Peak Food. It’s Here.

What has long been just a walk in the park for most Americans -- food shopping -- is about to become considerably more grueling. (Photo by Wonderlane/Flickr)

What has long been just a walk in the park for most Americans — food shopping — is about to become considerably more grueling. (Photo by Wonderlane/Flickr)

High food prices — which have been destabilizing (and in some cases, vaporizing) governments around the world — are coming belatedly to America. The prices of beef, pork, shrimp, eggs, dairy products and produce are all reaching record highs right now. Overall food prices are up almost 20% this year. The reasons appear at first glance to be varied, but in almost every case the root cause turns out to be either climate change or the practices of industrial agriculture. Indications are that there is no relief in sight. In fact the days of cheap and plentiful food, like the days of cheap and plentiful oil, may well be over for good.

Where’s the Beef? Ground beef prices hit $3.55 a pound in February, marking a 56% increase in four years and a 20-year record. Chalk it up to supply and demand; there are fewer cattle at home on the range in the United States than at any time in the past 63 years. Why? Because of extended, severe drought in most of the places where cattle are raised and their food is grown. [See Dead Town Waking] Why? Because of climate change.

When Pigs Die.  Since June of last year, about seven million pigs — about ten per cent of the American herd — have been wiped out by a new virus that was unknown before May of last year. It is not the cause of the record high pork prices now in effect, but the disease virtually guarantees no relief for the foreseeable future. The disease, similar to one that has been ravaging China’s pigs, may have something to do with feeding pig-blood products to pigs. You know, like feeding cow’s brains to cows had something to do with Mad Cow Disease.

Crustacean Deflation. Shrimp prices last month jumped more than 60 per cent above last year’s, to a 14-year high, because of a new bacterial disease ravaging the shrimp farms of Southeast Asia.

Hedge Your Vegetable Bets. The region that produces most of America’s produce (the virtual desert in the middle of California) is experiencing the worst drought in history. Its farmers are leaving idle a half a million acres of cropland this year because there’s no water for irrigation. We’re already paying more for our lettuce.

Wake Up and Smell the Absence of Coffee. It was already expected that world coffee production this season would be about five million bags short of a full cup. Then an historic drought struck the coffee belt of Brazil, source of most of the world’s coffee, decimating this year’s crop. Although the price tsunami has not yet rolled into our supermarkets, it has launched wholesale and futures prices into the stratosphere.

With the average American family spending only 10 percent of  its income on food, it’s not surprising that there is a widespread lack of empathy for the millions around the world who are clinging to the edge of extinction as incomes shrink and food prices spike. With the ongoing devastation of the US middle class and the imminent increases in US food prices, Americans are about to get a lot more empathetic.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has observed that when its global food-price index hits 210, governments in the Third World begin to fall like tenpins. You have to wonder; what’s the magic number for America?


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8 Responses to Peak Food. It’s Here.

  1. KB says:

    In 2009, the young man at MarketSkeptics warned that, in his opinion, after reviewing the data in the world, food was going to shortly become a very much more expensive and then a much scarcer commodity. He was quite active on his postings as he was in the financial services sector. He began to write of politics, and then one day in 2012, poof…never another posting…nothing to this day…nowhere on the net.

  2. Survival Acres says:

    Some of us are mighty tired… tired of trying to get people to wake up… tired of trying to make people understand how ugly things will get… tired of fighting the denial, disbelief and disinformation on climate change… tired of dealing with idiots and fools and people too lazy to help themselves.

    So we stop publishing. We stop writing, stop speaking, stop trying to change the unchangeable. We moved on, spending our time on things that we can change (ourselves) and those we care about (our families).

    Hunger / starvation is coming to America, and there isn’t anything that will prevent this. Already the Siberian forests are burning to the ground – soon it will be our turn (this year). California is loosing crops to drought, prices will continue to escalate.

    • Tom Lewis says:

      It’s better when we give up hope. For example, the hope of converting the heathen. Then we can focus on making ourselves and our families sustainable and resilient, and we can make it through this. Sounds like that’s what you’re doing.

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  5. David Rubinson says:

    We did not give up. We did stop trying to convert or convince or waken others, and we go forward to manifest and live and model the change we want to see. I decided years ago to forebear demos and signs and marches, I decided that going to jail was just a waste of a good night (or more) sleep, and accomplished nothing. I decided, like many thousands of others globally- to live the change, and model it for everyone to see and feel and follow. I decided to leave the USA, and turn a giant lawn into a food forest through permaculture. We can all do the same, and become self-sufficient, self-reliant, and environmentally positive- and we can find many others to join us. Grow our own food, put back more than we take out, create a way of life which does not depend with or connect to the life of profit, stuff, and more. I am doing it, and I knew nothing when I started. Get off Facebook, and grow your own food. We can all do it. Or, we can do nothing- They are depending on it.

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