It’s pretty well established that a hallmark of an advancing economy is a dietary shift from plant-based to meat-based protein. (Of course, in the most advanced economies, large numbers of people may become vegetarians, but that’s because they have the luxury of using their diet to make statement).
The American diet is weird, cause as wealthy as we are, and as much as we love meat, we also eat a lot of utter, cheap garbage. You’ve probably come across a Michael Pollan article on this subject, oh, if you’ve picked up the NYT Sunday Magazine anytime over the last few years.It seems we’re set to trade down some of our meat consumption for more grain.
Paul Kedrosky points to some data from Nielsen showing that consumer interest in pasta products is likely to hold up well during a recession, and he notes the strong rally of publicly traded American Italian Pasta Copany over the last year. (No time for this Atkins nonsense).
Meanwhile, Deutsche Bank analyst Christina McGlone has come out with a warning for firms like Tyson, saying demand for beef will soon flag, as consumers opt for cheaper foods (including cheaper meats).
She notes that U.S. meat consumption grew in the 1990-1991 recession but fell in the 2001 recession. “On the brink of consolidation and with production cuts now apparent and a steep drop in feed costs, we find the chicken sector appealing,” she writes.
All in all, it sounds like we should expect bulging waistlines, and perhaps drab, grain-based food. But there is a silver lining. Great culinary breakthroughs can come from a scarcity of premium ingredients. Think about the luscious taco — corn tortilla, rice, beans and some tough cuts of meat. Or even your favourite chicken feet or pig intestine Chinese delicacy. This period may yet mark a great step forward for American food
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