Talk of trade wars in the news gave me some thoughts. I’m not going to wade into politics, but I will wade into farming.
Given their intelligent, social nature, I feel comfortable saying that pigs are some of the most abused animals in factory farming. According to a recent article in Civil Eats, 75% of breeding sows in the US live in tiny crates without room to move or socialize
So my first thought about the trade war and possible damage to the conventional pork industry was “Good! Maybe this will decrease the amount of factory farm pork and improve the prospects of pastured pork, where pigs can engage in natural behaviors. As I read more, though, I realized there was a problem. China isn’t buying whole pigs at low-cost. Most of the US pork headed for China consists of offal and parts that most Americans don’t seek out like tails and ears. I considered that even though many cultural groups within the US may seek these parts, would they go to waste without China buying them, downgraded into pet food. That’s part of why pastured pork goes hand in hand with eating nose to tail. Could we convince more Americans to eat ears, tails and offal? I am still enamored of the liver pate that I made last year.
Soybeans offer a similar conundrum. On the Chinese market, they are human food and feed for animals. In the US, most soybeans are fed to animals in confinement. If soybean prices crash, will we increase the amount of meat grown in confinement, fed soy? The answer, according to the recent Planet Money podcast I listened to, is that Europe will buy it to feed their farm animals. Thus, we move carbon and other nutrients around the world using more carbon.
It isn’t lost on anyone that China can read an electoral map and chose to target economic sanctions in areas that voted for the current administration. How will people affected by price changes view this change and how will they respond?