Friday, April 8, 2011
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.