I try to live by the sentiment that “every cloud has a silver lining,” and when I saw the headline, Have we reached peak meat?, in the Financial Times, I knew the poultry industry was going to continue to grow and prosper. The reason for my optimism is easily explained, I remember “peak oil.”
Peak oil is the theorized point in time when the maximum rate of extraction of petroleum from the earth is reached, after which production was expected to decline. As recently as 10 years ago, peak oil was thought to be just around the corner and breathless coverage of the impending scarcity of petroleum products was abundant. But, like many doomsday prophesies, peak oil hasn’t been reached yet. Because of innovations like horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, world crude oil extraction has continued to grow.
Not reaching peak oil because of increased extraction has been a good thing for the global economy. But environmentalists wanted peak oil to be avoided by energy conservation and replacement of petroleum products with renewable energy and hydrocarbons extracted from plants. Producing more oil at reasonable prices wasn’t the activists’ goal.
Winston Churchill said, “never waste a good crisis.” This saying is part of the activists’ creed and one of the corollaries is that a dire prediction, which will occur in the next 10 years, must accompany the calls to action necessitated by the crisis. Enter “climate change” and the need to reduce greenhouse gases, and this is where peak meat becomes the crisis du jour.
Production of animal products is said by activists to be a wasteful use of resources and a contributor to climate change because of greenhouse gases emissions throughout the supply chain. If capitalism continues to spread around the globe, I don’t think the world is anywhere close to reaching maximum demand for meat. The supply chains for all animal products will continue to innovate and become more efficient in the use of resources, which also translates to economic efficiency. Economic efficiency means that animal products will continue to be more affordable on an inflation adjusted basis, and this coupled with rising standards of living in the world’s most populous regions will increase demand and keep the poultry industry growing for decades to come.
Remember, when activists say the sky is going to fall in 10 years if we don’t do something, it isn’t going to happen. My prediction is that peak meat will only happen when the human population of the globe quits increasing and the benefits of free markets have been felt by all. I don’t think there is any chance of these happening in the next 10 years, do you?
Happy New Year 2020!