Friday, April 8, 2011

Evolution of Animal Consumption with Wealth

The graph above plots the fraction of calories that different countries get from animal products (from the FAO data discussed in this post), versus wealth level (using the GDP/capita from the Penn World tables from yesterday).  Click on the picture for a big version in a new window, since there's a lot of detail. The little circles represent a large sample of countries in 2007.  The colored lines illustrate the path that various countries have taken from 1961 to 2007: France in green, Japan in blue, Malaysia in purple, and China in red.  These are intended to be illustrative of the kinds of trajectories individual countries take through this space, without cluttering up the plot to the point of incomprehensibility.

The situation seems to be as follows: very poor countries with GDP/capita of only a few thousand a year get very little of their diet from animal products (less than ten percent).  As countries get wealthier, their animal product consumption increases very rapidly and roughly linearly at first, but then levels out somewhere in the range of 20%-40%, depending on cultural factors, and doesn't keep going up after that.

In particular, the Chinese curve appears to be undergoing noticeable leveling already, and given the trajectory of other Asian countries, the fraction of the diet in meat/dairy/etc may not actually increase that much more, even if China continues to get a lot wealthier.  If that's correct, we may have seen the worst of the impact of Chinese growth on food prices already.

1 comment:

BOP said...

Do not want to be persnickety and I really appreciate your blog.

But I am suspect of these figures for all low GDP countries. When I hear someone say that there are people living on $1 a day what I hear is that there is a large proportion of the population living outside of a formal market economy. They buy little in the market; cooking oil perhaps. Since they have little income they are forced to grow, scrounge and hunt.

In the same vein, I have my doubts about the GDP statistics for low GDP countries. It is difficult and expensive to collect valid statistics. Not sure how you would do this if a barter economy was a significant aspect of transactions.

My hunch is that the figures for France reflect an advanced industrial nation, a place where almost all transactions take place in the market economy, the cash register tapes are saved for inspection and they have well paid bureaucrats compiling the numbers and ensuring their accuracy. China not so much.

I'd happily graph this for you but since it is a hunch I'm flummoxed and its Friday. Have a great weekend.