can demand certain attributes because they have the money to buy specialized products. It’s not that way everywhere in the world, though, and that’s why there are tremendous opportunities for animal agriculture.
Catlett, who reminds one of a more refined, less wild-eyed “Doc” Brown (played by Christopher Lloyd) in the Back to the Future movies, spoke to swine veterinarians in San Diego earlier this month. He has that same kind of enthusiasm, energy, and futuristic thinking, too, as he talked about global meat production, local ways to meet global demand, and how technology will change agriculture.
“Price elasticity of demand and cross price elasticity are the two most important economic drivers in determining meat consumption in developed countries,” Catlett says. He notes that consumption has remained fairly stable.
“Per capita consumption of meat in the U.S. in 1981 was 193.7 lbs., compared to 214.5 lbs. in 2016,” Catlett says. That’s a modest growth of 10% over a 35-year period, but change in the future will be based on the demands of developing countries.
“The demand for meat will increase if one of four things occur: population increases, consumers get more money, consumers change their tastes and preferences, or the price of substitutes for meat increase…The first two are driving the growth worldwide in meat consumption,” Catlett says. Since 1981, the world’s population has increased 60% to its current level of 7.5 billion people and at the same time, the number of people living on $1.90 per day has decreased 41% since 1990.”
Since people have more money to spend in these countries, the first thing they strive to change is their diet, to include more meat protein. Also, the gross domestic product of developed countries has grown exponentially during that time frame.
Editor’s Note: In part 2, Dr. Catlett discusses the meat industry, and how producers are tackling the challenge of feeding a growing population.