Monday, October 11, 2010

Meat Prices in the Land of the Whopper (person, not burger)

This article contained a fascinating data point:

The U.S. per-capita beef supply may drop to 57.6 pounds per year in 2011, the smallest in 59 years, according to Centennial, Colorado-based researcher CattleFax. The supply of pork available to each U.S. consumer will slump to 46.8 pounds annually, the least in 35 years.

Per-capita beef and pork supply (and consumption) is at multi-decade lows?  And Americans are now the size of most pigs at slaughter?  WTF???!!! (I guess Atkins had it right.)

How do you like that...

BTW... those meat consumption numbers are going to keep dropping unless folks start raising livestock at home.  Its a closed system as far as inputs (animal feeds) and then there are the limitations on breeding (especially for beef - a hog will have 2 litters of 8 per year but a cow will usually have but 1 calf per year and farmers NEED to keep the heifers long enough to drop more calves) and economics.

It won't be long before poor folks figure out how how to raise a hog in the yard or alley and chickens on the fire escape fed on food waste that used to go to the dump especially when SNAP (food stamps) is about $750 per month for a family of 4.

And that's a good thing.


Donal Lang said...

I wonder if its just a reflection of higher feed prices (because of ethanol, etc) means more expensive meat, which means less meat goes into 'meat' fast-food products.

Consumtion then reduces without the consumer noticing.

Then you have to wonder what the real meat is being replaced with! ;-(

Anonymous said...

I have hiked in high altitude Nepal where the people keep their livestock (various yak breeds and mixes)on the ground floor of their homes and use the body heat from the livestock as the only central heating of the house.
They only ate the yaks when they naturally died as they had too many other uses alive. Usually in small amounts of dried jerky.
They lived on potatoes and barley.
There were no fat people, even living on carbs.
America still has a way to go but we're getting there.

Greg T. Jeffers said...

People, like animals, evolved to cope with the local environment.

People descended from herds keeping peoples tend to have less issues with lactose intolerance, for instance... those raised on less dairy and animal proteins tend to be smaller and slighter. One of the native American tribes peoples were the tallest in the world in the 18th century - the men average well over 6 feet tall. Their diet consisted of fish, birds, and small game bones and all... as well as bison. Go figure, eh?

(I remember my Doctor telling me that my new found yoga enthusiasm might lead to more injuries than it prevented... when asked why he said "Yoga was developed by 5'4" 105 pound men who practiced vegetarianism for generation upon generation. They can stand on their head without injury. One look at you and my bet is you are not descended from vegetarians... You, my friend are over a foot taller and 2.5X their weight... sorry, but you are not built for yoga." As it turns out, he was right....)

America has all kinds, and it is best not to try to pound a square peg into a very round hole.

Dan said...

Average height usually has more to do with war than diet. While malnutrition will stunt growth it is mainly genetics. Until fairly recently militaries put the biggest brutes they could find right out in the front ranks to hack down the enemy, it also meant they were the most likely to die before they could pass on their genes. It’s why all the warlike peoples tend to be short.

Greg T. Jeffers said...


I hope you are pulling my leg!!

PioneerPreppy said...

Well he is and he isn't.

Various elite units even today have height minimums. It was especially bad during the Napoleonic Wars when guard and elite units had to be much taller than the rank and file.

Of course the casualties for being out front and visible were not as high back then.

Even cavalry used the same standard with shock cavalry being mounted on larger horses than follow up type units.

And btw... Yesterday at a local big lot store 10 pounds of rice went for 4.75... Today they had already raised the price to 5.50 it's gonna start quick.

Dan said...

It fits the data. At some islands in the pacific where warfare is virtually unknown the average male height approaches 7ft while on other islands where warfare has been rampant the average height is around 5ft; with most somewhere in between. It’s also worth noting that average height has been increasing since the invention of the rifle. This period also correlates with better nutrition but warfare seems to be the dominant determinant.

Just go where the data takes you, and the explanation with the least assumptions is probably the most correct.

PioneerPreppy said...


Thats an interesting theory. I wasn't aware of increased height in more peaceable island cultures.

Having a fairly significant amount of experience in hand weapon combat I can tell you for certain the bigger guys are singled out first and in a general melee they are at an extreme disadvantage.

Individually size matters to their bonus but in larger numbers they become simply targets.

So that would support your theory as well.

Donal Lang said...

Perhaps its just that the taller guys show above the parapets? :-)

And I'd always (mistakenly?) thought it was to do with high protein diets for mothers during pregnancy and children when young. It just goes to show how wrong science can be!

John said...

Mr. Lang;
Ethanol production does not effect the availability of animal feed. Only a percentage of the carbohydrate portion of the grain used is removed. The resulting left-over product has more nutritional value than the beginning product (be it corn or milo). In my state (kansas), we use more milo to make ethanol than corn. Both feeds are enhanced by ethanol, not diminished. In fact, Dry Distillers Grains (DDG)are a BIG deal. I believe a conspiracy exists, intent on discouraging self sufficiency in fuels. The outright lies are incredible. The return on Joule's produced to Joule's invested is currently 3.5/1. This has been increasing over time to more positive numbers. Look to butonal to further enhance these numbers. Vinod Khosla currently owns five plants producing butanol in the USA. Why lie about this?
Is it intentional, or is it ignorance?

tweell said...

Malnutrition while young is a big part of the size thing, genetics is another. Being large helps in the cold and hurts in the heat, due to surface area per mass ratio, so northerners tend to be larger as well.
In the US Army, the standard combat load has inched up to above 100 pounds, big guys can more easily carry that and fight. The Soviet tank corps went the other way - a maximum height and size limit so they could use tanks with smaller interiors.

Greg T. Jeffers said...


It is true that DDG come out the backend of ethanol processing - but the caloric value is, I believe 1/3 of the grain that went in.... please correct me if I am wrong.

Anonymous said...

19085 calories / gal ethanol
X 42 gal / bbl
801558 cal / bbl
X 900000 bbl/day
721402000000 cal / day
/ 2000 cal/person
360701000 people could be
fed on calories removed
from grain to make ethanol.


Coal Guy

Anonymous said...


What are your thoughts on the mortgage robo signers fraud that's coming to light?? It seems the chain of title for most mortgages were really screwed up during the securitization process and this presents a major problem for the banks (people don't have to pay their mortgage and keep the house!)

Here's a link that sums up the fraud and potential outcome for others to read

Donal Lang said...


The ethanol market has linked the oil price to the fuel price. The land used for growing ethanol crops is not available for other crops. The farmer, tractor, pesticides, fertilisers used for ethanol crops are not available for other crops. A proportion of the food value of all US annual crop production goes into ethanol, not into animal feed or human food. It is ridiculous to pretend that growing ANYTHING for ethanol production doesn't impact on the amount and the price of animal feed and human food crops grown. It is not by accident that the move to ethanol has massively reduced US grain crops given in food aid, or available for export.

BTW, the energy equation of energy input to grow and process the crop for ethanol seems to be about 1 for 1; in which case the ethanol market is a con which converts oil into ethanol. We already know it wouldn't be financially viable without the tax-breaks, so to me it just looks like a pork barrel politics for farmers and the ag-chem industry

Why do people think that facts can be dismissed as some kind of insidious propaganda conspiracy against them? Do you think if you shout misinformation loud enough, you can get people to change their mind?

Anonymous said...


Also, rapeseed and soybeans for biodiesel are no better. And, they are destroying the tropical rainforests to grow coconuts for biodiesel. I'm with you here. Biofuels are just bad news all around.

A process that ferments chaff to produce fuel, and then returns the pulp to the soil, I might endorse, but not this. Biofuels raise the cost of food worldwide. Someone doesn't get to eat as a result.


Coal Guy

John said...

It isnt about caloric content for feed corn, its about protein content, none of which is lost in the fermentation process. Nutrition is more than calories.
The use of corn in the making of biofuels will decline over time as new technology comes on line. Genetically engineered bacteria are already making butanol from biomass. Forage sorghums are being used as they require very little fertilizer inputs and yield large amounts of biomass.
The attack by readers of this blog to the idea we can grow our energy proves to me the brainwashing by the mainstream media is very effective.
Prime farmland in the USA will always grow the most valuable crop available to the grower. That is how the free market works. Maybe you dont like free markets?
We are in the infancy of a biological revolution related to computers and genetic engineering that you all need to get your minds around. Yields will go up as inputs to produce those yields decline. This is happening now. It will only get better if we have enough time to make it happen. The reason I read this blog is, I dont think there is enough time left.

DaShui said...

Hey Big J!

I saw Obama mandated 15% ethanol today.
What's your take? He is worried about not enough imports, or he is trying to get gas prices down before elections?

Anonymous said...

Speaking of grain cost I saw that corn production came in almost 3% less then projected. Bob

Dan said...

With ethanol we are essentially condensing the minute quantizes of energy in the corn into higher concentration liquid fuels, via a very energy intensive process. Planting, fertilizing, harvesting, boiling the beer, condensing the distillates, efficiency factors on all the aforementioned, etc. It is hard to see where we get much more energy out of it than we put in if any. And on energy 1 calorie is the amount of energy required to raise 1 gram of water by 1 deg Celsius from 14.5 deg. C to 15.5 deg. C regardless of the source. If we pull the calories out of the corn what is left to fatten the cow. Fat = energy stores.

I certainly think free markets are a wonderful tool, and the only means of having a free society; however, I am not a total libertarian. Markets are amoral; if pricing you out of the food market makes someone a quick buck they will do it without even thinking about it. We are doing that to an untold multitude now.

Donal Lang said...

Is that the ethanol free market with tax breaks? Or without? I'd guess there wouldn't be an ethanol market at all if it wasn't for the subsidies and tax breaks, because in a richer country the food is of higher value and oil out of the ground is still extraordinarily cheap.

Donal Lang said...

BTW, I see China is spending some of its trillion dollars - on your Texas oil companies!

Chinese evening classes anyone?

Dextred1 said...


you think with the expanding trade inbalance we will see some downward Gdp revisions. Inflation is starting to tick, tick, tick.

Anonymous said...


I very much like free markets. I also agree that new technology is coming our way that will take agricultural waste and make it useful. I'm also for cultivating land that would otherwise not be producing.

There is something going on in the propaganda mill. The 1:1 EROEI number does not make sense to me. I haven't done the math myself, yet, but it sounds like BS. There is a lot of total drek that passes for science these days. It is usually accomplished by making a very rational analysis based on very unreasonable assumptions.

If you are prepping cattle for market, the extra protein is important. At the lowest levels of human existence, it is calories that count, with protein a close second. Raising the price of food worldwide to feed cars absolutely will cause starvation. That is hard to think about every time I get behind the wheel.


Coal Guy