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- Consumers today want a personal exposure to plant and animal production, says Lowell Catlett, agricultural economist, futurist, and dean of New Mexico State University’s College of Agriculture, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences.
Food interest growing worldwide
Consumer interest in food is growing worldwide as personal incomes rise. Worldwide, 2 billion people that once lived in “abject poverty” have risen to the middle class in the last 20 years.
“When you start getting a little bit more money – especially when you start out in abject poverty where you are just trying to get through the day – the first change is in your food consumption,” Catlett explained.
Income has almost tripled in China over the last 15 years which has led to a four-fold increase in the per-capita consumption of meat-based protein. Beef consumption doubled in India as incomes rose.
“The change starts with meat and extends into other (food) arenas,” Catlett said. “With 2 billion people you see a rise in the demand for many food products.”
Consumer interest in food is also changing in North America. Today, one in eight U.S. citizens is an immigrant (non-native born). In Canada, the rate is one in five. Immigrants under the age of 13 who become citizens in a new country bring food consumption habits from their previous home country.
Catlett discussed the relationship of food to the entire human experience. He illustrated how people’s priorities change based on American psychologist Abraham Maslow’s famous “hierarchy of human needs” formula.
The pyramid-shaped human equation starts with humans meeting their first basic physiological needs: food, water, sleep, sex and safety.
“This was my father’s generation – the Great Depression and World War II – when food was scarce,” Catlett explained. “(They were told) Eat everything on your plate because there are starving children in the world.”