Category Archives: poultry

Global Meat Production Trends

Malaysian poultry slaughter house. Leong Wan Ching. May 2011.
Photo credit: Flickr CC by sooncm.

Today’s post is a follow-up to last week’s post on the changing trade trends in global poultry consumption. Today, we will look at the changing production of meat according to type over the years, both in the U.S. and globally.


How many times have the investors said that they are bullish on all things agriculture because the rising level of affluence in the populous developing nations translates to a future with more people eating more meat?

Case in point is China. In 1978, China’s meat consumption was one-third that of the U.S. Now, it is double that of the U.S.

If you look at this chart, so far the most recent growth in global meat consumption is coming from pork, poultry, eggs, and farm raised fish (aquaculture). These are the meat types which convert feed to protein (pound per pound) the most efficiently.

Counter to what is happening in the developing nations, some very interesting changes in trends in the U.S.’s meat consumption have taken place in recent years. For one, overall U.S. meat consumption has recently headed downwards for the first time in a century. The other interesting notable trend is that per person, poultry consumption has surpassed beef and pork shares in recent decades. So we, too, are increasingly eating the smaller meat animals which convert feed to meat most efficiently.

Many leading environmental voices such as Jon Foley worry that cattle are the number one threat to sustainable global agricultural production. The current trends would suggest otherwise. We are globally headed towards using aquaculture and smaller meat animals for our protein, rich and poor alike. Plus, I’m with Bill Gates and similar minded Silicon Valley investors who believe that the future hot growth spot will be in the innovation of meat substitutes. While this is nothing new in the Asian nations, it is an emerging area of innovation here in the U.S.

Recently, the LA Times featured a story about the company, Beyond Meat, which has created a vegetarian product that is practically indistinguishable from meat. Will it cost less than highly efficient aquaculture and poultry produced meat? So far, that appears doubtful.

Personally, here in the U.S. I’d like to see government subsidies get behind the well-managed production of grass-fed beef or bison, and pasture-raised chickens due to all of the health benefits those meats and eggs provide over factory-produced livestock. Such a policy could help with land use conversion from the over-produced monoculture commodity crops farmers rely upon today, which would be a win-win for the consumer, the land, and the producer.

Poultry Trade Trends

USDA Photo by Lance Cheung. Myerstown, PA. April 2011.

Note that today’s post is excerpted from a recent USDA report on import and export numbers in global poultry trade. Just as in corn and soy commodities, Brazil has gained a large amount of global poultry market share in recent years. Because poultry is a more efficient meat to produce, it is gaining in consumption globally.

● U.S. broiler meat exports tripled in the 1990s largely because of shipments to Russia.

● In the 2000s, U.S. broiler meat exports grew by another 38 percent. Global demand for U.S. broiler meat is expected to continue expanding, although more slowly than in the 1990s and 2000s.

● With feed costs rising worldwide, the efficiency of broilers, relative to cattle and hogs, at converting feed grains (chiefly corn and soybean meal) into meat protein is a key factor driving the expansion of broiler production. Also, fewer widespread religious restrictions exist on poultry consumption than on consumption of other meats, offering many potential markets for broiler meat.

Other factors that will affect the pace of growth in U.S. domestic production and exports are the strength of the domestic economy and world economic growth, the continued concentration of population growth in urban centers, and the value of the U.S. dollar relative to currencies in importing countries. Thus, the United States is expected to export more broiler meat, particularly broiler parts, to new importing countries, with much of the expansion occurring in price-sensitive developing country markets. The United States and Brazil, both with a combination of adequate land to produce feed, large internal markets, and strong processing sectors, are expected to remain the major broiler producers and exporters. However, Brazil, with its cost advantage, is projected to account for a rising share of the world market.

Two major developments occurred in international poultry trade during the first decade of the 21st century: a rapid increase in poultry meat exports from Brazil and a sharp decrease in imports by Russia. Between 2001 and 2012, Brazilian exports more than doubled, increasing from 1.2 mmt to 3.5 mmt. Brazil’s broiler meat exports rose because of low corn prices and cheap labor. Total U.S. broiler meat exports grew by 9.2 percent between 1997 and 2002 and by 31 percent between 2001 and 2012. Growth in Russia’s poultry industry, coupled with reduced tariff rate quota (TRQ) volumes for imported broiler meat, has contributed to a sharp decline in exports to Russia, especially over the past several years.

ALSO SEE RELATED POST: Global Meat Production Trends

Garden Interview with Barbara, Part 3.

In today’s Part 3. Interview with Barbara about gardening, we cover soil and her low tech greenhouse. Note that Barbara was an exemplary gardener here in Boulder, but has relocated to Washington State along the Columbia River. This series of interviews mostly covers her garden here in Boulder but draws upon her lifetime experience of gardening in different places. If you missed the first two interviews, they are here:

This is Barbara in her backyard. You can see her free ranging chickens, her vegetable garden, greenhouse, and coop, all in the background.

Q: Please explain your soil practices. What was your annual routine and did you you see your productivity change as time went on and your soil improved?

A: My soil practice was never to till, just to feed the soil life and that meant tons and tons (literally) of rottable material over the years. I began with cardboard over the grass and weeds, vast quantities of grass clippings from landscape maintenance folks and manure from local horses. All was piled up into large sheet compost blankets to rot down. The goat manure and chicken manure went on selected areas – it was perfect for the lawn and some heavy feeders in the garden plus the potted plants. I do miss the animals and their manure now!

Annually, I put down the same materials whenever I could get them but the biggest annual push was the leaf bags in autumn. I trundled over 1000 bags from the front drop off zone to the back garden most years. Sometimes a bit less and occasionally a bit more. They all disappeared into the soil thanks to my faithful worm workers. The productivity did improve but it was a great gardening area to start with since it’s in the alluvial floodplain of South Boulder Creek. However, I found over time that digging and planting became much easier in the resulting enriched layer. It became several feet deep in the oldest garden areas.

Q: Did you ever use compost tea, and if so, describe how you made it.

A: Yes, I tried it in the greenhouse but found it was such a bother. The only benefit is to foliar feed with it and it seemed much easier to mix up liquid fish fertilizer or kelp fertilizer with a bucket of water for that. I tried it with manure + water and then again with alfalfa pellets + water before abandoning the idea. As to the aerated tea – way too much fuss for me although I know others swear by it.

Q: Have you gardened with soil Mycorrhiza in mind? If so, explain techniques that you think enhance soil Mycorrhiza and how much does that stimulate garden growth?

A: Mycorrhiza will save the world – yes I believe that indeed. I read Paul Stamets’ Mycelium Running years ago and believed it completely. So in Boulder, with all my leaves and hay, the mycorrhiza and other fauna had a smorgasbord to eat and I found fungal strands all through the soil. Here in Washington it was pretty barren and I bought a mycorrhiza starter last spring which I used to inoculate the entire vegetable garden and was overjoyed when small mushrooms sprouted up everywhere. I think the biggest problem with keeping them happy after feeding them is not letting the soil dry out. Mulch helps a lot. By the way, I’m growing Blue Oysters from Fungi Perfecta on several logs here – they are small still but we anticipate some good eating.

Q: You always advertised to people driving by your property in the fall to leave their leaves with you. How many bags of leaves did you add to your garden each year and please explain how harvesting large quantities of leaves played a role in your garden?

Well, it varied from year to year but it was between 500 and 1000 big black plastic garbage bags of leaves. In the zone 5 garden, they were invaluable. I used them everywhere as normal mulch to keep the ground from drying in the winter winds and summer sun. I used crunchy dry ones as goat or chicken coop bedding (which made its way to the garden eventually), used them to protect my tender perennials like the dahlias which often lived through zone 5 winters in the ground under huge piles of leaves. I plopped the plastic bags full of leaves over the carrots, beets or parsnips and covered the patch so well that the ground didn’t freeze and we could harvest in the coldest months just by picking up a bag and digging.

The worms and other tiny critters absolutely thrive with lots and lots of leaves. I used leaves often covered by hay to demarcate paths through the garden and it was easy to change those pathways from year to year. A huge wall of leaves went up against the two long walls of the greenhouse every fall and stayed there through the winter as insulation against the cold. I always throw a few inches of leaves in the bottom of any decorative pot I plant – food for the worms that I make sure are included as well. Now I live in such a mild climate the leaves are not quite as critical. However I still am making my gardens with many sheets of overlapping cardboard (to kill the lawn without rototilling) and with a thick layer of leaves on top.

Q: In your experience, did the way in which you enhanced and mulched your soil greatly reduce your irrigation requirements here in Boulder where we, on average, get only 18 inches of rainfall per year? If so, could you please give us pointers on how to reduce water needs through good gardening practices?

Oh, improving and then maintaining the tilth is critical. A healthy soil with lots of humus keeps moisture down at the roots and of course the mulch minimizes evaporation. You want your soil to be a sponge, to encourage the millions of critters that live in a healthy garden. They will aerate and enrich the soil as they move through it, eating each other and rotting material (like your leaf mulch). They fertilize with their manure, they open channels for rain to permeate, they create tilth – they are essential to soil life. So the best gardening practice I know is to let them live their lives as undisturbed as possible — and mulch to keep them happy.

Q: You had a lovely and simple low-tech greenhouse on your property here in Boulder where you started plants from seed. Please explain whether you think a greenhouse project is worthwhile and what did you use yours for?

A: I think a greenhouse is great for long season gardening – no frost from perhaps April through October and it’s possible to extend that if you are faithful in covering up on cold nights and days. Of course some crops don’t die off in freezing weather, so they are fairly easy. I loved being able to enter another growing zone by opening the door to the place and breathe in green growing smells.

I used it in winter for parsley, arugula, mustard, kale, lettuce (some like Winter Density, Winter Marvel and Sea of Red are pretty hardy) although the plants don’t actively grow through the low sunlight time of year and when you are snipping greens, you can’t take too much. Greens grown out of the stress of wind and extreme cold are really tender and sweet. There was a row of 9 (I think) 55 gallon drums filled with water on the north side that served as thermal mass, along with the damp ground. I also used that environment to overwinter my tender perennials like fuchsia, geranium, taro, etc. as buried in heaps of leaves, they never froze. They died back of course, but grew from the roots in spring. I loved being able to keep them alive year after year and that would never have been possible in our small house.

In spring, the greenhouse was my seed starting haven. The sun there was usually so bright that the tomatoes, peppers, etc. could be uncovered by day and then snugged under blankets of bubble wrap or floating row covers for cold nights or days. I loved growing plants “indoors” during that iffy spring season. The greens kept going strong.

In summer, the eggplant and peppers were planted in the ground to flourish in the quite hot environment under the greenhouse plastic. However the double doors at the east and west ends were opened plus the entire long south side plastic wall was rolled up 4’ from the ground so there was a good flow of air circulating. I had a big fan but never used it unless I needed to direct it at me to cool down. It NEVER got too hot for the plants there who love warmth. One summer I also grew melons and they liked it as well but they took up a lot of space.

In autumn, I continued to harvest peppers, and eggplant long after frost outside. I moved the tender perennials in for their vacation and sowed the winter greens. The greenhouse was in use 12 months a year.

[End Part 3. of interview. Come back next Friday for Part 4. Thank-you Barbara!]