Only two generations after a devastating national famine, is eating increasingly high on the food chain. In the past ten years, consumption of China’s most popular meat, pork, has doubled. In 2007, China raised well over half a billion pigs. Given that every fifth person in the world is Chinese, even small increases in individual meat or dairy consumption will have broad, collective environmental as well as climate impacts. Increasingly, what the Chinese eat, and how China produces its food, affects not only China, but also the world.
Even though China is not yet a fully fledged “factory farm nation,” the strains from its fast-growing livestock sector, and burgeoning appetite for animal-based protein, are showing’in massive water pollution, soil degradation, rising rates of obesity and chronic disease, risks to food security and food safety, pressure on small farmers, and declining farm animal welfare.
Skillful Means: the Challenges of China’s Encounter with Factory Farming (PDF) asks whether China will be able to match the meat and dairy consumption of the U.S., given the ecological, economic, public health, and animal welfare realities of the industrial production model. And, when all the facts are on the table, will it want to?