Sunday, June 2, 2013

Animal Spirits

Have you noticed that your burger or steak is costing you more this year?

According to USA Today, steak averages $4.81 a pound at the store and ground beef is $3.51.  These are the highest on record.

The culprit? The basic economics of supply and demand.

High feed costs have led to the smallest number of cattle being raised in the United States since 1952-89.3 million. At the same time, we are just entering the summer grilling season when demand typically picks up.

Here is a chart of U.S. cattle production since 1945.

Bear in mind that in 1952  the population of the U.S. was about 158 million compared to an estimated 315 million today.  Therefore, the ratio of cattle to population is about half of what it was 60 years ago. 

This chart from The Atlantic shows the changes in meat consumption by Americans since 1955.  It is only updated through December, 2012 but it gives you a good idea of the trends.  Beef consumption per capita is only about half of what it was in the mid-1970's.  On the other hand, chicken consumption per capita has doubled.  Is it any wonder that Chick-fil-A has been so successful?

Source: The Atlantic Wire

This leads to some interesting chicken trivia that I found during my research of this subject.

  • There are an estimated 19 billion chickens alive at any one time in the world according to the United Nations.  This compares to an estimated 7 billion human beings.
  • 50 billion eggs are produced in the United States every year according to Purdue University.
  • 9 billion chickens are born and about the same number are consumed in the United States each year according to Human Diets and Animal Welfare.  By comparison, there are only about 274 million turkeys, 100 million hogs and 45 million cows born in a typical year.  There were slightly fewer than 4 million babies born in the U.S. last year.
It can't end here can it?

What about ants?
  • It is estimated that there are 1 million ants for every human being on earth according to
What about fish?

I could not even find any source willing to estimate the number of fish in the world.  There are over 25,000 species of fish that have been identified and it should be remembered that over 95% of the oceans have never been explored.  There undoubtedly are lots and lots of fish swimming the seas.

Last but not least, what about bees?  We couldn't ignore the bees in BeeLine.  Again, I could not find any source willing to guess at the number of bees in the world.  There are about 20,000 different species of bees so undoubtedly bees also outnumber humans by a substantial margin.

A few facts about bees.
  • About 50,000 honeybees typically are in a hive
  • A honeybee makes about 1/10 of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime.  That lifetime is typically only about a month.
  • A hive of bees must fly about 55,000 miles and tap 2 million flowers to make one pound of honey.
  • A bee can fly about 15 miles per hour.
Of course, when that bee returns to the hive she does it on a straight beeline.

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