Changing demographics, aging population to impact protein sectors

Source: Farm Progress. The original article is posted here.

Changing demographics, aging population to impact protein sectors

The pork sector, and for that matter all protein sectors, are in a very interesting transition period, one that requires close consideration of changing global demographics as well as the aging population and its related impacts, said Swine Insights International CEO Todd Thurman in this month’s Feedstuffs Pork Nation podcast.

Thurman discusses with podcast hosts Sarah Muirhead of Feedstuffs and Mark Huslebus of Alltech the changing global demographics and their impact on the pork industry. In particular, he highlights the aging population and its potential impact on pork demand, noting that the protein sectors overall need to better understand how older people consume food. He also discusses the shift in global demand away from traditional markets like Europe and East Asia toward Latin America, Southeast Asia, and ultimately Sub-Saharan Africa.

Thurman suggests that the industry needs to prepare for a future where the global population will peak and begin to decline, and he emphasizes the importance of strategic foresight and scenario planning in navigating these changes.

“Take for instance how there is very little insights into how aging and an aging population impacts food consumption in general and protein consumption specifically,” Thurman said, noting that no one has really studied the consumption differences between a college campus and a retirement community.

With demand for protein moderating in a lot of ways, and perhaps more importantly, shifting, Thurman said, that creates both long-term and short-term concerns. Near term, that concern is about where demand is going to be coming from, both geographically and demographically.

“If we take a step back and just look at global demand for pork, and really other commodities as well, I think there's a few trends. I think everybody is sort of on the same train, but we're in different places, so we're all sort of moving in the same direction,” Thurman said.

Demographically, we have some countries that are pretty far along in this process. Most of them are in Europe and East Asia. These are countries where the population has already peaked and has already begun to decline. Currently, 25% of the global population lives in a country that has a declining population, he noted.

From the perspective of the U.S. pork industry, which is increasingly dependent on exports, most of those big exporting countries that the U.S. currently ships product to are in that group of countries that are already declining in terms of population. Perhaps more importantly, at least in the short term, there's another set of countries that have a population that is rapidly aging and which will have population peaks in the next couple of decades. A lot of countries in Southeast Asia and Latin America are in that group, said Thurman. The last group, and most of those countries are in Africa and a few in the Middle East, are expected to continue growing through the end of the century, he noted.

“I think the important characteristics of those countries from a U.S. pork perspective is that they don't represent much of our current market. So less than 2-3% of the meat that we export goes to these countries, not just pork, but all meat, and the demographics of those countries are not particularly favorable for us, especially in pork,” said Thurman. A big chunk of that expected population growth in those countries is Muslim and that obviously creates a bit of a problem from a marketing standpoint, he said. There is a fourth group of countries of which the U.S. is included, and those countries are expected to continue to grow through the end of the century, but do to so almost exclusively due to immigration, Thurman said, pointing also to countries like Australia, a few northern European countries and Canada.

“That's a really interesting dynamic. If you take immigration completely out, the U.S. population would probably peak around 2037 and begin declining. But because of expected immigration, we're expected to continue to grow through 2100 and beyond, and so that's obviously a huge difference. I think in a lot of ways we talk about immigration from a labor perspective, which is important, but it's extremely important as we look at our domestic demographic changes,” said Thurman.

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