The United States Department of Agriculture reports that food prices will continue to rise in 2013. Factors that led to this price increase are multifaceted and complex, with the 2012 United States drought and mass cattle culling, other weather events, biofuels, and a global increase in meat demand being major contributors. Sources are localized as well, for instance, in China rising prices are also due to the loss of farmland and farm labor to urbanization, and land degradation-caused grazing restrictions.
Fruit and vegetable prices are expected to rise. But meat and egg prices will experience the greatest increase. Rabobank, a global leader in agribusiness, asserts, “2012’s scarcity will affect feed-intensive crops with serious repercussions for the animal protein and dairy industries.”
Some have argued that increasing meat prices have contributed to the recent outbreaks of tainted meat, including the European Union horsemeat scandal and the Chinese fake mutton meat scandal . Lower quality meat such as horse’s meat and rat’s meat- as well as illegal chemical injections and use of diseased meat as was the case in China- is sold in efforts to keep prices low and purchases high.
Furthermore, government stockpiling or export bans employed as efforts to protect domestic consumers from increasing prices, could exacerbate the issue at a global level. Stockpiling may increase competition and further increase commodity and food prices. Those countries with the least capacity to stockpile will be most vulnerable to price inflation.
However, a vegetarian diet can offer an element of food security to offset these rising meat prices. Luke Chandler, the head of agri-commodity markets research of Rabobank, states that impacts on consumers, especially low income consumers of developing nations, can be reduced if animal-sourced proteins are replaced with traditional staple grains, legumes, and produce. Furthermore, price increases could potentially alter the world’s growing appetite for meat, Chandler continues to state that the high animal protein prices are likely to stall the trend towards increased meat demand across Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa.
Photo courtesy of Rogoyski