Evaluating Changes In Meat Production And Consumption
The animal agriculture industry regularly calculates and forecasts the quantities of meat that producers are willing to supply and consumers are willing to buy at particular prices. These figures are used to set and change prices, decide on how much will be produced, and, in general, try to increase profits for the industry. To do this, it is essential to know what causes specific changes in the demand and supply of animal products, and this can be difficult to calculate.
For example, people in the U.S. ate 20% less beef from 2005 to 2015, but experts did not agree on the cause of this decrease. Advocacy groups from the fields of public health, environment, and animal welfare, said that it was because their campaigns had reduced consumer demand for beef, but others said that the reduction was due to supply problems such as drought and high feed prices. To add to the confusion, people started eating more beef again following this period. If you could identify the causes for these changes, you could measure if animal advocacy interventions, such as campaigns, are actually reducing the supply or demand for a particular product.
There are simple demand indices (measuring consumer demand for a product) that can show what causes changes in consumer preferences, and these are used by organizations that promote meat-eating to show how their efforts increase demand for a particular animal product. However, these indices aren’t being used outside the industry, possibly because it isn’t clear how they can take into account other things that affect supply and demand, such as changes in production costs, and changes in consumer income.
The authors of this study try to find a solution to this problem, by examining demand indices along with a new type of supply index (measuring what producers are willing to supply), to calculate changes in the potential economic benefits to consumers and producers when external conditions change. This can be done using available information about prices and quantities.
The study provides examples from the U.S. meat cow, pig, chicken, and corn industries to show how these indices can be used. From these equations, we can see that the reduced consumption of beef mentioned earlier was probably due to a reduction of the supply of beef (because of drought and high feed prices), not because of a reduction in consumer demand.
This model has the potential to examine combined values of animal products for the whole country, and also to provide figures more quickly for particular species and smaller geographic regions – this can help to identify specific causes for changes in supply and demand. For example, once clean meat starts to become commercially available, you could potentially measure any impact it may have in reducing farmed animal production, as well as in changing consumer preferences. Apart from measuring campaigns, this model could also help to provide data to understand broader sustainability, environmental, and animal welfare challenges.