Meat is partly to blame for rising food prices

Biofuels have been copped a lot of flack recently for driving up world food prices. About 100m tonnes of maize from this year’s US crop (or about 5% of world production) will be diverted into ethanol refineries. But as this Guardian article points out, two other factors are also forcing up demand for cereals.

For one thing, increased agricultural yields per hectare have started to dip below the rate of population growth (around 1% a year). Secondly, the growing middle class in China are eating a lot more meat. Because cows consume a lot more food than they produce as meat, this has added an extra 200m tonnes of grain per year compared to a decade ago.

As ever, the obstacles are mainly political and social. Technically, the solutions are simple – empowering women in developing nations to reduce population growth, eating less meat, developing second-generation biofuels mainly from waste sources (such as the inedible parts of food crops or food waste) and just driving less.


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