What’s grain got to do with it? How the problem of surplus grain was solved by increasing ‘meat’ consumption in post-WWII US

In the second half of the 20th century, global ‘meat’[1] production increased by nearly 5 times. The amount of ‘meat’ eaten per person doubled. By 2050 ‘meat’ consumption is estimated to increase by 160 percent (The World Counts, 2017). While global per capita ‘meat’ consumption is currently 43 kg/year, it is nearly double in the UK (82 kg/year) and almost triple in the US (118 kg/year).

Have you ever wondered how ‘meat’ became such a central part of the Western diet? Or how the industrialisation of ‘animal agriculture’ came about? It might seem like the natural outcome of the ‘free market’ meeting demand for more ‘meat’. But from what I have learned from Nibert (2002) and Winders and Nibert (2004), the story of how ‘meat’ consumption increased so much in the post-World War II (WWII) period is anything but natural. They argue it is largely due to a decision in the 1940s by the US government to deal with the problem of surplus grain by increasing the production of ‘meat’.

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