Burning trees in the Amazon — to feed pigs in China


We’re not the only nation that has become addicted to the most harmful, wasteful, and unsustainable diet in history; the Chinese are now going after our “Western” diet in a big way. From a recent Fast Company article (See link at end):

The Chinese middle class is eating more and more meat, and Beijing wants to keep prices low. That means finding a way to feed all those pigs with grain imported from land cut from the Brazilian rainforest.

Pigs in China; eating grain imported from Brazil — part of a grossly unsustainable process of feeding humans the wrong food for our species.

Apparently, the Chinese are obsessed with having enough food in much the same manner as America has been obsessed with having enough oil. And, in order to address that “food security” issue, they are doing whatever it takes to make sure that their people have all the moo shu pork that they want.

So, China’s leaders set up a “strategic pork reserve” project in 2007; requiring massive importation of corn and soybeans to feed their burgeoning population of pigs. From the article:

China’s attempts to control the means of production in other countries just rising out of developing world is causing tension with its natural allies, and could be just the first step in an ever-escalating series of resource-based conflicts.

Former Amazon rainforest — now growing soybeans for the pigs in China. Wreaking unknowable damage on the fragile harmony of nature that gives life itself to our planet.

This is just the latest example of the complete insanity of the way that we have chosen to feed ourselves in the Western world. Here are a few bullets (italics) from the article:

  • We only have ourselves to blame; as it was we Westerners that made our insane diet-style into the global monster it has become. China’s strategic pork reserve is the direct consequence of an emerging, meat-eating middle class and a government determined to feed them.
  • The Chinese are just now beginning to spread the popularity of the meat-laden diet. The average citizen’s meat consumption has quadrupled since 1980, while pork consumption has doubled in the last two decades. 
  • They’re also learning how to grow their pork more efficiently — with the good old American creation — the factory farm. China’s meat packers are just getting started–only 22% of China’s pork production takes place in industrial feedlots, compared to 97% of America’s. 
  • More home-grown pigs for the Chinese. Until a few years ago, however, the pork on ice was American–60 million pounds purchased from Smithfield Foods. 
  • Their quest for pork independence has necessitated importing of pig feed. Vowing porcine independence for its meat-eating middle class, in 2009 China began massively scaling up its own pork production, which required turning to other countries for the farmland necessary to feed the pigs.
  •  The numbers are staggering. Last week, China purchased 540,000 metric tons of U.S. corn for delivery after August, according to the USDA, more than agency’s forecast for the entire year. 
  • This stat should get your attention. China imported more than 50 million tons of soybeans in 2010, mostly from the U.S. and Brazil, accounting for more than half of the global soy market.

Clearly what is happening now is completely unsustainable for very much longer. Not enough land, not enough water and not enough oil. And it could very well be that the silver lining is the impending “peak oil” phenomenon that will drive the sharply higher oil prices  – thereby precluding much of the insanity we’re experiencing now.

As the era of cheap oil comes to an end, the world will be searching for cheaper (more energy efficient) calories of food and they will find it with whole plants, the original and “natural” diet for our species. Not only does that simple diet promote our own health, it is vastly more efficient. On a per calorie basis, the Western diet requires:

  • 20 times more land
  • 20 times more water
  • 20 times more energy… 

J. Morris Hicks, “the big picture guy” ppromoting health, hope and harmony on planet Earth.

than do the calories derived from the highly nutritious whole plant foods.

As I have said before, the very expensive oil in our future will very likely be our friend — forcing us to end the “century of insanity” when humankind went on a brief meat-eating binge and almost destroyed themselves and the planet in the process. A recent post on that topic: Cheap burgers, suburban sprawl and the end of an era

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—J. Morris Hicks, board member, T. Colin Campbell Foundation

About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. Leveraging his expertise in making complex things simple, he is now seeking corporate clients who are interested in slashing their cost of health care. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from eCornell and the T. Colin Campbell Foundation, where he also sits on the board of directors.
This entry was posted in Big Picture, Environment, Land, Trees & Forests. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Burning trees in the Amazon — to feed pigs in China

  1. Leo S. says:

    Pigs are not the only problem to consider when thinking about food production and how it may affect our health. The following videos may give us more to think about to make better choices. Click on “Sitting on a Time Bomb” to learn how most animal food is produced. Since cows’ milk is considered a primary source of nutrition the next video to see might be “Udderly Amazing.”

    http://amazingdiscoveries.tv/c/7/Life%20at%20its%20Best%20-%20English/

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