In 1900, the population was 14% urban and 86% rural. In the year 2050, this percentage will have made a complete reversal with 70% of the population being urban and 30% rural. With the majority of our food coming from the rural areas, what does this mean for tomorrow’s agriculture?
One of the biggest challenges of urbanization is that there will be less availability of labor to work on the farm. This adds an increased level of difficulties as more will be asked of each farm worker. Another side effect of urbanization is the curb in eating habits. People want more ready to cook meals, fast foods, and healthier options. Consumers inadvertently drive up the demand for agriculture products as their needs and wants become more specialized.
As if urbanization wasn’t enough for famers and producers, there are many other demographic challenges that are developing. We are seeing a huge growth in population over the next 35 years. With potentially 9.6 billion mouths to feed, the demand for food is going to skyrocket. And as the developing countries grow in purchasing power, so does their middle class. Pockets that were empty will get fuller, and so will their bellies as they can afford those previously too expensive meats. We as a population are also living longer. Life expectancy is increasing rapidly in developing markets. Meaning we are not only eating more, but we are going to eat more over a longer period of time.
Today’s food has to be produced in a sustainable way that is meets safety requirements, animal welfare regulations, and addresses the consumers concerns. This puts a huge weight of responsibility on our farmers’ shoulders. Meat consumption is going to increase, but we are asking them to produce more with less while adding new obstacles for them to navigate in production. If you are asking the question, “Are they up to the task?” The answer is yes. Farmers and producers continue to do the unbelievable. The average US farmer feeds about 155 people. In 1960, this number was 25.8. Today’s agriculture is continuing to improve through advancements in technology and production methods, as well as gaining a better understanding globally of what our land and our animals are capable of.
If it weren’t for these farmers and the advancements in agriculture, more and more people would be needed to produce the food we eat. So remember as you head into the office or sit down for sausage, eggs and milk at breakfast, thank a farmer for supporting us and helping us to have these opportunities.