The Cattle Range Home Page
November 30, 2017
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Farmed Protein Leader in 2025

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Farmed Protein Leader in 2025
Mack Graves

What Farmed Protein will be the world’s leader in 2025?

Had you guessed chicken would be the global farmed protein production leader in 2025, you would have been correct.  Pork is second and third is, are you ready for it -- Aquaculture.  Say what?  Not beef?  Let me explain.

Thomas Elam, Ph.D. of FarmEcon, LLC, has estimated that chicken will grow from 100 million metric tons to nearly 150 million from 2017 to 2025.  Pork which has been the world’s production leader since 1977 will grow at a slower rate and be surpassed by chicken in 2021.  And, Aquaculture, the fastest growing protein, will grow from fifth place at about 50 million metric tons in 2017 behind beef, eggs, chicken and pork to over 120 million by 2025.

Where in the world is all this aquaculture being grown and consumed?  Look to the Far East.  The top producing country at four times larger than the next one is China at 58.8 million metric tons followed by Indonesia at 14.4, India at 4.9, Vietnam at 3.4 and the Philippines at 2.3.  Eleven of the top fifteen are located in Southeast Asia.

The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistical Service, estimates that fish and seafood are consumed at the rate of about 15 pounds per capita in the US.  The majority of that is imported from, you guessed it, those countries who rank highest in farmed aquaculture protein.

Will this dramatic increase in aquaculture and subsequent consumption in China et al portend a dramatic decrease of U.S. beef consumption in China, Japan and Korea that has been the backbone of U.S. imported beef recently?  And, will it mean more fish consumption in the United States at the expense of beef and pork?

I think not.  Why?  Because as countries and people move up in economic well-being they tend to move up the food chain from subsistence types of crops to more protein that is usually more costly and perceived as for those of more affluence. 

Sure there will be dramatic growth in fish consumption in the Asian countries, but it will probably be in the lower economic strata as opposed to those who are becoming more affluent.  These folks will still want their pork and beef in record numbers.  In the United States, exotic fish species may become cachet, but will not take much away from the traditional chicken, beef and pork consumption.

However, we face a paradox in the United States.  We have a wealthy populace able to pay for the higher priced proteins, i.e. beef, pork and to a degree chicken.  We also have many dietitians and physicians telling their patients to cut back on red and processed meats.  We have scientists of every ilk saying, factually or not, eat more fish (and chicken) in place of “fatty” beef and pork. 

All of these recommendations are made to convince the eater that fish and chicken will somehow prevent or aid in avoiding cancer while helping a person live longer and healthier.  Who doesn’t want to do that?

Ah, but there is another fly in the ointment -- the environmentalists.  Aquaculture is an environmentalist’s dream and nightmare.  If you think that we in the meat and poultry industries are attacked because of our impact on the environment, the aquaculture industries are attacked for the same reason. 

So aquaculture that is the physicians/dietitians recommendation for healthy eating is the environmentalists dream because it offers them another “factory farmed” production system to attack.  It seems that the environmentalists can find no one in the protein production system that is efficient enough to supply a majority of the populace that meets their guidelines for responsible environmental stewardship.  Vegan diet anyone?

We are left with a conundrum.  Fish comes relatively cheap in comparison to beef, pork and chicken and it is promoted as a healthy alternative to other proteins.  But, it, too, may pose problems for a sustainable environment.
Aquaculture may grow to be the number one farmed protein in the world.  Will it surpass chicken, beef, turkey and pork to become the number one marketed and consumed protein in the United States?  No, unless we abdicate marketing our meat and poultry products aggressively, proactively and persuasively letting fish swim in the door.

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