Producing the world’s meat has rarely been this expensive.
In southern Calgary, Don Lowe, who’s been a cattle rancher for 40 years, had hoped to expand his herd of 800 beef cows this year, but with feed prices skyrocketing, he’s struggling to hang on to the animals he has. Across the ocean in East Yorkshire, England, pig farmer Kate Moore says the upkeep of her 32,000-strong herd is becoming exceedingly hard.
“It’s horrendous,” said Moore, who is now is chalking up a loss of about ￡60 (US$75) per animal because of the soaring cost of feeding and taking care of them. “There’s no light at the end of the tunnel at the moment. The British pig industry will never be the same.”
Farmers across the world — with more than 40 billion pigs, cows, buffalo, sheep, goats and poultry — are contending with near-record prices for livestock feed as supplies of grains and soy shrink. Bills for everything from the electricity that keeps their barns well-lit and warm to truckers that haul their animals to abattoirs have also soared. Crop and energy costs surging in the wake of Russia’s war in Ukraine have compounded their woes even as they struggle with everything from droughts curbing grazing lands to bird-flu outbreaks from North America to Europe that wiped out millions of poultry.
Hit from all sides, many farmers are selling livestock or breeding fewer, showing output will be capped in the longer-term. The number of beef cows being slaughtered in the US is the highest since records started in 1986, and those cows not giving birth to calves will result in smaller herds. That means meat prices — already at record highs — won’t fade fast, further weighing on household budgets that are straining under higher costs for other staples and necessities.
The UNs’ Food and Agriculture Organization meat-price index has risen 10 percent since the beginning of the year, hitting a record in April. In the US, prices of bacon, chicken breasts and ground beef have never been higher.
The global production of chicken, pork and beef will slow to a 1.4 percent advance in 2022, versus 5.4 percent last year, the US government forecasts.
“A lot of the pressures that we’re facing, the individual pressures themselves are not really new or unusual,” said Justin Sherrard, global animal-protein strategist at Rabobank. “It’s the combination of issue upon issue.”
Russia’s invasion has slowed Ukraine grain exports to a trickle, curbing corn supplies that major hog producers like Spain and China rely on. Feed makes up the bulk of the cost to raise livestock, and even for countries that produce their own, crop prices have scaled dizzying heights. Chicago corn futures have risen 31 percent this year; Paris corn futures are up 55 percent and UK feed-wheat futures climbed more than 50 percent.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Jamie Wyllie, a Scottish pig farmer whose farm typically markets more than 70,000 pigs a year. “Things have been really bad in the pig industry since last year. That means that people, if they had any, have burnt through any reserves.” He’s cutting back his breeding herds to stem the blow. Feed now accounts for 70 percent of his pig-production costs, up from the usual 60 percent.
In China, home to half the world’s hogs, record feed expenses and a prolonged slump in pork prices have spurred staggering losses at top hog breeders. After just recovering from a lethal swine fever outbreak, that’s put growth in a downturn again, with sow numbers falling for eight straight months.
Tyson Foods Inc, the biggest US meat company, has warned of shrinking supplies.
“Heavy cattle liquidation year-to-date” will impact supplies for two to three years, Shane Miller, its president of fresh meats, said on an investor call.
“Producers can’t bear the entire cost,” said Upali Galketi Aratchilage at the FAO. “It’s very likely we see consumers paying more, at least for the foreseeable future.”
To the consternation of its biological father — China — the young nation of Taiwan seems to prefer its step-dad, Japan. When the latter was forced out, a semi-modernized iteration of the former returned. And just as some people thrive as adults, despite an unstable childhood, Taiwan has become a democratic success. Unfortunately, the island’s biological father behaves like a parent who is no use, yet who continues to meddle. A combination of rose-tinted retrospection and growing mutual respect has given many Taiwanese a highly positive attitude toward Japan. Physical reminders of the 1895-1945 period of Japanese rule are treasured,
A year before Britain handed Hong Kong to China, then-president Jiang Zemin (江澤民) hailed the “one country, two systems” plan for the city as a model for the country to one day unify with Taiwan. Taiwan would get “a high degree of autonomy” — the same pledge China used for Hong Kong — while keeping legislative and independent judicial power, and its own armed forces, according to Jiang’s speech, copies of which were distributed at Hong Kong’s handover center in 1997. For Taiwan though, the proposal has never been an option. Even the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) — a vestige of
Last month China lashed out at Taiwanese agricultural exports again, banning grouper imports. This event marked the ignominious end of what was once the star agricultural product of the ill-starred Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA). Local media quoted the Fisheries Agency as saying it was a turning point in Taiwan’s grouper history. Spurred by the signing of ECFA, by the spring of 2011 grouper had become the leading agricultural export, driving profits for middlemen and food price inflation. Grouper exports were among the few products whose market grew, enabling then-president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) to
Women in Taiwan often say “my aunt is visiting” (大姨媽來了) or “my ‘that’ is here” (那個來) when their menstrual cycle arrives — but there are no euphemisms to describe it at the Red House Period Museum (小紅厝月經博物館), which opened on Thursday. “Due to a lack of understanding, fear of blood and various taboos, the period has historically and globally been something that cannot be discussed publicly,” a display on period stigma at the museum states. “Or, it is replaced by all sorts of indirection.” The museum estimates that there are more than 30 such terms in Taiwan to describe that