How the World is Eating, as Eating Gets More Expensive

It seems like the cost of food is all over the news these days, and it keeps making a regular appearance on TreeHugger too. Only last week we reported on a speech made by the UK's Chief Scientist about how the food crisis will bite well before climate change does, not to mention the calls from pig farmers to Stand By Your Ham. But how are rising costs effecting ordinary consumers? We've already heard that Italians are worried about the pasta vs biofuels debate, while Germans are concerned about the threat to their gummy bears. Now the BBC has an interesting feature, talking to six different families, from Kenya to Guatemala to the UK to China, about how the rise in food prices has impacted their daily lives. For a few choice quotes, click below the fold.
The Rodas family in Guatemala say they've certainly noticed the rise in costs, and have changed their buying habits somewhat, but they spare a thought for poorer families who are hit even harder by rising costs:

"The rise in the prices of all the basic food products here is alarming, and it is even worse for the families who live in extreme poverty, because they don't have enough food to live with dignity.

I have noticed the rise as well. We used to eat meat five times a week, and we can only do it twice now. The children don't drink milk three times a day but once for breakfast, and we don't buy some fruits that get too expensive depending on the season."

Unsurprisingly, for those who advocate that a low meat or no meat diet is more efficient, meat and dairy have been the first commodities to cut back on for many families. The Wang Jun family in China, for example, now "only eat chopped-up pork two or three times a week, but with vegetables", and the Abdulwahab family in Egypt now "eat meat just once a week instead of every day". Meanwhile the Wang Jun family has also found itself returning to locally grown produce, because it's cheaper, and the Mbiru family in Kenya have also abandoned the supermarket in favour of the local shops. All of which raises an important question - the rise in consumption from increasingly affluent developing countries is seen as inevitably driving up demand, and therefore prices, but how will that rise in prices effect consumer behaviour, and therefore demand?

Interesting times at the end of the era of cheap food. As with our post on the UK Chief Scientist's comments, we'd like to point out that there are many innovative and exciting ways to work towards food security, from the low to the high tech approach, including vertical farming; underground agriculture; aquaponics; permaculture; food not lawns; DIY hydroponics; and community gardens. We're not helpless yet

::The BBC::via site visit::

Tags: Agriculture | Beef | China | Fish | Food Miles | Guatemala | Kenya | United Kingdom

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